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Kindness

Kindness

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There are a few steps that should be taken each time an instrument is set up. Doing these steps in the proper order is critical to achieve the desired end result.

 

 

1. Tune the instrument to the pitch it will be played.

 

2. Set the relief.

 

3. Set the string heights.

 

4. Set the intonation.

 

5. Set the pickup heights.

 

 

Done. Okay, it is that easy, but here

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Another top notch how-to by kindness! :thu:

 

That string action guage is very cool. I may have to order one myself!

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Or just play a Modulus and be done with it... ;):p

 

Jeez, feel like I'm on TB or something all of a sudden getting hit with all this "knowledge"... :freak:

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You may want to loosen the strings before turning the truss rod nut.

 

Capo the first fret to measure string height? wouldn't the measurement change after you take the capo off? is there a reason for this?

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You may want to loosen the strings before turning the truss rod nut.


Capo the first fret to measure string height? wouldn't the measurement change after you take the capo off? is there a reason for this?

 

you capo the first fret to make sure you have string clearance all the way down the finger board.

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Capo the first fret to measure string height? wouldn't the measurement change after you take the capo off? is there a reason for this?

 

It most definitely changes the measurement. The reason I do it is to remove another variable from the equation. I've already set the neck relief based on the quality of the fretwork (the better the fretwork, the less relief is needed) and using the first fret as my reference point keeps me tied into the neck setup more than if I measured from the nut.

 

There are many ways to do it "correctly," that's just my way.

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thank you kindness. great thread.

 

i just put some heavier strings on my hamer bass (meds from med lights) and i think i may need to tighten the truss rod a little.

 

i have heard in the past that you only do a quarter turn every day, like wait 24 hours to let the neck set after adjustment. was this discussed in your class at all?

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i have heard in the past that you only do a quarter turn every day, like wait 24 hours to let the neck set after adjustment. was this discussed in your class at all?

 

Certainly the topic of truss rod adjustment was discussed, but not the 1/4 turn philosophy, with which I am very familiar. As a general rule, when handing out advice over the internet, I agree with the approach you've described. In practice, with my hands on the instrument, no way. I assess the strength and flexibility of the neck, the strength of the truss rod, the condition of the nut and the threads on the end of the rod and the rods resistance to my adjustments and I make adjustments accordingly. As I turn a rod, I am comfortable knowing what is normal resistance and what is not. I am not comfortable describing it over the internet, so an ultra-conservative 1/4 turn method is the safest thing to discuss online. In practice, in fact, in the past week, I run across instruments that are in need of major adjustments. I am not afraid of turning the rod a full turn or more, if the other conditions and the instrument feedback indicates that I am not causing any problems. It is helpful to understand that if you are relying on the truss rod to make the adjustment to the neck (as opposed to moving the neck into place yourself and then adjusting the nut to hold the new position), the neck will often lag in its adjustment. The full effects of a turn may take a few hours or more. That is where the suggestion of waiting a day comes from. Even waiting overnight is generally overkill.

 

This leads me to another point that should be discussed; proper care of your truss rod. It is often good practice with an instrument that has not been taken good care of to completely remove the nut at the end of the truss rod and lubricate the nut and the threads of the rod before making any adjustments. The best way to do so is to loosen the nut to the point it is "finger tight" on the rod. Count the number of turn it takes to get to that point and remember that number. Then completely unscrew the nut. Use a small dab of a heavy grease to lubricate the threads on the nut and rod. Ian has taught me that bicycle grease is perfect (he is an avid cyclist), but other heavy lubricants will work as well. Tighten the nut until it is finger tight and then further adjust it according to the number of turns it took to originally get it to finger tight. Now your truss rod is lubricated to ensure smoother operation and you are back to the same amount of relief you had when you started. This makes it easier to adjust and also improves the feedback you get when adjusting, as the lack of herky jerky adjustments enable you to actually feel the resistance of the neck, rather than the resistance of the threads.

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Good thread.

 

I use a 6" steal engineer's ruler that I picked up at the Home Depot for under 3 bucks. Scaled in 1/32nds and 1/64ths.

 

Just a heads up for everyone ordering from StewMac, something a little cheaper and closer at hand.

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i just put some heavier strings on my hamer bass (meds from med lights) and i think i may need to tighten the truss rod a little.

 

You will. If it were set properly to begin with the adjustment will be slight. If it had too much relief before, you might need a quarter turn or more.

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Good thread.


I use a 6" steal engineer's ruler that I picked up at the Home Depot for under 3 bucks. Scaled in 1/32nds and 1/64ths.


Just a heads up for everyone ordering from StewMac, something a little cheaper and closer at hand.

 

Thanks for the heads up. I had been asked a number of times about what tools I personally use so I included them in here. Obviously, there are a lot of other tools that will work and there is no reason to think that the only way to get a great setup is to buy certain products.

