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How You Should Really Setup Your Bass

Discussion in 'Bass Hardware, Setup & Repair' started by Florin, Sep 7, 2019.

  1. Florin

    Florin Warwick Forum Administrator Staff Member

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    Hi guys, I am in studio now, and before each album I do my best to have the perfect sound, and the first place I start is the setup of my basses.
    You know, each time you track something you need to EQ some annoying frequencies down, or compress, or you are not happy with attack/ articulation? Good news, most of those can be solved in the beginning with a proper setup.
    Each of us play differently, and we have to find the perfect setup for our needs.
    Each step impacts the attack, sound and envelope, so use some good monitors, and just the pure DI sound. Consider you are doing EQ and compression here :)
    1- ACTION. Action is important for playability and avoiding buzz and stuff, but it has a deep impact in sound envelope. If you need a steady, compressed sound, you may want a lower setup, even with a constant buzz, that could be a part of your sound (like Marcus Miller has). If you need more thump you may want a higher action.
    So do the action until the bass reacts the way you want. Warwick has that amazing bridge that can be lowered or raised , so it is easy and fun to do. Set the low strings first until you find the sweet spot there, and then adjust the treble end so you have a consistent sound all fingerboard. Each half turn changes the way your bass sounds, so adjust it until you like the sound envelope. Think of this step as a multiband compressor, higher settings will boost lows, and lower the compression, lower settings will sound more compressed, with higher treble. Nobody can do this for you, as you have to check it with your unique attack.
    Make sure the strings follow the neck radius, so you don't have random higher or lower strings, because each mm up or down impacts the sound balance.
    2- Intonation. Do it in playing position, as the angle of the neck, and the way you play will change that.
    3- Pickups. I love this setting. again it acts like a multiband compressor.
    Many times I find myself EQ-ing out some boomy attacks in low B, or not having enough treble, etc. Most of it I can solve by pickups setup. Focus on lower strings first, play as you normally play. Raise the pickups to about 2 mm, and pan to the bridge pickup only.
    If the pickups are too close, you will notice a low thump. You may want it or not, I don't want it now. So I lower the pickups until it goes away, but I still have some low attack. It is like an EQ and compressor, turn the screw until it simply sounds right, and reacts right to your dynamics. It is a really fine tuning, be patient, listen to your sound, and attack.
    When you are happy with the lower strings, adjust the G side, until it sound even all across the board. We all attack the strings different, you may play the higher notes harder, or softer than the lower notes, do the setup until it sounds consistent just the way you play. I don't like clanks on higher strings, so I lower them until the sound is nice and I have just the right top end. I noticed the treble side on some basses may be a bit lower than bass side, as higher notes sound louder anyway. Yes, lower strings have more amplitude, but higher strings are more tensioned, and sound louder by themselves.
    Move to the neck pickup. Think well what sound you want from it, especially if you are using both pickups. I personally want a steady low end, that's it, no booms, no clanks, I like the bridge pickup attack. I don't worry about the volume being the same with the bridge pickup, it doesn't matter anyway. I play some hard notes on low B and lower the pickup until all the nasty thump goes away, and I get a steady subby sound. After I am happy with it, I setup the higher strings. It is very important to think what you want to hear, again, I want lows from the neck pickup, and the higher strings have less lows. I play up and down, and set the G side pickup so I get a constant low end from low to high.
    You may find that the treble side is this time closer to the strings than the B side. Or not. It is all about your playing, and strings and instrument. Do it until it sounds right
    Pan the pickups as you like, and enjoy your new compressed and EQ'd bass :)

    !!!!! Put new strings before :)))
    I hope it helps, good luck guys and give me some feedback!
     
  2. Hardy

    Hardy Good Vibe Sponsor

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    Now this is a complete guide!
     
  3. DiMarco

    DiMarco nutcase Good Vibe Sponsor

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    No offence... but that is the weirdest advice I have read in a long time concerning getting a good tone.
     
  4. Florin

    Florin Warwick Forum Administrator Staff Member

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    Well, then 2.5 mm for bridge pickup, and 2.5 mm for neck pickup with string pressed at 24'th fret is the standard setup for Warwick basses :) Or listen carefully how each turn of the hex and screwdriver changes the sound of your bass :)
     
  5. StreamerII84

    StreamerII84 Warwick Endorser

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    Warwick has recommended 2mm pickup height too. Using a 2mm pick as a reference, I set my bridge at 2mm from string to pickup and the neck the same with the strings depressed at the last fret only for the neck pickup. Raise or lower the neck to taste.

    PS: Through experience i've found that the pickups have to be as close as recommended to get the best tone, the neck may be a bit lower to volume balance (i.e 2.5mm), then you EQ the bass to taste. I am against the "pickup height for tone" argument with active pickups, passive pickups mileage may vary, but i only play active at this point
     
  6. Florin

    Florin Warwick Forum Administrator Staff Member

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    You just said that you get the best tone around 2mm for low B :)
    That is "pickup height for tone", mate! Warwick factory setting is 2.5, you actually prefer closer. Also Warwick sets G string side closer, you set it lower.
    For most active Warwicks, yeah, I do get the best tone around recommended values, for some not even close. I can put my finger between strings and pickups on my PP CS Streamer for example. So is action, I am usually comfortable in 2.5- 3mm area, but each bass has it's sweet spot for me.
    You like 2mm area, you may find that a bit of fine tuning around that value could give you an even better sound.
    It doesn't matter, active or passive, the tone and envelope do change a lot with each screwdriver turn, you can easily test it by pressing the pickup with the thumb while playing, my point is why not using this in your advantage? You are already doing this as you said, your sweet spot is different thant he factory setting.
    Standard factory settings are just the starting point, they may work for some, but not for everybody. They never worked for me.
    ..................
    I prefer to do this before any compression and EQ-ing, especially when I am tracking alone in my home studio. I play rather hard, so it is much easier to avoid the unwanted thumps by setting up my bass than EQ-ing and compressing them out. This way the producer gets a full body sound that needs minor tweaks. I can play as I normally play (hard), and the producer can use EQ and compression to shape my final sound, not to correct unwanted thumps, which will finally lead to a poor sound.
     
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