(3 of 5) How to Set the Action on a Bass Guitar

Tools

Ruler that measures 1/64 in. ( millimeters if you’re using metric)
Hex Key
Electronic Tuner
Screwdriver
Now the first thing that should be said is that there is quite a lot of variation in electric bass Bridges. This tutorial focuses on Fender Stratocaster/Telecaster style bridges.

Assessing the Action

1. Use the ruler that measures 64ths of an inch (or mm) to check the string height at the 12th fret of your bass. The ruler should rest on top of the 12th fret. You want to be measuring the space between the top of the 12th fret and the bottom of the string that you’re measuring.
Here are the recommended String Height Measurements for an electric bass (this is really a matter of personal taste and you should feel free to experiment with other measurements. These are only recommendations):

Standard
E6 – 5/64 in.
A5 – 4.75/64 in.
D4 – 4.5/64 in.
G3 – 4.25/64/in.
B2 – 4.15/64in.
E1 – 4/64in.

Metric
E6 – 1.98mm
A5 – 1.87mm
D4 – 1.78mm
G3 – 1.67mm
B2 – 1.63mm
E1 – 1.57mm

These are extremely fine measurements. The main goal is to achieve a gradual tapering down of the height of the E6 string to the E1 string.

Adjustment

If any string is too high or too low, you’ll want to use the small hex key to either lower it or raise it.
1. Tune the string to pitch.
2. Lower it or raise it (depending on your measurement) using the small hex key you have. On fender style bridge, this is accomplished by turning the very small screws in each saddle of the bridge (there should be two in each saddle). Be sure to raise or lower each saddle screw by the same amount. If you raise or lower one screw more than it’s mate, it could result in a sympathetic buzzing of one of the screws against the surface of the bridge (this sounds nasty, so you want to avoid it).
3. Each time you raise or lower a saddle, you’ll want to tune it back to pitch. (Raising a saddle raises the pitch of the string. Lowering one, lowers the pitch).
4. Once the string has been tuned to pitch again, measure its height again.
5. Repeat steps 1 – 4 as necessary, until the string is at it’s desired height.

If this is the first time your bass has ever been setup, you may be amazed by just how much better it feels to play. Now it’s time to really take your sound to the next level by setting the intonation on your instrument properly.

Next Step –>


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