 

That said, of all the tools I own (enough to make bpocall leave our last GTG with more tool GAS than bass gear GAS) the StewMac measuring tool is by far the most essential to me. It is the handiest measuring tool I've ever used.

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You will. If it were set properly to begin with the adjustment will be slight. If it had too much relief before, you might need a quarter turn or more.

 

it was setup properly. i took it to a local guitar guy for a proper setup as per your advise a month or two ago and he ended up shimming the neck because it was not angled correctly and did a full setup as well as installed a battery kill switch for the pre. this pretty much fixed every problem i had with the bass since i got it. i figured i try a thicker set of strings after and didnt bother doing anything with the neck cause the added tension was not that big of a deal. after reading your writeup i decided that it was time to make it right.

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That said, of all the tools I own (enough to make bpocall leave our last GTG with more tool GAS than bass gear GAS) the StewMac measuring tool is by far the most essential to me. It is the handiest measuring tool I've ever used.

 

those string height measurements on that tool are really cool. i will get one sometime down the road.

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those string height measurements on that tool are really cool. i will get one sometime down the road.

 

They are incredibly easy to read. I keep the tool in my gig bag and when someone hands me an instrument that feels different, I pull out the card and measure all of the critical setup points. That way I can associate what I am feeling with the measurements. This allows me to then use the measurements to set up other instruments to that same feel without much trial and error.

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Good thread.


I use a 6" steal engineer's ruler that I picked up at the Home Depot for under 3 bucks. Scaled in 1/32nds and 1/64ths.


Just a heads up for everyone ordering from StewMac, something a little cheaper and closer at hand.

 

Ya I agree 100%

Stwemac is rather ridiculus on their prices.

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Good work Kindness. If I may throw something in here.....since truss rod adjustments will likely change your tuning it is a good idea to retune to pitch after each adjustment of the truss rod. Not that you make an adjustment that looks cool and then tune only to find out you may need a touch more.

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Good work Kindness. If I may throw something in here.....since truss rod adjustments will likely change your tuning it is a good idea to retune to pitch after each adjustment of the truss rod. Not that you make an adjustment that looks cool and then tune only to find out you may need a touch more.

 

Absolutely! Every aspect of the setup is interactive. Every adjustment should be rechecked at pitch and pitch should be retuned after each adjustment. :thu:

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I also taught myself to adjust my basses after more than one good, qualified guitar tech asked me 'why do you want a bass with action that low? It'll buzz!' To which I replied that a) it should be lower than YOUR setup, and b) if it was done right, the only buzz would be from sloppy left-hand technique.

 

One resource that was invaluable to me is the fabulous book, 'The Guitar Player's Repair Guide' by Dan Erlewine, through StewMac or you local mall bookstore-du-jour. Dan rightly points out that basses are the hardest to setup as they have the longest scale and biggest strings/longest scale. I'm living proof that the language was simple enough that even I could understand it and do it right! I highly recommend it, also covers finish, electronics, tools, etc.

 

A good Fender set up guide (also good as a generic guide for all those Fender clones) is on Fender's website. Click the Support tab and select the Bass Setup Guide, and it walks you right through.

 

The hardest thing to grasp with setup is the interweaving of nut height, relief, and string heights, how they interact. Once THAT little light comes on, it's a breeze. That you can maintain them properly all by yourself is a GREAT feeling.

 

N I C E post, kindness.

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one more thing....I didnt take the Pick guard off but it doesnt look like an Allen key for the Truss rod on this bass...it looks like a slotted end....

 

It is. Probably a #3 Phillips, but you will know what it is when you see it.

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Oh and by the way Kindness, my Ibanez BTB has the trussrod covers on the headstock. I need to loosen the strings in order to adjust them (yes, there's 2 trussrods, it's a 6er) does this prevent an accurate setup? I need to add more relief to the lower trussrod (on the side of the neck where the D,G and C strings are) because playing on the first 3 frets is almost impossible. I had it professionally set up when I got it in October and it was great. I changed the strings last month, and then it went downhill...

 

So is it ok if I loosen the strings?

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Oh and by the way Kindness, my Ibanez BTB has the trussrod covers on the headstock. I need to loosen the strings in order to adjust them (yes, there's 2 trussrods, it's a 6er) does this prevent an accurate setup? I need to add more relief to the lower trussrod (on the side of the neck where the D,G and C strings are) because playing on the first 3 frets is almost impossible. I had it professionally set up when I got it in October and it was great. I changed the strings last month, and then it went downhill...


So is it ok if I loosen the strings?

