Once the excitement if buying a new bass guitar has faded, the serious business of setting up the instrument must begin. In order for you to play the instrument right, you will need to set it up properly. Even when you are not buying yours brand new, you still need to set it up so that it is just right for you.
The process of adjusting the instrument involves adjusting the truss rod and also changing the strings. In order for you to know how to set up a bass guitar, you will need to start by identifying the main parts of the instrument.
Main Parts of a Bass Guitar
The bass guitar consists of three main parts; the body, neck, and innards. The parts of the neck and the body can be seen when you are looking at the guitar. However, in order to see the innards, you will have to take off the cover.
The neck is that part of the guitar where you find the mechanisms that fine-tune the instrument. This part of the guitar belongs to the region of the fretting hand, which for most people is the left hand.
The body of the instrument belongs to the area of the striking hand. For most people, this is the right hand. In this area of the guitar, you will find the pickups, controls, bridge, strap pin, end pin, and jack.
The components of this part of the instrument are not visible unless you strip the instrument. However, these parts are important for determining the sound you get from the guitar.
This part consists of the truss rod, electronics, and batteries for those machines that have them.
Setting Up the Bass Guitar
Now, we have an idea of what we are talking about, so we can move on to the first step. We are going to look at three processes; restringing a bass, adjusting the bass truss rod, and setting up the guitar bridge.
Restringing the Bass
- The strings should be loosened using the rotating pegs. Turn the pegs so that the strings start to look like they are falling off from the pegs
- Using wire clippers, cut off the upper ends of the strings so that the ends that are curled are free from the turning pegs and then pull the strings off through the guitar bridge and remove them
- This is the time when you should clean the fretboard using a clean piece of cloth. If you use an oil, ensure that it is friendly to the material used to make the guitar
- Pull the new strings through the holes on the bridge to the tuning peg, ensuring that each string is the right one for the hole you are pulling it through
- Extend each of the strings fully using your index finger, past the turning peg ensure you have at least 1 ½ inches and then cut the excess and then put the string into the hole of the turning peg and coil the string around the peg and get it into place
- Do the same for each of the other strings
Adjusting the Truss Rod
Some people call this processes adjusting the neck relief
- Start by finding the truss rod nut, this will be in different places depending on the guitar but it is usually found at the top side of the neck
- To ensure that you know where you started, put a visible mark on the truss rod nut so that if you have made a mistake, you will know where to return to the original position
- This adjustment does not usually require a lot of turning, either to the right or left
- If your guitar does not come with a tool to use for adjusting, ensure that you use the right Allan key
- The truss road can be lessened by making a small turn to the left, remembering that this requires just a small turn
- Tightening the truss rod will be done by turning it to the right also remembering to measure after making every turn
- Measure how straight the neck is by fretting fret number 1 and then number 15 of the lowest string, the space between the lower end of the string and the top of the frets should tell you the amount of relief you have in the neck
- Turn until you are satisfied that the neck is straight
Bridge Set Up
Once the neck of the bass guitar is straight, you can now set up the bridge. This adjustment should be done at the saddles of each of the strings found on the bridge.
Check the front end of the screw, you will see the pieces with the shape of a tube, they have grooves on them. The height of the strings is something that depends on the player, some want the strings to be higher and others prefer them lower.
The most important thing to adjust here is what is known as the intonation. Properly adjusting this determines whether the bass is in tune or not.
The intonation can be adjusted by either making the strings shorter of longer. You do this by moving the saddle or the string either to the front or to the back.
This is done by either making the intonation screws, found at the back of the bridge, stronger or loose.
Even though setting up the bass guitar is not a difficult process, you will notice that you get better with practice. You just need to ensure that you have the right tools and remember that most of the adjustments do not require massive turns.
In most of the cases, just a gentle turn gets the job done. In the beginning, before you are confident of doing the job on your own, we will advise that you take your guitar to the local guitar shop and ask them to help you set it up. You can also learn while they set up your bass guitar.