How to Shim Up a Nut on a Bass

Remove the Nut

Now the first thing you’ll need to do before you shim up a nut is to remove the nut. In order to do this, you’ll need a soldering iron and a wet paper towel or rag (a cotton rag or cloth would be best – avoid highly flammable and/or synthetic materials).

1. Loosen all of the strings from your bass.
2. Heat up your soldering iron and wet your cloth or paper towel.
3. Once your soldering is hot, place the damp cloth on your nut, being sure that the damp part of the cloth covers the crack where the nut makes contact with your fingerboard.
4. Now use the soldering iron to shoot steam into the the space between the nut and the fingerboard. The steam will soften any glue on the face of the nut. Move the soldering iron and cloth up and down the length of the nut to evenly inject steam into the gap between the nut and the fingerboard.
5. Use a block of wood or plastic block, and a mallet, to tap the nut out and remove it.

How to Make a Shim

Now that the nut is out, it’s time to shim it up. First, use a razor blade to cut out a small shim of self adhering acetate or wood. (Some players are purists and reject this step on principal. Others don’t mind. If you can’t bare the thought of placing a shim under your nut, then you’ll need to replace it.)

1. Cut the shim out and attach it to the nut. If you’re using an adhesive back as your shim material then this is very simple process. You just remove the backing from the acetate and and stick it to your nut. If you’re using wood, you’ll need to glue it in place and let it set overnight.

2. Use a razor blade to make your shim flush with the sides of the nut.

Reinstall the Nut

1. Place a very small dab of glue on the face of your nut (center). To much glue could create problems the next time you try to remove it.

2. Carefully slide the nut back into place and and wipe away any excess glue that overflowed onto the fret board with a damp cloth.

3. Restring your bass.

4. Assess the height of your strings with a feeler gauge.

5. Hopefully, if things worked out right, your strings are either just right or a little too high. If some strings are still sitting too low then your shim wasn’t thick enough and you’ll need to remove the strings again and raise the nut a little higher (better a little too high than too low this time; you don’t want to have to keep removing the nut and shimming it up).

- If your strings are sitting at the right height, then you’re done with this step and can continue your setup.

- If some strings are too high now, then you’ll want to file down your nut slots to get them to the right height.

Next Step –>

<– Previous Step


How to Improve Your Sound

saddleadjust_electric

My name is Orion Kubow and I want to explain a simple method which I used to completely improve the sound and feel of my guitar. Rather than just throw a bunch of information at you, I thought I’d begin this post by asking you some questions.

Questions:

  • Have you ever wondered why some guitars have fret buzz?
  • Have you noticed that chords sound out of tune on some guitars even when the guitar is perfectly tuned to pitch?
  • Have you ever noticed that some guitars just feel better than others to play?

The reasons for these problems used to be a mystery to me. I assumed that some guitars were just better than others and that was that.

Let’s go back in time to 2007:

I was playing guitar on a regular basis, but I didn’t know much of anything about the mechanical elements of my guitar. I had a Fender Stratocaster and I was always a little unhappy with the way it sounded. The intonation was always a little off, the low E string tended to buzz a lot and one of the tone knobs never seemed to work. One day I was playing it in my living room when my roommate walked in . . .

“Nice guitar,” he said.

“Not really” I griped and proceeded to complain to him about all of the problems that I was experiencing with it. My roommate was a guitarist too and he told me to take my guitar to Al Markasky and ask for a setup. Al, he happily explained, was a local luthier with a shop in Santa Cruz. I took my guitar in to Al the next day and asked him to do a setup. I wasn’t really expecting much.

I picked up the guitar a couple of days later and was amazed!

All of the problems were gone and the guitar sounded better than ever. It also seemed easier to play and I could play faster than before. I asked Al what he had done to make the guitar so much better and he proceeded to tell me all about his setup work. A few weeks later I came back to Al and asked him if he’d like to co-produce a DVD on guitar setup. He thought about it for a while and then eventually agreed.

Al and I produced two DVDs and created this website to help share the knowledge that completely changed the sound and feel of my guitar for the better. We’re sharing this information with you in three different formats:

1. DVDs

Our DVDs sell for the incredible value of $29.95 on CreateSpace.com (less than the cost of a professional guitar setup) and both come with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you’re not absolutely satisfied with our DVDs we’ll refund 100% of your purchase price. Just send us an email at editor (at) fretmd (dot) com within 60 days of your purchase and we’ll send you instructions on how to get your refund. More information on our guarantee here.

As you can see, we’re passionate about our products and believe in their value. Our money back guarantee is proof of that. If you’re still not convinced, just browse our product reviews on Amazon.com to see what others have to say about us.

Please make use of this website to the max and don’t be afraid to sign up and post a comment if you’ve found our site useful.

2. Video Clips

We’ve taken some great clips from our DVDs which you can view for free here. Some of the clips are embedded in our interactive tutorials.