 

Of course. Loosen the strings, remove the cover, loosen the nut on the truss rod. If it is only buzzing on the first three frets, you don't need much more relief, so you probably need between 1/8 and 1/4 of a turn. Leave the cover off and bring the strings back up to pitch. Then check the relief. If you need to loosen or tighten more, do it. When the relief is set, screw the cover back on. Now you have to go through and set the bridge saddle heights, intonation and pickup heights again.

 

I got finished with one of mine just a few minutes ago, dual truss rod that needed just a small tweak on the treble side. Now I've got her dialed in better than ever. :)

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My pleasure. The threads will eventually make their way to the FAQ and, at the suggestion of another forumite, I will turn my write ups into .pdfs and link them in my signature.

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I received a request tonight to talk a bit about setup issues with a fretless bass, particularly a fretless Jazz. My initial thought is, there is no difference except anytime the word fret appears in the write up above, replace it with fingerboard. Aside from hardware considerations (for example, double truss rods, different bridge adjustments, etc.), every bass sets up the same. Jazz basses, Precision basses, fretted basses, fretless basses, etc. You use the same techniques to find the setup you like best for each bass. Maybe you like higher action on a P bass with flats. Maybe you like your fretless J set up with really low action to emphasize the mwah. The two things that are not "adjust to taste" are the relief and the intonation. There are ideal settings for each of those parameters and your overall setup is dependent on getting the bass in those sweet spots.

 

Now, that said, I will say that I setup my fretless J to have lower action than any of my other basses. Once the relief is dialed in such that the buzzing is even and consistent all along the board, I lower the strings until I get the right amount of mwah. For my playing style that's about 0.060" on the bass side and 0.050" on the treble side.

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I tightened up the truss a little on the Daion and lowered the action last night, and now it plays like butter.

 

Those of you who loved it at the Chicago meet would love it even more with the new strings and setup. :thu:

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I tightened up the truss a little on the Daion and lowered the action last night, and now it plays like butter.


Those of you who loved it at the Chicago meet would love it even more with the new strings and setup.
:thu:

 

Good. I knew there was some more playability to get out of that bass, but we ran out of time before I could help. I'm glad you are taking care of that girl. It is a sweet bass.

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I looked into some setup tools today..but am still scared to take the plunge.

I did order a new Gotot 201 and some GHS progressives for the TF fretless:D. Turns out the TI's I ordered are 0.43-0.89:eek:

 

 

Dan

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Those lightweights will sound good on a fretless. Very alive.

 

You shouldn't need many tools. A measuring tool, a truss rod adjusting tool, and bridge and other screw/nut drivers.

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How important is it to set a bass up with brand new strings? Just like my jeans and boots, I like my strings broken in. I change them when they break.

 

I just got my Stew Mac ruler and I'm ready to set my basses up.

 

Yo.

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It is important to setup your bass with the strings you will be using. If you are going to use older strings, use them to set up the bass. If you are changing to new strings, use them to set up the bass. Every set, and for that matter every individual string, sets up slightly differently than the next. Within reason, it makes no practical difference (swapping out for the same brand, same gauge rarely requires much, if any, tweaking), but the strings you are using are actually a part of the setup itself.

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They didn't make this a sticky? Damn... good thing I bookmarked it

 

Jazz handles the FAQ. I think he is planning on adding this.

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I'm setting up one of my basses, dropped a full step on all strings with .110's.

 

I was surprised how much I needed to loosen the truss rod. It was fine in the winter. How does the climate change the neck?

 

Also, do your guidelines still serve a good starting point with large strings and dropped tuning?

 

Thanks again.

 

Yo.

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I think I'm having an intonation issue, but I'm not sure. Here it goes. After I tune my E, I'd fret the 5th, but the tuner would read A but slightly flat. I move to the 7th, and I get even flatter B. So, then I try your intonation test method. I fret the 12th, and let harmonics ring on the 12th. Well, they match up pretty well. So, I'm not sure where this problem starts. When I'm just playing, it rarely sounds off, but it does sound off sometimes.

 

My guesses

1. My current tuner is inept. (PodXT onboard)

2. My fretting fingers are inept.

3. My bass needs your TLC. :D

 

I get my tuner back today, so I'll try again.

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Also, do your guidelines still serve a good starting point with large strings and dropped tuning?

 

Good question. The short answer is yes. The longer explanation is, the heavier gauge the string, the more likely you need to jack the action up a bit. However, the difference between an E string and an A string might only be five to ten thousandths of an inch. However, the difference between what is an ideal height on the E string for me and the ideal height of the E string for someone like Catphish might be forty thousandths. What you want to do is get close with a measurement, adjust to taste, normalize the heights across the radius of the board and then do a final measurement so the next time you setup the bass you already know exactly what heights you want. That is the key, you will be able to repeat a consistent setup across instruments and over time if you know what measurements work for you.

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