Nut compensation on bass guitars

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Nut compensation on bass guitars

Postby Beate Ritzert » Sat Dec 23, 2017 9:13 pm

On bass guitars i find the idea of nut compensation more difficult in actual practice than on guitars, maybe because the bending of the thick and stiff strings across the saddles cannot be controlled as good as the thin strings of guitars, different strings of even the same type may need a very different compensation. Moreover several bass players switch between different types of strings more often than guitar players.

To me that means that a nut compensation beyond some "reasonable rule of thumb amount" is not recommendable. But how much is such a reasonable amount? I found hints only for guitars but i did not find any for basses.
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Re: Nut compensation on bass guitars

Postby John Clifford » Sat Dec 23, 2017 11:38 pm

I would be amazed if anyone could hear the difference, in an actual playing situation, between a straight nut and a perfectly compensated one on a bass guitar, assuming the frets and saddles are all in the right place and the nut is not too high. It might help with marketing, but I don't see it being worth the trouble from a practical standpoint. I would say getting the right string height at the nut is much more important. Almost every bass you pick up in a guitar store will have the action set way too high at the nut.
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Re: Nut compensation on bass guitars

Postby Beate Ritzert » Sun Dec 24, 2017 6:13 am

John Clifford wrote: Almost every bass you pick up in a guitar store will have the action set way too high at the nut.


Like almost any mass produced guitar?

But You noticed that i am aware that the tuning error introduced by strings not optimally bent over the saddles - unavoidable at least for thick and stiff strings - may be larger than the improvement by the nut compensation. Although the latter will compensate even for these, just because that bending radius is one of the reasons making nut compensation necessary or at least useful.

Anyway, nut compensation has a side effect: it reduces the compensation at the saddle, and it "linearizes" the positions of the saddles; the differences of the compensation between the strings will become smaller. In my current project i am actually more interested in this side effect instead of the compensation itself.
On an extremely cheap instrument i want to replace the bridge by a two saddles bridge like that one because i need a smaller string spacing.
A compensated nut would also reduce the intonation error from the limited adjustability of that bridge.
Unfortunately there is no alternative, except the Hipshot type A which costs 50% more than the entire bass guitar and therefore is overkill.
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Re: Nut compensation on bass guitars

Postby David King » Tue Dec 26, 2017 6:38 pm

Beate,

As I'm sure you know, the need for bass nut compensation can be minimized with most bass strings by "setting" the string's bend right at the nut. You hold the string down into the nut with your thumb and then bend the string down in front of the nut with your other thumb followed by pushing the string from side to side in front of the nut. You are creating a little gap between the windings right at the nut's leading edge which will allow the string to bend at the right place. I've seen E and B strings that had as much as 15 cents difference between the nut and the first fret without this treatment and trust me -most people can hear that. I find intonation problems are much rarer with quality strings. The thinner the core wire and the more flexible the wrap layers the better the intonation. Ideally we want every note to be in tune but that can be difficult to achieve with some instruments regardless of how carefully we deal with the string.

The two saddle bridge can easily be compensated to a small extent with a round needle file. Chrome plating needs to be ground off first as it's too hard for the file to penetrate if it is thick.
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Re: Nut compensation on bass guitars

Postby Beate Ritzert » Wed Dec 27, 2017 10:50 am

I am fully aware of that.
But the results of bending on really thick strings are occasionally a bit random;-)

Of course bending the strings over the saddles will always be necessary, even with compensated nuts.
I just made a simple first test with a match under theG string to shorten the scale. Really encouraging, although i had of course bent the strings thoroughly.

After these test it might be easiest to widen the slot by about 2 mm in front of the nut, replace it and then fill the slot. That should even be revertible.
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Re: Nut compensation on bass guitars

Postby Jeff Highland » Sat Jan 13, 2018 7:08 pm

At times, problems with string action(and compensation) at the nut can be improved by keeping the string windings on the post to a minimum so that you do not have an extreme break angle on the string across the nut.
This is particularly a problem on Fender style headstocks on the E string and sometimes on the D and G string if the string retainer has been set too low.
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Re: Nut compensation on bass guitars

Postby Beate Ritzert » Sun Jan 14, 2018 5:28 am

BTW; it did that mod. Moved the nut 2 mm into the fingerboard. It is just amazing how much less compensation is needed at the bridge. I also changed the bridge against a bronco bridge where the strings can be adjusted only in pairs. Intonation good, all over the fingerboard. And thanks to the reduced compensation i could reuse the two mounting holes in the front which otherwise would not have been possible.

So the idea mainly utilizing some side effects of nut compensation to my advantage worked nicely.
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Re: Nut compensation on bass guitars

Postby Bob Francis » Sun Jan 14, 2018 3:11 pm

What was the scale length on this one Beate?
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Re: Nut compensation on bass guitars

Postby Beate Ritzert » Sun Jan 14, 2018 4:10 pm

30"
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Re: Nut compensation on bass guitars

Postby Bob Francis » Mon Jan 15, 2018 7:16 pm

Thanks!
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