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How much would/do you pay for a setup and minor repairs?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by punkjazzben, Mar 6, 2013.

  1. punkjazzben


    Jun 26, 2008
    A bit of a back story:

    I can do a basic setup, but there's still things I'm not confident doing (e.g. making changes to the nut). And I don't think I could do a better setup than a professional could.

    The local guy has a minimum bench charge of $40, and a setup and service starts at $70. For a hand-cut nut replacement, plus setup and service, it's $100. So, to have my MIM Fender Precision taken care of professionally, that's just over 9% of the original cost of the bass (new) for a basic setup and service. Assuming it's a keeper, regular setups will eventually amount to more than the bass's original price, without factoring in other potential repairs (fret dress, nut replacement, etc.) or decreases in the bass's value on the used market.

    There are a few perspectives on this: the guy is charging too much (unfortunately, I have no other options I know of); I should learn to do as much as I can myself; it's just part of owning a bass (like a car, it needs regular servicing, so just put up with it); and so on and so forth. Another is: spend more money upfront on a quality instrument that will last and is going to be worth the upkeep whichever way you look at it (e.g. an MIA will probably hold its value longer than a MIM, and it's going to take longer to get to the point where your maintenance costs have become more than the bass's original price or current value).

    What I'm wondering is whether you guys think about this at all, and what approach you take. Do you just pay what you pay and don't really worry, or would do you prefer to be a planner? Do you resent having to pay at all, and would prefer to do it yourself?

    I'm not really asking for any specific advice, just interested in what you think. I know that, when it comes to cars (not classics), maintenance costs accumulate and repairs seem to become more expensive while the car's value goes down and down, so there tends be a point where most people cut their losses, sell it, and get something newer. Are basses like this?

    (On a side note, we just paid for a service and some repairs to our car that amounted - in one hit - to two thirds of its current value. So we're getting a new car, and putting the old into palliative care)
  2. Zootsuitbass

    Zootsuitbass Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2011
    If his Kung Fu is strong, Pay him,develop and relationship. A day will come when your price drops. I'd hope.
  3. testing1two

    testing1two Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2009
    Southern California
    Just remember the cost of his services is not dependent on what you paid for your instrument. Superior, professional work commands a premium in virtually every field. What you should be asking is how good is the work and how satisfied are his customers?
  4. obimark


    Sep 1, 2011
    IME- a decent setup should be $45-50, that seems high. But hell if he's an artiste, and can take my action down lower than most I'd go as high as $60.
  5. Chico16


    Apr 2, 2012
    Yuma, Az
    Wow I'm glad I live in a smaller market then!! The local luthier (has his own guitar shop, plus has his own brand, builds and repairs anything with strings) used to charge me $20 for a basic set up and it was REALLY good. Now at our local music store (which is almost forcing the luthier out of business due to location) the "bass guy" charges $30 and from what I've heard he does a great job as well. I tried to get one from him but my bass was just sitting there for over a week since he was being bombarded with work (grand opening) $50+ is way too much to spend on set ups IMO
  6. I would pay the one time for the nut & set-up. And I would also start reading, checking out youtube vids and learning everything there is to know, so next time you could do it yourself. And it won't be too far off since it was set-up by a pro . Just think, now is the best time to learn, since you have a MIM, and really you can't screw up anything to the point that it can't be fixed. By the time you invest in a more quality instrument you will be able to set it up yourself. And it will also help you to know your bass better Thats exactly what Im doing now with my skyline jo. Thats my .02. Good luck to ya.
  7. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

    ^ this. There is little magic in a "basic" setup, rather it is a simple formula you follow. Learn it, you won't regret it.

    It is fine to leave nut and frets to a pro but a setup should be performed by the player because it is not difficult and you will become one with your instrument Grasshopper. If you become a rich touring pro, it is then fine to hire a personal tech to do it while you have "meetings" with your personal assistant. ;)
  8. bjabass


    Jan 10, 2011
    Mountain South
    The nut should need adjustment or replacement very infrequently if at all. Fret leveling...maybe once. Other adjustments like intonation and action you should be able to handle yourself.
  9. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    +1 My tech works at Guitar Center does an incredible job and I don't get those " Yeah I noticed some other things and I took care of them for you" I went to supposedly the best guy in my area and he got me with the "extras" and it was the worst setup I've ever gotten Guitar Center has set prices which means no surprises when you come to pick it up.
  10. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    I would invest time in learning how to do it myself but it's easier for me to drop it off talk to my guy and hang out in the store and have him take care of it because I know if I did it myself I would obsess over every little detail and it would drive me crazy and I would spend more time doing setups than playing. :)
  11. cica


    Sep 18, 2012
    You shouldn't look at it that way. As you use your bass, it wears out and falls out of adjustment. You need to do regular maintenance to keep it in top playing condition. The alternative would be to not do anything to it for 10 years and then just throw it out and buy a new one with the money you saved. If you're playing it, put the money into it to keep it at it's best.
  12. I've got a great guy out by me. He charges $50 for a bone nut. For a complete, new bass setup, including nut change, neck set up, fret dressing and a thorough testing of everything it runs $100.

