Bass Guitar Setup and Stringing: A Comprehensive Guide for Musicians

by Curtis Dean, Jul 8, 2019 . 6 min read

Bass Guitar Setup and Stringing: A Comprehensive Guide for Musicians

Adjusting a bass guitar…quite a tricky task! That will, however, be your first task once you start your guitar lessons. 

In this article, we will guide you through some of the essentials for adjusting your bass guitar.

​What Does It Mean to Setup a Bass Guitar?

People set up their bass guitar because they want it to sound great. If a bass guitar is set up right, that allows for proper tuning. You can pluck or fret the strings comfortably.

Before approaching the methods for setting up the bass guitar, you need to understand the key factors that ensure that the bass guitar is playing well. Here are several tools and steps that you need to follow if you want to set up your bass guitar:

​Tools You’ll Need:

– Set of Automotive Feeler Gauges (.002-.025) (0.05–1 Mm)
– 6″ (150 Mm) Ruler (With 1/32″ and 1/64″ Increments) (0.5 Mm Increments)
– Light Machine Oil (3-in-1, Toy Locomotive or Gun Oil)
– Phillips Screwdriver
Electronic Tuner
– Wire Cutters
– Peg Winder
– Polish and Cloth

​There Are 4 Basic Things You Can Adjust on Your Bass:

1. The Straightness of the Neck

Relief is the term which is used for indicating the straightness of the neck. The neck can bend in the opposite direction, in the straight direction or the backward direction.

To adjust the neck, two things are needed:

The first is the string tension that pulls the neck in the upward direction, and the second is the truss rod that pulls the neck in the backward direction.

Because of the thick bass strings, much pressure is created on the neck of the guitar. Whenever you are making any adjustments related to the truss rod, try to be careful because over-tightening it can ruin or snap the bass neck.

Make sure that the neck has sufficient relief to avoid any unpleasant sounds such as a buzzing. The strings vibrate in the elliptical pattern near the center. If you don’t want the bass guitar to create any buzz, then adjust the neck accurately.

Watch this video demonstration on how to fix the neck:

2. The Height of the Bass Strings

Action is the term that is used to indicate the height at which the strings are present. One can easily adjust action or string height in two places: One is near the bridge, and the other is at the nut.

When you purchase a bass guitar, the nut should come already adjusted from the factory and which is why you don’t have to make any modifications. Adjusting the nut is quite a difficult task to accomplish. You can easily adjust the string height by raising and lowering it near the bridge end.

Watch this video demonstration to understand how to adjust the string height:

3. Intonation

By shortening or lengthening the bass guitar string one can set up the intonation of the guitar. You will either have to move it in the forward or backward direction. At the backside of the bridge, you find the screw that you can use for adjustments.

You have to tune every open string in their proper pitches correctly. You have to begin with the lowest string and then fret that string in the location of the 12th fret.

Ensure that the string is pressed in the downward direction. Always keep the fretted note in tune. You can thus check whether the bass tuner is too sharp or too flat.

If you see that it is flat, then you adjust the string by shortening it and pushing the saddle in the forward direction. If you see that it is too short, then you adjust the length of the string by keeping the saddle in the backward direction.

Now you will have to check whether it is appropriately tuned or not and repeat the same step with the other strings as well.

It is quite difficult to put every fret in perfect tune, and these instruments carry their natural flaws where perfect intonation is not possible.

Watch this video to know how to intonate a guitar or bass: 

4. Pickup Height 

One can easily adjust the height of the Bass guitar by loosening or tightening all the screws that are outside the pickup.

Several brands use foam under the basses to pick up in the upward direction. To understand the process clearly, watch this video:

When you notice that the foam has started to break down, then you can also use several springs under this to keep it in the opposite direction.

There is no particular angle at which you set the bass pickup.

You can easily get your favorable amount of output from the treble side if you can raise that particular site. There are several ways in which you can quickly lower or raise pole pieces.

Watch this video explanation on how to adjust guitar pole pieces:

These pole pieces are some magnetic poles that are round and are under the bass strings. For some few pickups, they are exposed. Otherwise, they are covered. If there are any changes in the string or the weather, then you will have to do the setup again.

Make sure you are following all the steps correctly to adjust your bass guitar. If you are finding any difficulties along the way, visiting a guitar store would be an intuitive and safe option. These activities are not easy to pick up along the way, hence always give an eye to experts and professionals to eventually adjust your guitar to your personal custom preferences.

Since you’re here…

Whether you play (or know someone who plays) the bass guitar, Roadie Bass will tune your 4, 5 or 6-string bass guitar in a matter of seconds! It will completely change the way you tune.



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