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Set-up Your Bass!


wraub

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So, a while back, I changed strings on both of my main basses. I made the normal quick adjustments, and forgot about it. Played a lot of rehearsals and practices, and a couple gigs.

After some time, I noticed that they didn't feel right anymore, they needed additional tweaking. But, this time, taking advantage of some surprise free time, I sat down and did it right.

 

Fretted: Lowered string height. This is a process on my fretted bass' bridge, as each string must be detuned, then the saddle adjusted, and then the string retuned. Still, a small trade-off for massive sustain and easy string changes.

Raised pick-up height, improving dynamic control, and adjusted the truss rod.

I made sure to adjust the string height, wait a day, adjust the truss rod (no more than a 1/4 turn at a time!), wait a day, and then see if more adjustment is necessary.

 

Results: this bass sings and growls in even more pleasing ways than before, plus is far easier to play at length, due to the lower string tension and increased volume output.

 

Fretless got the same treatment, minus the raising of the pick-ups. Now, it's more playable in tune, and easier to have fun on. It also sings more.

 

I guess I'm posting this to help motivate those in need of work, or maybe only considering it, to do it (or at least get it done.) And, if you are not sure how to do the work yourself, may I suggest that the beginning of the new year would be a fine time to learn a skill that will serve you for as long as you play.

Musical spring cleaning, or something.

 

You'll play more, you'll play better, and what's wrong with that?

 

Set-up your bass!!

 

Peace,

 

wraub

 

I'm a lot more like I am now than I was when I got here.

 

 

 

 

 

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Word.

 

I had to tweak my new Fish last week -- put a little more relief in the neck. Made it mo' betta.

 

I'm still not a "pro" at setting up my instruments, and I often need to ask questions (e.g., I e-mailed Carey about some fret buzz and he helped me determine that relief was probably needed -- especially given CA/NJ climate differences). I do feel like a better man for having made the effort to learn more about how to do it myself, and the questions are now easier to ask.

 

Also, I feel like each time I adjust the set-up on one of my instruments, I learn a little more about the instrument itself.

 

I think I've started some threads in the past about some of my set-up efforts. There really is a good feeling you get after getting your instrument to feel right to you.

 

Peace.

--s-uu

spreadluv

 

Fanboy? Why, yes! Nordstrand Pickups and Guitars.

Messiaen knew how to parlay the funk.

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Good stuff wraub.

 

I need a new workspace for my set-ups (dining room table is no longer appropriate). I used to set up in my basement but fear of mositure pushed me above ground. I need one of those mats with the built in neck cradle. I have a decent workbench but I keep all my bass tools separate from the regular stuff - (where did that allen wrench go?).

 

I think more bassists would be inclined to do their own set-ups if they had the proper work area to perform the neccessary tasks.

 

Hardware companies always put out work benches for multi-tasks but they may not be appropriate for our instruments.

 

I need a 6 foot by 2 foot table. Neck rest and body cradle - over head light or lights, multi-outlet with surge protector, Micro-mini vac, spill proof edges on the table (little screws travel long distances) - recessed pockets for parts, mini-tools, etc...

 

good winter project.

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Originally posted by wraub:

adjust the truss rod (no more than a 1/4 turn at a time!)

Nota bene!

 

I didn't and broke two. Yes, that's in both of my basses! The Warwick one I had replaced. The Hohner is still broken but the neck seems to be perfectly happy with the current string tension and I'm not going to mess with it!

 

For anyone in the UK, you'll be pleased to know that if you set up your bass correctly the first time, you'll hardly have to adjust it again. The benefits of a mild (read: dull) maritime climate.

 

For anyone in the USA - just add up how much money you'll give to a tech over the years and consider how much you'd rather keep those funds to yourself!

 

Alex

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good stuff wraub. Did you put the same strings on both of your basses?

 

Does anyone recommend any books for setting up a bass?

