Electric Bass Guitar Setup (& maintenance) Guide

(from www.tunemybass.com & other sources)

What Does It Mean to Setup a Bass Guitar? The point of setting up your bass guitar is to make it play well. That means it plays in tune, it sounds good, it feels comfortable to fret and pluck the strings, and it just suits your playing style in general. Before you begin setting up your bass, I want you to understand what makes your bass play the way it does. Follow each link to get a basic understanding of each concept before you follow the bass setup tutorials below. The same things apply to doing a standard 6-string guitar setup, too. There are 6 basic things you can adjust or do on your bass : 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. The straightness of the neck The height of the bass strings Intonation Pickup height bass String the bass Clean the strings Cleanning the bass Bass electronics

Printable Tools You'd be best off buying real, precise gauges from a guitar repair supply place. If you're impatient or broke, these'll do ok.



1. Bass Neck Relief
The The Straightness of the Bass Neck The straightness of the bass guitar's neck is commonly called relief. The neck bends upwards (called upbow), or it can be straight, or it can bend backwards (called back-bow). Two things cause the neck to bend: 1. the tension of the strings pulling the neck upward 2. the truss rod pulling the neck backward The bass strings put many pounds of tension on the neck of your bass guitar. Think of it like a bow as in bow and arrow. The truss rod is a metal rod inside the neck of your bass. The rod can be tightened or loosened. As it is tightened, it exerts more pressure on the neck forcing it to bend backward in the opposite direction of the string tension. When loosened, the truss rod relieves the pressure adding relief (up-bow). Always be careful making truss rod adjustments. If you over-tighten it, you can make it snap and ruin your bass neck! You can sight your neck by holding the body of your bass and looking from the bridge toward the nut. (See picture.) Sighting your neck will give you a quick idea of how much relief is in your neck.


Your neck needs at least a slight amount of relief so that the strings don’t buzz against the frets. Strings vibrate in an elliptical pattern. That is, they vibrate more widely in the center of their length. So, a little relief is needed for them to not hit the frets. If your neck is straight or back-bowed, the strings may rattle against the frets causing unpleasant fret buzz. Adjusting Bass Guitar Neck Relief First, choose the gauge of bass strings you plan to use. Different string gauges have different amounts of tension. When you change gauges, you may have to readjust your bass guitar. So find a gauge you like and stick with it. Make sure you’ve installed your strings correctly. Tune your bass strings accurately to your preferred tuning. You want the string tension to be the same as when you play. You’ll want to get your bass neck as straight as possible before the point where the strings start buzzing. This will depend on how hard you play the strings. There’s not one right answer. Find the truss rod nut. Typically, it will be a hexagonal nut on one end of your bass neck. It may be covered by a plate on the headstock. Or, it may be hidden by your pickguard. On some basses you may be required to remove the neck, adjust it, put it back on and then tune the strings up again. If it’s not right, you’ll have to do it all over again. (What a pain!)


You may find the strings to be in the way of turning the truss rod. It doesn’t take much turning of the truss rod to adjust the neck. Or. You may have it perfect one day only to find it has moved the next day! 5 . Tune the string(s) back to pitch to check the straightness of the neck. You can check the straightness with a straight edge of some sort.Using a pencil. If they are. To avoid breaking the truss rod. Your bass may have come with the hex key you need. You should be able to see how much relief is in your neck by checking the space between the bottom of the string and the tops of the frets. Don’t be surprised if it takes several days for your adjustments to settle in. Never force anything! Expect to maybe do a quarter-turn or a half-turn. Fret the 1st fret and the 15th fret of your lowest string. Use the correct size hex key so you don’t strip the truss rod nut. detune/loosen them and move them out of the way while you turn the truss rod. start tightening the truss rod by turning it to the right (rightytighty). make a mark on the truss rod nut so you know where you started and as a general reference point. first loosen it by turning it to the left (lefty-loosey). You’ll probably need just a tiny bit of relief. you can use your bass strings as a straight edge. Now.

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The radius gauge has a bunch of common radii used on basses and guitars. or you can eyeball it. or curve. The radius of that large circle is measured in inches. I say hopefully because it can be tricky to make any modifications to it. “My action is too high. (see last picture) Think of it as a small segment of a large circle. you should leave any nut adjustments or repairs to a guitar repair shop. Unless you really know what you’re doing.” String height. 7 .2. and at the bridge. you can use a radius gauge (radius gauge PDF). Hopefully the nut came cut correctly from the factory. can be adjusted in two places — at the nut. or action. You may hear someone say. Fretboard Radius The shape of your fretboard has a slight arc to it. is called fretboard radius. When you set the string height. or fretboard radius. The height of the saddles should form an arc to match the curvature of the fretboard. At the bridge end you can raise or lower the string height of each string using the height screws on the saddle. This arc. Bass Guitar String Height String Height How high or low the strings are above the fretboard is called action.

