Cheap Upgrades/Tips for Cheap bassists

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by rojo412, Feb 22, 2003.

  1. rojo412

    rojo412 MARK IT ZERO! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    I was perusing through threads and got an idea to post this. I wanted to start a thread on tips for making a bass better for little to no money and wanted to see if anyone came up with other stuff I couldn't think of. So here goes:

    1) Boil old strings. Cost $0 (unless you count electricity/gas and water and time).
    If you have dead strings and no cash, pop the strings off and coil them up. Boil a pot of water (enough to immerse them in) and let them soak for about 5 minutes at the most. Uncoil, dry, shake out, then put them back. Better sound in 5 minutes.

    2) Change a 9v preamp to an 18. Cost $10 or less (assuming you have a cavity that will fit).
    This may be more for EMG, but most systems are similar. If you cut the negative lead on the battery clip and strip the area at the ends of the remaining leads, you can add another battery clip (cheap at radio shack) by soldering the pos lead from it to the neg at the original clip. Then take the neg side of the new clip and send it to the neg side that goes to the jack. Replace the 2 batteries, you have more headroom. Added cost for batteries is worth it though.

    Anyone else?
  2. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Graphite helps lubrication.
    On a cheap bass with plastic nut and Fender-like bridge, using a fat pencil lead in nut slots and on the top of saddles will help staying in tune.

    To improve faster/smoother playing, don't use fast-fret or so.
    Nose grease works better and is free.
    Just rub the tip of your fingers against the corner of your nose when you play. It works fine !

    Adding a parallel/switch to your pickups on a Jazz Bass gives you a completely different new sound to use in addition to the basic ones. Kinda like a StingRay type sound. Cost 10 $.
  3. jondog


    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    Cool Jazz parallel mod idea! Can you list the procedure or post a link?

    Here's a cheap way to make your bass look cool/different. Light a candle and drip the wax onto the body. Don't get it on the fingerboard or in any electonics. You can make cool 3D patterns, especially if you have different color candles or if you melt some crayons onto it. The best thing about this finish is that you can peel it off once you realize how stupid it looks. It didn't hurt my old BC Rich finish, but I wouldn't try this on a finish I really loved or a tung oil or similar finish. Of course, if you really loved the finish you wouldn't be trying to make it look different in the first place. Anyway, I think this is more creative than stickers, which seems to be the cheap finish mod choice of 72% of ebay bass sellers.
  4. rojo412

    rojo412 MARK IT ZERO! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    GOOD ONES! Graphite lube also helps prevent string breakage at the bridge. If you do break strings at the bridge a lot, take a broken string and use it to "file" where the string sits before installing new strings. It smooths out the edge and with Graphite as a lube, you should reduce string breaks drastically.

    This one takes bravery, but learning to set up your guitar is easy and saves a good $40/year at least. If you need a book, they are easy to find and can be had for less than $10, but here's a quick tip (and this mainly helps on really poorly adjusted instruments).

    1) If the neck is bowed (up or down) too much, most nice guitar techs can lower/raise it in 2 seconds and wouldn't charge you anything. Less nice guitar techs may charge $5, but it makes things much better. Learning to do it is easy, most basses are the same idea (TIGHTEN ROD, clockwise, pulls the strings closer, straightens neck. LOOSEN ROD, counterclockwise, lets the strings pull away more), but some are reverse. That is why a tech should do it (on more expensive basses).

    2)Let's say your neck is good, but the notes are off high up on the neck. The bridge saddle are most likely the cause. What I do is adjust them up and down to taste and so they don't buzz. Once they feel good, plug into a tuner and tune to pitch. Then, starting at the G string, hit the harmonic at the 12th fret. It should be in tune. Then fret it at the 12th fret. If it is sharp, move the saddle backwards. Retune. Do this until they are the same (or really close). Now if you do this to every string, you did a setup. If you just want it better and don't want to go nuts, do the G string, then set each saddle back from the one before it by the width of the string.
    If the G is set, line up the D with the G then move the D saddle back about the width of the D string. Then line up the A with the D and move the A saddle back the width of the A. ETC!!! Sounds stupid? It actually helps a lot if the bass was really far out of intonation.
    3) Pickup height IS important. Adjust the pickup so it's close to the strings, but not close enough for the strings to hit it when you play.

    As for the Jazz Mod, that's an incredible idea. The best way to do it is to change the tone pot to a push/pull pot. You won't have to drill into anything. They are no more than $15 and the wiring is available online. Think may have something like that in the FREE INFO section, but I'll look in books too.
  5. Changing the capacitor on the tone pot : higher value means more treble cut.

    Shielding the control cavity, aluminium foil is cheapest.

    Removing groundloops.

