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INSTRUMENT SETUP & MAINTENANCE

Bass Setup To Fender Specs - From Fender.Com comes the definitive setup process for a Fender bass.  If you ever wondered why Fender Factory Certified Techs charge so much to setup a bass, this is why.  (Frankly I've seen lots of basses with truss rod issues that prevent a totally proper "plays like butter" set up.  If your bass won't set up to these specs then take it to real professional, they may be able to fix the truss rod issue.)   

"Mr. Gearhead" - The official starting point for Fender, Guild, DeArmond, Squier, Brand X and Sunn tech information is Mr. Gearhead.  This basically is a gateway page to the sites for each of the FMIC brands.

Bass Setup Instruction Manual - By Gary Willis.  TIP:  Even if the only procedure you follow is applying pressure correctly during truss rod adjustments, as pictured HERE,  it could save you a lot of time, trouble and needless expense, or from winding up with a totally ruined bass!  Lots of places tell you to turn the nut this way or that way however they don't show you how to do that important step properly, but this one does!  A++

Electric Bass Setup Guide - From Andrew Pouska's TuneMyBass.Com

Kindness's Harmony-Central Bass Set Up Thread -  A different approach to setup, using Stew-Mac's String Action Gauge instead of feeler gauges.   

Fretboard - Fingerboard Care - To oil, or not to oil...that is the question!  Read a good write up about the facts and the fiction surrounding fretboard & fingerboard cleaning and care. 

Neck Radius Tool - Free downloadable and printable gauges to figure out what neck radius you are dealing with from our friends at PICKGUARDIAN! 

Mute an Electric bass the Brother Dave Way!  Easy, reliable and free muting for any bass!

Official Fender Bass Wiring & Parts Diagrams - From Fender.Com

Seymour Duncan Wiring Diagrams - A great resource for a passive or active P/J diagram and many others not on the Fender site!  The bass diagrams are listed last on the list.

Fender JP90 Diagram - P&J pickups with 3 way switch! - From Brother Dave.Com

Fender Precision Bass Wiring Diagram - from Guitar Nucleus

Fender '62 Jazz Bass Wiring Diagram - from Guitar Nucleus

Lace Sensor Precision Bass Wiring Diagram (P/J) - from Guitar Nucleus

Jaco Pastorius Jazz Bass Wiring Diagram - from Guitar Nucleus

Fender Hot Rod Precision Bass Wiring Diagram (P/J) - from Guitar Nucleus

Fender Precision Bass Elite I Wiring Diagram - from Guitar Nucleus

Fender Precision Bass Elite I Preamp Schematic - from Guitar Nucleus

Fender Precision Bass Elite I and Elite II Wiring Diagrams - ACCURATE drawings from Ton Harteman of Riverband.demon.nl, who as you can see in the photos has owned a few of these. 

Fender Precision Bass Special 1981 Pickguard Wiring Diagram - Also from Ton Harteman who has posted an excellent  page devoted to this model.  CLICK HERE to view it.

Fender Precision Bass Special 1981 Preamp Schematic - Also from Ton Harteman, see his related link immediately above.

Fender Stu Hamm Urge I Control Diagram - For the original version of this Ensenada beauty!

Fender Precision Bass Lyte Parts List & Control Diagram - For the 1989 through 1993 Japanese model

Fender Precision Bass Lyte Standard Parts List & Control Diagram - PDF 1994 & later Standard Japanese model

Fender Precision Bass Lyte Deluxe Parts List & Control DIagram - For the 1994 & later Deluxe Japanese model

Bill Lawrence's WILDE P/J Schematic - Works ONLY with the WILDE pickup P/J set!  Gives you Master Volume, BLEND and Tone using three standard 250K pots and two capacitors.  Note all the extra pickup leads required are only found on the WIlde P/J set.  This is why it won't work with any other set.  Very innovative and quite unique just like lots of Wild Bill's concepts which defy convention yet work exceedingly well.  I used a 0.47 PIO for the tone cap and in the variable treble bleed position I used a 0.018 PIO cap.  I don't think I'd want to go up in value from the 0.018 and I might try a 0.01 there when I can get one, but the 0.018 sounds pretty dang good.