A little string buzz is normal. Experiment. Once you know your fretboard radius. Then you can set it on the fretboard without removing the strings. Make it feel right and balanced. 8 . Use a radius gauge (radius gauge PDF) to identify the radius of your fretboard. set the radius gauge on top of your saddles and adjust the heights of the other strings to match the fretboard radius. You can also attempt to just eyeball the radius. Adjust the height of your lowest string so you don’t get any string buzz. you may want the strings higher or lower. Depending on your playing style. If you don’t want to remove your strings. Check the open string and all the frets up and down the neck for buzz.Adjusting Bass Guitar String Height Once you’ve adjusted your neck relief. you can raise or lower each string’s height with their saddles. cut notches out of the radius gauge where your strings fall.

I'm going to cover this topic here so you too can have your guitar or bass be in tune as much as possible . I'll provide you with a little background information. you may notice that chords played at the bottom of the neck sound correct. That is what this article will try to help you correct. Intonation Intonation Set/Adjust Guitar or Bass Guitar Intonation One of the most common things that guitarists or bassists overlook about their instrument is the intonation. An example is that you may play an open A on the 5th (or 3rd) string together with the same note on the 6th (or 4th) string to add depth.3. you may think that your instrument is out of tune. To adjust the intonation of your guitar or bass. making the chords sound more like noise than music. I'll also provide you with some common factors that may cause poor intonation. This is an instructional article on how to set your bass or guitar intonation. 9 . but jump right to the methods you should use for setting. If these notes aren't exactly the same. Accurate intonation is critical to sound quality. Setting the intonation is the act of adjusting the length of the strings (by moving the bridge saddles) to compensate for the stretching of a string due to pushing it down to the fret board to produce a note. but the same chord played higher up the fret board have some notes that become out of tune. checking and adjusting your bass or guitar's intonation properly. When a guitar or bass guitar has an inaccurate intonation setting. I won't bore you with all the theory behind fretted instruments and such. so don't be afraid to read on. What Is Guitar Intonation? Intonation is the accuracy in which a guitar or bass guitar can produce a fretted note. you move the bridge saddles toward or away from the fret board until the 12th fret octave and its harmonic are equal and the same open-string note is exactly one octave below those.anywhere on the neck.

First. which may unset your intonation. but if you are paying to have the nut replaced. 10 . This should be exactly equal to the tuning if you were to push the string down to the fret.before handing over your hard-earned cash. your guitar may have a misplaced nut. check the open strings and the other fretted notes. If that is the case. If the intonation starts out bad on the first few frets and gets progressively better going up to the 12th fret. especially if you have a digital tuner. be sure what they have done the best job possible . you may need to grind and polish or replace the worn frets to cure this problem. The best tuners to use for this task are the ones with a meter readout rather than LEDs since it is much easier to see how much adjustment may need to be done. Each time you change strings or tunings. With your instrument in the same position as you normally play (playing position). your strings' tension or height may change slightly. check the tuning of the natural harmonic at the 12th fret (gently touching the string above the 12th fret while picking). If they are the same and you still have intonation problems. If you do have the nut replaced by a repair person. You must also be sure that your strings are new. If particular frets are out of tune while others are in tune across each string. you must tune your guitar to your desired tuning. This would throw the entire scale of your guitar or bass guitar off. not lying on a table. It is suggested that you have an instrument repair person replace the nut to ensure that it is in the correct position. but you should check your intonation periodically just to be sure that it is correct. be sure to explain it to the repair person (you may want to explain the problem before repairs are done as well). the frets on your instrument may be worn to the point where the string is not contacting the centers of the frets. be sure to check their job thoroughly before leaving the shop .even if you have to completely set the intonation right there! If the problem still exists.Check Your Guitar or Bass Intonation Checking intonation is easy. Some cheaply made guitars may never be able to correct this problem.

