How bridge adjusters work on double bass

Let's explore why double bass players use bridge adjusters and the pros and cons of having them on a double bass.

With Jason Heath · San Francisco, CA

 Double bass bridge adjusters can be made of many materials including plastic, aluminum, and various woods. Mine are plastic, and I used to have aluminum bridge adjusters.

They are on your bass for a specific reason – to adjust the height of your bridge!

Misconceptions about bridge adjusters

A lot of people think that bridge adjusters work kind of like electric bass bridges and that you can move them up or down.

That’s not really the case. When you turn one side, the bridge moves up or down and changes the angle of the bridge in relation to the belly of the instrument. So you’re actually going to shift your action slightly to the left or slightly to the right if you only adjust one side.

You want to ensure that you raise or lower both sides to the same height. That’s why a few different luthiers have put dots on my bridge adjusters. I have these white dots, and on the other side, I have red dots.

I found that the best method is to do a half-turn of the adjuster: Turn one-half turn on one side and then one-half turn on the other side. Next, we’ll check and see how the bass feels. And, of course, your bass is going to be out of tune, so make sure you check your intonation.

How do you know how high or low your bridge should be?

That is a subjective, for sure. We bass players play all different kinds of styles. In general, if I’m playing pizzicato or I’m playing solo, I’m going to have my strings a little bit lower than if I’m playing with the San Francisco Symphony or some sort of heavy arco playing where there’s a lot of verticality in the bow stroke.

You also want to monitor your bridge angle when adjusting it and ensure that it stays 90 degrees to the body. If you make radical changes and tighten and loosen your strings, that angle can shift a bit.

How to check your bridge after an adjustment (or bump!)

Our friend Mike Shank of Shank Strings has a wonderful video on how to check if your bridge is in alignment after an adjustment or if you think you bumped it!

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