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Truss rod adjustment after lowering action

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by CaptainTuna, Jul 20, 2012.


  1. CaptainTuna

    CaptainTuna

    May 13, 2011
    Hey guys,

    I just lowered the action on my bass a few weeks ago by lowering the saddles on the bridge. I've searched on the forums and there are loads of threads about truss rod adjustment but none addressed my issue.

    My question is: do I need to adjust the truss rod? Is it an adjustment which is vital for the "health" of the bass or is it something about how I'd prefer it to be?

    I personally would like to have lower action and heavy attack, I have read one of the stickies in the technique section (it's called "Demystifying Metal styles...", I don't play metal, but still...) and it says that some people keep their basses at zero relief. Is it something doable without any other adjustments?

    Again, I've seen lots of threads on how to, lots of videos by pros, but I don't really get why I have to do it or should do it.
     
  2. PazzoBasso

    PazzoBasso

    Jan 21, 2011
    YYZ
    Not necessary - the relief might be just as you like it & only the bridge saddles were too high...

    In a full set-up, many measurements are important to achieve the best possible playability - but they're not the same for everyone...
     
  3. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    The truss rod does not adjust action, it adjust neck relief. To set up a bass, the truss rod should be the first adjustment made, followed by action at the nut, then the bridge.
     
  4. lethargytartare

    lethargytartare

    Sep 7, 2004
    Chicago
    You adjust relief to help create consistent playability along the neck. And generally speaking, low action and heavy attack are mutually exclusive unless you are cool with a lot of rattle or noise.
     
  5. JLS

    JLS

    Sep 12, 2008
    Emeryville, Ca
    I setup & repair guitars & basses
    No, no ,no, no, no--nut action is the last thing to adjust, in a setup.
     
  6. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    IME nut action is totally independent of the others so can be adjusted any time. I just file the slots until I can just still fit a business card between the string and first fret when the string is fretted on top of the second fret. I generally go for a low action so set the saddles to not buzz at the 12+ frets first and the truss rod to not buzz at the 1-7 frets last. Then the action is what it is - I've not yet gotten into fret leveling.
     
  7. CaptainTuna

    CaptainTuna

    May 13, 2011
    I'm not sure what my next step could be. I want to set my bass so that a little fret buzz comes out of it. By lowering the action I've achieved an almost uniform buzz across the fretboard except for open string notes. I could probably leave it like that and that's all, I don't really know if setting it "the proper way" (aka: the way you see in videos, like in the sticky thread at the top of the section) or just leave it like that!
     
  8. kesh

    kesh

    Jul 9, 2012
    Brighton, England
    intonation is last
     
  9. Slowgypsy

    Slowgypsy 4 Fretless Strings

    Dec 12, 2006
    NY & MA
    Well, no frets on the open strings so it seems like you've achieved your goal :smug:
     
  10. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    You could file the nut slots deeper until the open notes buzz a bit too - but that's easy to overdo and end up having to shim or make a new nut :( . If you're going to do that go slow and push the string down between the nut and first fret right at the nut hard to "form" it before measuring or trying it for the proper "buzz". I actually set mine up like you and go lower than a business card thickness when filing the nut slots - but you run the risk of a different string not bending over the nut slot as "proud" and being too low or the string you're using "relaxing" over time and going too low.
     
  11. lethargytartare

    lethargytartare

    Sep 7, 2004
    Chicago
    So it sounds like you have achieved the result you want -- so you're done.

    If you're happy, leave it. DIY guides have to give you the basics and a point of reference -- after that, it's all about how YOU want your instrument to feel when you play it.

    If you're NOT completely happy right now, let us know what's still lacking, and we might have more suggestions.

    Good luck!
    ltt
     
  12. CaptainTuna

    CaptainTuna

    May 13, 2011
    Thank you for the answers so far!!

