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Setup and Tone

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by lifeoffroadbass, Apr 17, 2015.

  1. lifeoffroadbass


    Aug 7, 2013
    I was wondering how much the setup of an instrument can impact the overall sound or tone. I love my bass, and lately ive been learning to play slap style. I just don't feel like it has that tight snappiness to the plucks. I mean I know that how I play greatly impacts it, however I think I play pretty well so I'm kinda ruling that out. I was thinking of getting new pickups but my question is should I take it for a setup first?
  2. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    My recommendation is to take it to a good technician for a setup first. Tell the tech what you are looking for and see what advice you get about the setup and parts replacement. New pickups may be different/better/worse/the same. Unless you know first hand about the characteristics of specific pickups, any chance you take will be just that - a chance. Don't go by the manufacturer's description - they all say great things about their pickups. And if you were to ask a dozen bass players' opinions on a particular pickup, you are likely to get many contrary opinions. A decent tech will have first hand experience with many pickups and probably has nothing to gain from suggesting a particular brand/model - in other words, a relatively unbiased view.

    But you may not need new pickups at all. Once again, a good tech will be able to guide you. Be advised though that I am a tech, so perhaps my advice is biased. Tough to sort this all out, isn't it?
  3. lifeoffroadbass


    Aug 7, 2013
    Thank you for your feedback. It's basically what my plan was going to be. I might still get new pickups after the setup just because I really like the tone of Aguilar pickups. I'm almost sure it just needs a setup. It's a 17 year old bass and I don't know what was done prior to my ownership.

    Thanks again.
  4. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    In general, the setup will have very little effect on the sound of the bass itself. With a few exceptions. But, the setup can have a big effect on how you sound playing the bass. If it's smooth and comfortable for you to play, you'll play better and with more character.

    And remember that pickups don't create the sound of the bass on their own. They modify the sound coming from the strings and the bass's frame. So, putting an Aguilar pickup in your bass won't automatically make it sound like other basses you've played that had Aguilar pickups. It may or may not. A pickup isn't a digital sound chip.

    Get your bass set up well first, with strings that you like the feel of. Make it comfortable and fun to play. Then, start experimenting with its tonal range, using its controls and the amp's controls. See what it will do, as it is. Find its limits and strengths. Then, if you still aren't happy with the tone, look at swapping pickups to change it.
    nouroog and lz4005 like this.
  5. mech

    mech Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2008
    Meridian, MS, USA
    I'd try raising the PUs on the pluck side first. The closer the PU is to the string, the more output, high end, maybe snap when plucked.
    I'm no expert on that style but it's what I would try first since it would cost $0.

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