Do you set up your own bass(es)?

I’m asking because, although I’m new to the bass, I’m not new to DIY projects. I don’t mind having to buy a few tools that I don’t already have and I like the idea of learning to maintain and tweak my bass myself. Am I crazy?


I do and enjoy it.
I honestly can’t imaging not tweaking it through the humid/dry season changes, or paying for someone else to do it. The more you play, the more you will know when its not right, when the truss rod needs adjusting, etc.
And once you sort out how to do it (not hard) and learn how you like it set up (takes a little more time to sort), you will never pay anyone else to do it again.

There is really nothing you can do in setting up or string changes or climate tweaks that can ruin anything.


Thanks John, that really helps.


I do my own setups. It’s really not that difficult, and honestly, I think the music store guys don’t do it any better than I can do it myself (and I get to keep the $$ in my pocket.
I think you’ve find that most of the seasoned members here also do their own.


Thanks Pam, I appreciate your input.


the way the weather changes in Japan…absolutely I’m in there messing with it. Is it the same set up you’d get from a luthier…no, its probably not as good as you would get from decent mom and pop music store. That being said, I’m up and running, buzz free.


So the initial set up only lasts for so long? All the more reason to be doing it myself.


Yeah depending on where you live, for sure. I need to do one every ~6 weeks or so.


Yes, if you want the bass to consistently play the way you like it.
Could you go without a set up every 4-6 months, or earlier or longer, depending on where you live and how much you play, YES, you can.
But you will be constantly adjusting your plucking and fretting pressure, or be living with fret buzz.

to keep the bass with consistent low action, and no fret buzz, you need to check the fretboard, probably adjust the truss rod slightly, and then raise or lower the string action. plus check intonation. Intonation is the most work, because it is all trial and error, so it can take time, but it is not really difficult, just can be a pain in the ass. However, I have not needed to continuously adjust the intonation, once I get it right, it holds pretty good for me.


Crazy - No. Necessary - Yes if you want to save money and learn more about your instrument.

I only have 1 music store local to me and set ups run about $80 a time.
I learned a long time ago that a lot of the time music store set ups can make your instrument play a lot worse.

There are a lot of very well done YouTube videos, and information of the BassBuzz forum for you to learn from. Also do not hesitate to ask questions on the BassBuzz forum. There is a lot of knowledge here that can help you.

The main thing is to go slow and do things in the right order ie. 1 - Neck Relief (truss rod) 2 - Action (String height) 3 - Intonation 4 - Nut 5 - Pickup height.

Where I live in Canada at this time of year I have to adjust the setup about once a month. The relative humidity changes between 35 and 100%.

The only thing that scares me is if you need to file/fill the nut slots. Fortunately this is not something that you usually need to worry about.

I recommend you take measurements, before changing anything, so you have a reference and know where you started and if you do adjust the truss rod let it settle in for 1/2 hour or so after making an adjustment and then tune to pitch before moving on.

The required tools are really minimal except for nut files which are really expensive, if you need them. When I purchased my Bass, the nut height was the main thing I was concerned with on the setup. Anything else can be adjusted to taste, assuming the neck is not twisted.

Also, keep in mind that factory specs, IMHO, are only a guide to a starting point and may not be what you like.

On a cheap guitar/bass one of the tricks manufacturers do is to have the action set so high that there is no string buzz. This will do the trick but fretting strings is a lot harder.

So the simple answer to your question is YES you should learn to do your own setups, it is relatively simple, and will save you money plus puts you more in touch with your instrument.


Nut filing is really not that scary. The price of good files is scary, and not warranted unless you start accumulating basses, then the $80 is easily justified vs. 1 trip to a luthier.

With the nut, like the rest, you go SLOW and take very small amounts of material at a time. Go too far, you can go back with baking soda and crazy glue very easily or bone nut powder and super glue.

The Bello bass I just bought had the nut cut wrong on the G and is way too low, preventing the action from being where it needs to be, so that is this weekend’s project. The nut is black, so I got the nut powder from Stew Mac to match. There are great videos on nut filing.

It’s no more intimidating than truss rod adjustment - once you realize you are not going to mess up your baby, its all good man.


Yeah. Also, if you’re in the common situation that all the strings are high, then it’s even easier. Just pop it off and sand the base of the nut on a sheet of sandpaper a little at a time until it’s the right height on average.

The exact nut height is also not so critical so if one string is a little low or high it’s not going to kill you.

All the same, I wish everyone else did what Warwick does. The Just-A-Nut is a great idea. I miss that (and their bridge system).


Still scary to me.
Good point about the cost of nut files vs setups.

I purchased several extra nuts for my Yamaha TRBX 504 just in case. Don’t need them at this point, but for a cost of $3.00 each direct from Yanaha, they are there if I need them.


I just started setting up my basses a few months ago and actually quite enjoy it now. At a minimum, I plan to do it whenever I change the strings.


Thank you guys for taking the time to provide such thoughtful answers to my question. I didn’t realize that a set up was something that had to be performed more than one time and is affected by weather changes.

Now I need to find out which tools I should order. I have lots of screw drivers and a variety of pliers but what are some of the tools that are exclusive to the bass? I’m assuming feeler gauges and a straight edge, but are there any others that I’ll need?

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As a very procedural driven engineer, I have developed a process for setups that I really like. In the process of writing it up in great detail, when I get time. I have my scribble notes that won’t make sense to others.

I took bits from here and there and came up with a ‘standard’ procedure for setup (and cleaning as long as strings are off) that worked and gave me the results I like to play on.
I tried a bunch of different techniques for measuring esp truss rod adjustment and landed on ones that seem robust and useful for me.

If I ever get it written fully, will share here, but caution, its really anally detailed. Many will say its way too prescribed, but it gets the bass to where I know I like it every time.

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I for one could really use a detailed copy of those notes. :confused:

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Many here use common household things (picks, business cards, etc). I go the tool route (again, anal engineer).

A capo, feeler gauges (auto store ones are fine), screwdrivers, Allen wrenches, and a way to measure.
I really like the Fret Guru 2 vs. a ruler that starts on the edge with measurements.

Overkill, maybe, but to me very worth it for all the above.
You don’t need anything else (less the whole nut file thing), maybe need less if you are into “feel” vs. measure.

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Let me see if I can finish them up…

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@John_E … Make sure as much “waste” (LEAN) is removed and “variation” (Six Sigma) is reduced before publishing! LoL I am not an engineer (can barely spell it) but after a career in manufacturing, I am all about the procedures! Thanks, and I look forward to seeing it.

@Steve_A Great questions and thinking. Although I am pretty handy I didn’t want to “hurt” any of my basses and was a little fearful tinkering with them at first too. As mentioned, there are a ton of great videos out there, but here are a couple of my favorites I refer to from the folks at Sweetwater (for guitar but can be applied to the bass) and Fodera (good bass video which will take you to a few others the folks at Fodera made).

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