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Why are some basses so easy to setup?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by allexcosta, May 24, 2011.

  1. allexcosta


    Apr 7, 2004
    First of all, I'm not a builder... I've been doing my own setups for many years and this question have crossed my mind and I'd like to hear what you builders have to say...

    Let's take 2 basses: A Fodera Emperor and a MusicMan Stingray, both well made, both sound good, etc...

    Why's the Fodera a lot easier to setup? Any hint of a turn to the truss rod and the neck comes right to where it needs to be. It seems that there's a lot more tension on the MM neck.

    I know Fodera doesn't use carbon rods, it's a basic 3-piece maple neck, but there isn't much tension on their necks.

    I am looking for answers more specific than "because Fodera basses are boutique" or "because Fodera uses better woods". It has something to do with the design but I can't get a grasp of what it is...

    Thanks in advance...
  2. jumbodbassman

    jumbodbassman Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2009
    Stuck in traffic -NY & CT
    Born Again Tubey
    Vinny uses aged wood, cross grains, at least 3 peices.... top hotch truss rod, nice thick fretboard. MM probably one peice maple cut last week. All 3 of my MM are pains in the asses, none of my 5 foderas.....not since 83 when i bought first one

    Attached Files:

  3. SDB Guitars

    SDB Guitars Commercial User

    Jul 2, 2007
    Coeur d'Alene, ID
    Shawn Ball - Owner, SDB Guitars
    I'd say that it all comes down to a combination of construction methods, materials and detail work.

    I have made a fairly large number of basses over the last 10 years, and I can say with alacrity that they setup much easier than, say, a Fender neck. I can attest to this on my latest build, where I am using a licensed Fender neck to which I have made no real modifications. It is straight, and the fretwork is decent, but I can't set the action lower than maybe 3/32" at the 12th fret without getting buzz, no matter how I set the relief. The neck is straight, no twists, but man, does it buzz if I try to set the action low.

    Maybe I could re-level-and-dress all the frets, and try again, but the bottom line is that I don't have this issue with necks that I make, and I do have it with "production line" necks.
  4. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Not exactly build/tweak resoponse related but:
    I have noticed some of my basses, due to hardware, require the removal of strings or pick guards or other parts before I can adjust anything... either the truss rod nut is hard to reach or the screws for adjusting the bridge are beneath strings etc..while my Mike lull bass has everything easily accessible without removing any parts.
  5. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    Better instruments are setup at the builder to play as optimal as possible. While things may change slightly, a high quality set-up was done before it shipped, most factory instruments get a quickie level and dress and get boxed. Rarely do they leave the factory with the setup done properly, after shipping things can change even more, leaving it more out of whack than when packedso the hole dug is even deeper. Materials and build quality also play a big part.
  6. lethargytartare


    Sep 7, 2004
    My sterling is very easy to set up, but I had an Arbor neck and a Rondo neck both of which I had to re-level the frets before I could get a good low setup from them. I had a MIM fender that could be set up nicely, but needed frequent changes while the MIA I had was no problem to set up and stayed in that state for much longer. I also set up a buddy's 80s fender (I forget which line), and was able to get it in a great place without much effort.

    I think jumbo and sdb hit it -- construction and materials are probably the biggest factors. And fretwork -- that seems to be a huge drop-off with cheaper necks.
  7. allexcosta


    Apr 7, 2004
    My original question wasn't about factory setup.

    On my Fodera I've taken the truss rod out and messed with it, changed saddles height, etc. And yet it's VERY easy to make it play good in virtually no time. I've also tuned all strings to pitch with an empty truss rod chamber and the bass still played good and the neck was fairly straight, as if the rod isn't there to hold the neck against the string tension, but it's there for minor tweaks and adjustments. Somehow it feels like there's a lot less string tension on those instruments.

    Fodera necks have nothing different about them regarding materials, no carbon rods, no strong wood laminates. It's just 3 pieces of maple, a fretboard and a removable truss rod.

    The rod is made of steel and very robust and I used to think that was the reason the neck felt so solid, but then I took it out and it's still VERY solid. It's something to do with construction and concept, not necessarily a special rod or a special piece of wood...

    Also, I don't mean the ability to achieve an extremely low action on a particular bass. I'm talking about how the neck behaves against the tension of the strings. Don't think any other bass could have 5 strings in tune without a truss rod and still have a straight neck. A Fodera can...
  8. allexcosta


    Apr 7, 2004
    BTW, this is more about how the construction methods will have influence on how a neck behaves. That's why it was originally posted at the luthier's corner.
  9. lethargytartare


    Sep 7, 2004
    The "factory setup" reply clearly had more to it than simply suggesting this was about the factory setup itself.

    I don't think Fodera found a way around physics. And truss rods are not actually "essential" -- my teacher builds lots of instruments without them.

