Bass set up

I just ordered the Music Nomad bass truss rod set up kit from Sweetwater and am going to try and lower my action on my bass guitars. Being somewhat a noob to actually tinkering with this, my question is…in order to adjust the truss rod should I leave the strings at pitch or back them off (or for that matter, remove them entirely)?

Just leave them. They need to be at pitch to know if you have enough relief. Adjust, re-tune, check.


At pitch?

Yes (elaborated)

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Makes it easy then. My action on both is good until I get to about the 12th fret. (I know, we shouldn’t be playing in that area anyway). But I had to raise string height quite a bit when I put on my TI Flats on the Jazz bass and the Fender Flats on the LTD. The string tension was lower and they buzzed (both of them) up and down the neck. To get the buzz out, I had to raise them really high.

Yes, retune before/after every adjustment you

why not? I do all the time :slight_smile:

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Because that’s guitar territory, @howard… If you want to play there, you should buy one (yes, I know you already did :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:)


So does Les Claypool…I’ll get to that area one day. :laughing:

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I figure I will mess it up at some point. I just want to get the action low enough to not struggle with fretting notes higher on the fretboard, but high enough to not get rattle and buzz on the lower frets.

If you’re tightening the truss rod, it’s a good idea to loosen the strings a little bit. Same with when you’re raising bridge saddles.

I’ve always used bridge height for action primarily. The truss rod is primarily for neck straightness, though it does impact string height as well of course. My method is to hold down (or capo) the first and the 12th fret on my lowest string and then at the 7th fret there should be a business card thinness gap. Adjust the truss rod up or down accordingly until that is the case. Then adjust the bridge saddles of each string so you have no buzzing and the height you want.

Just how I do it. Everyone has their own method and it isn’t always this simple.

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Just take it easy and do minor adjustments.
It’s not as difficult as some would have you believe. :slightly_smiling_face:

One thing not mentioned is that after adjusting the truss rod let it settle in for 15 minutes or so then retune and then check the neck relief again.

If the strings are buzz free but get higher towards the 19th to 12th fret should one loosen or tighten the truss rod? The bridge is adjusted fairly high to keep lower frets from buzzing and clanging. By doing that it made the aforementioned frets above 10th, too high I think.

Well… it is a bit more complex than that.
If you truss rod has curve imparted on the neck then your higher frets will be, well, higher.
You want it as flat as possible without any (or maybe just a little) bit of fret buzz - when in tune.
But that is not the only factor.
Nut height matters too.
The other factor is potential need for a shim in the neck pocket, which would raise the heel end of the neck up to provide lower action up higher.
Every bass is built different, and every player likes action different. Shims can help here.
It is a bit of a balancing act in all of these that make a good setup important.

Lastly playing style matters too, gentle touch vs. diggin in / pick playing all effect when buzz starts. If you are a fairly new player and don’t have a lot of control in your playing yet, overall action may need to be higher for a while.

First off the truss rod is used to adjust the neck relief not the string action.

There are two main things you need to be concerned with here and they should be treat separately and adjusted in order.

1 - The neck relief which is controlled by the truss rod adjustment.
Tightening the truss rod will pull the neck back and decrease the neck relief/bow.

2- The string action(height) which is controlled by the bridge saddles.

The neck relief should be adjusted first and then the string action second.

Here are couple of YouTube videos that may help. There are lots more out there.

Also, here is a discussion on the forum that may help you.

You may also want to check the nut height, although I have rarely needed to adjust it.
@howard has a method of checking this and hopefully he will join in and describe it for you.


Checking nut height is very easy. For each string, fret the third fret up against the second fret wire - the opposite side you would usually fret.

The string should just barely clear the first fret wire. If it is touching or resting on the wire, the nut is too low. If there is a tiny gap - barely visible but you can bounce the string a little - it’s just right. If the gap is large (more than a third of a millimeter or so - spec is usually around 0.1mm), the nut is too high at that string.

Unless it’s way out of size, none are too catastrophic.

If all the strings are high, easiest fix is to pop off the nut, and sand the bottom of it a bit, until you have a better uniform height. Same for if all of them are too low; pop off the nut and shim it (I have used strips of cut business card stock for this). There’s youtube videos for these fixes.

You usually don’t need to take the strings off to remove the nut, just loosen them a lot.

I’d watch a few videos before trying it.


Thanks @howard