    Check the guitar nuts site for more info :
  6. I love all these little tricks .
  7. rojo412

    rojo412 MARK IT ZERO! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    Capacitors: $.37 to $1 each. They have a value printed on them (.022, .047, .01, .1, etc. mfd). The higher the number, the bassier the tone knob will be when turned off (more muffled). If you have a .047 and want more bass, try a .1 mfd. I know this did a lot of good on my guitarist's SG.
  8. i forget how it went exactly, but isn't there some method for lengthening string life by melting a little bit of solder of the ends at the ball-end?
  9. A good thread. A warning about the original poster's idea of converting 9v to 18v. It's a good idea, but needs to be qualified by stating that not all active basses will accept this mod, for instance some processors will only take a 9v swing. It would pay to check on TB to see who's done this mod to your particular bass, that's what TB is for!

    A free tip for 5 and 6 string owners; you will increase the focus and pitching of your B string by pushing down on the string with your thumb, just immediately in front of the bridge saddle, so that the string gets a sharp "witness" point as it goes over the saddle. Full core B strings are so fat they often sit in a gentle curve over the saddle, and this means they lose some of their "focus". You may have to re-adjust the string height and the intonation after you've done this. Do the same with the nut, a sharper witness point here will make the open B ring a bit better.

    Another: if your bridge saddle screws work loose, set them to correct string height and then put a tiny drop of mom's/sister's/girlfriend's/wife's clear nail polish on each little screw to stop them unwinding.

    Another: Once in a while, check the tightness of all the screws on your bass. The little screws that hold the tuners on are notorious for working loose, and causing rattles. Be careful with how much grunt you apply though. The only screws that need to be REALLY tight are the ones that hold the neck to the body.

    Another: If you've got a knob that's loose or wobbly, carefully remove the knob and you'll see that the pot has come loose. DONT just get a spanner and tighten up the little nut. You need to remove the control cavity cover on the back, or the pickguard if it's a P style, or the chrome plate if it's a J style, and carefully but firmly hold the pot itself while you tighten the nut. This avoids breaking any wires.

    Another: If your strap buttons have worked loose, and the screws dont tighten up properly because the hole is sloppy, put a few drops of a good glue (I use Superglue GEL) into the hole and push a toothpick in. Break the toothpick off at the point where it sticks out of the hole, and immediately screw in your strap button. Leave it dry for a while, and it will be like new.
  10. rojo412

    rojo412 MARK IT ZERO! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    True, good point. The 18v conversion will ALWAYS work with EMG Active systems and I believe that the HZ's are also able to take the pressure. Before doing the upgrade on other systems, you should consult the company who made it. Bartolini frequently uses 18v as well. MEC (Warwick) also can take it, but most have an incredibly high output in the first place. More often than not, you won't have a problem, but most systems that can't take 18v sound good as 9v systems. It's the cheap stuff that really would have a problem and it would be evident the first time you play. Doubt it could get fried off of 18v from 9v batteries, though.

    On the screw-tightness topic: loose screws cause problems, but make sure not to strip the wood. And every time you change strings (if you have sealed tuners mostly), make sure that the nut holding the tuner on the head is AT LEAST finger tight. That will solve a lot of tuning nightmares.
  11. Killdar


    Dec 16, 2002
    Portland Maine
    great thread, reminds me how much setup I need to do on my Fender HM 4. On fenders with trussrod adjustment up at the head, which direction would you turn it to loosen it? is it counter clockwise as rojo said? just want to make sure before I do anything, seeing as it's my only bass, and if I ruin the neck, Im screwed.
  12. Y'all might have guessed that I would have something to add to this thread...

    1. Change your mounting screws to stainless steel. Total cost for an entire Fender style instrument is about $10. You will never have rust on them again.

    2. Use some 0000 steel wool or 600 grit sandapaper on the back of your glossy neck to knock the shine down and pump up the smoothness. It'll feel slicker'n greased owl manure! Almost free

    3. Replace cheap overseas pots with higher quality mil spec or good instrument specific pots. 50%+ better tone and output from Japanese Fender instruments and will likely do well with any other overseas brand. Between $5 and $10

    4. Lost one of the little plastic bushings that come on the shafts of sealed tuners?? This can make it rattle most annoyingly. Take white waxed dental floss, make a loop around the shaft and begin wrapping it into the slot left by the bushing. Keep going and pulling tight until it is filled. Tie it off and melt back any tail with a lighter. Instant bushing!! Almost free.

    5. Shield your contol cavity. You don't need to use copper tape, you can use aluminum foil tape from the local hardware supply. Be sure to shield the underside of the pickguard that's over the cavity as well. About $10

    6. Got nicks and dings through the finish? Go down to your local cosmetics counter and match up fingernail polish to your bass color. Dab a drop in the nick and let it dry. You might have to do another but you'll soon camouflage and protect these from chipping out any further. And from 5 feet away it looks like there isn't anything there at all. Keep the little bottle in your gigbag for emergency touch-ups. And yes, clear can be used on clear coats. By the way - most fingernail polishes are nitrocellulose lacquer. This is the same finish as fine guitars. $1 - $3 a bottle.

