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Do I really need to change strings when setting up?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by francissiebert, Dec 8, 2012.

  1. francissiebert

    francissiebert Guest

    Dec 8, 2012

    I went to my local music store today and asked them how much it would cost to set up my bass. (I've been really busy in the past year and haven't had much time to play. It buzzes quite a lot.)

    He told me it would be about $70 and a new set of strings. I told him I didn't want new strings, but he insisted that strings had to be changed in order to set up the instrument.

    I used to set up my basses, and I don't remember ever reading that strings HAD to be changed, but he kept insisting. Was he right? Do I absolutely need to change my strings in order to have it set up?

    Thank you.
  2. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    He's a moron...
  3. Stilettoprefer


    Nov 26, 2010
    Learn how to do your own setups, it's just turning screws until everything works right.

    And you don't have to change strings to set it up. I have had the same set of flats on my P for over a year and have done probably 3 full setups and numerous small adjustments without changing them out.

    Oh, and monthly string changes is ridiculous. Unless your sweat is super acidic, even round wound strings will last 3 months minimum.
  4. Stilettoprefer


    Nov 26, 2010
  5. ^ This !

    If you're happy with the strings, keep them. No need to change them out.

    I've had the same flats on for 3 years, and have no plans to change them out anytime soon.
  6. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    He's not a moron; he a profiteer! ;) Run, Forrest! Run!

    Go elsewhere or, as suggested above, learn to do your own set-ups. I've been doing my own set-ups for more than 40 years, and if a simpleton like me can do it, anybody with half a brain can do it.
  7. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    I don't like taking a set of strings off, and then putting them back on. That's probably because I'm wrapped a little too tight.

    I can tweak saddle height, or truss rod without taking the strings off though. Just loosen stuff up and it's good.

    +1 to the moron sentiments.
  8. chiron_griffin


    Apr 19, 2012
    Just like taking your car to the dealership, they will straight lie to you and do unnecessary stuff to get your money.
  9. JLS


    Sep 12, 2008
    Emeryville, Ca
    I setup & repair guitars & basses

    Take your bidness elsewhere/learn to setup your instrument.
  10. ReiPsaeg


    Dec 1, 2012
    Rochester, NY
    Yeah, a lot of set up people always want to change your strings for exorbitant amounts of money in order to do a "proper" set up. Unless there is some evidence that a fresh set of strings allows the set up to be more thorough, then I'd take my business elsewhere, or learn how to do it yourself.
  11. absolutely not.

    reed mathis toured constantly for 17 years with the same set of roundwound strings on his jazz bass! (he told me so when i asked him if he uses flats, he said he just switched to them that week, after 17 years with the same crusty rounds on his bass)

    the guy in your shop is a moron. $70 + the cost of strings? no way. most shops around here cost $50 or so, and thats pushing it. you're better off finding someone on craigslist who knows what their doing and will do a full setup for $30-40.. i know on my local CL theres a lot of ads for it, and i know one of the guys who does it, and he is indeed qualified.

    i wouldent go back to that shop..
  12. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    Also, if you are not changing strings or wanting a higher or lower action than you initially chose you shouldn't need more than an occasional truss rod tweak - the bridge saddles shouldn't need any adjustment at all assuming they were adjusted correctly when the strings were first put on.
  13. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

    A freakin' maroon. I was told this same thing by a salesman when I bought a bass last year. I just looked at him and asked, "do I look like a novice, you heard me play this bass just a couple minutes ago, that I wouldn't trust a setup to someone that really doesn't have my best interests as a customer in mind and besides I've been setting my instruments up since I was 16; 32 years ago." I asked him to stop pulling that scam on people. No reply. He did run out after me to give me the Allen key that was in the box that I had not put in my gig bag. He called me by name and asked me to come in again if I ever needed anything. Sometimes you just need to grab the reigns as a consumer. Always, actually.
  14. testing1two

    testing1two Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2009
    Southern California
    He's not a moron, he's just being pragmatic. Setting the intonation on a bass with old/questionable strings is a waste of shop time. Also, if an old string breaks during the setup (since they need to be removed for fingerboard cleaning) then the tech has to go back to the customer to explain what happened and choose a replacement string or replacement set. Again, a waste of shop time. One more thing: techs no idea what kind of germ-ridden finger-funk you and their other customers have accumulated on their bass and strings and would rather not find out. Can you blame them?

    It's more practical to start with fresh strings that are installed properly so nothing is left to chance and the tech can be thorough and efficient.

    OBVIOUSLY, new strings are not necessary to adjust action, neck relief, nut slot depth, pickup height, etc. And as long as you don't change brands or gauges these settings should stay fairly constant. So a setup with new strings is a good short term investment while you make the long term investment of learning how to do them yourself.
  15. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    Probably worth noting too, if you get a setup done with old strings then decide shortly after to replace the strings, the bass may need to be set up again. One would hope the tech would explain some of these things rather than insisting that the strings had to be changed to do the setup. I certainly recommend a string change at setup time, but I don't insist on it, especially if the existing strings are reasonably good.

    The comment about intonating old strings is valid. It can certainly be a great waste of time to try.
  16. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    There's a lot of space on the continuum between brand new, at one end, and replacement required at the other end. To suggest that only brand new strings can be intonated properly is a fallacy.

    Forty-odd years of practical experience tells me that intonating old strings is no more difficult or time consuming than intonating new strings unless the old strings are in need of replacement anyway.

    FWIW, YMMV, IME/IMO, E-I-E-I-O, M-O-U-S-E, etc. ;)
  17. Tense Zombie

    Tense Zombie

    Dec 4, 2012
    Central PA
    +1 and stuff... Yeah old strings are usually fine, I think. I usually go by visual inspection, to check for excessive wear marks on the winds right above each fret. If you can actually see too much of that then the string vibration could in theory be off ("eccentric string excursion" I believe is the ten dollar physics dork term for it)

    Nothing wrong with getting your setup done, especially if you find a guy you like. Really, though, it's hard to break an electric bass; not like a classical guitar or something. Search the forum for the link to Fender's setup guide, which I believe is still on their site. Also, I'm a fan of Dan Erlewine's books and articles; not an endorsement, but google the guy's name and you can probably find a good setup guide book for under $30. Pays for itself rather quickly, but hey, I'm just one man...
  18. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    13 posts before someone practical posted. Agreed with both posts.
  19. Actually, it's advisable but not required. Here's why.

    Let say he has to adjust the string length to a point where the string used to bend over the saddle is now between the nut and the saddle. This is bad for several reasons. 1) It effects how the string vibrates because there's a hump with flat side. 2) It can throw the set up off on that that string off. 3) Old strings vibrate differently due to stretching, corrosion etc. This is also why the sound "dead".

    So you're paying $70 bucks on a set up. Do you want it to be as accurate as possible or not, especially on a bass that "buzzes pretty bad". I check my set up every time I change strings, just to make sure nothing moved so this isn't an issue for me or others that have regular set ups.

    When someone's paying me to set up their bass I tell them to bring me new strings also. I'm not making money on strings at all so the above statement is blown out of the water right there. There's a reason I say this.

    About set up. A common misnomer is that "it's just turning screws". Technically this is true, but if it's not properly done the bass will buzz, not play in tune, have trouble holding tune and in very extreme cases crack a neck or break a truss rod.

    While actually setting up a bass is easy, it's time consuming. This is what you're paying for. It takes me about 45min to do a complete set up IF I'm not interupted. You need patience, a tuner that's extremely accurate and the PROPER tools. I learned how to do it after I payed a nationally known Nashville tech $100 to set up my bass about 13 years ago.