What is a setup?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by rabid_granny, Jan 27, 2002.

  1. When I purchased my bass many years ago, I was told I could get a free setup. I never got my bass setup.

    If I buy a bass now, what should I be looking for when the retailer sets up my bass?

    Rephrased: What do the technicians do when they set-up a bass guitar?

  2. Ryan L.

    Ryan L. Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2000
    West Fargo, ND
    Know what??

    There is a "Setup" forum here.:D
  3. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    they adjust the neck and relief to their optimal positions, they set the action properly, make sure the intonation is set properly, take care of any burrs that might be on the bridge or nut that might shorten string life and make sure the bass is generally at its most playable.

    at least, that's a good setup.

    btw, we've got a forum called "setup" that was just tailor made for questions like these ;) :D

    and awaaay we go...
  4. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    hey ryan, beat me to the punch. that's what i get for actually answering the question :D
  5. Ooops. Sorry about that. I got used to writing new questions as soon as they popped into my mind.

    I guess with the setup questions, I wanted to know what to ask for, in general. I'm sure I'll be posting more questions regarding setups.

    ...I feel very sheepish right now...

  6. Just say to them what type of action you are after. eg "i like my strings fairly low because i like to do such and such board runs" or "Can u make my action middle of the road"

    When u get it, check that the neck is straight, if its got a bow in it (a slight one is ok), or the neck is tilting one way, then tell them to fix it. even after a setup, check this. If its not to your liking say to them "you were meant to fix this.."

    Tell them to check the intonation is good at the 12th fret etc.


  7. Yeah, the only problem is that I don't know what the bass guitar is supposed to look like or feel like after a set-up.

    Other than the action of the strings, I don't have any technical experience that would let me evaluate the angle of the neck or blah blah blah.

    I guess what I am afraid of is that the guitar store could take the bass into the backroom, do nothing with it and then give it back to me saying "there you go, it's all set..."

  8. SlowRiot


    Jan 5, 2002
    well presumably the neck should be straight :cool:

    and er... it should sound Good.... generally should go Bumm and not Pfflt... oh and the strings should all be about the same height above the fretboard? And there should be at least four of them, check that, its important ;)
  9. ...I was being serious. I hope not everyone has forgotten what it was like when they were buying their first bass.

    Though my questions are inane to you, my lack of technical knowledge of basses is genuine.

    I been through my "trainer" bass period and I'm ready to make a serious investment in my instrument. I want this bass to be a keeper and I want to do it right...
  10. Here's a learning assignment:

    Go to your local store - one that has quite a few basses - and play each and every one of them. Pay particular attention to the ease with which you can play in your style. Notice how different each bass is in "feel" - even basses of the same brand and model? Well, that is mostly due to "setup". You should find the bass that is the easiest to play with your style and convey that to the technician that will do the setup. Each musician has their own preferences and, with experience, you will too. Most of these preferences are largely based on personal style and tone preferences. There are some aspects to "setup" that don't have to do with style but affect the actual proper sound of the instrument like the intonation where the bass plays "in tune" all the way up the neck. All artists want their instrument to have perfect intonation AND play with ease. but the intonation setup is independent of personal tastes regarding ease of use.

    When you recieve your bass back from the setup technician, play it and play it hard - right there in the shop. Assuming they have done their job right in regard to intonation issues, you can concentrate on how easy it is to do what you do. Then assess points like fret buzz, pickup height, and ease of play. If it feels right and sounds right, you probably have, at least, a starting point setup that will work for your style.

    A bass is an interesting composite of mechanical parts, electrical parts and things that make it look good. A good setup will work with the first two to optimize the sound and ease of play.

    And don't get upset with the occasional snide remark in ANY of our forums here. It's just a part of having 20,000 members. You've asked the right question, in the right forum and your desire to "get it right" will serve you well.

    Hope this helps
  11. Hey Granny -

    I know exactly what you are talking about. When I first go my bass somone said that I should have it set up. So I went to a guitar shop, walked in and said 'I would like to have my bass set up!'

    The guitar guy said 'whats wrong with it?'
    I said 'Nothing really, I just want it set up.' assuming that he would know the term 'set up.'

    At this point I already decided that I was leaving in the next couple of minutes with my bass NOT set up by him.

    Then he said 'I can put new strings on and tune it up a bit for you. Its 28 dollars, and it would probably be worth it.'

    So I told him 'they are new strings, its in tune, and I'll see ya later!'

    I ended up monkeying around with it for a while on my own and got it playing REALLY nice . Its really not THAT hard. Just don't fool with that truss rod until you read everything you can on the subject.

    Good luck, and don't let anyone touch your bass if you are not convinced he/she knows what they are doing.