gauges. string thickness or material and the magnetic pull of your pickups can effect an instrument's intonation. adjustments must be performed as the last step in setting up your guitar or bass guitar. you may want to check factors such as your action. Check the intonation every time you change your strings. especially if you are changing tunings. bridge saddles or worn frets. With the aid of an electronic or digital tuner. as any extra pressure ("articulation") will disrupt the accuracy of the adjustment. When you are checking the intonation of your instrument. the more the strings need to be stretched in order to 11 . If the fretted note is sharp. the entire bridge may need to be moved. Even the slightest differences between sets of strings can make a noticeable difference. Sometimes it may be as simple as the saddle needs to be turned around and re-slotted. provided you stick with the same tuning. The action of your instrument may cause your intonation to be sharp . If you periodically check your intonation. compare either the open string or the octave harmonic at the 12th fret with the fretted octave at the 12th fret. action and string gauges. move the saddle toward the pickups and fret board. it may be necessary to have a repair person take a look. Use slight finger pressure. In some more extreme cases. If your bridge does not provide you with enough adjustment. truss rod tightness. move the saddle away from the pickups and fret board. Factors Causing Inaccurate Or Poor Intonation On A Guitar Or Bass Guitar Guitar If your guitar or bass guitar has poor intonation.Adjust Your Guitar Or Bass Guitar Intonation Intonation Because adjustments such as action (the height of the strings from the fret board). adjustments should rarely take more than a few minutes. or even brands. Adjusting an instrument's intonation consists of setting the bridge saddles to produce the note at the 12th fret exactly an octave higher than that of the open string. it must be done in your normal playing position in order to correctly account for any neck flex which effects the string height (action).the higher the action is. if it is flat.

It plays so out of tune even the drummer can tell!” 12 . (Trust me. how accurately something hits the correct pitch. how accurately something hits the correct pitch. These string gauges can only produce a certain number of notes. For instance. This can be said of singers. That is. That is. She nailed every note!” Or. This can be said of singers. spend the cash to get a 5string bass or a baritone or 7-string guitar if you have to. “Her intonation is spectacular. I know this from experience!) How to Intonate Intonation is how in-tune something is. possibly causing your bridge saddles to run out of adjustment room. homemade. “I need to adjust my bass guitar’s intonation. get a new instrument that can support what you want. of instruments. try a thicker gauge string (I know many guitarists that use a bass string in place of their low string). If this still doesn't work for you. Before you consider moving the bridge. If this is the case.fret a note. One other factor that has come up much more often in the last few years involves low tunings. that may effect the action of your instrument as well as the shorten a string's life. of instruments. and may cost just as much as a new mass-produced guitar by the time you buy all the pieces. “Her intonation is spectacular. If your bridge saddles are worn or leaning. you may (though it is not recommended) need to move your entire bridge away from the nut in order to gain the additional adjustment room required to set your intonation. Guitars and bass guitars are made to handle a range of string thicknesses. It plays so out of tune even the drummer can tell!” Intonation is how in-tune something is. In doing so. custom-built guitars don't always have an accurate scale. After all. “I need to adjust my bass guitar’s intonation. you will also make your intonation sharper. Lower notes will not only loosen the string. but may require you to raise your action to prevent fret buzz. She nailed every note!” Or.

Notes occur at exact points up and down the string. Changing the string's length shifts where the notes fall on the string. where the notes occur on the string to where the frets are on the fretboard. By moving the saddle. Setting Intonation To set the intonation of your bass guitar. to adjust your bass intonation you will move the saddle forward or backward. or lining up. Setting your intonation means matching. tune all the open strings to their correct pitches. Make sure you press the string straight down. As it will seen below. you change the length of the string from the bridge to the nut. you must lengthen or shorten the string by moving the string’s saddle backward or forward. It should be the same note as the open string. If they are not lined up correctly. You do this by tightening or loosening the intonation screws at the back of the bridge. Starting with your lowest string. 13 . You want this fretted note to be in tune. Check the electronic bass tuner to see if you are flat (too low) or sharp (too high). How to Set Your Intonation: Using an electronic tuner. fret the string at the 12th fret. your bass guitar will play out of tune.

If you are flat. double check the open string is still in tune. After you adjust the saddle. you need to add length to the string by moving the saddle backward. Fretted instruments have a natural flaw where they can’t be perfectly intonated. You will discover that it is impossible to get every single fret perfectly in tune. look up “equal temperament” or “just intonation” in a music dictionary. you need to shorten the string by moving the saddle forward. 14 . You can just get really close. If you are sharp. If you’re interested in why. Do the same for each string. This is normal.

Also. They don’t have to be level. If you want more output from the treble side. The pole pieces are the round. Keep in mind you can set the pickups at an angle. If the foam is breaking down.4. the louder the output of your bass. Don’t set the pickups too low or else you won’t get enough volume out of your bass. Setting Bass Pickup Height Pickup Height The higher your bass pickups are set. On some basses you can raise or lower the pole pieces individually. the magnets may pull on your strings if the pickups get too close. You want to adjust your pickup height so that the strings don’t clack against them and that the output isn’t too hot (loud). on others they are covered. you can put some springs under the pickup on the shaft of the screws to push them up instead. 15 . Setting Bass Pickup Height You can set the height of your bass pickups by tightening or loosening the screws around the outside of the pickup. magnetic poles under the strings. raise that side of the pickup. On some pickups they are exposed. Some brands of basses put foam underneath to push the pickups upward.

