The Perfect Bass Action Setup
Updated: Jul 22, 2022
It's a long lanky instrument with cables as strings. The string tension and the neck are constantly fighting for dominance.
How do you know your bass is playing its best?
Luckily, there are only two measurements you need to take. Neck relief and String Height) Once you've got your bass set up for those two measurements, you've got the perfect bass setup.
All in all it will cost you around $40 to get all the tools. Some of the tools may have come with your guitar. In that case you'll be out $20. Don't try and do it without. You'll never have to buy the tools again.
Your intent is to take measurements, restore the bass to the proper measurements and then make final adjustments based on feel. The goal is low action with little or no buzzing.
What's First? Tune the guitar.
· Get the neck tension right by tuning the guitar to the desired tuning with the desired string gauge.
Next. Measure the neck relief.
a. Capo the first fret
b. Depress the low E string at the last fret.
c. Using a .013 feeler gauge. measure the gap between the top of the 9th fret and the bottom of the low E string. See photo.
d. The gap should be .013.
e. If the gap is too large, you have to tighten the truss rod until the gap is perfect.
f. Find the right tool for that particular guitar and move the truss rod to the right (clockwise) an 1/8 turn. Retune and check relief again. Keep doing this until the gap i
s .013. Retune the strings each time you check.
g. If the gap is too small, turn the truss rod to the left (counter clockwise) an 1/8th of a turn. Retune and check until the gap is .013. Retune the strings each time you check.
You can buy the feeler gauges here.
Truss rods vary in size. You can find your size here.
· Measure the string height of each string. Buy a string height gauge here.
Most bass bridges have individual saddles for each string. It makes intonation easier and it allows you to set the height of each string. In order to adjust the height of the saddles, you'll need a tiny hex wrench made to fit your bridge. Buy one here.
Each saddle will have two screws, one on each side. You'll need to adjust both screws evenly so that the saddle remains level. It doesn't take much to move the saddle. 1/2 turns are a good rule of thumb. Check your string height often.
Like I said earlier, the Goal is low action with minimal buzzing.
What I've found that works really well for basses:
E and A Strings= 2.5mm measured at the 12th fret. Measure from the top of the fret to the bottom of the string. (Go lower if you can but beware of big string buzz)
D and G Strings= 2mm measured at the 12th fret. (Go lower if you can but beware of big string buzz)
This setup is very playable. String buzz is at a minimum and I get Zero complaints.
Measurements are one thing but FEEL should be the final judgement.
How does it play? Is it easy to press the strings.
Any fret out in the upper frets?
Any buzzing on the lower frets?
Does it play better than when you started?
One thing I like to do is measure the string height first. Pre-truss rod adjustment.
Bass necks undergo a lot of tension and sometimes they just need to be straightened every once in a while. They may not need a saddle adjustment.
A small tighten (1/8 turn increments) of the truss rod and the string height goes back to normal. The guitar is more playable.
I hope this helps and feel free to reach out if you have any trouble.
Good luck and Kind regards,
NoVA Guitar Setups