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Professional set up. Worth it?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Spent, May 11, 2019.


  1. Spent

    Spent

    May 15, 2011
    Upstate NY
    Didn’t intent to write a novel, so skip the next paragraph to get to the actual question.

    I’ve mostly done my own set up over the decades. One bass that I played for years had a neck that required a truss rod adjustment a couple of times a year, and I used to occasionally change string types that required intonation adjustments as well. I’m taking my Carvin LB76 into the studio at the end of the month. I’m pretty excited, some pretty big names (Tony Levin for example) regularly record there. A good friend of mine recorded there as well when his band first got signed and it came out great. He now owns a small studio, so he’s a better judge than I am, and he thinks this place is top notch. Best part is that the engineer is a pro level bass player, so I’m looking forward to working with him. Both of my previous studio experiences were with an engineer who played keys.

    I’m thinking of having my bass set up professionally. I think I do a good job, but I really have nothing to compare my work to. The local music store is owned by a very experienced guitar tech who I trust will do a great job. He will only do the job if he can have the bass for at least four days because he’s busy and wants to be able to check it a day or so after adjusting the neck relief. He quoted my $65, which seems reasonable, but I’ve never paid for a set up before. I'm most likely going to do it, I would like the action set a little lower and don’t have the patience or time to do it myself. The only real issue I’m having is giving up my bass for a few days, it’s my only six string. So, I’m looking for some feedback on your experience with a professional set up. Was it worth the time and cost?
     
  2. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    $65 for a really good setup of a 6-string is a good deal. I'd be charging $85, but that in Canadian Dollars. I can't tell you if it's worth it to you since you have being doing your own setups. But I do know that many of my regular clients used to do their own setups, but now they bring their instruments to me because somehow I do some "magic". I don't have any secrets, but I am meticulous and experienced, so I guess that's something. That may be true of your local guitar tech.

    Four days turnaround is good. Best practice is to make adjustments, give it a day or two to settle in, and tweak again. Another day or so to ensure everything is stable and it should be good to go. But even that is only as good as far as it meets your preferences - i.e. "low action" is only a relative term and what's low for me may be buzz city for you. So after 4 days waiting you pick up the bass only to find the setup isn't right for you. A decent tech will then make further adjustments to accommodate how you play, and then you may well have a couple more days of settle-in time.

    It's worth noting that good guitar techs don't necessarily make good bass techs. There are a few really good guitar techs in my town. And I have had many a customer that were never satisfied with their bass setups from those shops.
     
  3. Doc Blue

    Doc Blue

    Mar 29, 2019
    St Augustine
    Set the action lower to where you want it, then play up and down the neck. Does it buzz anywhere? If no, I would say you're good to go. If it does and you don't want to mess with the relief, take it in.

    It doesn't take but a couple minutes to adjust the action. I do it by sight and feel. Same checking neck relief. Capo the first fret, touch the string to the last fret, then look and feel the string deflection at the 7th and 8th fret. No feeler gauges, no scales. The relief on my jazz changed slightly through the winter but hasn't been enough to worry about.
     
  4. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA
    I couldn't say it any better than @Turnaround. I highlighted one part of his message that is my reason for wanting to do my own setups. Whenever I've had a bass setup, I then had to tweak it to my preference.

    You could in the worst case try to do your own setup. If you fail, then take it in.

    It might be helpful to say--I'm trying to get the action to x mm on all the strings at the 12th fret instead of just asking to set it up though. Though I'm not a tech or luthier. Maybe one of them could chime in if that is helpful.
     
  5. Spent

    Spent

    May 15, 2011
    Upstate NY
    I’m going to go into more detail with the tech than I put here, just looking for some experiences.
    I’ve been doing my own set up for a long time, and know how to do it. My issue is time; I’m a public school administrator and the last month of school is crazy.
     
  6. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    That is somewhat helpful. Sometimes. Maybe. As a point of discussion. People's expectations are sometimes strange, sometimes weird, sometimes reasonable. For instance, a new customer of mine expected that when a bass was set up right the strings would be the same height from the frets the entire length of the fretboard.
    Success comes with good communication, so express as specificallyt as you can what you would like in a setup, and listen to what the tech has to say. If you both listen and express clearly there's a better chance of a fine outcome.
     
