Do you set up your own bass(es)?

For tools for a mechanical setup, I use the following:

Truss Rod Ajustment:
Tross Rod Tool (usually comes with your bass, but is often just a 3/16" key)
Capo - This helps hold down the string at the first fret for convenience but isn’t essential
I have feeler gauges, but don’t tend to use them. I just eyeball it and try to get the smallest gap light can pass through.

String Height:
1/64th" Precision Ruler - Most important tool for me
Saddle Hex Driver (most are 1/16" I think, but it can vary)
Understring Radius Gauges - Helps get the middle strings following the fretboard curve after you do the hight of the low and high strings.

Pickup Height:
1/64th" Precision Ruler
Good Screwdriver

Intonation/Neck Bolts/Strap Bolts:
Decent screwdrivers, you don’t want to strip your screws!

Oh, and to do intonation you want a good tuner. I use the Peterson HD Strobostomp and highly recommend it.

I’ve never messed with the nut as I don’t change string sizes.

So in summary, the tools I use for the mechanical setup are:

Truss Rod Key
Capo (optional, just for convenience)
1/64" Precision Ruler
Feeler Gauges (optional, I don’t bother with them most of the time)
Understring Radius Gauges (optional, you can use a ruler)
Saddle Hex Driver
Good Screwdrivers
Good Tuner

I say “mechanical setup” because there is of course polish, oils, sandpaper, etc. for body, nuts, fretboard. These are a matter of personal preference.


That’s a good set of tools, @JT

I ordered one of those, too . . . should be here today or tomorrow! :slight_smile:



I downloaded the app and ordered the cable instead.
I kept ripping my tuner off my pedalboard and was driving me nuts.
For $20 you get a Peterson tuner in app form, and since my phone is always with me, when I am at my workbench it was an easy fix.


Thanks JT, this info will be so helpful. :+1:

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I also do my own setup and adjustments. There’s a gentleman name John Carruthers on you tube that has a 4 part series on bass maintenance. I actually bought his book on teach yourself repair and maintenance for reference. I do my own solding also on basses i have upgraded.

here are the videos. There"s 8 in total to watch.


I took a few of his methods but don’t like others. He’s very good though.

I don’t like measuring truss rod relief from where the neck meets the body. To me this distance is very variable. I like last fret and calibrate from there.

Never used gauges, always go by feel for neck relief. Capo for first fret is helpful. Can do it without though. I use Marcelo’s method:

which I find works just fine, is easy to understand and remember and do. I think that’s more or less the most effective video I have seen on setting up a bass.

Action height I simply Iower until it just buzzes with heavy plucking and then raise 1/4 turn. This tends to automatically follow the neck radius minus the string gauge, which works well for me. Sometimes I go a bit lower. Sometimes a bit higher. Depends on if I am primarily picking or not. Again, all by feel.

Pickup height I just do by ear and feel. Pickup height is overlooked but important - every new bass I have bought had the pups adjusted to maximum height :slight_smile:

nut height is super easy to check, unfortunately not covered by Marcelo there, but I only do anything about it if it is way too high or low (I’ve had both).

Intonation I check periodically and do if it is out.


This paragraph is particularly helpful. :+1:

I’m finding out that the string height can be changed by either the truss rod or the saddles. Am I correct? And if so, how would you know which one to adjust?


You should watch the video I linked, it explains it well.

The truss rod does not set action height, it sets neck relief - how much the neck bends. These are related but different concepts.

The bridge saddles (and to a lesser extent, the nut) control the action height.


I should have done that before I responded. I’ll do it now.


It’s a great video :slight_smile:

And no worries! Just wanted to make sure you gave it a shot as Marcelo does a great job of explaining it all.


How do you measure it?


The general method: Fret the third fret right up against the second fret wire (i.e. the opposite side from usual, towards the nut not the bridge.)

The string should just barely clear the first fret. By a small but visible gap. If it is riding on the fret, the nut is too low for that string. If it is a large gap (more than like a piece of paper) it’s too high for that string.

The ramifications of it being too high are not super bad but are nice to fix. It’s not going to break the bass if it is too high, but it might make fretting lower frets less comfortable. Unless it is way out either way it is not something to stress over.

My BB’s nut is a but high but I haven’t taken the time to pop it off and fix it yet.

Before doing anything to the nut, I recommend getting a spare nut (they are usually cheap) and watching a few videos about how to do it.

Or just leave it be, unless it is truly way off.


Thanks @howard

I know you gave me this information before but could not find the thread and I thought others should know, as I found it very helpful and it is not mentioned very often.

As far as replacement nuts are concerned, I purchased 2 for my Yamaha TRBX 504 and was amazed they were so cheap ie. $3.40ea direct from Yamaha.


Cool. I found that my original TRBX nut was a good height and wouldn’t have done anything to it had I not accidentally broken it with a set of strings that were too large :slight_smile:


@howard Sometimes sh!t just happens to the best of us :slightly_smiling_face:

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You should always set truss rod relief first.
Yes, it will effect string height, but is not the way to set it.
The truss rod setting ‘sets the stage’ of the fretboard for all other adjustments.

A proper arc (relief) in the fretboard then allows you to set the proper string height.
String height is determined by the saddle height but effected by the truss rod adjustment.

Once those two are set, then you look at intonation.
Intonation is simply the length of the string and set by the forwardness of backness of the saddle position.
Moving the saddle back and forth lengthens or shortens (flattens or shapens) the intonation over the fretboard (which is checked at the twelfth fret.
String intonation is set by the saddle position but effected by the string height and truss rod adjustments, which is why you do it after both.

Pickup height is done last once the strings are where you want them, and effect volume of the strings. Too far, dull. Too close, to hot, to ‘gainy’.


OK John, I think I get the truss rod adjustment vs. the saddle height adjustment but I still don’t understand intonation. If we’re adjusting sharpness and flatness via the intonation adjusters, can’t we just do that by turning the tuning pegs?


The idea with intonation is that if the frets aren’t dividing the string in the correct spots, the open string may be in tune, but, say, the 12th fret may be sharp or flat. Shortening or lengthening the string via the saddle adjustments will change allow both the open string as well as the fretted string to be in tune.

As a concrete example, the 12th fret should divide the string in half. If the adjustment is a little off, then the string length won’t be exactly halved when you fret the 12th fret (saddle to fret may be slightly more or less than half the total string length). Adjusting the saddle can fix that.

Hope that’s clear…


Are you saying that half of a given string can be in tune while the other half of that same sting might not be?