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Username: rickkessler

Post Number: 40
Registered: 1-2006
Posted on Thursday, June 21, 2007 - 7:34 pm:   Edit Post

First let me say how much I love my custom Dragonwing. It is an incredible sounding, looking and playing instrument.

However, I have run into one problem with it: the neck seems to move so often as to be alive.

When the bass arrived, it had the most incredible setup of any bass I've ever played.
However, when I changed strings --Rotosound Swing Bass Medium Scale strings (It's a 32" scale bass)-- the first 3 frets buzzed like a swarm of angry bees. I followed the directions in my manual and adjusted the trussrods, bridge and nut until there was no more buzzing. The only downside was that the action was nothing like what I had from the factory.

When I again, changed strings --this time to Ken Smith Slapmaster 34" scale extra lights-- I again had to make many adjustments until the bass was playable. The next day, my band played an outdoor gig in modest humidity. But the bass stayed in tune and sounded great.

The next day, however, I went to play the bass and I couldn't even get a sound out of the first 3 frets of the E&A strings because they were flat against the frets. The D&A strings merely buzzed in anger. After 2 days and over an hour of work, I have my bass more or less playing well again.

I've never seen anything like this. I have and have had many basses. I've even built a couple. I'm not an expert at setup, but I'm definitely not a novice, even with regard to a double truss rod, because I've owned a Rickenbacker 4003 for well over 10 years.

What could be causing this? What can I do? I can't really loosen the truss rods any more than I have already and that alone worries me.

Thanks for any help anyone can provide.
Username: mica

Post Number: 4689
Registered: 6-2000
Posted on Thursday, June 21, 2007 - 8:09 pm:   Edit Post

When you put lighter gauge strings on the bass, they pull less on the neck because of the lower tension. Then you have to loosen the truss rods so that the strings can pull more. If you run out of room on the truss rods, you'll have to send the bass in for servicing. When you do - make sure you include the light gauge strings you prefer on the bass so that we can do a proper setup on it. The slots in the nut and bridge saddles will also be oversized and need attention for the best setup.

To clarify - are your truss rod nuts completely loose?

Also, if you haven't tried Joey's setup post, it's a great way to get your setup dialed in.

I'll be in the office all day tomorrow if you want to discuss anything. Phone hours are from 10-4.
Senior Member
Username: jacko

Post Number: 1223
Registered: 10-2002
Posted on Friday, June 22, 2007 - 1:42 am:   Edit Post

Rick. In addition to Mica's advice, it's worth bearing in mind that once you've released tension on the truss rods, it can take a day or so for the wood itself to finish moving. Could explain why the strings were against the frets the day after your gig.

Senior Member
Username: olieoliver

Post Number: 1432
Registered: 2-2006
Posted on Friday, June 22, 2007 - 6:38 am:   Edit Post

I with Graeme here Rick. After I make truss-rod adjustments I wait at least a week before I do any more adjusting.
I also never adjust them more than 1/4 turn either direction.

Good Luck,
Senior Member
Username: adriaan

Post Number: 1519
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Friday, June 22, 2007 - 7:16 am:   Edit Post

Member rogertvr had similar difficulties with his Dragon Wing, which he posted in the Fun stories section. There's a lot of discussion there that you might find interesting.
Senior Member
Username: senmen

Post Number: 664
Registered: 7-2003
Posted on Friday, June 22, 2007 - 2:58 pm:   Edit Post

plse send me a mail:

Oliver (Spyderman)
Owner of Dragon Wing "Tears for John"
Senior Member
Username: bsee

Post Number: 1644
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Friday, June 22, 2007 - 6:26 pm:   Edit Post

Well, there's nothing inherently different between the neck of a Dragon Wing and that of any other Alembic. Any neck built thin is going to be more susceptible to string and weather changes than a more chunky version. Threads like this really press home the point that, if you have a favorite string, you ought to have your custom built with it so that the setup is spot on.