BC Rich, EMG & Ibanez Bass Wiring Diagrams - From Guitar Nucleus

Fender Amplifier Schematics - From Fender.Com.

Sunn Amplifier Schematics - From what's left of Sunn, which isn't much, but it was nice of FMIC (Fender) to keep the amp diagrams up.  They didn't have to.  FMIC also continues to make the last Sunn tube bass amp design as the re-badged Fender Bassman 300.  Loved my Sunn 2000S.  That was a great amp!

Amplifier and Effect Schematics - From Schematic Heaven.  TIP:  The list of schematics organized by brand name is hard to read until you LEFT CLICK and drag across the listing of all the schematics available to highlight it in a more readable color.  Probably the best free amp schematic collection online but I find their index hard to read until you highlight the whole thing by clicking and dragging across it and then I can read it much easier.

Marshall B30 BASS 30 Schematic - Courtesy of DEDMOUSE from the Fender Forum!

The Fender Amp Guide - What is that Fender Amp?  Power, specs, schematic? 

AMPEG Schematics - Including the FIVE variations of B-15's.  AWESOME?  Yeah!

MARSHALL Schematics - Including one of my favorites, the SUPERBASS 100! 

VOX Schematics - What is not to love? 

GIBSON Schematics - The ones not found at the headline link  are sometimes found on Schematic Heaven like my very first amp, the Gibson Medalist Series ATLAS with about 50 fierce tube watts on a good day with a tail wind!  A groovy retro looking ton-of-bricks on wheels just slightly smaller than a Volkswagen Beetle with a slight pyramid shape to it for some ancient Karma!   ($185 used at Ralph's Radio Music...Demorest, Ga.)  A dang durable amp which seemed to have been built to standards that would withstand a Rooskie ICBM missle attack.  I messed with it pretty seriously over the  years I had it.   I tried different tubes, caps and other parts with very interesting and educational results.  I took the tiny little original knobs off and put REALLY big knobs like you'd find on an old late 50's Gates radio console on it.  (They were old Gates knobs actually.)  It had this really funky looking crinkled brown wood grain tolex and best of all... 2 Sylvania 6L6GC output tubes...which equals not-a-lotta-watts but what few there were...were soul stirring.  I replaced them with the solid BLACK 6L6 RCA's which was STUPID.  Sort of wish I still had it from time to time.  I did in fact buy it back after trading it not once but TWO times.  So altogether I bought this exact same amp THREE times all totaled.  I know I played it wide open most of the time at gigs and it didn't quite cut it.  I didn't gig it after switching to an Ampeg 300 tube head in 1971.  Then in 1976 "I saw the light" and donated it to an A.M.E. Zion Church in Charleston, SC.  It might still be there.  I like to think so.  I never saw anyone as happy as that deacon was when I gave him that amp which I'd been keeping at my office at WCSC because I could plug a turntable into it and it sounded just like a jukebox with those lush lows.  He was in my office, saw it, apparently knew what it was and told me how badly his church needed a good bass amp...and well, that was the last I saw of Mr. Atlas.  I wonder how Mr. Atlas made out after that.      

Dr Tube Amplifier Schematics - Wow, here's a huge list of tube amp schematics for bass amps from Dr. Tube!  All the major brands like Ampeg, Fender, Marshall, Musicman and Vox...plus hard to find ones from ELK, ORANGE, HIWATT, LANEY, SELMER, etc.  A really good resource for vintage tube heads and combos.

Speaker Cabinet Wiring Diagrams - How to wire up 2 speaker and 4 speaker cabs to get the total impedance you need to match your amplifier's output.  Good clear diagrams from JUMBO SUNSHADE which is a guitarist's EZine & Blog. 