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stay in tune and keep your bass guitar in good working order. 17 . headstock On the headstock there are tuning posts around which you will wrap the strings.Know Thy Bass 1- The headstock is where most of the string changing action takes place.5. Step 1. How to String a Bass Guitar Learn to string a bass guitar correctly! Although it is not that hard to string a bass. Read through the entire string changing tutorial before you restring your bass. there are some important things you need to get right in order to get a good sound.

Some string trees look more tree-like than the one pictured above. turning the key the other way loosens the string (making the pitch go lower). As you will see. On some headstock designs string trees help hold the strings at the proper height. A tuning key is connected to each tuning post. the end of the string is placed in the string hole. Turning the key one way tightens the string (making the pitch go higher).Each tuning post has a little string hole in the center. The direction depnds on your bass and how it is strung. 18 . They often look like a disc or button. You need to listen for which way is which.

The nut holds the strings at the proper height over the fretboard and keeps the strings spaced correctly.The nut is the part located between the headstock and the fretboard. There is the straight headstock found on Fenders. Then there is the angleback headstock found on most modern designs. These headstocks go straight in line with the neck. On straight headstocks the string tree helps pull the strings tightly over the nut. There are a couple of common headstock designs. Fender knock-offs and others. 19 . The angleback headstock angles away from the straight line of the neck. The angle of the headstock helps pull the strings tightly over the nut.

but I don’t recommend adjusting them unless you know what you are doing.The bridge is the metal plate that is bolted to the body of your bass. The string saddles hold the strings at the proper height and spacing on the other end of your bass. 20 . There’s a lot more to adjusting the height of the strings than you may realize at this point. For each string there is a saddle on which the string rides (yee-haw!). They are adjustable with screwdrivers and hex keys.

Soft Cloth – a cloth to use for cleaning. with lead being poisonous and all. New Bass Strings – obviously you’ll be replacing the old bass strings with something. All pencils use graphite now. Bass Guitar String Winder – this is not necessary. The bass winders fit over the larger tuning keys of the bass more easily. Electronic Bass Tuner – (optional) this will help you tune up your new strings to the correct pitch.Tools and Supplies for Changing Your Bass Strings 2Several things are needed to help replace your bass strings. I recommend getting the combination bass string winder/clipper if you can find it (shown above). not guitar. Don’t use the best cutters you have. Bass strings chew through them quite easily. Make sure you get one for bass tuning keys. Any music store will have these. but highly recommended! Basically it is a little crank used to turn the tuning key more quickly. It is a great timesaver.Step 2. Actually. 21 . It’s very handy. Don’t use your mom’s favorite pillow case! Mechanical Pencil – (optional) a pencil with a very thin graphite “lead”. Wire Cutters – You will need to cut the new bass strings.

Pay attention! The most common mistake people make when stringing a bass is wrapping the bass string around the wrong side of the post. Don’t try to make all the keys turn the same way. very bad). The string must not angle away from the nut (red arrows bad. 22 . If your strings angle away from the nut. Notice how the strings are wrapped around each post.Step 3. look at how the bass strings are already installed on the bass. you may break your nut or cause tuning problems! So pay attention to which side of the post each string is wrapped. make the strings run straight when you put them on.Look Before You Leap 3Before you begin to string a bass. Each string should run in a straight line all the way from the bridge to the tuning post (green arrows good). It depends on the design of your headstock and where each post is. Keep in mind it is not necessarily the same for all the posts.

but sometimes the strings go through the body from the back side of the body. Look where the ball end of the string is held in place. You probably want at least two and a half wraps on each post. the fewer wraps you can fit on to the post. examine how the bass strings are at the bridge end. Most likely it is somewhere at the back of the bridge.Also notice how many wraps you can get on each post. Again it should be a straight line from one end of the string to the other. I'm a weirdo!) Finally. The fatter the strings. The picture above shows three and a half wraps around the E-string post. You don’t want the string to wrap on top of other wraps. 23 . Look at how each string sits in its saddle. More wraps can’t hurt as long as they’re not on top of each other. This keeps the string from shifting around on the post which will cause tuning problems. (I find getting many wraps evenly on the post oddly satisfying. It should only wrap on the post.

