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Getting that "Perfect" Action

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by King of Thrash, Mar 6, 2013.

  1. I've had my ESP Ltd F-154DX for about two years now and I've never had it professionally "set up" and I'm not really sure on the cost of a "set up". So I'm gonna try to save a little money and do it myself. I'd like to start from the begininng of this process, but thats the problem I don't know where to start.
  2. There's a lot of great information on the subject in the setup forums here. Maybe start reading there and get a good general overview of what's involved, and then post any specific questions you may still have afterwards over there.

    Good luck with your setup!
  3. Garret Graves

    Garret Graves website- ggbassplayer.com Gold Supporting Member

    May 20, 2010
    Arcadia, Ca
    Hi king-
    Go to the set up forum, not "basses", and explore the stickies there. A perfect set up for you will take a bit for you to find, and your opinion will probably evolve and change over time- but you have the right idea, learn to do it yourself!
  4. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    Go slow. There's not much you can do that you can't undo. Make small changes at any given time, and don't fiddle with too many things at once.

    Before messing with the saddle height or intonation, loosen the string to prevent stripping out the set screws.
  5. Super Iridium

    Super Iridium

    Jan 21, 2013
    I'm a novice player, but I figured out how to do the set-up myself by watching the John Carruthers videos on YouTube. Just search for "setting up bass guitar."

    Setting up your bass is easy, and now that I've done it once, I can't imagine giving the job to someone else. You just need a few basic tools -- hex wrenches, screwdriver, feeler gauges and (the most expensive) a set of files to adjust the action at the nut. All the tools together (around $75) probably cost less than what a professional guitar tuner charges to set up your bass once.
  6. M.R. Ogle

    M.R. Ogle Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 5, 2004
    Mount Vernon, Illinois
    Backstage Guitar Lab owner
    It's true. Setting up a bass is a fairly simple process. It's about as mechanically difficult as changing a tire and installing new wiper blades. Go slow, make small adjustments and see if it's better or worse, and you'll sneak up on your optimal setup.

    One caveat: Don't get hung up on what's "correct" in terms of setup. What feels right in YOUR hands is what's right for you.
  7. ics1974


    Apr 13, 2012
    I have never paid for a setup. I learned to do it myself and after allot of trial and error I am very happy with the setups I do.
  8. Vinnie Boombatz

    Vinnie Boombatz Inactive

    May 26, 2010
    If your 'perfect' action is really low action, you'd probably benefit from a fret leveling, crown and polish. This is in addition to a real set up. A set up pretty much includes adjusting relief/truss rod, action, intonation, pup height, polishing up the frets, addressing the nut, nut slots, etc. The leveling is taking it a step further and is going to cost more, and if you've never done it, would recommend having a reputable luthier do it. It's not difficult, but tedious, and the money you'd spend gathering the few pieces of equipment and time it takes, you'd be better off having someone else do it, unless you plan on doing it frequently for other instruments.

    With all that said, try doing a basic set up on your own, it's really easy, and if it's not what you consider perfect and to your liking then find someone to do it for you and possibly consider a fret leveling. Even most high end mass produced Fenders never get their frets leveled. In my experience, if you're having issues with buzzing, can't get the action where you want it, etc. and your relief is adjusted correctly, and assuming there's no other issues with the neck, a fret leveling can turn a good instrument into a great one.
  9. NeroJazz


    May 2, 2011
  10. msb


    Jul 3, 2002
    Halifax,N,S. Canada
    Learning how to set up and adjust your instrument is part of learning how to play . It's not rocket science , enjoy !
  11. Thank you for the insight gentlemen. Also forgive me for posting in the wrong forum, I'm new to Talk Bass. I want my action low, smooth and fast. My BG had 102-45 strings on it I put Bass Power Slinkys on it which are 110-55 I was wondering If I would have to do anything to the nut? The nut is a standard 40mm Or if perhaps I'd need a new nut maybe shorter or taller? For the thinker gauge strings. The actions from the 12th fret to the body has always been high and thats my main problem, getting the lowest action as possible all the way across the neck.
  12. Always in this order:

    1) neck relief - depress the first & last frets (last with pinky) simultaneously while reaching with your thumb as far up the fretboard as you can, and tap down to check the clearance. It should be about the same as a business card<credit card.

    2) action - get a Stew-Mac string action gauge - they work beautifully, and set it to specs.

    3) intonation - match the 12th fret (fretted) note with the 12th fret harmonic using a tuner. If the fretted note is sharp - move the saddle back. If flat - move the saddle forward.

    Good Luck - it's really simple once you get the hang of it.
  13. Snakeman1066

    Snakeman1066 Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2007
    Central Valley

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