Does anybody know of good places to get a bass set up in Massachusetts? If so, what are they called? Thanks!
These folks are called luthiers, however, you may or may not be successful at finding them if you use that to google.
Setups can be done at any guitar shop, however, a good setup - well, you may be doing some experimenting.
Guitar center does them - but I would avoid. High turnover, minimal training and experience can vary quality.
If you go into Google maps and search for ‘guitar store’ and ‘music store’ you should find any/all near you that might (some music stores might not sell guitars or basses etc). I have found some guitar stores don’t keyword themselves properly in Google so I search for both.
Generally (and this is very general) shops that build guitars/basses are better, but will cost more, etc. That does not mean that you will always get better setups at a higher end place though. You may have to shop around or call around and ask a few questions and see how they answer them. Some guys can be very dismissive, etc. Some have looooong lead times, some will do it on the spot, etc. Ask if they do a lot of basses or just guitars, etc.
I always say instrument repair and setup is one of those areas where you really need to know a little before going in, just like the doctor’s office, so you know they solved the problem coming out. When you are a beginner, you don’t know how you like your setup much, takes time to sort that out. But, and here is the secret bonus special part of playing the awesome bass….(shh don’t tell the luthiers)…setups are EASY. I had my first couple setups done by a luthier and then said “I can do that!”. Turns out anyone can, with better results. When you go to a luthier and don’t know how you like it set up, or are a beginner, they tend to set it up for a beginner. It will be fine but may not be to your liking (again, you may not know what your liking is yet anyway). Once you do though, its a lot easier and cheaper to do it yourself.
So I took one of my basses and followed along to a few different videos online until I knew what I was doing, took notes, and do all my own work now. It seems a bit daunting in the beginning but it isn’t.
Here is a thread with a ton of good videos…
I am partial to the Sadowski video for a few reasons.
- He goes slow
- There is an online document to go along with it
- He does not use ‘feel’ to set up his bass - once you know what you are doing, you can do most/all setup work by feel, but when you are beginning, it might be easier to measure things so you can establish what feel means, etc. IMO the ‘feel’ guys confuse beginners a little more than they need. My only tip that is not in every single video is ‘measure everything first, so you know where you were before you start, and go slow with minor adjustments vs. large step changes’. A few inexpensive items makes the job easier, and cheaper than going to a luthier once, let alone twice.
- The nut - don’t worry about the nut, just yet anyway. Most videos skip over this part for a reason. The nut is the one part that takes some more skill and maybe more costly tools (there are other ways to do, but need more skill). Of all the setup steps the nut is of the least concern unless it is really badly cut to begin with. There are videos for this and if you are handy it also is fairly easy (and even reversible) but does take a bit more skill for a beginner (I do my own nut work too).
During the year you will need to adjust your truss rod a little to compensate for humidity changes - so getting used to adjusting things is a necessary thing anyway.
Net/net - learning to do this stuff by yourself, with some minimal investment in a few items, will save you the $40-$80 setup fees charged, and, allow you to know its setup the way you want it. At some point, you can do it all be feel (if you do it enough or are a quick study, I still do both but I’m an engineer and like things measured precisely) and will wonder why you evert paid anyone to do something so easy.
Very nice post, John @John_E . . .
Thank you . . .
i echo what @John_E said: i did a setup the second day i started playing bass and again a couple of weeks later when i got new strings and the bass had settled in — it is extremely easy and there are a ton of good resources out there that walk you through it. i have no idea why people seem scared of adjusting the truss rod etc… i did buy a few tools in anticipation of needing them for setups but nothing major. for reference i got the following off amazon:
neck relief gauge:
and i already had hex wrenches, screwdriver, etc.
Wow! Thank you. You should publish that as an article online!
Thank you for the links, looks like I’ll need to buy some of those!
You don’t need any of them to do a setup. They can be useful to have, but they aren’t absolutely necessary. All you really need is the hex wrenches that came with the bass and a screwdriver.
A capo can help as well.
Both the videos from Marcelo (the Bass Wizard) and the Guns&Guitars guy are good examples for doing setups easily, with a minimum of tools.
yes! definitely do not need the tools but did make it easier (for me). also pretty small investment and you never buy them again. also i use a pick capo which is basically free as i already have picks.
I still run into people that will pay music shops $40+ to change their strings, + string price, and can never figure out why.
I have run several free workshops on string changing and people were amazed at how easy it was.
As a bonus I always check neck relief when I change strings, just in case, and this shows people how to adjust the truss rod. Sometimes if I see the action is ridiculously high I even go over adjusting that and show them how to check intonation.
The main trick is go SLOW, especially when adjusting the truss rod, and let it settle in for about 10 minutes and then recheck the tuning.
NOTE: It’s also a good idea to take initial measurements before doing a setup.
+1 to what @howard says… Don’t need much. And as @John_E mentions, once you start doing your own setups, it kinda becomes second nature and you’ll also learn your instrument much better and know what to tweak in order to get it to play the way you want for whatever song you’re playing at the time. I tweak on my bass’s all the time - especially the action adjustments depending on how aggressive an attack I’ll use. Always keep that little hex wrench within arms reach all the time…
If you DO want someone to set it up for you, look for small shops near you. I live in a small area in North Central Illinois and I’m lucky enough to have the Guitar Junkyard, a small shop that has been in business since 1979, and it’s about 15 minutes from where I live. The mom and pop type of shops generally have more experienced luthiers who have been doing it for a long time.
I don’t know where you are in MA but If you do end up going the shop route, Guitar Stop in Cambridge is a small family owned shop that has always done right by me.
There you go! Been in business since 1962 so beyond your endorsement @RoyB they must be pretty good.
I was looking at that website @RoyB and it reminds me of Guitar Junkyard…lots of instruments on the walls and a tight space to move
I’ve had one setup done by Guitar Center here in Southern California, and the quality was outstanding. My $350 bass plays like a $1000 bass. Perhaps I got lucky?
Wow! My sister got one done by a GUitar Center near me and it was worse than when we gave it to them.
Ya it’s a crap shoot for sure. They are essentially a training ground. However you will get the occasional luthier that doesn’t want his own shop I suppose.
@Glitch what part of Mass are you in? If you aren’t far from Portsmouth, NH, Gary’s Guitar’s is a great spot for a setup.
Could go there for certain! Thanks for the suggestion!
I’ll have to check maps, thanks for letting me know about that!