You may find your tone is different. the strings can run through the body out to the front. You need to remember there is a lot of tension placed on your neck by the strings. Experiment with stringing through the body or stringing through the bridge holes. Do not cut your strings off! Unwind them. Think of it as a bow (as in bow and arrow) with the strings pulling hard from both ends. Unwind. No need to jolt your neck. Take Your Strings Off 4- You need to take off your old strings.Relax.If you have a hole for each string on the backside of your bass body. 24 . Step 4. If you suddenly cut the strings off you are giving your bass neck a jolt by releasing all of that tension. This helps add sustain to your bass notes.

Tip: Keep your old strings as spares in case you ever have a string break. With all of them off you have better access to clean. you may need to annoyingly try to straighten out the string and pull it out through the bridge hole if it doesn't have an open slot to remove the string.Clean Up Your Fretboard 5- After you have removed your bass strings it’s a good idea to wipe down your fretboard and your frets since you have easy access to them. it may be necessary to cut off the coiled up end of the string to take it out of the bridge. If this is your first time to string a bass. Take off all your strings in the same way...Once the string is unwrapped from the post. you may want to keep your string uncut so you can estimate where to cut the new strings. Rub 25 . In that case. Step 5. It's up to you. then they do the same for each string. Some people like to take one off and replace it. This is only necessary if your strings run through a closed hole on your bridge rather than an open slot.

Step 6. Using a graphite pencil.the gunk off of each fret. The order in which you replace your bass strings doesn't really matter. Just keep track of which string is which. It can get pretty gross around the frets. You can also dust off all the other usually inaccessible places.First Strings First 6- When I string a bass I like to replace the bass strings from lowest to highest. Put the E-string (or whatever your lowest string is) through the appropriate bridge hole or slot the same way the old one was. Just be careful to not weaken the string by bending it at too sharp of an angle anywhere. rub a little graphite around each string slot. Slippery String Slots This is optional. This will allow your string to glide up and down the slot smoothly and avoid some bass tuning issues. Graphite is a very slippery substance. 26 . Keep tension on the string as you put it on so it doesn’t slip out of the slot and stays in the groove of the saddle. but I always like to do it when I string a bass.

Always err on the side of cutting it too long. match it to the length to your old string.The string is longer than it needs to be and so needs to be cut. If you are worried you will cut it too short. you’re heading back to the music store to get another string. That way you will be sure of the length. Step 7. 27 . you will wind the strings on the post.Getting Wound Up 7In this step of how to string a bass guitar. Skinnier posts don’t allow for as much string to be wrapped around them. The worst thing you can do is cut the string too short! If you do. Leave a little more for wider posts and less for skinny posts. If you have wide diameter tuning posts as on Fender models. you’ll be able to wrap more string around them. Cut the string a couple of inches past the post to which the string will be wrapped.

Bend the string at a right angle.Place the cut end of the bass string all the way straight down into the hole in the center of the tuning post. Keep tension on the string with one hand as you wind the string so you get tight wraps around the post and the string doesn’t slip out of the bridge. Did I mention this already? 28 . Begin winding the bass string on to the post. Make sure you are winding it on the correct side of the post! It shouldn’t angle off the nut.

Each successive wrap should go under the previous one. Wind the string tight enough to keep it in place on the bridge and nut. The only differences will be: Skinnier strings can be cut longer since they can wrap around the post more times. This is important because the string/nut contact point is where some of your tone comes from. Wait to tune after all your strings are in place. that is. but don’t waste your time tuning it up yet. closer to the headstock. Tip: Turn all the keys perpendicular to the headstock to keep them out of the way as you wind each string on to your bass. Downward wraps pull the strings more tightly over the nut. 29 . As you add more strings you will increase the tension placed on the neck which will change the pitch of the strings.Just a Few More 8The rest of stringing a bass follows pretty much the same procedure. Step 8.

To string a bass correctly. No angles! Important if you have a straight-style headstock! straightBe sure to get enough wraps around each post that doesn't have a string tree for it. this is extremely important: The side of the post to which you wind the string may be different. it may take a day or more for your new strings to stretch out. the open A-string (and sometimes E-string) may sound dead or muffled because there is not enough string pressure against the nut. The bass string must run in a stright line from bridge to post.Tune Up 9This is where you want to be careful. Make sure you run the strings straight under the string trees. Step 9. a 4-string bass is tuned E A D G. Make sure to run the strings under any string trees under which they belong. 30 . Bass Guitar Tuning Notes Tune each string to its appropriate pitch. 5-string basses are usually tuned B E A D G. but you can help them along. This is something I've seen as a problem on Fender models. Without enough wraps to pull the string close to the headstock. too. From lowest pitch to highest. If you tighten the strings way too much they may snap. After you string your bass.

