Bass Setup


How important is a setup when you buy a bass out of the box?
How much should a setup cost vs. teaching myself?


It is very important, it’s not hard. I learned quite quickly. Look for John Carruther’s videos on YouTube, and see if it’s for you. My local GC charges $50.


Unless there is something really wrong or off about the bass, I don’t set anything up on a new bass. I bought it because it plays and feels like a great match for my physiology out of the box. Setups come later after years of playing as the bass drifts off the mark. If the bass is used then I typically change the action.


Thank you


This is true for me too, but usually something doesn’t feel ideal so I end up tweaking the bridge action at least if not the trussrod.

That said, as a data point, when we bought all the basses for the Beginner Bass Reviews they were all pretty playable out of the box. Depends on how picky you are.

For me it also depends on how badly it needs a setup. Adjusting bridge action is super easy, getting the trussrod right is a little harder. Depends on how comfortable you feel with that kind of stuff.


I just did my own simple setup and it made an big difference.

My bass was set up pretty well when I got it but the action was kind of bugging me - it felt like it was taking too much force to play. Especially the D and G strings, but also the A string. E string seemed fine.

I checked the truss rod tension and it seemed fine - I didn’t use a gauge but fretting the first fret and a fret up by the neck/body join, there was a nice and small gap between the string and the frets all along the neck - a couple pieces of paper thick or so, and it looked relatively even. Close enough that I don’t think I could have improved on it for my first self-setup, so I left it as is.

Next, I started lowering the action on each string a quarter turn at a time, until it felt “right”. It might actually still be a bit high - there isn’t any buzzing even if I pluck reasonably hard. A couple of the strings came down quite a ways, maybe a full turn for one of them, 1/2-3/4 a turn for the others. E string didn’t need anything.

The difference is huge. It just feels so much better. Surprisingly, it sounds better too - I am guessing because the strings are now closer to the pickups? Anyway, big improvement and much easier than I had thought it would be.

I found a pretty good video explaining the process but it wasn’t hard - just searching youtube turned up a bunch. The Yamaha manual actually has very good instructions as well, including spec measurements (which I didn’t use, but it’s nice to have.)

I didn’t even try to adjust intonation though. I suspect my tuner is not up to that.


Very good @howard , and thanks for your post. :slight_smile: My guitar played just fine right out of the box from Sweetwater. They did their “55 point inspection” before shipping, but did NOT do a setup. My action might be a bit high, but so far so good.

If your guitar feels and sounds better to you, that’s all that matters :wink:

All best, Joe


First off - well done on the home setup.
Having the know-how and skills to setup your instrument is so dang important.

Any tuner will do a good enough job to get you close.
I heartily recommend an intonation check any time you change anything - strings / saddle height / spacing - anything.
It’s so nice to have the faith and confidence in the intonation!!
And any ol’ tuner will get you real real real close.


I was just writing the same thing and then saw Gio’s post! As long as you’re using a decent plug-in tuner (Korg kills it in that department), you’ll get accurate within +/- 1 cent or so, which is still finer tuning than almost any human can actually hear.

I do love doing intonation with my Peterson strobe tuner though, feels good. :slight_smile:


You guys were totally right, that was super easy :slight_smile:


@JoshFossgreen I haven’t needed to adjust intonation (yet) :wink: and have both a clip-on and a Korg in-line tuner. Why do you like the Peterson better? Also, which model?

Thanks very much, Joe


The average tuner is accurate within +/- 1 cent, and Peterson tuners are accurate within +/- 0.1 cents, so a factor of 10 different. I don’t know that it really matters, but I love showing up to the studio with a dope strobe tuner.

TC Electronic claims their Polytune 3 (and Polytune/Unitune clip) is accurate within +/-0.02 cents, which is pretty insane if that’s true. No idea how one actually tests for that though, or how they can afford to make their tuners cheaper than Peterson if they’re really 5x more accurate!