Beginners Guide to Customizing Your Bass

Not a fan of the six-string? Already have a drummer? Maybe you sort of just fell into it, a la Paul McCartney? Whatever the reason may be, don’t let the back beat nature and subdued popularity of the bass fool you. With today’s setups, bassists around the industry are not only rivaling guitarists in imaginative riffs and melodies, there’s plenty of gear and customization available for your four-stringed phenom.  In this article, we will be taking a look at several different tweaks and customizations that should make any bass player the master of his domain.

Blue Fender Squire Jazz Bass

Finding the Perfect Bass Body

We’ve all heard that a team is only as strong as its weakest link and the same is true for any instrument, usually comprised of several different pieces all working together in order to deliver their intended timbre. With that said, there’s no better way to start crafting your unit than by giving it a solid base to build upon. Nowadays there are plenty of looks and aesthetically pleasing designs available that should match almost anyone’s style, but more important than that is the feel. Try out different sizes and shapes until you find one that’s right for you.

The first problem usually encountered by those making the switch from guitar to bass is the added girth of most necks and greater width of the fretboard, making it much more difficult to pull off complex riffs as easily as they would on guitar, although it doesn’t have to be, as smaller hands have plenty of guitar sized bass options that should better suit them. Once you find one that feels natural and just the right size, you’re ready for the inside job.

Ideal Bass Pickups

Seymour Duncan Bass Pickups


Probably the most important part of any electric stringed instrument, the pickups translate the vibrations of the strings into signals usable by the amp, so you might want to think twice about buying a new amp or new strings to fix those tone and resonance issues; might just be time to upgrade from cheap or old pickups.

There are plenty of choices as far as pickups are concerned, and although what’s great for some might not be at all useable for others depending on style and sound preference, there are some solid choices you can’t go wrong with. First things first, active or passive pickups? Slap bass players usually prefer active pickups as they are much better suited for conveying that sudden twang due to the added power these pickups offer. Most basses on the market ship with passive pickups and get the job done just fine. Depending on the type of bass, be it a five-string , acoustic electric or otherwise, manufacturers such as Bartolini and Seymour Duncan offer superior work in both active and passive pickups for most bass variations and should suit almost any kind of player, but remember, the best pickups will do you no good unless you have a quality bass body and excellent strings.

The Importance of Replacing Worn Strings

The easiest alteration on the list and probably the least expensive of all upgrades, every guitarist and bassist will undoubtedly be familiar with unpreventable experience of changing strings, although this is sadly where most people skimp on quality and care, most likely due to the fact that strings need to be replaced periodically, not just when they break. For an average use that plays his instrument about a few hours a week, it is recommended that strings be changed every three months at the very least as most strings tend to lose their initial richness and warm tones much quicker than they tend to break. As a general rule of thumb, think of changing strings as a sort of guitar tune up; the more you drive the sooner you should replace worn down parts, but at the very least, every three months for casual use.

If a company makes basses, they usually make strings for them. It’s usually advisable to replace strings shipped standard with most guitars as they are typically of mid-ranged quality and have probably spent several months wearing down in storage. Although pricier than your average set of guitar strings, considering their importance and relative ease of replacement, about forty dollars every couple of months or so is a small price to pay for superior performance. There are several different string options available depending on your type of bass, and considering the relative frequency of replacement, don’t be afraid to try different sizes and variations until you find one that works for you.

The Basics of Bass Wiring

One of the most untapped and untouched piece of equipment by most amateur musicians, the insides of your bass need a lot of love as well if you want to play with the big boys. A good indicator of quality is the bass itself if the instrument was purchased as a whole, with manufactures putting pricier setups on better models and skimping a bit on the lower end. Although any sort of wiring might seem like a daunting task, most electrical setups are pretty straight forward and there are plenty of guides online to help you along the way.

Bartolini bass wiring setup

The most important thing to consider when purchasing the electronics of a bass is the type of pickups used. Passive pickups are usually the standard and easiest to install, only really affecting the entire guitar if the build quality is below average. For most musicians, the standard wiring should only be replaced if the entire things breaks or you are switching to an active pickup setup.  Active pickups require extra power via batteries in order to give it its signature boost in power and plenty of active pickup manufacturers make wiring systems that compliment them, sometimes selling the pickups and wiring as one entire unit.

What Bass Tweaks Are Right for You?

As with any sort of machine with a huge fan base, there are innumerable different sorts of alterations and tweaks one can make to give an instrument its own unique and truly personal feel.  Just as a car aficionado will spend months fine tuning all the little things until he gets his ride to feel just right, so do musicians with their appropriate instrument, and that’s not even mentioning the huge world of pedals and preamps which sends the entire thing into a whole new level. So whether you’re about to buy your first bass or trying to perfect your current rig, you’re only as strong as your weakest link and if you ever want to  make it to the pros, keep yourself ahead of the curve by revamping your rig the right way. And please, change your strings!

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