    James Collins likes this.
  7. Doc Blue

    Doc Blue

    Mar 29, 2019
    St Augustine
    @Spent. Understood. I was merely suggesting to spend a few minutes on the action before spending the time getting in and out of the shop. If you are more meticulous setting action than I am, it's sounding like it's worth it to you for a professional set-up.

    As @Turnaround says, communication is key.
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2019
    Spent likes this.
  8. Absolutely. If you only have one instrument, its cheaper to pay someone for a professional setup. If you have many or trade a lot, its cheaper to learn how to do your own professional setup.
     
    the_home likes this.
  9. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism

    A pro setup is definitely worth it if you are not familiar with the process. It doesn't take a master to do a pro setup though. The benefit of a pro setup is getting a good diagnosis on any potential issues, something less experienced people might gloss over. I play with a low action and a relatively light touch so I never get a bass back to my specs, even from my regular tech.

    As far as paying for something you can do goes, I say go for it if you don't have the time. I have a tech who has done lots of odd jobs for me that I could do myself, such as shielding. Sometimes, my time is worth the money. I also get a level of service most people don't because I sit down with my tech, talk shop, and give detailed instructions of how I want things done.
     
  10. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    it was before i learned how to do it myself. since then (30 years?) i've also learned that no one else can possibly get my axes tweaked to my satisfaction/preferences unless i was participating in the exercise, too...so why bother?

    if you think your own setups are 'less than', or even if you just have some doubt/question = it might be worthwhile to let someone else do it for you --- just to see for yourself. good luck with your setup and good luck in the studio! :thumbsup:
     
    Spent likes this.
  11. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA
    I'm missing something, because doing a setup should take less time for me than driving to drop off and pickup the bass in my situation. And I live 3 miles from the shop.
     
  12. Coolhandjjl

    Coolhandjjl Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    Appleton
    Devils advocate position: If you’ve been doing it yourself for decades, and have been satisfied, why have someone else mess with it now?

    However good the tech may be, it will be different than what you’re used to, and you will have to become accustomed to something new. Sure you want to do that right before going into a studio?
     
    fig and the_home like this.
  13. ProfFrink

    ProfFrink

    Jan 16, 2015
    Many smart things in here already.

    I've also been doing my own setups in most cases. I've found that I benefit from a (good) tech only if a. I need some work done that I can't do myself (e.g. fret leveling), or b. I don't have time and the tech can really be counted on to set it up the way I want it (e.g. get what I mean by "low action" and actually do it right).

    In all other cases it's been a waste of money and time for me to use techs.

    The fact that he wants to check it over a few days is a good sign though - strings and neck need time to settle.
     
  14. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    Neck yes. Strings no - if they are installed correctly there is no settle in time.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2019
    James Collins likes this.
  15. Spent

    Spent

    May 15, 2011
    Upstate NY
    I can and have done it many times. However, a lot of people think they are good at something until they see a real pro in action. The money is not a issue for me (I’m over educated and over paid, but don’t tell anyone) and if I don’t spend it on this I’ll just buy another pedal I don’t need. That’s how I ended up with about 20 bass guitars (I don’t count them on purpose). I’m just curious to see if this guy can do a better job and what your experience has been.
     
  16. Chad Michael

    Chad Michael Supporting Member

    Sep 19, 2001
    Pacific Northwest USA
    There is nothing wrong with having a pro do a setup for you. As someone who is not rich or poor, and having done truss - rod adjustments, intonation, etc. I just took a bass to a tech who I've known since I first started. The bass needed attention in areas that I wasn't familiar with.

    The trick is finding someone who you trust, is passionate about setup (not just someone at a big - name store who put setup on their resume), and will stand behind their work.
     
    Yahboy and Spent like this.
  17. I gotta go with Coolhandjjl on this. You've been doing it yourself for a long time, which means you've probably got it intuitively down for your style, string attack, etc.

    A pro possibly...possibly...can set it up to your liking. You're spending money to take a chance right before an important date, being a studio session.

    Nothing wrong with paying someone to do, and you should at some other less critical time, as you're curious. But not before an important date. Just my 10 cents (adjusted for inflation).
     
  18. ixlramp

    ixlramp

    Jan 25, 2005
    UK
    Exactly this.
    It will come back 'well set up for someone who is not quite you'.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2019
    fig and JRA like this.
  19. Yahboy

    Yahboy

    May 21, 2008
    I start with Fender Bass Setup Guide since 2008, lot of fun.
     
    bigbassmike likes this.
  20. If you're doing your own setups, don't change anything now.
     
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

     
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