You can also clean your bass strings periodically. Hopefully you've avoided causing any major injuries to you or your loved ones throughout the bass string changing process. 31 . Then tune it up again. Usually it doesn’t need to be done more than twice on each string. To add life to your strings try wiping them down after each time you play. A couple other bass string tips: Always tune up to the right pitch. your bass strings should be on correctly and will stay in tune pretty well. hold each string around the 12th fret and gently pull on it to stretch it out some.Once you are tuned to pitch. If you’ve followed everything in this how to string a bass tutorial. This way the bass tuner is less likely to loosen on its own and go out of tune.

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Don’t be scared to use it. You can clean them as often as you like. Each time they are like new. keep your drummer away from it. How to Clean Bass Strings Cleaning Bass String Cleaning Solution By far the best method to clean bass strings is to soak them in denatured alcohol. It’s not dangerous to use if you follow simple safety precautions. Use it in a well-ventilated area or outside because the fumes stink and can be irritating. water heaters. They add poison to pure wood alcohol so they don’t have to pay hefty liquor taxes and it can be sold at hardware stores. Clean Don't Substitute Anything Else to Clean Your Bass Strings Denatured alcohol. has no water in it. So. Just use denatured alcohol from your local hardware/home improvement store. They're hard enough to find! Not only is this stuff poisonous. or methylated spirits. Over time they will wear out from frets chewing into them. use or store it near any heat source – cigarettes. etc. It can be found next to the paint thinner products. Use some rubber gloves and protective goggles. don’t use rubbing alcohol as a substitute. You don’t want to put water on your bass strings some strings may rust as a result. Also avoid skin and eye contact with it. but it is also very flammable Don’t flammable. So. How To Clean Your Bass Guitar Strings Just soak your bass strings for 12-24 hours in the denatured alcohol. as from a drugstore.6. wipe them off and they’re like new. CAUTION! Let me stress that denatured alcohol is poisonous! DO NOT DRINK DENATURED ALCOHOL!!! Denatured basically means poisoned. you will also wear 33 . In some parts of the world denatured alcohol is called methylated spirits. fireplaces. has water mixed in it. Rubbing alcohol. If you do a lot of popping. You will be amazed at how well cleaning your bass strings this way works.

com 2004-2008 All Rights Reserved.out/weaken your bass strings more quickly. 34 .TuneMyBass. On a fretless bass you can use the same set of bass strings seemingly forever. 2004© www.

and strap pins are all considered hardware. and the first step is to wash your hands. Guitar polish gets dust and dirt off your instrument and leaves your bass looking well cared for. The pickups When it comes to cleaning your bass. 35 . If too much dirt builds up on the hardware. Keep the polish away from the strings and the fingerboard. with the exception of the frets and pickups. Make sure that the polish isn't abrasive and that it doesn't get onto the wood. bridge. The tuning heads. because it will mar the wood. really! The finish on the wood and hardware shows every fingerprint. Apply a squirt or two of the polish to the cloth and work it into the fabric. So the least you should do is keep those fingerprints clean The next few sections walk you through cleaning the various parts of your bass. Cleanning Your Bass Cleaning your bass guitar is the most basic of maintenance jobs. one by one. you can use a mild brass polish from the supermarket to clean the metal.7. The body and neck Cleaning the body of your bass is just like cleaning your favorite antique furniture: You need to do it very carefully. the pickups are in a category all by themselves. The hardware The hardware consists of all the brass and metal parts attached to the wood. You can polish the finish with a cloth (such as an old sweatshirt). but use guitar polish (available in a spray bottle at any music store) instead of furniture polish. Your bass will love it. Then rub your bass down — work on the body (front and back) and the back of the neck. Rubbing the hardware down with a dust cloth helps keep it shiny. A lot of dust accumulates where the wood meets the metal of the pickups. though. No.

Whatever you do. The cloth is inexpensive. don't use an abrasive jewelry polish that you have to pour out of a bottle. and they can't deal with liquid. getting new pickups every four weeks is one way to keep them clean. Pickups are magnetic. When polishing the frets. The wood Because the wood on your fingerboard is normally exposed. That stuff is rough on the wood of the fingerboard. and then place a few drops (no more than five or so) of fingerboard oil (which you can get from your local music store) on a clean cotton cloth and work it into the wood. but you never know). and your frets will sparkle with joy (maybe not as bright as diamonds. Apply oil to the wood every other time you change the strings. The frets You can use a jewelry polishing cloth that has polish already soaked into it (available in any supermarket) to polish the frets. You can clean them only after removing your old strings and before restringing. The wood absorbs fingerboard oil easily. it's prone to drying out. The fingerboard The fingerboard consists of two major parts: • • The long wooden strip on the front of the neck The metal frets embedded in the long wooden strip These two parts are made of very different materials. Let the oil dry thoroughly before rubbing down the fingerboard again to remove any excess oil. and each needs to be cleaned in its own special way. making it necessary to replace them. Otherwise. To restore the wood to its original luster. don't use any liquids. use a dry cloth to get rid of the dirt. The liquid can cause them to short out. Of course. use cotton swabs to clean the area where your pickups meet the wood. 36 .