3. Free Tutorials

We wanted to give our customers a way to read all of the information that they learned in the DVDs. One of the weaknesses of the DVDs is; it’s hard to remember the numbers of certain measurments and the various types of tools that Al uses in the DVDs; (and you don’t really want to keep rewinding). For this reason we decided to publish tutorials. We spent hours writing and rewriting these tutorials together. They’re now available to you, 24/7 free of charge.

I hope you make maximum use of all of the resources we’ve made available to you on this website. Please leave comments and make use of our share links to share our articles and tutorials with friends when you find them useful.


(1 of 5) How to Assess and Adjust a Bass Neck

bassfeeler

Tools

  • 12 or 15 in. (30cm or 40cm) Metal Straight Edge
  • Hex Key or Socket Wrench
  • Light Piece of Paper, Paper Towel or light cloth to use as a backdrop
  • Phillips Head Screwdriver (if your bass has a truss rod cover)

A bowed neck can cause all sorts of problems. Poor intonation and fret buzz are among the top two. In this tutorial you’ll learn how to check the straightness of your neck and make adjustments based on your diagnosis.

Visual Assessment

1. First, hold your guitar up and sight down the treble and bass sides of your instrument’s neck checking for any signs of a bow.

Physical Assessment and Diagnosis

electric_straightedge

2. Place a straight edge flat on the frets in the middle of your bass’ neck between the E and A strings. Now check for any rocking by alternating slight pressure downward on the opposite ends of the ruler.

Diagnosis: If the ruler rocks up and down at all, your guitar probably has a back bow.

4. Now check for any signs of a gap underneath the frets. (You should use a white piece of paper or a light colored cloth as the back drop when you do this.)

Diagnosis: If you notice a gap between some of the frets and the bottom of the ruler then you probably have a back bow.

5. Repeat Steps 3 and 4, first between the D and G strings, and then between the B and E strings.

Once you complete your assessment you should have a good picture of the overall health of your guitar’s neck. If you were able to assess your neck’s condition correctly, then you will know whether you have a back bow or a forward bow; or if you’re lucky and your neck is perfectly straight.

Adjustment

7. During your assessment you should have been able to determined whether your neck has a back bow or a forward bow. Click one of the links below to determine how to correct a back bow or forward bow. (If your neck has no bow in it at all then you should move on to the next step.)

Correct Bass Neck Forward Bow –>

Correct Bass Neck Back Bow –>

Next Step –>


(2 of 5) How to Assess and Adjust the Nut on a Bass Guitar

Tools

  • Nut Files
  • Feeler Gauges with a .006in (.152mm) gauge.
  • Metal Straight Edge
  • Clear Acetate
  • Sand Paper
  • Flat-ended Chisel or Flathead Screwdriver
  • Wooden or Plastic block
  • Wood or Plastic Mallet
  • Soldering Iron
  • Cloth or Paper Towel
  • Assessment

    We’ve set a firm foundation with proper neck assessment and adjustment, now it’s time to put some walls up and assess and adjust the nut as necessary. The goal here is to make sure that the action is set properly at the nut. If your strings are too low at the nut, then you’ll almost definitely be experiencing some fret buzz when you play your guitar. If the strings are too high, then you might be having some difficulty playing chords and scales close to the nut. In this tutorial you’ll learn how to determine if your strings are too high or too low and how to adjust them accordingly.

    Assessment Process

    1. Tune your guitar to standard pitch (E, A, D, G, B, E).
    2. Lay your bass down on your work surface. Rest the neck on a brace if you have one.
    3. Fret the low E string at the fourth fret.
    4. Now, while still fretting the string, slide a .006 feeler gauge between the first fret of your bass and the bottom of the low E string.

    bassfeeler
    5. What you’re looking for here is a slight drag. You should be able to slide the feeler gauge between the bottom of the string and the top of the first fret fairly easily, but not without a little drag. If it’s very difficult or impossible to slide the feeler gauge between the bottom of the string and the top of the first fret, then the string is too low and your nut needs to be shimmed up or replaced. If it’s too easy and there is almost no drag or no drag at all when you slide the feeler gauge, then your low E string is too high and you’ll want to file down the slot that it sits in.
    6. Continue assessing each of the remaining strings (A, D, G, B, E).

    Results/Diagnosis

    Okay, so now that you’ve assessed the condition of your guitar’s nut and made a diagnosis it’s time to make some adjustments. Depending on the results of your assessment you may either need to file down some nut slots, raise your nut with a shim, do both, or do nothing.

    Here are the possible outcomes of your assessment (paired with actions):

    A. All or some strings sit too low.
    Adjustment: First shim up the nut to raise the lowest strings or strings to the correct height, then file down the strings that are too high.
    Raise Nut with Shim –>

    B. All or some strings sit too high.
    Adjustment: File down the strings that sit too high.
    File Down Nut Slots –>

    C. Some Strings sit too high while others sit too low.
    Adjustment: In this case you’ll want to shim up the nut so that the strings that are sitting too low are all raised to at least proper height. Then you’ll want to use your nut files to file down the strings that are sitting to high.
    Sand Nut Down –>

    D. All strings sit at the desired height already.
    Adjustment: Well aren’t you lucky. Move on to the next step in the setup.