    7. Got a loose strap button. Remove the screw and fill the hole with white glue and toothpicks. Let dry and then re-thread the button back on. No more wobble! Almost free

    8. Wanna keep your pickup poles from getting rusted and gunky? Use a little black nail polish on them. Carefully paint it on and it will protect the exposed tops of the magnets. Free if you bought the polish for your bass.

    9. Can't see your side dots anymore? Use a toothpick and some Windex to soften and dig the gunk out of the hole if its recessed then refill it by using a white crayon, tire marker, or a small drop of white nail polish. If your markers are flat inlays, a brushing up with the steel wool or 600 grit sandpaper should brighten them up. Free if you smoothed your neck

    10. Gotta pretty deep nick in your neck or body finish? Set the guitar up so that the depression is pointing up and fill with several applications of super glue. 1 won't do it and don't put more in that will dry flat. After a couple or three applications the nick should be fairly flat and protected. Costs about $2-$3 for a tube of liquid CA

    That oughta keep you busy for the afternoon.:D
  13. rojo412

    rojo412 MARK IT ZERO! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    Yes, they are standard. If you need tension, go clockwise. Loosen, go counter clockwise. Only turn it about 1/8 turn each time (especially when adding tension). Then what I do (and it may do nothing, but it keeps you busy) is beat on the neck for a little while, pull it back and forth, up and down, slap the strings, pull them. I think it helps get things moving faster. Or you can flex the neck in the direction that you want it to go by bracing the back of the neck with one hand and pushing/pulling the headstock. But be somewhat gentle. Or you just shake the bass (think Homer strangling Bart).
    After that, play it, check it, and re-adjust if necessary.
  14. rumblethump

    rumblethump Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2000
    Pioneer CA. 95666
    For dings I have put the affected spot over a boiling tea pot directly in the stream of steam. Be careful. The hot steam will sometimes make the wood swell and ding disappear. YMMV PS it works on pool cues too.
  15. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Parallel / series switch mod for Jazz Bass

    You need a DPDT (double pole double throw) switch to do that.
    They have 6 legs arranged like this :


    First, cautionously unsolder the wire connected from the neck PU to the ground.
    It's usually black.

    Then do the same with the one connecting the bridge PU to its volume pot.
    It's yellow, white or red depending on basses.

    Install your switch and link like this

    A : to ground
    B : to bridge PU volume pot
    C : to neck PU ground (the first wire you unsoldered)
    D : to bridge PU signal (the second wired you unsoldered)
    E : to F
    F : to E

    In one position you will get your regular Jazz Bass sound.

    In the other one, your PUs will be wired series. Bridge volume will be deactivated, and neck volume will act as a general volume.
    The sound is very surprising coming from a Jazz Bass. Beefy, with a huge low medium rumble.

    You can also get a 3 position on/off/on switch, in this case central position will act as a mute.

    If something is not clear, just say so. I'm so familiar with this mod that I may not explain it correctly.
  16. Brendan


    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    My mom suggested that when the Kingston got munged up. Works GREAT. Can't even tell from less than a foor or so away.

    My tip for you cheap bassists with more than one: Get a board (preferably a nice one) and one of those U shaped hanging brackets that's covered in rubber, normally used for hanging things like garden tools or garage stuff. Screw the board into studs on the wall, and the brackets into the board. Instant, and rather classy looking rack that saves on floor space, and makes a nice wall hanging. Cost: 5-10 bucks. And a stud finder!
  17. rojo412

    rojo412 MARK IT ZERO! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    In response to jazz ad, that's a cool idea. With a push/pull, it wouldn't even effect the look of the bass.

    But if you want to get really crazy, wire a 6 way rotary switch to the pickups and have a master volume and tone. It would give you not only "Neck/bridge/both," it will also do "in phase/out-of phase in "parallel/series."
    Cost: $15 switch (possible routing and some patience)
    Oh! and if you can find a wiring diagram or picture of this wiring, please tell me where it is. I have a book that describes it, but doesn't show too much in "How to do it."

    The things that can be done with less than $50 in pots and switches is ASTOUNDING!!!
  18. rumblethump

    rumblethump Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2000
    Pioneer CA. 95666
    Poor mans straplock. The plastic bread bag clip.
  19. Tsal


    Jan 28, 2000
    Finland, EU
    Swap your strings to flatwounds - works especially well if you are playing blues or similar music where you don't really need that sizzle of rounds.

    $30-40 a set, flats will give you thump for years!
  20. rojo412

    rojo412 MARK IT ZERO! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    That straplock idea... have you really done that? It sounds so weird, but I bet it works well.

    Relating to that, you could do what PRS does and use Fender-style bass string retainers (round ones, hold down the d and g string) as strap buttons for a more sure grip.