First-Time Bass Setup Story

This is just a hopefully amusing anecdote.

I’ve been playing about three weeks, on a new bass, so I thought, I should have this thing set up professionally. And I found a guy in Dallas to do it, so as directed, I parked behind his building and called him to come out to get the bass. (Quarantine, man. I felt like I was doing a drug deal.)

As he took it out of my car, he asked me, “Just standard tuning?”

And I thought, well, isn’t there more to it than just tuning it? So I stammered out, “I don’t really know what it needs. It’s brand new, but so am I, I’ve only been playing for 3 weeks…”

He nodded and took the bass away.

It wasn’t until sometime after I got home that I realized he was asking me what tuning I wanted on the bass (standard vs. some other scheme), not what I wanted done to it. At least, I think so. Oops!


Well my setup hasn’t gone over too well either. But I think he’s a professional and didn’t think twice about it after you mentioned being new to bass. Also maybe a question for the other bass players: is that something you do? set the bass up differently for a non-standard tuning? In my mind the setup stayed the same and just the tuning is different…

For me it was multiple things I felt awkward about: I didn’t have a gigbag yet so I used something from an instrument I once ordered which is something like a lute - didn’t really fit in it.

When I mentioned that it was once ordered online he rolled his eyes or something similiar. Also as soon as he got a glance on the bass he was like: “oooh, that’s need a setup”. He went on to test it out a bit, said electronics were okay and I can come back later the day to pick it up. Bought a gig bag and a set of strings too and later went to pick it up.

He set the action lower, fixed the octave setting (it was a bit off according to him) and oiled the fretboard. It was a bit greasy, but after the initial oil layer wore off it felt as good as… no better than new.

I know in corona times it’s not always the easiest to do and a lot of people started playing due to it, like me, but I can just repeat what Josh is saying in his videos: If you are not sure if you need a setup, ask a professional. It makes a huuuuge difference.


In general, no. He was likely just asking so he could tune it correctly for her.

However, converting an EADG bass to BEAD will require a setup. At minimum you’ll likely need to file out the nut to accept the larger strings, adjust the truss rod, and lower the action on the bridge. When I did it I had to lower the whole bridge. The intonation will be different too, but you set that last anyway, after the rest of the setup.

Generally whenever you change strings to a different type, you’re going to need to do at least a minimal setup.