    Well there probably is something I could change...
    Even after lowering the saddles almost all the way (the G saddle is all the way down) I still have the action set a little too high for my likings (I pluck very lightly).
    But...as far as I understood by searching on the forum, truss rod adjustments have nothing to do with action, so I'm wondering : can I get the strings any lower than that? (without tinkering with the nut, I am afraid I might screw things up)
     
  13. Mickey Mao

    Mickey Mao

    Jun 7, 2011
    SF Bay Area
    If the G-saddle is already all the way down, then the next step would be to shim the neck. This changes the neck angle slightly, and results in further lower action.
     
  14. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
  15. wong99

    wong99

    Jun 6, 2012
    If the neck relief is not correct the truss rod needs to be adjusted to remedy that.
    If the truss rod is in need of adjustment that should be done before the bridge height is adjusted.
    Once the neck is adjusted and the string height is correct the intonation needs to be checked and adjusted as required.
     
  16. 69shovlhed

    69shovlhed

    Jun 5, 2006
    do not file the nut until you have fret buzz. if you get fret buzz on an open string, you have ruined the nut.
    you need to check to see how much relief you have on your neck now. if the neck is bowed too much, you'll never get the action low enough. if its too flat or back-bowed, it'll buzz like a bitch. you want to set the truss rod for the perfect relief and then adjust the bridge. but it might be ok the way it is. if i were you, i'd figure out what the proper relief is and measure to see what you have now. there is no reason that you should have more than a tiny amount of fret buzz unless your fingers are too weak to play bass anyhow. its gonna sound way better and play fine with a proper set up.
     
  17. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    ^ The OP wanted a small amount of buzz at all frets and noted that the open strings don't. It's his bass and he can set it up the way he wants, no? OTOH I set mine up similarly but leave the nut a bit high as I like the contrast of the open strings being cleaner than when they are fretted and you dig in. I do set the relief and saddles so when playing gently I have no buzz so i can get that contrast too. A bit of compression allows me to "go dirty" without getting too much louder as I dig in.

    YMMV, void where prohibited :bassist:
     
  18. lethargytartare

    lethargytartare

    Sep 7, 2004
    Chicago
    As noted, to remedy action that's too high, when the saddles are bottomed out, you shim the neck.

    But here's what's confusing me:

    What do you mean by "attack" -- heavy attack and "pluck very lightly" don't really go together, and an "ideal" setup would be very different for the two. Heavy attack -- higher action. "pluck very lightly" -- you could more easily go with very low action.

    But if your action is too high, and you're getting buzz evenly across the neck (which you said you wanted), I'd suspect you don't have a lot of relief in the neck (or there's one high fret in the very high register). But the relief answer is the same either way -- if you like the consistency you're getting up and down the neck, there's no need to tinker with the truss.

    If you want to lower the action, and the saddles are bottomed out -- shim the neck.

    But again, low action and heavy attack usually means lots of clack and buzz. But you also say you play very lightly, so I'm not sure which direction you're looking to go.

    And maybe the best answer is to keep trying different setups until you find that perfect balance.

    Good luck!
    ltt
     
  19. CaptainTuna

    CaptainTuna

    May 13, 2011
    I'm sorry if I confused you people, my fault! Take out that whole "attack" part. I'd just like a pretty low action which gives me some fret buzz even with a light touch! Sorry for that!

    I still don't get why they say truss rod adjustments do not relate to action though. I mean, couldn't I get the strings closer to the fretboard by adjusting the rod as shown in this pic?

    ShimDiag2.

    If I understand correctly, adjusting the rod is gonna make the strings farther away from the fretboard only if I give more relief (=untighten rod, I think)to the neck, right? So couldn't I just try adjusting my truss rod before thinking about the shimming?
     
  20. kesh

    kesh

    Jul 9, 2012
    Brighton, England
    The rod changes the action, but as a side effect.

    The rod's main role is to achieve the right neck by balancing its tension against the strings' tension. Once that is achieved the best possible action can be got by bridge (and nut) adjustment.
     

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