 

I've played basses that feel great, and i've tried unsuccessfully to get my bass to have the same feel. I'm very nervous about adjusting the truss rod.

 

jason

2cor5:21

Soli Deo Gloria

 

"it's the beauty of a community. it takes a village to raise a[n] [LLroomtempJ]." -robb

 

My YouTube Channel

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Ashamed to say, but I have no idea what a "set-up" actually means. Well, I do ! Don't get me wrong, I just mean that I wouldn't have a clue where to begin.

 

I've had my Ibanez for a year and a half now, and I have considered getting it "checked". Guess that'd come down to the same thing.

 

I can change my strings though :rolleyes: A guitar-playing friend of mine can't, so I've got some practise changing them on his guitars :D

 

How and why do you raise the pickups?

"I'm a work in progress." Micky Barnes

 

The Ross Brown Shirt World Tour

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Setting up an instrument is mostly a logical process, though somtimes what needs to be done can be less than intuitive.

 

My Corvette fretless has wonderful action; however, in certain weather conditions the E string isn't as clean-sounding as usual. As the action is uniformly good throughout the rest of the instrument and the neck shows no sign of twisting, I will raise the E-string saddle slightly. In addition, the bass sometimes growls too much and overloads the input of whatever amp it's plugged into. Since it's passive, I need to lower the pickups a bit to decrease the output.

 

I just haven't got 'round to it yet :D

I used to think I was Libertarian. Until I saw their platform; now I know I'm no more Libertarian than I am RepubliCrat or neoCON or Liberal or Socialist.

 

This ain't no track meet; this is football.

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My Toby has been the subject of my set-up experiments, and seems to be better for it.

 

My neck has been tweeked, shimmed, unshimmed, tweeked, shimmed and tweeked again. Now it is unshimmed and adjusted rather well. I concluded that my shims were mostly just covering for the fact that the truss rod needed a more generous crank (1/4 turn at a time, of course).

 

I keep thinking that maybe, one day, I'll get it professionally done once - just to make sure that the nut is right also. Then I remember that long term plans include a home defret project on this bass... so the nut can be adjusted at that time. With a screwdriver. And my teeth. And a coat of fried chicken grease.

- Matt W.
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Since I am on a self-imposed G.A.S. reduction, maybe a "workbench" would be acceptable. What a great idea.

 

I currently do all my suff at the store I teach at so I don't really need it at this moment, but I great idea.

 

I, too, get a little nerveous about truss rod adjustments, but as long as you make tiny adjustments, you are usually OK.

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Gospel5theZealot asks

Did you put the same strings on both of your basses?

Does anyone recommend any books for setting up a bass?

I've played basses that feel great, and i've tried unsuccessfully to get my bass to have the same feel. I'm very nervous about adjusting the truss rod.

-------------

Jason, the fretted has DR LoRiders, the fretless has D'addario chromes flats. I switched to the Lo-riders from DR High-beams after playing the High Beam brand exclusively for over 5 years. They were lacking something, and the LoRiders have it.

The Chromes replaced an unknown brand roundwound set.

As for tips, search the BP archives, search this forum, go to the Stew Mac, Carvin, and similar sites, or head to the Public Library for Dan Erlewine's many helpful books. Or, if you want, PM me, maybe we can do lunch and I'll show you what I know. :)

===========================================

 

EddiePlaysBass says,

Ashamed to say, but I have no idea what a "set-up" actually means. Well, I do ! Don't get me wrong, I just mean that I wouldn't have a clue where to begin.

How and why do you raise the pickups?

----------------------------------------

 

Don't be ashamed! Omne Ignotum Pro Magnifico, as they say, simply the unknown all up in your grill (look, everybody, Latin and street in the same sentence... )

Again, there are many fine resources on line. Even here on the LD, do a search. Again, feel free to PM me, I'll tell you all I know.

