I admit it, i fear the truss rod!!

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Trent-35, Jul 5, 2001.

  1. After checking out a few links to set up guides here, i decided to try to set my own basses up. I worked on the action of my G&L L2500 for awhile one day last week, and it really felt better to me on the gig. As far as the measurements go, does the action radically change each time you change the strings? I think i'm 3/16 of an inch on the E string, the rest i just did what felt good. The action was actually too low before, the D string was buzzing some all the way to the Bb, it's not now. I don't like a super low action. I found the intonation kinda tricky, and i ran out of time before the gig to get it prefect. I guess i'll have to bring my rack home so i can have a tuner here. I think the neck of the G&L is fine, but i'm not 100% sure. The neck of my Fender MIM P i'm pretty sure needs an adjustment, because it tends to want to buzz high on the neck, but i'm really scared to do it. Also, how can you tell if a problem with a bass fret buzz may just be a high fret? On the Fender, i had to set the action of the A a good bit higher than the rest of the strings. I also had a hard time figuring out if i even had the right Allen wrench to turn the truss on the Fender. But i was happy, and proud of myself heh, that i made the G&L feel better to me. Trent
  2. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Jeez, Trent, I would have assumed you'd have a half dozen Nashville heavyweights at your disposal for this stuff. But it really is good to try and learn to do your own. All it takes is a change in the weather/humidity and.....wang!!!...buzzes come back/you're out of tune.

    If you have several frets buzzing in the high register, it probably is because you have too much bow/relief. Turning your truss rod clockwise will usually cure it. Turn in 1/8" increments to be safe, (I don't but it's not my bass). Make a turn, let the neck settle overnight and see if adjusting your saddles accordingly takes care of it. If not, turn a little more. Make sure your wrench is a tight fit. If you have a wrench that slips or has some play, rounding off those rod corners will leave you in a world of trouble.

    If the buzzes are on several lower frets, try the same process as above, only the turns are counter-clockwise.

    One of may favorite references for the process is a little hard to get to, but it's a very common sense approach as opposed to some of the anal-retentive rocket science methods. (I go for methods like fretting the G at the first and 24th frets and seeing if someone can easily swipe two stacked playing cards between the underside of the string and frets). Go to www.garywillis.com ; click on the "Ask Willis" link, then click on the "Archives". In the archives, click on "March". Under the picture of a crane constructing a Fender P, (yes, it is), you'll see a link to "setup manual." It has very clear pictures and explanations.

    If the buzzing is limited to just an isolated fret/string or two, it may be the fret dressing. I always rely on the tech at the music store. These guys can just eyeball frets and run their fingers over them and tell you at no charge if the frets needs some working over.

    As for the action changing "radically" after a string change - I guess "radically" is relative, but adjusting the truss rod/saddles after a string change is very common, even if the gauge and brand are the same. There is some stretching in the windings that only occurs with time.

    Although it may seem weird to have your A as the highest string in height, I also have a bass where the E and the B are actually set lower than the A. It's just the way the neck/frets are crowned on that bass.
  3. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    Trent, Most if not all the normal adjustments in a setup can be checked without changing anything or turning anything.

    The first thing that I check is the relief in the neck. Just put a capo on at the first fret. fret the 2nd or 3rd fret from the bridge and the string will act as a straightedge to indicate the amount of relief. A quick test is to just tap the string straight down toward the fret at the middle of the fretboard. If you get a good solid click as the string hits the fret, chances are the relief is not causing a fret buzz.

    A good rule of thumb is that if the fret buzz is on the higher register, (at the bridge end) a saddle height adjustment is in order. If the buzz is at the lower register(at the nut end) a truss rod adjustment is in order. The one exception to this could be that the nut slots may be too deep. in other words adjust that which is closest to the problem.

    The intonation should be the last step in a setup.

    Be sure to tune the strings down before making a rod adjustment. You will be fighting the string tension if you try to straighten the neck(remove relief) without slacking off on the strings first. That can overload a truss rod to the point of breaking it.
    Dont be afraid to help the truss rod a little by CAREFULLY bending the neck as you would when stringing a bow. (the Robin Hood kind of bow, not the fiddle kind:))

    If you have a problem and you suspect the fret, look at the fret carefully for what looks like a dent directly under the string on the offending fret. when a fret reaches a certain point of wear, buzzes are sure to follow. Fret dressing is usually not a DIY project.

    If the truss rod adjustment feels too tight, STOP and let a repair person take it from there.

    Hope this helps, Pkr2
  4. Rick, to be honest with you i just kinda do my own thing in Nashville, and don't have alot of interaction with other bassists. I know quite a few, call it vanity or whatever, but i don't like to say that i don't know that much about set up.
    I don't have a capo, but i did the deal with holding down the first fret, then the other end with my elbow. On both of my basses, there is a click if i tap it in the middle of the fretboard. If i tap at the 12th fret like suggested in some set up guides, i get no movement, esp on my G&L L2500. The i set the action a bit higher on my Fender P than the G&L because it just seems to work better on that bass for some reason. Do you guys set diff basses up with diff action? Trent
  5. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Different set ups for different basses most definitely. My bread n' butter bass has thick roundwounds and fairly high profile medium jumbo frets. So, it's action is a little higher than my imaginary ideal or else fret noise comes through on recordings. Plus, it gets better tone that way with the strings a tad farther from the pickups.

    The Rick 4001 has almost no crown in the fretboard, so it can be set up with the strings almost laying on the frets. The Precis is higher for tone reasons.

    So, what I'm saying is the variety of fret profiles, fingerboard crowning/curvature, pickup outputs (actives/passives. tonal predispositions), and string gauges cause me to vary their actions. I can adapt to them better than they can adapt to me.

    If you're not getting any movement at the 12th fret using the procedure you describe, but you're not getting undesireable clicks/clacks or bad intonation when you're just fretting a single note, why care?

    When you think you have a bass set up the way you like it, I think taking it into a store when things are calm, like early afternoon early on a Tuesday, and asking a tech to look at your action and see if they hear any buzzes is a good idea. Since these guys see dozens, if not hundreds, of basses, they can give you good, objective feedback about your set up. For instance, I thought the action on one of my basses was perfectly normal. Three techs at two stores took a look at it and said, "Boy, you really like your action low. This is like a mandolin!" This is helpful when I read about setups which are intended to use a "normal" setup as a reference point.