1. Sheldon Dingwall
  2. Basses
  3. Thursday, 04 January 2007
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[b:1nml1ad3]Action Set Up [/b:1nml1ad3]

I'd like to outline how we go about setting up the instruments. I welcome input from others.

I always start with the truss-rod, then nut, then bridge.

We measure truss-rod relief on the outside bass string (B-string on a 5 or 6, E on a 4) by fretting at both the 1st and 17th frets, then checking the gap between the string and the 7th fret.

For players with a light touch .020" or less of relief is about right. That's about the thickness of a Dunlop .5 mm guitar pick. Players with a heavier touch need to loosen their truss-rods for more relief.

Ideally you want the neck as straight as possible. You'll know if the neck is too straight if you are getting excessive buzzing in frets 1 through 7. A little buzz when you dig-in is OK and to be expected. You just don't want to have buzz happening when you are playing normally.

Once the neck is adjusted correctly, double-check the nut. Open strings should not buzz. When fretting at the 2nd fret, there should be a slight gap over the 1st fret - not more than the thickness of a piece of paper or two. If you are getting buzzing on the open strings you can either loosen the truss-rod 1/8 turn or have the nut replaced (they wear out and need replacing from time to time).

Only after checking the nut and truss-rod do you go to the bridge. At this point if you want to lower your action further, you can lower the saddle riser screws. It's best to do this in measured amounts. I.E. 1/4 turn on every screw, re-tune and play for a bit.

You can lower the saddles until you get buzzing in the upper frets 10th and up. The harder you play, the higher the saddles need to be. The lighter you play, the lower they can go. It's best to keep the saddles as low as possible (without buzzing) as higher saddles create more stress on the string leading to breakage.

The easiest way to check intonation is to tune the open string, then compare the pitch of the 12th fret harmonic to the fretted 12th fret note. They should be the same. If the fretted note is sharper than the harmonic, the distance between the 12th fret and saddle is too short and the saddle needs to be moved back a bit. If the fretted note is flatter than the harmonic, you need to move the saddle forward a bit.

Once the saddle is moved, you'll need to re-tune before checking.

If you use Dingwall strings and maintain your truss-rod adjustment, you can go years without having to touch your bridge.

A general rule of thumb is if there is buzz in the lower frets adjust it out with the truss rod (loosen). If there is buzz in the upper frets, raise the saddles.

If you're finding your action too high and there is no buzz in the lower frets, tighten the truss rod until there is buzz in the lower frets and then back off the rody by 1/8 turn. Then you can try lowering the saddles.

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[b:1nml1ad3]Pick Up Set up[/b:1nml1ad3]

We set the treble end of the pickup to within about 3/32" (2.4 mm) from the G or C string when fretted at the 24th fret. We set the bass end of the pickup at about double that. You can dial it in further by plugging into a recording device and using the input VU meter to gauge how much to lower or raise the bass end of the pickup to balance with the treble end.

The shape of the magnetic flux field extending above the pickups looks a little like an upside-down guitar pick. So the closer to the string the pickup sits, the larger the magnetic sensing area the string cuts through creating a bigger tone and more output. Conversely the further away the pickup is the more the output drops off and the thinner the tone.

If the bass end of the pickup is too high, you'll notice a pronounced "warbling" sound on the bass strings when played in the upper frets. A little "warbling" is normal. As long as it's subtle, you're OK.

We set the treble end at approximately 3/32" clearance under the most treble string when fretted at the last fret.

Then we plug into a VU meter and adjust the bass end so that the most bass string has as close as possible (usually within 3 db) an output compared to the treble string. I try to pluck the string with a similar touch and at a similar position relative to harmonics i.e. roughly parallel to the pickups.

The pickups are suspended by silicone tubes on the adjustment screws. What can happen is the tube gets bunched up on the screw threads and won't push the pickup up when loosening the screw. The fix for this is to remove the screw completely while holding the pickup in place, then carefully re-install the screw. If done right, the tube will still be centered with the hole in the pickup so the screw will feed right into the tube.

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[b:1nml1ad3]Nut Set Up [/b:1nml1ad3]

Nut height is critical to both feel and proper tuning in the lower frets.

The way to check nut height is to reference it to fret height relationship. Because the neck has a slight amount of relief (curve) each fret is positioned at a different point on the curve, so therefore at a slightly different height relative to the plane of the string. You can see this by fretting the 1st and 3rd frets simultaneously. Look closely and you will see a slight gap between the string and the 2nd fret.

Now fret at the 2nd fret and compare the clearance over the 1st fret to the previously observed clearance over the 2nd. Assuming your truss rod is adjusted properly and you're not getting buzzing in the 1st fret positions, the clearance over the 1st fret should be at least as much as over the 2nd and no more than double. Any more and you'll have tuning issues. Any less and you'll have buzzing.

Using the appropriate nut file, file at about a 10 degree angle. Check your progress every few strokes. 5 strokes too many can ruin the slot. (I do this way too frequently)

Also check to make sure the bottom of the slot is as perfectly round as possible, pluck the string a few times and feel for vibration behind the nut and wiggle the string back and forth to see if there is any movement of the string in the slot. Both indicate too wide a slot. If there is still height to play with, you can use a smaller file to put a slightly smaller radius at the bottom.