Boiling Strings is STUPID!  Strings and water don't mix!  Boiling freshens up the tone only for a few days because the core under the winding will start to rust.  This method works MUCH BETTER and your strings will sound "refreshed" MUCH LONGER!  Sure you have to go to the store and buy $10 to $15 worth of stuff, AND you have to drink a bottle of fine wine to get a real cork...but frankly this method is better than boiling and your strings will be much cleaner and sound new much longer!  Also it is far kinder to strings with silk core wrapping under the outer winding such as the Thomastik-Infeld JF344 set.  Another great idea from the TUNE MY BASS site!  CAUTION!  Denatured alcohol and its vapors are extremely flammable, so store the cleaning tube and alcohol in an outbuilding if you have one and keep away from open flame.  The alcohol won't freeze in the winter either.  I'd only uncap the tube OUTDOORS.  The alcohol in the tube can be used indefinitely! 

Make ANY Pot a NO-LOAD Pot using simple hand tools and a multi-meter.  From ProjectGuitar.Com and for people with advanced skills and a steady hand. 

TWO DO-IT-YOURSELF MODS/UPGRADES I USE ON PASSIVE BASSES

What follows are two simple cost effective modifications I have used on every passive bass I use to record or gig.  While installing far more expensive high-mass bridges, brass nuts, fancier tuners, pickguards, etc may be more popular upgrades because you can SEE the upgrade and with some of them get some extra sustain, I prefer mods/upgrades I can definitely hear.  I'm really not interested so much in sustain as a clean basic tone.  The following two mods can be done simultaneously in one overhaul.  I list them in the order of impact on the usefulness of the instrument.

Shield Your Bass - Must preface this segment with a strong caution that the following is not recommended on a collector class instrument.  Any Pre-CBS or CBS era Fender for example I'd leave completely stock or you might regret the markdown in an appraisal or sale.  But for all other "player class" passive instruments the following will probably provide definite improvements you will immediately notice.  This is of greatest benefit on  basses with single-coil type pickups which includes first generation Precision Bass reissues or copies and most Jazz Bass designs or copies.  Even on a split-coil second generation Precision Bass there is some benefit too.   On a passive bass, installing copper shielding connected to ground is without a doubt in my mind the  bang for the buck upgrade you can make to your instrument!   Who doesn't want to reduce annoying hum and interference on single-coil passive basses?  High-mass bridge and pickup upgrades are way more commonly done, but copper shielding to ground WORKS GREAT and is relatively cheap!  And it works for our 6-string wielding brothers & sisters too!  When you get fed up with single coil buzz click the link in the title of this segment, "Shield Your Bass" to visit an excellent page from Mel Bay Bass Sessions website.   The page at the link shows how to minimize hum!  The shielding/grounding process while a cheap upgrade, is somewhat time consuming as you have to remove the pickups from the cavity which can sometimes be done without de-soldering them.  Plus you have to remove the pickguard on most basses (except First Generation Precisions) and you need unobstructed access to the control cavity so some disassembly & reassembly is required.  I've never been able to do a shielding project without soldering something somewhere.  At the very least you have to solder the ground wires to the volume pot and it is also a good idea to put one bead of solder on each seam where the copper foil tape overlaps, because the adhesive on the back of the tape reduces the conductivity of the overlapping tape pieces creating some resistance.  Be sure to diagram any wiring you have to disconnect! 

For less money than a large pizza the end result is amazing on a single coil bass and is absolutely worth the effort and relatively tiny expense compared to more expensive upgrades.  Shielding & grounding is an especially effective procedure on the original Jazz style, P/J arrangements and the first generation P-basses which all have at least one single coil pickup, but it also improves the noise floor on second generation Precision Basses too.  Second generation Precision Basses have less noise inherently, but it is still there and they can benefit from this project, primarily because it also shields the control cavity.  I use the copper tape for the sides of cavities and sheeting for the backside of pickguards and the bottom of cavities.  Since you'll be accessing the controls anyway and have to do some soldering for the shielding project, it is a good time to do a capacitor swap too as outlined in the next step.  If the cavity is fully surrounded by a pickguard or metal control plate (as on a Tele-type or Jazz type bass) be sure to let the copper tape overlap the edge of the cavity so it will make good contact with the metal control plate or with the copper sheeting you applied to the back of the pickguard.  On any control plate, stop the copper tape just beneath where it would show above the pickup and your shielding job will be completely invisible.  You'll need screw drivers and hex keys to remove pickguard/pickup/covers/knob set-screws/cavity cover, a marker or grease pencil to trace the pickguard, an Exacto type knife or heavy scissors like kitchen scissors to cut the adhesive backed copper tape and sheeting, a soldering iron, some high quality rosin-core silver solder, plus you'll need enough black wire to run from each pickup cavity to the control cavity to solder to ground there.  I use toothpicks to open screw and wire holes in the copper material after it is in place and I use a paperclip sometimes to open up lugs on pots so I can re-solder the pickup leads back on or to do a tone capacitor upgrade.  Finally before reassembly, check your ground connections to the cavities with a multimeter set to R1000 using the bridge plate as a common contact point for all cavities before reassembly. 