    Next Step –>


    (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 –>


    (4 of 5) How to Set the Intonation on a Bass Guitar

    Tools

    • Electronic Tuner
    • Philips Head Screwdriver

    Your bass should be feeling pretty good to play at this point in the setup, but you may still be experiencing some intonation problems. In this section we’re going to add the icing to the cake by helping you get that clean and clear sound all serious bassists strive for. Warning – you may be amazed by how much better your playing sounds after you carry out this step correctly.

    Setting the intonation on an instrument is something a lot of bassists do without carrying out the first three steps of the five step setup. Using our house analogy; that’s like trying to build a beautiful house out of sheet rock, windows and shingles – (good luck). You need a foundation, walls and a roof first!

    Straightening your neck and setting the action at the nut and at the bridge were the foundation, walls and roof of your setup. They all set the stage for the warm, clean and bright intonation that you’ll learn how to set in this tutorial. If you’ve taken the time to walk through the first three steps of the five step electric bass setup, then you’re in a great position to get started on this fourth step.

    Assessment

    1. Play the harmonic of the low E string (E6).
    2. Make sure the string is perfectly set to pitch using your electronic tuner.
    3. Now play an E at the 12th fret of the E6 string and check its intonation. The tone of the the E played at the 12th fret of the E string should be dead on. If the note comes up as sharp or flat on your tuner then you’ll want to adjust the intonation of the string at the bridge.

    What to Do

    If the note is higher, stretch that tire. If the note is lower, bring her forward.

    The quote above is from the one and only Al Markasky. It’s a good way to remember what to do once you’ve made a diagnosis of a given string’s intonation. If the fretted note is sharp, then you’ll want to increase the length of the string. If the fretted note is flat then you’ll want to bring your saddle forward and decrease the length of the string.

    Adjustment 1 (Naturalizing a Sharp Note)

    If the note at the twelfth fret is sharp, then you’ll want to increase the length of the string by bringing the saddle of that string back (stretch the tire).
    1. Using a screwdriver, bring the saddle back, by tightening the screw at it’s base just an 1/8th of a turn or so.
    2. Tune the string back to pitch.
    3. Check the intonation of the string using the assessment method above.
    4. Repeat steps 1 – 3 until the harmonic played at the 12th fret and the fretted note at the 12th fret are set to the correct pitch.

    Adjustment (Naturalizing a Flat Note)

    If the note at the twelfth fret is sharp, then you’ll want to increase the length of the string by bringing the saddle of that string forward.
    1. Using a screwdriver, bring the saddle forward, by loosening the screw at it’s base just an 1/8th of a turn or so.
    2. Tune the string back to pitch.
    3. Check the intonation of the string using the assessment method above.
    4. Repeat steps 1 – 3 until the harmonic played at the 12th fret and the fretted note at the 12th fret are set to the correct pitch.
    Play a few chords and notes at different point on the neck to check the intonation. Chances are you’ll be amazed by just how much better you bass feels and sounds. Now it’s time for the last step: setting the pickup height.

    Next Step –>


    (5 of 5) How to Set the Pickup Height on a Bass Guitar

    Tools

    Screwdriver
    Ruler that measures 64ths of an in (or mm)
    There are many variations in pickups. In this tutorial, we’ll talk about setting the height of Fender Style double coiled pickups. Now, just like setting the action at the bridge, pickup height is a matter of personal taste, a preference. Almost everybody wants to avoid the following problems with pickups, though:

    1. Strings buzzing against the pickup
    2. Magnetic pull of pickup affecting intonation.
    3. Uneven pickup height.
    4. Weak signal (caused by low pickups)

    Fret MD Recommended Pickup Heights:
    1/8th of an in. (3.18 mm)
    Assessment
    Assessment can be done by measuring or by ear.

    Measurement

    1. Press down on the very last fret of a string (your E6 string for example).
    2. Now use your ruler to measure the distance between the top of the pickup sensor and the bottom of the fretted E6 string.
    3. Repeat this for all pickups and then take measurements of the E6 string. All pickups should be even and at the same height. You want to avoid slanted pickups and having pickups set at different heights.

    By Ear

    Use the pickup selector switch on your bass to alternate between pickups. Play the same chord and listen to how it sounds on different pickups. Does it sound louder in certain positions than others? If yes, then you’ll want to measure and adjust your pickup height.

    Adjustment

    1. Use a screwdriver to raise and/or lower the pickups to your desired height. making sure that all pickups are evenly set to the same height.

    Congratulations! You’re done with the setup. Enjoy the sound and feel of your beautifully setup instrument. If you have any questions or encounter any difficulty with your setup then please feel free to post on our forum. Many people find it useful to see a setup done visually. For this we recommend a Fret MD DVD. Our DVDs are arguably the best in their field, and as a registered Fret MD member, you’ll qualify for extra savings on your Fret MD DVD purchases.

    Happy playing!