<<back to bass guitar setup guide
First, choose the gauge of bass strings you plan to use. Different string gauges have different amounts of tension. When you change gauges, you may have to readjust your bass guitar. So find a gauge you like and stick with it.
Make sure you’ve installed your strings correctly. (See how to string a bass.)
Tune your bass strings accurately to your preferred tuning. You want the string tension to be the same as when you play.
You’ll want to get your bass neck as straight as possible before the point where the strings start buzzing. This will depend on how hard you play the strings. There’s not one right answer.
Find the truss rod nut. Typically, it will be a hexagonal nut on one end of your bass neck. It may be covered by a plate on the headstock. Or, it may be hidden by your pickguard.
On some basses you may be required to remove the neck, adjust it, put it back on and then tune the strings up again. If it’s not right, you’ll have to do it all over again. (What a pain!)
Using a pencil, make a mark on the truss rod nut so you know where you started and as a general reference point.
It doesn’t take much turning of the truss rod to adjust the neck. Never force anything! Expect to maybe do a quarter-turn or a half-turn.
Use the correct size hex key so you don’t strip the truss rod nut. Your bass may have come with the hex key you need.
To avoid breaking the truss rod, first loosen it by turning it to the left (lefty-loosey).
Now, start tightening the truss rod by turning it to the right (righty-tighty). You may find the strings to be in the way of turning the truss rod. If they are, detune/loosen them and move them out of the way while you turn the truss rod. Tune the string(s) back to pitch to check the straightness of the neck.
You can check the straightness with a straight edge of some sort. Or, you can use your bass strings as a straight edge. Fret the 1st fret and the 15th fret of your lowest string. You should be able to see how much relief is in your neck by checking the space between the bottom of the string and the tops of the frets. You’ll probably need just a tiny bit of relief.
Don’t be surprised if it takes several days for your adjustments to settle in. You may have it perfect one day only to find it has moved the next day!