How important is a setup when you buy a bass out of the box?
How much should a setup cost vs. teaching myself?
How important is a setup when you buy a bass out of the box?
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.
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. 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
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.
You guys were totally right, that was super easy
@JoshFossgreen I haven’t needed to adjust intonation (yet) 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!
I just had a set up done on mine and I’m actually a little sorry I did. I don’t know if is that the action is set too low, the change from flat to roundwound strings or my still in early development playing but I’m getting a lot of string slap (for lack of a better way to put it) when I play, especially on the E. This wasn’t an issue at all before I had the set up done. I do like the brighter tone from the roundwound strings, but the strings slapping the neck when I play the same way as before having it done is driving me crazy. Any thoughts/suggestions?
I haven’t had any work done on my bass yet, but if it were me, I’d try it out for a week or two, and then, if it was still bothering me, I’d take it back and ask for an adjustment.
I really like my roundwounds, too! . . .
All best, Joe
Agree with this @funplumbin1, if it’s not better in a week or so you should take it back! A good setup should make you happy not sad.
If you can record a short video of yourself playing, it’d be easier to tell whether you’re really having a set up issue, or if you’re just not used to the sound of roundwounds.
Have you tried playing through headphones? That might help isolate the sound that actually comes through the amp from the acoustic string sounds on the neck that don’t go through the pickups. Meaning, it might sound noisy in person, but it doesn’t matter much if it’s not being amplified.
To anyone considering doing a set up on your own bass - give it a try! I’m not great with mechanical things, but I am good at watching YouTube videos and following what they say
So I gave it a shot, ordered a basic setup kit from Amazon, and watched the heck out of the Carruthers videos. Checked the truss rod setting, and it was just right, .015" gap at the 7th fret with 1st fret capo’ed and 15th fret pressed. I was almost sad, I wanted the experience of adjusting a truss rod - but , If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…
The bridge saddles all needed to be lowered. I lowered mine even further than he suggested, to about 3/32" for the E string, and 2/32" on the G, the middle two about halfway between that. Luckily, the nut was just right, as I did not really want to sand things down and screw that up. He suggests .022" with a feeler gauge at the 1st fret.
The intonation took me a long time. You have to keep detuning the string to get the bridge to move, then testing and retesting the tuning. And my clip on tuner is not that great, but eventually got it pretty close.
One thing that wasn’t mentioned in the videos - you may have to adjust the pickups lower, if you put the strings lower - but it’s just a few easy turns with a screwdriver there.
- You end up learning a lot about the How’s and Why’s of how a bass works, mechanically. It bonds you to your instrument for sure.
- It’s kind of empowering to learn this and know you can make these adjustments as needed. And maybe to be able to talk shop about stuff like truss rods and the like
- I was worried that I’d break something, or make it worse. But after finishing, it doesn’t seem that daunting now.
- It rocks having the strings much lower - no fret buzz encountered yet, but I’ll raise them back up if it happens.
Killer job @Vik!! Well done, and great to hear about how you did it and the Takeaways are golden.
Way to DIY a setup.
Kudos points awarded. Setup achievement unlocked.
Good for you, @Vik . . .
So far, so good with my own bass, but perhaps I will need to lower the action later on.
Thanks for your post and all best, Joe
Thanks for sharing @Vik! I really need to get a setup kit so I can measure like you’re doing, eyeballing it is too hard.
It depends on the bass/bridge, I’m able to get away with not detuning for intonation adjustments on my Peavey Cirrus. Saves some time (although I still check tuning before checking intonation after each change, of course).
Yeah, a lot of parts of a setup aren’t that dangerous, I think overturning a trussrod and filing a nut incorrectly are the main danger spots, and you didn’t have to deal with those!