    There you're wrong, and it should be obvious. If not, you can at least take Fodera's word for it. Obvious for reason that a manufacturer of millions of big-name mid-to-high level basses is going to choose different materials, wood suppliers, construction techniques, etc. than a boutique builder -- that's simple economics. But if that's not obvious, here's a quote from Fodera's literature: "We make every Fodera out of some of the longest-aged, quality instrument tonewood on
    the planet. Our wood is as stable as any that you will find" Do you think the same would be true of, say, MIA Fenders? Not very likely.

    The rod is probably the LEAST unique thing about a Fodera -- the workmanship and wood choice of the neck are much more likely the root.

    The ability to get low action is pretty commonly referenced as an indication of neck quality. And low action IS a function of how the neck behaves against the tension of the strings (along with the fretwork). But you last comment makes it sound like you were never interested getting an answer, but rather wanted to get on a "Fodera rocks" binge. Your question was "Why's the Fodera a lot easier to setup?" You got some answers for that, including the one about the role the factory setup could play. "I am looking for answers more specific than "because Fodera basses are boutique" or "because Fodera uses better woods". It has something to do with the design but I can't get a grasp of what it is" Well, we, and Fodera, agree that "better woods" ARE part of the equation, but you don't like that answer, so you might be stuck there. And saying something is "boutique" is usually shorthand for "gets a lot more individual construction attention and craftsmanship than a mass-produced bass" which is also surely part of the case here. So, again, you might be stuck on that one. You should have started with "I'm convinced Foderas are better than every other instrument around because of some secret design -- what is it" and then we could all tell you that that's not likely, and even if it was, there's no way Fodera would allow that kind of trade secret to get out to its competitors.

    I think you're overthinking this :)

    Quick question: how do your M.Laghus basses compare to Foderas?
  10. lethargytartare


    Sep 7, 2004
    Yeah, definitely more of a luthier question than a setup/repair one. There are so many builds over there that there'd have to be plenty of guys who could deconstruct (figuratively) Fodera's necks and what's going on -- you'll probably find a lot of those guys do the same things and probably get comparable results.
  11. iiipopes

    iiipopes Supporting Member

    May 4, 2009
    Actually, MM neck blanks are sawn in two lengthwise and re-glued to get a slight disconnect in the grain that supposedly does the same thing as having a real stripe of a contrasting wood down the middle. Your experience confirms my opinion that this is a cost measure, not an actual structural advantage.
  12. cassius987

    cassius987 Banned

    Apr 20, 2007
    Denver, CO
    I believe for that method to work you have to run one slice of wood perpendicular to the other, or else the cells match back up and it's just a weakened glue bond.
  13. allexcosta


    Apr 7, 2004
    Thanks for the detailed answer.

    Yes, sometimes I over think stuff.

    I don’t own an MLaghus bass yet. They are making a 5 string for me and I’m helping out (mostly sanding) and got a discount, reason why I have an endorsing disclosure on my profile.

    Just yesterday I was there talking about Fodera playability and stability (we’re both big fans of Vinny’s work). I actually brought my Fodera in and was bugging Mario (my friend and Mlaghus owner) about these questions and he’d always say “it’s all about project, quality of materials and attention to detail”.

    Then I thought to myself “Hmmm, I’m gonna ask this on TB to see what they say”.

    BTW, I’ll post some pics of what my “soon to be” bass will look like and the building processes…

    So far I’ve got these:




    Still deciding between these tops, one is "spalted Brazilian Rosewood", the other one is a "spalted flamed maple":


  14. cassius987

    cassius987 Banned

    Apr 20, 2007
    Denver, CO
    Those pickups have a tiny aperture for humbuckers. I bet they have a bit more treble in the sound.
  15. allexcosta


    Apr 7, 2004
    Yeah, I've heard them, pretty full and very open sounding. Not my preferred pickups. My bass will have these:

  16. lethargytartare


    Sep 7, 2004
    Wow! That'd get my vote :D
  17. allexcosta


    Apr 7, 2004
    ^ Pretty, isn't it?

    I'm actually leaning towards the other one. You don't see 100 year old spalted rosewood everyday. There's this one too:

  18. Joshua

    Joshua WJWJr Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 23, 2000
    If it doesn't get any good discussion here I'll happily move it back there.

    And please keep the discussion on topic. Your pics are pretty and all, but are better put in a thread in the Basses forum...
  19. allexcosta


    Apr 7, 2004
    I'm sorry...

    I probably got a good answer here already and inadvertently took the topic to a different direction.
  20. darkstorm


    Oct 13, 2009
    Also some basses are made with the interest of those wanting real low action whereas some are not. Fender being a good example of the latter. Those who want real low action with fenders often need to add a neck shim. Whereas most basses designed for real low action are built without need for a shim. This plus the extra care in neck construction, bridge selection, fretwork, etc. Some mfg just orient toward medium (average) or high action basses.

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