Your goal is to completely encase anything electronic in the copper material except for the very front of the pickups and ground the copper shielding to the common ground of the signal circuit.  The time required fluctuates based on how many pickup cavities and the size of your pickguard.   Count on a shielding project to take at least 3 hours at the minimum on a first generation P-Bass and more on a modern Precision and longer still on a Jazz or P/J Bass.  Your first time or two will be slow going, but it isn't rocket science and anyone that can solder can do it.  (See "Soldering is a Skill" section below for soldering information.)  If you follow the instructions at the site in this segment's title link and also study the photos HERE you'll have no problem. 

A 5 foot length of 2 inch wide copper tape and one 12x12 solid copper sheet is more than enough to do one modern bass and should cost about $13 US plus shipping from about any of the parts suppliers.  The first generation (51-56) Precision designs do NOT require the pickguard to be shielded since it doesn't surround the pickup or cover the control cavity, so that cuts down on the time required and the expense too as you only need the copper tape and can skip buying a copper sheet. 

Some people say you can use aluminum tape and yes it does work but the copper is much easier to work with and more permanent because you can solder the ground wires right to the copper tape material, but you can not solder to aluminum so you have to tape the ground wires to the aluminum and tape naturally is not permanent.  You can also use very short metal screws through the aluminum into your guitar with the ground wires soldered to or secured under the screw which is more permanent but I prefer to just spring the 3 extra bucks for copper and know it is permanently secure without the risk of using screws and be done with it.  Copper is easier and faster to use and permanent.   Other people say that the cavities are painted with shielding paint, but shielding paint doesn't shield as well as grounded copper does.

Any gauge ground wire will work but I would use small gauge because you have to run the ground wire in the same channel as the pickup leads which can get crowded.  I would also use black in color wire to tell any future tech that "HEY....that is a ground wire!"  

If you use a metal vintage pickup cover, you can solder a short wire from the pickup cavity shielding, strip and tin the other end into a hook shape or crimp on a small ring terminal and secure it using one of the cover screws where it doesn't show.  On Jazzes with a vintage bridge cover you can loosen the bridge screws and slip a short stripped ground wire under the bridge, retighten the bridge and secure the other end in a similar fashion to the pickup cover.   Grounding the vintage type chrome pickup cover on a single coil bass helps a little bit, but not as much as the copper cavity and pickguard shielding does.  It is a minor benefit.  Remember your goal is to encase all the electronics except the very front of the pickups in copper and then ground the copper lined cavities to the control circuit.  It should be like a sealed copper cage except for the front of the pickups. 

It is pretty straight forward to do, but it is slow going to do a neat job.   It is all worth it when you find you can turn your treble control up much higher without hearing the annoying buzz or when you have to play a club with neon signs around, a dive that uses home light dimmers on stage or if there is fluorescent lighting nearby.  Shielding won't completely eliminate Radio Frequency Interference noise, but will significantly reduce it.  See the directions for soldering below under "Soldering is a Skill."