And, again, if you want to do lunch sometime... :D

 

Simply, you raise (or lower) the pickups to alter the relationship between string and pickup. There are screws in the pickup edges for this. On my basses' soapbar pickups, the screws are one to a corner, on P and J pickups the are at the ends and on the top and bottom, respectively.

The closer the string to the pickup, the louder it will be. BUT, the closer the string to the pickup, the Magnetic pull of the pickups will affect the vibration of the string, killing tone and sustain. It's a fine balance, but worth the hunt. Most "experts" seem to suggest the string be about 1/8" from the pickup, but you'll probably futz with it until you think it's right.

And, that's the point...

You can make Your instrument play its best for You.

 

Peace,

 

wraub

 

I'm a lot more like I am now than I was when I got here.

 

 

 

 

 

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Here are some great instructions on set up by Gary Willis, bassist for Tribal Tech.

Gary Willis setup instructions

 

Ignore the part about the ramp. The ramp is a custom feature on the Gary Willis model bass.

 

You of course can pay someone to do a setup, but it really is something you should learn how to do. Even if a pro does the setup, they don't know exactly how hard you play.

 

The common scenario when someone brings in an instrument for setup is that they say, "make it as low as possible without buzzing."

 

But you usually don't get to play the bass in front of the tech so he doesn't see how hard you play. And even if you do get to play, it's not always how hard you play on a gig.

 

Every time you change brands of strings you need to do a setup.

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This really is such a great skill to have. Especially if you have to play on the road at all. Changing climates can drastically affect the way your instrument responds. I always make sure to have at least some basic setup tools with me at all times. A few screwdrivers and allen wrenches can be worth their weight in gold.

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"My concern is, and I have to, uh, check with my accountant, that this might bump me into a higher, uh, tax..."

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i knew that it sounded wrong as i was typing it...but i often site down my neck from the bridge down...and thinking back to those times i cannot distinctly remember seeing a screw of that sort...maybe it just isn't where gary willis' is.

 

jason

2cor5:21

Soli Deo Gloria

 

"it's the beauty of a community. it takes a village to raise a[n] [LLroomtempJ]." -robb

 

My YouTube Channel

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Jason,

the intonation adjustment "screws" are sometimes the Allen/hex key variety, sometimes proper screws. It varies with the design of the bridge.

As Nick said, almost all guitars and basses made in the last 20+ years have some provision for adjusting intonation.

Again, if you like, PM me and I'll try to answer your questions.

 

Peace,

 

wraub

 

I'm a lot more like I am now than I was when I got here.

 

 

 

 

 

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The normal position for an intonation screw is at the back end of the bridge. That's the screw that adjusts where the saddle sits on the bridge. Your bridge may be different though. Kahler bridges have set screws that allow the bridge to be moved. An image of your bridge would be the most helpful way of locating the proper adjustment screw.

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"My concern is, and I have to, uh, check with my accountant, that this might bump me into a higher, uh, tax..."

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Yup. My fretted bass has a Kahler bridge, it's as Nick described.

Best. Bass. Bridge. Ever. :D

 

I agree, more familiar knowlege of your bridge will yield a more intimate response. :)

 

Peace,

 

wraub

 

I'm a lot more like I am now than I was when I got here.

 

 

 

 

 

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I am in the situation of finally needing to learn to do my own setup. Let me explain:

 

The music shop I used to frequent was also frequented by my Dad, his comfortable salary, and occasional bouts with G.A.S. When I started taking my playing more seriously, I was already a regular customer. Between my Dad and myself we have bought or traded for no less than 3 amps, 2 basses, 7 guitars, a power amp, and a few different effects boxes over the last 10 years.

 

Until this weekend I had never paid for a setup. I used to pay for strings and they would set everything up for me. Many times they would do it while I waited or watched. It was great. I remember one time when they finished adjusting my main bass I played it, said there was something I didn't like, was told to let the neck settle a little bit to protect the truss rod, came back in 3 weeks later and had it adjusted again. No charge, no hassle, just friendly conversation. And I had to go off and move out of state.

