Newbie setup question

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Mark_G, Jun 12, 2020.

  1. Mark_G


    Dec 13, 2019
    OK, the backstory. I used to play years ago, then stopped for 20 years. Last November I made a family visit back to Australia, where I'm originally from, found my old bass in storage, and the bug bit again so I brought it back to the States with me, and I've been playing it daily ever since.

    The bass is still as it was when I zipped it into its bag for the last time in the 1990s, strings and all. Fortunately it was stored in a friendly environment so it's still in great condition and it has no problem staying in tune, but there's some minor buzz on a couple of frets and the action on the A and D seems too high, so I was planning to take it to a local store for a setup when the pandemic came along and everything closed.

    I'm thinking now that I should just maybe buy the relevant gauges etc along with some new strings, and take a swing at setting the thing up myself. It's just a Squier MB-4 (the non-skull and crossbones one, fortunately), so the money I'd dump into a professional setup might be better spent investing in a few inexpensive tools and a bit of learning.

    Beyond a standard setup though, is there anything I should be checking for in a bass that didn't leave its gig bag for two decades?
    Monterey Bay-ss likes this.
  2. Roland GR 88

    Roland GR 88 Commercial User

    Sep 16, 2013
    Ontario Canada
    Retail store manager
    Hey, if it plays in tune and sounds like a bass you're fine. Put on your new strings, set the action how you like it, check and adjust the neck if you have to. Buzzing frets are usually a neck relief issue, sometimes the saddles will be too low and sometimes a fret will have popped up and may need a tap or two to set it. After a generation of storage I would suspect you truss rod will need a turn and hopefully that's it.
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  4. Jeff Hughes

    Jeff Hughes

    May 3, 2020
    Fender basses are great to learn setups on. The bridges are pretty easy to adjust, and the necks are usually generous in their ability to be adjusted.

    Just remember to test your setup through an amp under normal playing conditions. Otherwise you might find yourself with a setup that is great for playing unplugged but a pain while plugged in.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2020
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  5. Riff Ranger

    Riff Ranger Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2018
    Bigfoot Country
    While I never stopped playing entirely, I really got back into daily playing myself a bit over two years ago after laying low for about a decade. Even though I have never thought of myself as “handy” (and still don’t!), I have gotten into doing my own setups and I’m so glad. Pretty hard to break things if you don’t force them, so jump in. You will find helpful people with great advice here.
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  6. Riff Ranger

    Riff Ranger Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2018
    Bigfoot Country
    When you say “tap,” you mean with a hammer? I suspect I have one high fret on an otherwise perfectly playable bass myself.
  7. If the fret is lifted then a small plastic or brass hammer can typically get it seated again. I’ve also seen a couple of guys on YouTube take a short length of aluminum rod and grind a recess into one end for the fret to just seat in and then tap that with the hammer to seat the fret. Not a bad idea as you don’t have to worry about denting the fretboard that way. If a fret has popped up, there’s a decent chance it will again after you hammer it back in place so it’s not a bad idea to glue it once it is back down on the board, that’s assuming the fret slots go all the way to the edge of the board.
    Monterey Bay-ss and Gilmourisgod like this.
  8. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    I haven't found anything better than this 4 part series. It's all covered in the sticky setup section, but I'm a sucker for a video. Plus, he sounds a little like Elmer Fudd, which is a bonus. His numbers for relief and string height are safe and conservative, you can probably sneak both a little lower. All you need is a capo, feeler gauges, and the right Allen wrenches for your bass.

    Vinny_G and Mark_G like this.
  9. Mark_G


    Dec 13, 2019
    Thanks, everyone. Those links and videos are actually what steered me towards deciding to take a swing at doing it myself in the first place. Capo and feeler gauges are on their way!