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Thread: Bongo action, strings, and fret buzz

  1. #1

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    Question Bongo action, strings, and fret buzz

    I've seen many threads here discussing action on Bongo basses, but none of them are too helpful. Either people fail to give physical measurements (talking about "high" or "low" action isn't helpful), or they give measurements in a variety of different units (millimeters, thirty-seconds of an inch, tenths of an inch, etc). I would like to use this thread to gather some precise sets of action measurements from Bongo owners.

    I would like this thread to assume that the neck relief is already set properly, and that there is no other weird stuff going on with the neck (such as shimming). If you have shimmed the neck, set an unusual amount of relief, or had your Bongo set up by a professional, please note those details along with your posted set of measurements.

    First off, we need to define how to measure action in a standard way. For purposes of this thread, action is measured as the distance between the bottom of a string and the top of the 12th fret. Please provide all measurements as thirty-seconds of an inch (if you can only measure in other units, use an online units conversion site to convert your measurements to thirty-seconds before posting them here). The action is typically different for each string on the instrument, so when you post your measurements, please specify which string you're talking about. It's usually adequate to provide one measurement for your lowest-pitch string and one measurement for your highest-pitch string.

    A couple of factors that can really alter your action (or determine how low you can go with it) are the type and gauge of strings you use, and the tuning of your instrument. So along with each set of measurements, please specify which brand, type, and gauge of strings you are using, and how you have your instrument tuned.

    Also, we need a consistent way to define "fret buzz". When you're playing medium to medium-hard, without excessive digging-in, you should be able to play a note on any fret along the fingerboard and let it ring out completely without hearing any fret buzz coming off the instrument itself (with it not plugged into an amp). Additionally, you should be able to slap any string, at any note fretted anywhere along the fretboard, and let it ring out completely without getting any fret buzz off the instrument itself.

    Now then... why am I doing this? Because I have a Bongo 5-string, and I've been struggling to get the action as low as I would like without fret buzz. I would like to get the action down to 3/32" or less on all strings. So far this has proven impossible; I have to have the action as high as 5/32" or 6/32" on the low B-string to avoid buzz and rattle, and even then it still buzzes if I don't use a moderately light touch. I am using DR stainless steel round-core roundwound strings, with a .130 gauge for the low B-string. I know that it should be possible to get the action this low without fret buzz on a 5-string bass, because I've played on some super-cheap 5-strings at Guitar Center (OLP MM3 5-string, Ibanez SoundGear 5-string) that had the action set at 3/32" without fret buzz (yes, I took my metal machinists' ruler with me to the store and measured it). If these crappy Korean-made basses can get the action that low, surely a Bongo should be able to as well.

  2. #2

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    EBMM bass setup found here.

    http://www.ernieball.com/faq_mmbass.php



    tk

  3. #3

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    If you are having fret buzz problems, it is likely because the frets are not perfectly level. I love EBs as much as anyone here -- I have 3 SRs at the moment, and have owned several others over the years -- but the fretwork, while great compared to say a stock Fender or G&L, is not always perfect (neither is the nut work, btw). If you want super low action, you are probably going to have to have a professional level the frets; or you could do it yourself -- its not that hard to do.

  4. #4

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    prickly_pete, I understand that I may need to get some professional setup work done, including fret-levelling. However, that costs a good deal of money and may not solve my problem. If my problem is just my choice of strings, I would rather know that by collecting data from other Bongo owners and save myself a few hundred bucks.

    Besides, there still isn't a solid collection of action measurements anywhere else in the forums as far as I can tell, so I thought this thread would just be a good type of public service.

  5. #5

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    Action height and string gauge are personal preferences. There is no definitive answer to your question, no matter how scientifically you try to approach it. It's like asking people to measure the length of the legs on their jeans or which hole on their belt they use. Just because something works for one person doesn't mean you're going to feel comfortable using the same measurements. We've got different hand and finger sizes, playing techniques, music styles, and preferred tones, and live in different parts of the world with different climates (which affects neck relief) so measurements ain't going to cut it.
    Cheers
    Mark

    2009 black/tort Big Al 4 SSS

    My bands -
    Richard Madden band
    The Australian Rolling Stones Show
    The Volts
    Doors Alive

  6. #6

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    i've heard of a guy in toms river, nj who does a fret job for 25 bucks...but i dont know if thats true or not and it probably only matters to about 3 people here

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aussie Mark
    Action height and string gauge are personal preferences. There is no definitive answer to your question, no matter how scientifically you try to approach it. It's like asking people to measure the length of the legs on their jeans or which hole on their belt they use. Just because something works for one person doesn't mean you're going to feel comfortable using the same measurements. We've got different hand and finger sizes, playing techniques, music styles, and preferred tones, and live in different parts of the world with different climates (which affects neck relief) so measurements ain't going to cut it.