Tone Capacitor Swaps In Passive Basses -  Again, this is not recommended on vintage instruments.  But on passive type player instruments putting in the right tone capacitor (cap) for you and your bass is another very cost effective upgrade.  Swapping out capacitors is one of the easiest & lowest cost modifications you can make to an instrument, yet one that can really change the instrument's character.   Guitar and bass makers mostly use Polypropylene film caps or ceramic caps because they are much cheaper than paper in oil or paper in wax caps.  Some high end models from Gibson, such as the Les Paul, are the exception.  Fender used  a  ZNW1P1 0 .1 MFD 150 Volt DC Paper In Wax Capacitor in combination with a 15K OHM carbon composite Allen Bradley brand resistor in 1951 & 1952 P-basses before switching to Ceramic Caps and dropping the 15K resistor as amp capability had caught up to the thunder the basses could produce without the resistor in the tone circuit.   After the ceramic disc type Fender switched next to Polypropylene caps which have less distortion yet still have a slight edginess and then recently Fender switched from Polypropylene back to ceramic discs in USA production after commissioning an order of vintage type 0.05 caps that had previously been obsolete.   

Unfortunately the lowest distortion PIO caps are no longer in production in the USA due environmental considerations.  You can however still get Sprague USA "Vitamin Q" type PIO caps from guitar parts specialty sources listed on the Replacement/Upgrade Parts page.  However once they are gone that is it.  As you might expect prices have been escalating lately on USA made PIO caps.  The much less expensive Russian/Soviet PIO caps are copies of the Sprague Vitamin-Q PIO caps and when the USA caps are extinct there should continue to be a supply of the Russian ones for years to come.  The Russian military capacitors are actually preferred by some people.  Read more about how PIO tone caps can change your tone HERE.  In our experience the difference is very subtle between PIO and the better Mylar film capacitors like Sprague 225P Orange Drops, but much more obvious between PIO and ceramic or Polypropylene film caps.  TIP:  If a warm distortion free sound is desired yet you can not obtain a PIO cap for your project, I would bypass the commonly used Sprague 715P and 716P Polypropylene film caps and instead use the 225P Mylar film cap which costs about the same as the Poly but is harder to find.  You'll get a much warmer and more natural sound with the Mylar.  I hear only a barely detectible difference between a $15 Vitamin Q and a $2 Sprague 225P!  The 715P & 716P Poly Orange Drop caps are rounder while the warmer sounding 225P Orange Drop caps are boxy looking.  If you like an edge to your tone, you'll get the most edge with a ceramic disc and a lesser edge with a poly cap like the Orange Drop 715P or 716P. 

You can experiment with all different kinds of caps for less money than a set of bass strings!  You can also experiment with different value caps.  If you want a brighter sound use a lower value cap or for a darker tone use a higher value cap.  Let's say your bass has a 0.05 (or 0.047) cap now, so to go darker try a 0.10 or to go brighter try a 0.022.  Some passive basses like some P/J models will require two tone capacitors.  FIRST:   Determine what value cap you like best.  I bought a bunch of very cheap different value poly caps at Radio Shack and alligator clip them in and find the value that sounds best on that instrument for me.  Then decide what type to use which is determined by what style of music you want to play, your amp setup, etc.  For example, a ceramic will sound much more edgy in a cab with a horn than in a cab without one.  SECOND:  Determine what type to use.  Remember the order ranked from smoothest to most edge is:  1.  Paper In Oil (Sprague Vitamin-Q or similar Military Spec type).  2.  Mylar Orange Drop (Sprague Mylar Orange Drop 225P.)  3.  Poly Orange Drop (Sprague .  715P or 716P)  4.  Ceramic Disc.  There are other types of capacitors but those work best for me in passive guitar tone circuits long term.  The types I recommend are very stable and don't have a leakage issue over decades.  Other capacitor types can leak and have wild swings in actual value.  Under no circumstance would I put an old paper in wax cap in a bass.   

Soldering is a Skill - The following sites give good information on how to make solder connections:  TEAM NOVAK, E-MUSICIAN, ELECTRONIX EXPRESS, APPLIANCE PARTS PROS and SHAVANO MUSIC ONLINE.  There are additional soldering training links at ENLIGHT.  With these sites, a soldering iron, solder, a few basic tools and some practice you will be a soldering machine in no time!  Soldering skills come in handy to repair cables, instruments and sometimes even speaker cabs and amps!  A $15 investment in a small soldering iron and some high quality rosin core silver solder will pay in the long run!  Keep a pair of needle nose pliers, pocket knife, tiny screw driver, soldering iron and solder in your gig bag and you just might be the band's hero when you save the show!

 

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