Then put a moist section of the cloth between your index finger and thumb and pinch one string at a time. After all. Don't get any of the alcohol on the wood. the strings need to be cleaned. You can simply wipe the strings with a dry cotton cloth after you're done playing. rubbing the cloth up and down along the string's length. Check out Figure 1 for the proper method for cleaning bass strings. All rights reserved. Let the alcohol sink into the cloth for a few seconds. they take the most abuse.The strings Yes. But using a couple drops of rubbing alcohol (available in any pharmacy) on a cotton cloth is even better. Inc. 37 . Copyright © 2008 & Trademark by Wiley Publishing. Figure 1: Cleaning the strings. it'll dry it out. as well.

38 .

That electronic signal is then sent to a bass amp and translated into sound.8. Electronics are needed to transmit the sound of the bass guitar to the bass guitar amp. The pickups are probably the most influential part on a bass guitar’s tone. An electronic signal is produced when bass string vibrations disturb that magnetic field. and Cream. The way the pickups are designed to translate the sound of your bass is the final say in how your bass is going to sound. you can always drop some new. The good news is pickups are fairly easy to exchange. The Beatles. good-quality pickups in for under $200. When you listen to classic recordings such as Motown hits with James Jamerson. you are hearing passive pickups. Each type has its own sound and advantages/disadvantages. What are Bass Guitar Pickups? Bass guitar pickups are the rectangular black boxes you see on the bass guitar body beneath the strings. Passive 39 . Active and Passive Bass Pickups Types of Bass Guitar Pickups of Pickups can be split into two categories: passive pickups and active pickups. The pickup magnets create a magnetic field around the bass strings. Passive Pickups The first pickups to be used in bass guitars were passive. As long as you buy a wellconstructed bass. Bass Guitar Electronics The term electronics refers to the pickups and general electronic circuitry used in a bass guitar. pickups The difference between passive pickups and active pickups is active ones are battery-powered while passive pickups are not. These magnets pickup the vibrations of the metal bass strings. Inside the pickups are magnets.

batteries may last from 6 weeks to a year. That means you can only take away treble or bass from the tone of the pickups. full. Passive pickups do not give you much control over their tone. or pre-amp. The pre-amp allows you to both cut and boost frequencies. Active pickups have a hotter (louder) output than passive pickups. How much control you have will depend on the features of the pre-amp. many active pickup systems will stop working. If the battery dies. Active pickups tend to be bright. That’s not necessarily bad. A good active pickup may sound warmer than a poor passive 40 . The pre-amp is powered by a 9-volt battery (or sometimes 2 – an 18-volt system). It’s hard to generalize the sonic differences between active and passive pickups. But. punchy tone is their appeal. Their fat. There is less signal loss on the way to the bass amp. Depending on the bass and how much you play. You just have fewer options for shaping the tone of passive pickups. round. You will need to remember to carry spares and put in fresh batteries before those important gigs. Passive pickups use larger magnets and can pick up more noise and interference than active pickups. Active Pickups Active pickups use a pre-amplifier. On passive pickups you can only turn down (cut) these bass and treble frequencies. This gives you more control over the tone coming out of your bass. You may hear a lot of hiss. dynamic tone. some pre-amps can be noisy especially when you boost the treble.pickups tend to have a warm. Some pre-amps simply have a bass and treble control while others have mid-range controls and other extras. Always remember to unplug active basses when not in use to avoid draining the battery. clear and snappy sounding. Basses have bass and treble controls much like your stereo system. Active pickups use smaller magnets and pickup less external noise and interference.

SingleSingle-Coil Pickups SingleSingle-coil pickups have one coil wrapped around the pickup’s magnet. These fluctuations are then transmitted to the bass amp. and florescent lighting can all cause this humming/buzzing. 41 . If you just use one of the pickups. Single-coil pickups are often bright and clear sounding. computer monitors. When the vibrations of a bass string disturb the magnetic field of the magnet. Types of Bass Guitar Pickups Now that we’ve established the difference between active and passive pickups. you may pickup some noise. Radio waves. If two single-coil pickups are used (as on a Fender Jazz bass) and the pickup volumes are set equally. But. amplified and translated into sound. the noise will get cancelled out. On cheaper basses. If you are buying your first bass. Pickups consist of a magnet around which a copper wire is coiled. let’s look at different types of pickups that can fall into either the active or passive category. small voltage fluctuations in the copper coil are produced.pickup. You will need to hear and experience the difference and try many basses and pickup systems. There are two prominent pickup designs based on the number of coils used in a pickup’s construction – single-coil and double-coil. you can easily replace them if you like the rest of the bass. A drawback is they can pickup external noise and give off a humming sound. you will probably be fine choosing either passive or active pickups. the quality of the electronics is usually not that great anyway.