 

After having my bass basically tucked away in a closet for 4 months while I was staying with some family friends waiting for my job to start I got my own place last month. Last week I dropped my bass off for new strings (a new brand at that) and an adjustment (neck, intonation, string height) due to the difference in climate from central Illinois to Houston, TX. Well I have my bass back and the action isn't as low as I would like it to be.

 

And I still have one more bass tucked away that needs some tweaking, but for now it is a closet special.

 

[/ranting]

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Originally posted by Nicklab:

Originally posted by wraub:

I agree, more familiar knowlege of your bridge will yield a more intimate response. :)

What is this, a Trojan commercial? :P
Well, the LowDown is all about spreading the Luv'.

I do it safely.

With pleasure. :D

 

Peace,

 

wraub

 

I'm a lot more like I am now than I was when I got here.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Willis site is great.

 

I've been doing my own work since I got my Kinal over 2 years ago. The one thing I'd like to do is get a good ruler and a standard technique for measuring heights. I'm always going by trial and error to get the settings the way I like.

 

Since wraub mentioned "spring cleaning", I offer THIS LINK to a previous discussion on cleaning. If you are bothering to adjust, you might as well clean!

 

While a professional bench sounds nice, I've always found the couch to be best. I put down a sheet or some clean rags, put the neck on the arm (padded), and have at it. Very convenient, no hard surfaces to ding the finish. When I was traveling, I did a cleaning/set-up in a hotel room, using the bed and the desk chair. Just like Anthony Jackson does !!

 

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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Originally posted by jeremy c:

I have a question for you scientists out there.

 

I know how to adjust the intonation but what I want to know is why is this necessary and why is it different for various types of strings?

 

A nice physics explanation is what I'm looking for.

 

tia

The intonation point varies with the width of the string. The smaller the diameter of the string, the closer the real halfway point will be the 12th fret. The diameter of the string slighty effects where the witness point (end point of vibration) is actually seen. The thicker the string and gentler the break over the bridge point, the farther from the bridge the actual witness point is. I think the tension of the string may play a role in this as well. A good sharp bend over the bridge helps set the winess point. This is why tapercore and barecore strings are easier to set intonation on.

You can stop now -jeremyc

STOP QUOTING EVERY THING I SAY!!! -Bass_god_offspring

lug, you should add that statement to you signature.-Tenstrum

I'm not sure any argument can top lug's. - Sweet Willie

 

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Originally posted by jeremy c:

I have a question for you scientists out there.

 

I know how to adjust the intonation but what I want to know is why is this necessary and why is it different for various types of strings?

 

A nice physics explanation is what I'm looking for.

 

tia

Aging and erosion, my brother. Just like what happens to all of us.

 

-Wood dries and the cells fossilize, just like bone marrow.

-Glue, (epecially the animal-based glues that hold different woods together) dry out and develop cracks, just like cartilege and the disks in your back.

-Metal and plastic wears, warps and bends, just like skin.

-Strings stretch, rust, lose magnetic pull. (can't think of an organic analogy here)

 

The physical instrument is in constant tension between the neck (truss rod) and the strings. Sooner or later something has to be adjusted. Ditto for the human instrument.

 

I'm not nearly a physics person, but I hope the concept came through despite my lack of specifics. In short, all things must pass.

:wave:

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Originally posted by Fred the bass player:

Originally posted by jeremy c:

I have a question for you scientists out there.

 

I know how to adjust the intonation but what I want to know is why is this necessary and why is it different for various types of strings?

 

A nice physics explanation is what I'm looking for.

 

tia

-Strings stretch, rust, lose magnetic pull. (can't think of an organic analogy here)

 

:wave:

Um, yea...can't think of an organ analogy....right :D
Hiram Bullock thinks I like the band volume too soft (but he plays guitar). Joe Sample thinks I like it way too loud (but he plays piano). -Marcus Miller
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