    But I do most of my own tweaks and minor things but I won't (insert favorite 'nut' pun here).
  13. rtav

    rtav Millionaire Stuntman, Half-Jackalope Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 2008
    Chicago, IL
    Just paid $125 for a great setup and some fret work on a new guitar. Worth EVERY penny.
  14. JoeWPgh


    Dec 21, 2012
    If the setup includes a new nut, $100 seems reasonable to me. But I not sure I see the point on a new bass. You could change the spacing a bit, but not by all that much. OTOH, almost every nut I've seen could stand to be cut lower, but that shouldn't cost anywhere near the price of a replacement. I'm pretty fussy about nut height, so I prefer to do mine myself. The upside is that I can get it exactly how I like it. The downside is I had to invest in the files.
  15. Razman


    Feb 10, 2005
    Orange Park, FL
    I do both (hang out in stores AND obsess over every little detail of my bass)!

    For my last setup I think I paid $35 USD and when I got my bass back it was like he read my mind. That was inexpensive for what I had done (brass nut, tore up a couple of his files, larger Circle-K strings, intonation, neck/action, but no fretwork).

    However, I have years of relationship with this tech - and he's one of the best (if not THE best) in town.

    The price seems a bit steep but if it builds a relationship then that is worth far more than $20-$40 you may save right now.

  16. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist ZOMG! I'm back from the dead! Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Unless we are talking about some intense luthier work (onboard preamp and active pickup install, reshaping the body, and perhaps applying a new paintjob on a bass), it's been a waste of money IME to get someone to do your setups for you. You know how hard you play, what kind of strings you prefer, and what feels comfortable/preferable to you. A luthier has to do his best at guessing what you like and what your playing style is, he also has to get this right in one shot. This is why I feel like it's a bit of an inefficient way to get the setup you want from someone who doesn't have intimate knowledge of your playing style.

    My guitarist's teacher was also his luthier, but he had observed his technique and playing for over a year before he started doing his setups on his guitars for him. Because he knew how he played, he did setups on his guitars that were second to none. This would be the only case (besides a guitar tech assigned to you on tour) where I feel getting someone else to do your setups would be worthwhile.
  17. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    The word "setup" is so subjective in this business. There are rarely 2 musicians who think of a "setup" as the same thing.

    Here are some guidelines from a luthier and former professional musician. Basic setups are usually between $50 and $75, but the price is subjective to the luthier/repairman and the amount of work they do.

    Basic Setup:

    Set the action as low as the instrument will accommodate, intonate, adjust truss rod, make sure string height at nut and bridge match the radius of the fretboard, adjust pickup heights for optimum output without creating string pull.

    Full Set up:

    All of the above plus;

    Complete fret dressing and polish, clean up fret ends, maximize action at the nut end. Which will improve playability across the board.

    After this everything is extra.

    Fret Leveling which involves re crowning, re dressing and polishing, is NOT includd in any setup, it is usually a $125 job

    New Nut, cost is determined by material. Cut, slotted and fitted to the instrument can be from $15 to $50 depending

    Hopefully this helps.
  18. punkjazzben


    Jun 26, 2008
    All very interesting perspectives.

    Personally, although I can do a basic setup, I'm happy to pay for an initial setup and service to make sure things are as they should be - it makes taking care of the instrument easier for me down the track. Then I am able to do my own maintenance until something happens that is beyond my abilities to fix or troubleshoot. Essentially, I see the point of that first professional setup as being a chance to have a trained eye give it a once over and get you on the way to a better playing experience.

    For example, I bought a Warwick second-hand in 2006 and it only saw a tech once, who performed a basic setup and clean, and replaced a dodgy jack socket. I never had to take it back, and was able to keep it in good repair myself (probably not least because this Warwick could've been thrown from an aeroplane and would've held its tuning).

    As for how much you would pay - well, I guess that comes down to whether you have a need for regular professional setups, whether you can/have time to do it yourself, how much money you have, how much money want to put into your music, and so on.

    Carry on.
  19. Venom of God

    Venom of God

    Oct 8, 2007
    At the place I work we charge $25 per half hour for set-ups, plus any extras like strings or whatever. Our tech is pretty good and will get most stuff done easily in half an hour, including the nut being filed or whatever (seriously doesn't take that long).

    I take my acoustic guitar to a really good luthier elsewhere for set-up once a year, costs me $35.

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