New guitar set-up for complete beginner


Ok- It’s here. The UPS guy just dropped it off. My new Yamaha rbxy 170 coffee sunburst bass. The only instrument I’ve ever played in my life is the kazoo- and that was 45 years ago. Now what? Do I take it somewhere to get properly “set up” (whatever that means). I don’t own an amp yet, so it’s just me and my bass and my wife shaking her head. Can I do excersises? Something to get me going? Total beginner. Thank you!


I would say that since you’ve never set one up before and that you don’t have an amp to play through yet that it would be wise to take it to a local music store and have it set up for you. While there you can take a little time looking at amplifiers and checking them out.

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are you sure @Lanny ? don’t you believe the instrument is very probably correctly set up ? I did not say it’s perfect but, as a factory Yamaha instrument, it should be really playable ?


A pro set up certainly its very useful, and depending on the stock action the bass was set up with. It could be extremely useful, or potentially a waste.

The first thing I’d do is watch and try and play through all of Josh’s free videos on YouTube. Then if your enjoying it, buy the full program. (You can send that commission check anytime @JoshFossgreen) :crazy_face: But for real, the program is fantastic.

In regards to amplification, many directions you can go here. You could go with a traditional combo practice amp setting you back $50-$100. It would allow you to play to through the speaker, or you could plug in headphones, but you would be restricted to wherever the amp is. At this price point amps are pretty light but none the less something to consider. Your other major option is to get a pocket amplifier. It would allow you to play anywhere, but only through headphones. It is a down side but I will tell you this is personally how I work through the program and love it. Heres a link to another thread on this site that better explains exactly how I do it.


There’s also stuff like the AmPlug and its clones.

I used one of these until I bought my first amp.


@terb, It’s not that I don’t believe that the instrument was properly set up, it’s that shipping can prove to be somewhat stressful to any wooden musical instrument from my experiences.

Also, maybe I’m just a bit anal, but The first thing I’ve always done to all of my instruments (no matter where I purchased them) was to go through a complete set up, and in the process, replace all of the strings with ones that I prefer to use. Sometimes I’ve gone ahead and replaced the bridges with ones that also prefer to use.

If the new owner of an instrument has no idea how the instrument ‘should’ actually play and has no idea how to make adjustments or set them up, they may not know when a fret wire is too high or that maybe the truss rod is out of adjustment or maybe the action is too high or low, or maybe the intonation is out of whack. Especially so when an instrument was purchased online by someone who has never played that type instrument before.

Trying to learn to play on any instrument that is not properly adjusted from the beginning can be pretty frustrating to any new musician from my perspective. Knowing that an instrument is in fact properly set up from the very beginning can only help any new musician learning a new instrument.


Yeah I’m going to agree with Lanny. The factory setup on the Yamaha will almost assuredly be playable, but things like temperature and humidity change enough that it might benefit a lot from a quick setup. I would look at this as an optional thing to do but a pretty good idea nevertheless if time and money permits.

I encourage everyone to learn to do it themselves eventually (it’s easy) but having one properly done as a reference is nice.


@StinsonAlliance84 A setup is when someone who knows how do adjust an instrument goes over it and makes sure everything is in working order and is adjusted correctly. They may ask you if you want a higher or lower action. Just tell them you are new and want something in between till you get a feel for what you like.

The action determines how close the stings are to the neck. Some people like it higher, some people like it lower. It depends on what feels good to the individual player.

As for amplification, whatever you decide on, I would suggest looking for something with a headphone option. Most modern amplifiers have one but it’s worth verifying before you get it.

Good luck and keep the questions coming.


If you feel that the instrument is too difficult to play because the action (how far the strings are away from the fret board) is either too high (strings are high and hard to push down) or too low (giving lots of fret buzz to the point that it’s not pleasant to listen to) then you can either take it for a pro setup which has it’s benefits or you can do what I did and do a basic setup yourself. From two YouTube videos I learned how easy it was to 1) Adjust the truss rod, 2)Adjust the string height (action) and 3) Adjust the intonation. Adjusting the pickup height and adjusting the nut are two things I don’t do and would leave to a pro technician to handle but in my case it was not necessary to do either to set my bass up to where it plays beautifully. Here are the links to the two videos I used: for truss rod adjustment and string height and for intonation. I think you will find that the process is much simpler and easier than you imagine. At the end of the day, it’s about what you’re comfortable with doing. I would at least watch these very good videos and then decide for yourself. If nothing else, you’ll learn what a setup is. EDIT: If you choose to do it yourself, you’re going to need an amp.


Marcelo’s vids are great, that’s where I learned too.