I hesitate to jump in here and give advice, especially after a post by Sheldon, but after ruining too many nuts myself, I started using feeler gauges (the kind that one would use to adjust spark-plug gaps in cars.

The set of feeler gauges that I use has a series of pieces of metal that slightly resemble knife blades about 2.5 " long. I find the two consecutive blades whose combined thickness is just slightly greater than the height of a fret from the fret board (the reason I need to use two is that no single gauge is thick enough). Then I hold these two feeler gauges tight against the fret board and tight against the nut, while filing at an angle (now I know this angle should be 10
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Sheldon Dingwall Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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How many would like to see a youtube video on setups?
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[quote="Sheldon Dingwall":366ias5v]How many would like to see a youtube video on setups?[/quote:366ias5v]

I will watch it back to back several times if you had one. One can never learn enough.
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metalstorm Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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That would be great, Sheldon. There is a significant amount of buzzing on the 13th fret of the D string on my Z3. For some reason it is only on that string. I have reduced it by changing strings adjusting the truss rod and raising the action but I feel that the action should go lower without buzzing.

Mike
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BurningSkies Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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I'm in. I love my original 'shop' setups and tend to just tweak the TR when needed,but it would be great to have a resource. It would also be cool to have it as a downloadable file so those of us who want it could keep a copy or burn to disk.
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[quote="Sheldon Dingwall":2t8k58nd]How many would like to see a youtube video on setups?[/quote:2t8k58nd]

That'd be great. I'd like to get mine back to the original setup (since purchased used).
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TheGrandEnigma Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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That would be a big help. I'm a visual learner - I like seeing what I'm supposed to do. It would be even better with you explaining it as you go.

What would be awesome is if you can include a "cause and solution" section or separate video: "if you're getting buzz around this fret, try adjusting the truss rod this way", "if your output is low on these strings, try adjusting your pickups that way." That sort of thing.

That way when I have a problem I won't have to call you - you can keep building guitars! :)
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gnutix Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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Same as everybody here: I would like to see a video tutorial.

If you want ideas to make this video even better:
[list=1:z5u4j62p][*:z5u4j62p] Allow us to download the file[/*:m:z5u4j62p]
[*:z5u4j62p] Add english subtitles to help the non-english speakers to understand everything clearly (I'd really love this feature, I know it). Because it's always easier to stop the video and translate with Google than try to understand registered vocals.[/*:m:z5u4j62p][/list:o:z5u4j62p]

Thank you very much ! :)
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dsincjr Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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++1. Great Idea and would be very helpful. Thank you Sheldon.
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Tyler Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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Only if you get a hot babe doing the setup. . . . . just kidding!

Ya for sure that would be awesome!
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reddavid Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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Great idea!
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Mark L Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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The vid is a cool idea. Any opportunity to learn from a master is welcomed.
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Smallmouth_Bass Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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Is that a calculator watch?!!
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[quote="Sheldon Dingwall":2g253xho]How many would like to see a youtube video on setups?[/quote:2g253xho]

That'd be great!
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singlemalt Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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That would be really cool!

A step by step set up instructional video would take the mystery out of the whole process.

It would be nice to see how much fret wear you feel is tolerable.

You could take the video support idea a very long way. Wiring and switching, and any options for changes that are end user friendly. A tutorial on replacing a pickup with an upgrade.

I would also like to see it in a download.

Thanks!
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jonnyrok101 Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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[quote="Iv@N":19a00m0u][quote="Sheldon Dingwall":19a00m0u]How many would like to see a youtube video on setups?[/quote:19a00m0u]

That'd be great![/quote:19a00m0u]

Yes it would be :D and downloadable would be useful too, for quick reference...plus all the other stuff singlemalt has mentioned :wink:
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[quote="Sheldon Dingwall":1vefbslb][quote="Erlend":1vefbslb]So, the action by the 24th fret is considerably higher than at the nut. I know it's supposed to be that way, but not by this much (?).

I don't have a string action gauge, but I can get 2 Dunlop Jazz 2 picks on top of each other under the B at the 24th fret, but it's just the way I want it between the 1st and 5th fret.

What to do?[/quote:1vefbslb]

Write down your adjustments. Try lowering the saddle screws a little and loosening the truss-rod a little. Ideally you should have roughly the same gap over the 24th fret as you do over the 12th YMMV.[/quote:1vefbslb]

This was quite a long time ago... :mrgreen: I bought a set up kit from StewMac, which helped a lot in getting the truss rod adjusted correctly. It's much better now. A video will be well recieved though.
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Sheldon Dingwall Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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[quote="Smallmouth_Bass":2562kev5]Is that a calculator watch?!![/quote:2562kev5]

Where the heck did you find that photo?

And yes, I defiantly wore a calculator watch until just a few years ago. I still miss it sometimes. No geek jokes please :lol:
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[quote="Sheldon Dingwall":2tz6j47c]How many would like to see a youtube video on setups?[/quote:2tz6j47c]

that would be really great!! Pleeease do it!

Thank you Sheldon!
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gnutix Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
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Hello Sheldon,

I was wondering If you had some freetime to think about that setup video ?
I'll be really pleased to see one soon.

Thank you very much.
gnutix
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Yes please Sheldon, that would be awesome
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