Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bass Guitar Setup: ESP B-304 to BEAD

I mentioned some time ago that I picked up an ESP LTD B-304 that I wanted to setup for B-standard (a.k.a. BEAD) tuning.  I had never really done a whole setup myself, so I though I would share this really decent series of videos I used as a reference.  They have a kind of long intro, so you may want to skip to the 20 second mark to get right to the instructional part.

Step 1: Truss Rod Adjustment

Truss rod adjustments always scare me.  Fortunately, I didn't need to do a truss rod adjustment when I set up my bass, because the action was pretty much spot on.  I also don't have a set of feeler gauges (or a capo for that matter), but I understand you can pick them up at an automotive supply place.

Step 2: Bridge Action Height Adjustment

I didn't have to do much in the way of bridge height adjustment. Even though I was switching from lighter (E-standard) strings to the heavier (B-standard) strings, the bottom of the string is still the bottom of the string.  A few minor tweaks and everything was golden on the bridge end.

Step 3: Nut Action Height Adjustment

Nut height was pretty good, but I had to widen the slots to accommodate the larger strings.  I don't have nut slotting files, and they are expensive.  But I did have access to machinist's files at work, and I'm pretty good with hand tools, so I used those.  I worked outwards to widen the slot without actually cutting down and making the slot deeper. The shape probably isn't slotting-file-perfect, but it ended up pretty darn close.

Step 4: Intonation Adjustment

This was the most tedious part of the whole setup.  The ESP LTD B-304 has a 34" scale neck, and I think I now understand why people recommend a 35" scale neck for B-tuned basses.  I almost ran out of adjustment when setting the intonation for the low B.  Fortunately the key word there is "almost."  In the end, I got the intonation dialed in with a couple turns to spare.

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