Humbuckers Just as two single-coil pickups can be put together to cancel hum. 42 . SplitSplit-Coil Pickups SplitSplit-coil pickups are basically double coil pickups split apart. Humbuckers tend to roll off some of the tonal highs when they cancel the hum and they usually have more output than single-coils. This is what you see on Fender Precision basses. the pickups are split in two — each under one pair of strings.DoubleDouble-Coil . These pickups are often called humbuckers or humbucking pickups for their humreducing qualities. Instead of one doublecoil underneath all 4 strings. a double-coil pickup can be created to cancel the hum within one pickup.

A piezo pickup senses the actual vibration of the string through contact with the string at the bridge contact point.Piezo Pickups Piezo pickups are less common on electric basses. Optical Pickups The newest kind of pickup available is the optical pickup. Often found on 5. They look like bars of black soap. but you may run into them. Optical pickups use light to sense the vibrations of the strings instead of magnets. Since piezos don’t rely on magnets it is possible to use non-metal strings such as nylon strings. These are often found in acoustic bass guitars. 43 . These are still very uncommon. without the right kind of pre-amp. Other Pickup Terminology: Soapbar pickups refers to the shape of the pickup housing. can sound brittle and thin.and 6-string bass guitars. Piezos. but may catch on. An MM-style pickup refers to pickups created by and used on MMMusicMan basses.

Many bass guitars have two pickups. have only one pickup. There are knobs for volume and tone – bass. at least be sure to get something with two pickups. This means one humbucking P-bass (Precision bass) style pickup near the neck and one J-bass (Jazz bass) style pickup near the bridge. This way you get a wide variety of tones and you can get an idea of the sonic qualities of each type of pickup. You can emphasize or de-emphasize either pickup to get a wide range of tones.Bass Pickup Placement Where the pickup is located along the length of the string plays an important role in the tonal characteristics of the pickup. As you near the neck. I would suggest getting a P-J pickup configuration. You want the tonal variety that will give you. treble and sometimes mid. a string’s sound is thinner and brighter. With two pickups. Knobs and Switches The controls on a bass are much like that of a stereo system. the tone is fuller and warmer. the pickup nearest the neck is called the neck pickup and the one nearest the bridge is called the bridge pickup. As you get closer to the bridge. If you don’t want a P-J setup. warmer tones while the bridge pickup has a brighter. Bass Pickup Summary If you are buying your first bass. thinner sound. The tone put out by each pickup depends a lot on where the pickup is located beneath the bass strings. The neck pickup gives off fatter. Number of Pickups Some basses. 44 . like the Fender Precision bass.

This allows you to choose from a spectrum of mid-range frequencies you wish to cut or boost. Some basses will have a mid-range knob. A few basses may have a pickup selector switch. A 3-way pickup selector switch has 3 settings: both pickups on. the amp’s electronics generally sound better. Otherwise the frequency is set for you as it is on the bass and treble knobs. or a switch basically give you all the same options. the bridge pickup on. With the knobs it’s nice to be able to adjust 45 . Having one volume knob. but don’t forget you can do a lot with the EQ settings on the bass amp. An active bass will have at least a treble knob and a bass knob. and treble. Tone Knobs All basses have at least one tone knob. These will allow you to both cut and boost the treble and bass frequencies. This allows you to cut or boost those frequencies that fall between the bass and treble knobs’ frequencies. And. Passive basses often have just one tone knob that cuts the treble frequencies. or the neck pickup on. A 2-band EQ would mean just bass and treble. This allows you to adjust the amount of bass or treble frequencies output by the bass. A master volume is a little easier to control and set. With a master volume knob there is a separate knob that blends or balances the two pickups. Three-band means bass. Active bass guitars have more tone knobs.Volume Knobs Bass guitars either have a master volume for all pickups. Each frequency is a band. Having more knobs is convenient. mid. Some basses feature a sweepable mid-range. or two separate volume knobs – one for each pickup. You may come across terms like 3-band EQ. two volume knobs.

you can shape your tone a bit more. 46 . if you record your bass directly rather than through a bass amp. Or.your tone right on your bass.

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