    I agree with all of this.

    Remember that playing style has plenty to do with string buzz. My basses are set up with fairly low action, and I can make the notes buzz when I want -- I like to be able to do this. You might play one of my basses and either get too much buzz, or none at all, depending on your technique. Generally heavier stings do not buzz as much, because there is less flopping as a result of greater string tension. And of course, buzz is more noticable with new roundwounds than it will be with old ones, or flatwounds. The only basses I've owned that came from the factory with super low action, and no fret buzz, were expensive boutique basses, like Ken Smith, and American Spectors.

    You are never going to get all the buzz out if you like low action, and a heavier technique.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by prickly_pete
    I agree with all of this.

    Remember that playing style has plenty to do with string buzz. My basses are set up with fairly low action, and I can make the notes buzz when I want -- I like to be able to do this. You might play one of my basses and either get too much buzz, or none at all, depending on your technique. Generally heavier stings do not buzz as much, because there is less flopping as a result of greater string tension. And of course, buzz is more noticable with new roundwounds than it will be with old ones, or flatwounds. The only basses I've owned that came from the factory with super low action, and no fret buzz, were expensive boutique basses, like Ken Smith, and American Spectors.

    You are never going to get all the buzz out if you like low action, and a heavier technique.

    Exactly why I am staying away from this thread.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by jongitarz
    Exactly why I am staying away from this thread.
    No you didn't
    Cheers
    Mark

    2009 black/tort Big Al 4 SSS

    My bands -
    Richard Madden band
    The Australian Rolling Stones Show
    The Volts
    Doors Alive

  10. #10

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    Well, I am going to now...wait....I did it again didn't I ...... Damn

  11. #11

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    btw...what type of strings and gauge come with a Bongo from the EBMM factory? I like these strings
    The surest way to fail is not to try.

    * 25th Anniversary 4HSS Venetian Red - Flamed - Rosewood FB - EB Cobalt Super Slinky Strings (Orpheus)
    * Bongo 4HHP- Sapphire Black - Rosewood FB - EB Cobalt Super Slinky Strings (Merlin)
    * Bongo 4HH Fretless - Lava Pearl - Pau Ferro FB - EB Coated Super Slinky Strings (Phoebe)
    * Stingray 4H Burnt Apple -Rosewood FB - EB Cobalt Super Slinky Strings (Yvette)
    * Ray34 4H Honey Burst - Rosewood FB - EB Cobalt Super Slinky Strings (Francis)

  12. #12

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    45-100 with a 130 for the 5 strings

  13. #13

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    Jon and I share the same therapist.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aussie Mark
    Action height and string gauge are personal preferences. There is no definitive answer to your question, no matter how scientifically you try to approach it. It's like asking people to measure the length of the legs on their jeans or which hole on their belt they use. Just because something works for one person doesn't mean you're going to feel comfortable using the same measurements. We've got different hand and finger sizes, playing techniques, music styles, and preferred tones, and live in different parts of the world with different climates (which affects neck relief) so measurements ain't going to cut it.
    You're missing the point. I'm not asking for people's opinions or preferences about how high they like their action. I'm just asking people to document how they have their action set on their Bongo, and what strings and tuning they are using to accomplish that. As data collects, we may find that people are only able to achieve 3/32" action by using particular types of strings at standard tuning, and that people who choose other types of strings or lower tunings quite commonly have to raise their action to nearly twice that.

    It would just be nice to have it all documented clearly in one place, as a reference, and to use the power of the Internet to collaboratively build such a data set.

  15. #15

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    For my Bongo 4, action at the 12th fret:
    E, D, & G: 3.5/32"
    A: 3/32"

    ... with Ernie Ball Super Slinkies, 40-100, at standard tuning.

    I've only adjusted the truss rod a bit. The Bongo came with a green strip on the capstan (spelling? the truss rod wheel) that I used as a reference point. I've turned the tross rod towards the E string (loosening) by about one and a half holes from that green mark.

    Keep in mind that I live in Southern California. For whatever reasons you're asking for this kind of info, I'm sure you'd have to factor in the location of each person, as the humidity surely affects the setup.

    Also, I'd say a moderately dig in when playing. Once in a while I'd get a very light fret buzz when playing on the neck pickup position.

    Oh, and welcome to the forums! Please post pics of your bass!
    Last edited by midopa; 11-15-2004 at 07:03 PM.

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