It`s a best practice to set up your bass guitar from time to time. If you are unfamiliar with setting up your bass yourself, it can be beneficial to pay a luthier to do it for you. But if you do decide to get a luthier to set it up, how much should a bass setup cost?
I have researched a multitude of bass setup services and found the average and median costs so you can know what to expect. This way you will avoid overpaying for a setup. I will also explain what to expect from luthiers with both an unusually high and or low cost.
Then, you will learn how to determine whether your bass is in need of a setup or not. I will also show you how often you should get your bass setup, and why the answer can differ from bassist to bassist.
How much does a bass setup cost?
The average cost of a bass setup without strings included is $63.18, with a median cost of $60. For setups with strings included the average cost of a bass setup is $79.54, with a median cost of $75. Most luthiers charge close to these prices, with some charging significantly more.
I got these numbers from comparing a wide range of luthiers in the US and the UK. The cost of bass setups was similar across these 2 countries, and all prices are converted to and displayed in US dollars.
For a bass setup without strings included in the cost, you can expect to pay somewhere between $45 and $75. A price within this range tends to be reasonable, and generally reflects the quality of the service.
If strings are included in the cost, expect to pay around $60-$90. $75 is a particularly common price when the cost of strings is included in the cost of a setup.
As long as the cost of a bass setup is within these ranges, I would consider it a fair price. However, if the cost is excessively high or low, it is wise to research why this is the case.
Some Luthiers can charge in the hundreds for a setup, with some exceeding $200. This generally happens when a luthier is in high demand or is well known. Unless you are a professional bassist who knows what they are paying for, I would not recommend a luthier in this price range.
If a setup costs as low as $20-$30 I would also be wary of why this is the case. Some skilled luthiers might consider this a fair price. However, more often than not the cost will reflect the work that will be done on your instrument. I highly advise reading reviews of the luthier when the cost of a setup is within this range. ‘
How do I know if my bass needs a setup?
In general, it is preferable to set up a bass when the action starts to feel too high or you start hearing a buzz when fretting notes. Other signs that your bass is in need of a setup are that the intonation is off or when the neck of your bass starts to look warped.
A bass might need a setup for a multitude of reasons. If you are experiencing one or more of the issues below, it is generally a good idea to get your bass set up:
- High action – Action refers to the amount of space between your strings and your frets. In general, bassists prefer having low action, as it makes the bass easier and smoother to play. The action can be changed with a truss rod adjustment, which is an essential part of a bass setup. How much the action can be lowered depends on the build and quality of your bass.
- The Intonation is off – If your bass sounds dissonant when you are in tune, your intonation is off. This means that your bass is unable to produce the right pitch at the corresponding frets. Having proper intonation is essential for playing the bass. Therefore, it should be fixed as soon as possible after you notice it is a problem.
- Fret buzz – Your bass might be in need of a setup if you are hearing a buzz when you fret notes. You might also experience that strings don`t ring out properly or start buzzing when you bend them. A setup is likely not necessary if you experience fret buzz when not touching the strings, as this is often unrelated to the setup of your bass.
- Bending or diving neck – The neck of your bass guitar can warp for several reasons. Most commonly though, it is due to the string tension being too demanding for it. You might also experience neck dive as a result of the neck warping. However, it generally takes a while for the neck to noticeably warp. Thus, it is a best practice to check its condition occasionally.
- Switching tuning – If you are switching to an alternate tuning, it`s wise to have your bass setup. This is because the tension of the neck will change, and you will likely need new string gauges. A setup is especially important if you are tuning down multiple whole steps. You might for example not need a setup when tuning to D#, but for low tunings like A standard, a setup is paramount.
How often should you get a bass setup?
As a general rule, it is preferable to have your bass set up at least once a year. Climate can greatly affect how often you need to set up a bass and regular exposure to high humidity will require a bass guitar to be set up more often.
Setups are a core part of maintaing your bass . Thus, it is a best practice to have your bass set up at least once a year. However, depending on your preferences and circumstances, you might need to set up your bass more regularly.
Bassists who play a lot, travel, and live in a humid climate can benefit from having their bass set up as often as every 2 months. If you live in a dry climate and practice occasionally in your room, getting your bass set up 1-2 times a year is generally enough.
Once you become familiar with your instrument, and you learn what a setup entails it also becomes easier to assess whether your bass is in need of a setup or not.
Nowadays I don`t set up my basses unless I notice a need for it. Sometimes this will mean that they go more than 12 months without being set up. Most of the time though, I will notice a need for them to be set up somewhere between 6 and 12 months.
Even if you are a beginner, you will generally be able to tell when your bass needs a setup. It will feel more cumbersome to play, start buzzing, and will feel different to hold. When this happens, you will know that it is time to get your bass set up.
So how much should a bass setup cost? Generally, not more than $75 without strings included or $90 with strings included.
These prices are on the more costly side. I would be comfortable paying this cost from a reputable luthier. However, I would personally choose a different option if the cost was any higher than this.
A regular price for a setup without strings included would be $50-$60 without strings and around $75 with strings. At this price range, you can generally be confident that you’re not getting ripped off.
I would also consider learning to set up your bass yourself. I remember it seeming intimidating the first time I did it, but it was far from as challenging as it seemed. This has saved me a good bit of money through the years. It has also made me more knowledgeable about my instrument.
Whether you pay someone to set up your bass or you do it yourself, make sure it`s done right. If you go with a luthier, it is thus a good idea to check out their credentials and reviews beforehand.
If you do decide to do it yourself, it`s best to watch some videos of luthiers setting up basses. Watching a video of a luthier doing a setup will be significantly more helpful than a written guide.
This way, you will ensure that your bass gets properly set up and that it always is in good hands.
Are you looking to make your bass faster to play? A setup will generally help with this, but there are other steps you can take to achieve this as well. To learn more, read on about how to make the neck of your bass faster.