need basic P-bass setup advice.

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Brian Evans
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Location: Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia

need basic P-bass setup advice.

Post by Brian Evans »

A friend of mine gave me a Squier P-bass, kind of a kit. I have nerve damage in my left arm and hand that's makes it very hard to play guitar, so it occured to me that maybe I could play a bass - so I put it together over the past few days. I set it up kind of the way I do a guitar, and consulted the Fender site for numbers, and it's around their numbers now - relief around .012 measured at 7th fret and held at 1 and 12 (not sure it you are supposed to hold at 1 and 17 for this kind of neck, with such a long truss rod), action 6/64" up to 8/64" at 12th fret, no shim in the neck pocket (although a little bit of something fell out of the neck pocket that could have been a shim tape, but I lost it) and string height over the body at the bridge is 1/2".

Questions - is the string height quasi-normal, or should I shim the neck. Are there tweaks or tricks to setting up a bass that might help out the ease of playing (it's still hard, but more from stretching than pain pressing on the strings). And the big one - how do you set action at the nut on a bass. My normal method is fret at 3rd fret and look for minimal clearance over 1st fret, but I don't know if that is how you set up a bass. For me, this thing has a lot of clearance at the nut, it's pretty high.

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Barry Daniels
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Re: need basic P-bass setup advice.

Post by Barry Daniels »

Definitely lower the nut slots just like you do on a guitar, except maybe not quite as low. The other parameters sound pretty good.

Relief should be measured from the 1st fret to whatever fret is the highest (usually near the neck/body joint). If you have 12 thou relief between the 1st and 12th fret, that is probably too much.
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Mark Wybierala
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Location: Central New Jersey

Re: need basic P-bass setup advice.

Post by Mark Wybierala »

Bass setups seem to me a little dependent on the playing style of the owner. There is no perfect setup that satisfies everyone. Relief adjustment is always individual to each instrument.

Nut slot adjustment is much like that of a guitar but with a little more clearance over the first fret. When I fret at the second fret, I want to see some elevation of the string over the first fret...

I start with a rough relief adjustment as you describe -- about .012" and then I lower the saddles one string at a time until I get unwanted fret buzz somewhere on the fretboard and if the neck/fret level is healthy, the fret buzz should first be noticeable somewhere above the 12th fret.

Once I know the position of the saddle where fret buzz begins, I bump up the saddle just enough to get clean notes and do the same on the next string. After all the string saddles have been adjusted, I return to the trussrod.

Beginning with the relief set to around .012" (already set earlier), you want to reduce the relief in small steps by tightening the trussrod. You have already set the saddles to yield clean notes at every fretted position. In 1/4 turn increments, tighten the trussrod until you begin to hear fret buzz at some fretted position on any string. If the neck is healthy, you should notice that fret buzz will begin to happen among the first five frets. Understand that you can only check for fret buzz when the instrument is tuned to pitch so its a back and forth and repeat process. If you need to loosen the strings to adjust the trussrod, you need to return it to pitch before you check for buzz. When you find that sweet spot of minimal relief with no buzz, you've properly adjusted the trussrod. Its a good idea to check and see what the actual relief measurement is at this point. Some basses play best with nearly zero relief while others require more. If you've done this right, you now know what your bass wants for relief and seasonal adjustments are more straight forward.

On about half of the Fender necks with a trussrod adjustment at the headstock, the adjustment nut turns reasonably easy enough to adjust while tuned to pitch. If it feels like the adjustment feels tight or stressed, I'll loosen the strings to floppy before I adjust. On necks with the adjustment at the heel, I loosen the strings, put a capo on the first fret to keep the strings under control before I remove the neck from the pocket and adjust the nut.

Another thing is that optimal relief can depend a lot on your playing style. If you normally play using your thumb, the optimal setup is different than if you play finger style and the same goes if you use a pick. When you are setting up your bass, do your fret buzz check using the playing style and intensity that you normally use.

A general concept that is true most of the time:
If fret buzz occurs only above the 12th fret, the saddle is too low.
If fret buzz occurs only on a fret below the 5th, the trussrod is too tight.

Brian Evans
Posts: 888
Joined: Sat Aug 30, 2014 8:26 am
Location: Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia

Re: need basic P-bass setup advice.

Post by Brian Evans »

Nice advice! Thank you both very much. I had a ton of relief before I started, and I really notice the buzz above the 12th fret thing. I'll go get my nut files and see what I can do there.

Brian Evans
Posts: 888
Joined: Sat Aug 30, 2014 8:26 am
Location: Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia

Re: need basic P-bass setup advice.

Post by Brian Evans »

When setting intonation on a long scale bass like a P-bass, is it common to have the G and D saddles in roughly the same place? I was somehow expecting the normal-for-a-guitar slant to the break points over the saddles.

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Barry Daniels
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Re: need basic P-bass setup advice.

Post by Barry Daniels »

I don't think that is unusual at all.
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