I definitely wouldn't change to a new type of string less than a week before a gig. You got lucky that the setup remained nice for you through the night. Also, as you have probably found out, an Alembic 32" scale bass works just fine with 34" scale strings. In fact, some 32" strings may be a little short because the distance between the bridge and tailpiece tends to be longer than on a typical Fender bridge.
Senior Member
Username: adriaan

Post Number: 1520
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Monday, June 25, 2007 - 3:03 am:   Edit Post

I once tried putting a d'Addario Slowound "long scale" A string on my 34" Epic with a 2+2 cone peghead, and it was too short to even reach the tuning peg.
Senior Member
Username: bigredbass

Post Number: 1204
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Monday, June 25, 2007 - 9:02 am:   Edit Post

Having owned both brand new and 10+ years older basses, I can tell you this: In MOST cases, new basses (with their 'new' wood) are going to move around action wise unless you're very careful to replace the old strings with the SAME set. Even builders who are careful about moisture content and storing the wood for a time before building/milling, as ALEMBIC is, can not control the finished piece completely: Like Mica says, sometimes it takes a while before the wood realizes it's no longer a tree. Over several years, the wood ultimately stabilizes with the finish in terms of sap, moisture, finish, glue, etc. My older basses are a breeze to adjust as all that aging is finished.

Going to a different set of strings every time is just asking for the the neck to walk around on you. If you don't mind adjusting the action for each new set, go for it. It often takes several new sets/brands to find that perfect set for a new axe. But you will be multiplying your aggravation chasing a perfect setup for Brand X, then have to start all over with the very next set of something completely different. You've discovered that each different set presents the neck with an entirely different set of pull.

My first advice is to find one set that does it for you and stay with it as soon as you can. And remember that truss rod adjustments rarely show themselves 100% at the time you do them: It may feel fine today, finish moving over the next few days, and ultimately end up not being what you wanted. With new axes, I do it in baby steps and try to work up to where I want to avoid big changes that don't settle in for a few days: It only tends to confuse me and I wind up going in circles, seeming to go past it, than under it, then past it . . . . you get the idea.

I sometimes find the best thing is to play something else for a few days, then come back when my mind is clear again!

J o e y
Username: thehifidoc

Post Number: 3
Registered: 3-2007
Posted on Monday, June 25, 2007 - 9:43 am:   Edit Post

Joey (big red bass) is right on. Having played alembics for the better part of 30 years, I found his advice to be true.
Advanced Member
Username: s_wood

Post Number: 246
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Tuesday, June 26, 2007 - 5:45 pm:   Edit Post

True that! If you set up your bass with low action and not much relief (like I do!) you will find that whenever you change string brands or gauges you will have to tweak the truss rods a bit. Plus, If you live in a place that is humid in the summer (like the northeastern or southeastern US or England) you will probably have to tweak the truss rod in the spring (when it gets humid) and the late fall (when forced-air heat combined with lower temperatures outside dries out the air). No worries, though: once you get the hang of it adjusting the relief in a bass neck takes less than 5 minutes. Your reward when you learn how to do this will be a bass that always plays like butter!
Username: rickkessler

Post Number: 41
Registered: 1-2006
Posted on Thursday, July 05, 2007 - 7:21 am:   Edit Post


Thanks so much for your response to my post regarding the movement of the neck on my dragonwing. All the info has been very helpful, particularly the reference to Joey's Setup Post.
I'm sorry to take so long to respond, but things got unexcpectidly hectic for me and I hadn't had the chance to write back.

Mica: to answer your question, although I have been very careful to move the two truss rods in sync with each other, it feels to me like the left truss rod (lower end side) is looser than the right rod and almost fully loosened.

For now, the neck has finally stabilized and the bass is playing well with the light guage strings. I will try heavier guage strings next time, but will stick with standard length and avoid the "medium scale" strings. I excpect I will need to do a setup again when I next change strings.

Any further advice, particularly regarding what seems to be a difference in tension on the truss rods, would be appreciated.
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 5234
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Friday, July 06, 2007 - 1:31 pm:   Edit Post

Rick; for some additional reading on the subject, first go here and then, after reading that, follow the link at the end to here. There may be other posts in the Must Reads section on this topic as well.

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