Skills/Gear Tweaking

If you know me or have been reading some of what it is I do, you’ll know I’m pretty big into DIY. From making my own furniture to generally just trying to get stuff done, I don’t let a lack of skill dampen what ought to be achievable tasks. Along the way, I’ve learned to be a better cook, how to do some (seemingly-modestly difficult) automotive tasks (think stuff like changing brakes, replacing reservoirs, thermostats, etc), along with learning a bunch about how to keep my gear in working order.

Specifically, one year, I asked to get a set of fretboard radius gauges, a feeler gauge, and a luthier’s ruler so that I could really dial in my setup on electric bass. I’d gotten a copy somewhere along the way of Jerzy Drozd’s guide to bass setup, and had some modest successes in adjusting other instruments.

Flash forward a couple of years, and I found myself here in Victoria with this gorgeous Modulus bass that was at work, but the action was so ridiculously high it made it unplayable for me. For the bass-playing set, I’m the guy who likes to dial it down pretty low rather than straining to fret the notes. I know there’s a trade-off for tone along the way, but for the stuff I do, it’s what works for me. I needed this bass for a string of upcoming shows in Portland with work for Rosefest, so I figured it ought to be best to get some adjustments done prior to departure.

I had a couple of extra minutes tonight after getting home to take the time to properly intonate and adjust this bass. I made a quick truss rod adjustment, which helped with the neck relief, but the strings still weren’t any closer to being where I wanted them. One other quirk about this bass is that the graphite neck is one piece, including the nut, so making any adjustments on that side could have been catastrophic.

After the truss rod was done, I noted that the string height at the bridge saddles looked a little on the high side, so armed with another hex wrench, I took the time to lower the strings, ensuring that the notes didn’t buzz. By the time I got to the B string, I’d realized I’d gone too far. I dialed that one back up a little, took out my radius gauge, ensured my strings matched the curvature of the fingerboard, and kablam, wouldn’t you know it, this bass is infinitely more playable. A quick intonation job, and all is good.

Truss rods I’d adjusted before, and same with the intonation, but tonight was my first (educated) foray into string height adjustment. Truthfully, the gauge made it dead simple, as I had the match for the radius. Now that I’ve done the Modulus, I might have to go around and do the rest of my instruments…

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