Setup prices below are for instruments bought here at FMI, slightly higher for instruments brought in to us for setups.
When we do a basic setup job on a bass we lower and reshape the nut so it is as comfortable as possible to push the strings down in the first couple positions. The nut is left way high at the factory and this makes it HARD on your fingers to play the first few positions especially.
I work the nut over several times getting it lower and lower between tightening the strings up, to check the action, until I am satisfied with it.
I also lower and reshape the bridge and thin it out. Thinning it out maximizes the sound and lowering and reshaping it allows the action to be brought down as low as possible without having to dress/plane-reshape the fingerboard. *
I reshape the bridge according to what kind of music will be played with the bass; orchestral requires a different bridge shape than bluegrass, rockabilly, jazz.
I don't work the fingerboard over in basic setups, that's $195 more to work the fingerboard for a truly smooth playing bass with low easy action for ANY STYLE of music playing.
When basses are made the manufacturers do not try to lower nut and bridge to a proper playing height, that is left for the end user to get done for various reasons. They leave them high enough so no one will find them too low.
One reason is there are WIDE variations in what different players consider proper setup/action. Another reason is climate changes string height.
And factory workers are not trained luthiers skilled at dialing in a good action and fingerboard shape. So their job is separate from our job in getting it setup/adjusted for proper playing action to suit your needs.
* These fingerboards are usually fairly flat with small humps which allow about a 10mm height of the G string at the end of the fingerboard without buzzing when played. Lowering the strings more than this gets them buzzing and rattling against the fingerboard, not good.
To get a lower action setup the fingerboard needs extensive work planing and reshaping to get the proper slope to it. It needs to drop into a smooth downward slope done right to keep the strings from buzzing, it's quite a trick.
This allows a lower action without buzzing when done right. I have been spending 6 to 10 hours of shop time on fingerboards to get this done right.!!
As far as I know I am the only one doing this to basses sold over the internet, and especially the only one doing this to low cost basses.
You're welcome to come to our shop and see what we get as raw basses and what we do to set them up right, basic setups for $99 and full setups for $295.
These prices compare to $175 and $500 at most Luthiers shops.
Basic setups will allow the action to be brought down to about 10mm height at the G string and will allow the budget conscious to get a bass that is roughly playable for all styles except jazz. All skilled players need and want a lower faster action which requires the fingerboard work to get the G string down around 6mm height or lower at end of fingerboard. This is well worth the $195 we’re charging so the bass will satisfy any skilled player and be as fast and easy as possible to play for any style of music/playing.
Beginners especially will benefit from the pro setups so the bass is as easy as possible to play! Don't kill off a beginner with a high action making a difficult to play bass. It will be physically HARD on the left hand to push the strings down to play different notes, and can be compared to having an old manual typewriter for your computer keyboard. "It's so HARD to answer email" would be be heard a lot. Bass doesn't have to be HARD to play.