In this How to Set Up a Squier Bass VI article, I’ll show you exactly how to make your Bass VI and make it play in tune, with perfect intonation and playability. And it will not cost the earth to make it do so.
How to Set up a Squier Bass VI
I just bought myself a Squier Bass VI as I wanted something meaty, low and easy for a guitarist like myself to play.
Choosing a Bass V1 is pretty easy these days as the current Squier Classic Vibe Bass VI model is easily available and is essentially a solid instrument all around.
Over the years the Bass VI has been used by many musicians including Jack Bruce when he was in Cream, Joe Perry used them in Aerosmith, Robert Smith of The Cure is also known for using them frequently and it was used by both John Lennon and George Harrison in The Beatles.
It is a lot of fun to play and covers a lot of ground, especially in the studio and also for songwriting.
Mine is one of the current limited-run purple metallic models from Andertons in the UK and exclusive to that store.
I chose it, as I’m a sucker for purple and I also love tortoiseshell pickguards, so for me, it was a no-brainer.
I knew before I had the guitar delivered that intonation was probably going to be an issue.
This is because Squier has chosen to put a super lightweight set of strings on these models from the factory.
They ship from the factory in Indonesia with a set of Nickel Plated Steel .024-.084 strings, which are far too lightweight for that low E string.
This leads to a flappy, low E string that will not intonate correctly and makes the Bass VI not as much fun to play as it should be.
There are lots of third-party upgrades and many expensive Bass VI string sets available for these instruments.
Yes, you could go out and buy a set of La Bella Flats and a StayTrem BassVI bridge or even perhaps a Mastery bridge.
But, actually, all you really need is a decent set of strings and after some research, I decided to go with Newtone Strings, which are handmade in the UK.
Bass VI Strings
The set you need to buy is called the Axion Custom Works Fender VI set and at the time of writing, they retail for a very reasonable £20.65 plus postage.
These are made of Nickel plated Steel over a Hex core, which is thicker on the .080 and .100 than standard. The set is .024 .034 .044 .056 .080 .100
How To Set Up
My article on How to Set Up a Jazzmaster Trem will give you all the basic information you need for the trem system and how to make it work.
- Set of wire cutters
- A set of small needle nose pliers
- Chromatic Tuner
- A set of Axion Custom Works Fender VI strings
- Sewing Machine Oil
- Nut Sauce or similar lubricant
- Clean Cloth
Take your time and go slow.
Make sure you have a clear workspace and no distractions.
If you do the maths on those two albums, you will see that I spent around an hour and a half plus on this job. And that is before I got around to re-stringing the Bass VI.
I stripped the old strings carefully from the Bass VI and saved them, as they make good backups and they had only been played for a few days by myself.
As I had the strings off of the guitar, now was a good time to remove all the plastic from the pickguard, clean the frets, oil the fretboard and oil any moving metal parts.
For this job, I used Fret Doctor to oil the Laurel fretboard and I left this to soak in. Then I took the tremolo off the Bass VI and used sewing machine oil on the moving parts.
I like to use sewing machine oil for this job, as it keeps the tremolo and the bridge working smoothly. Anywhere where moving metal parts are in constant contact is where you want to use a small amount of the oil.
Apply some to the main pivot points and the spring inside the trem system and on the Mustang bridge saddle screws.
These Classic Vibe Bass VI models have a Mustang bridge which is perfect for the job and will intonate correctly if you use a decent set of strings.
Yes, I love StayTrem bridges, but at £100 plus a 20-week waiting list currently, they are a pricey upgrade and not really needed. As for Mastery bridges, the same applies in terms of they cost a lot of money.
I’ve been setting up guitars for over 35 years and I don’t really need to change something on a guitar or bass unless it is broken or really badly made. This Mustang bridge is neither of these and it just needs to be set up properly.
Since I had some spare time, I broke out my Monty’ Montypresso Wax and rubbed a little into the fretboard to keep it nice and dark. Once I had let that sit on there for a while, I set about polishing the excess off and cleaning the fretboard of any excess oil/wax.
Polish those frets
Next, I got out my fret eraser and my Dremel tool, which allowed me to get my frets to a mirror shine and smooth as silk.
The factory fretwork on this Bass VI was very good, but the polish really made it a whole lot better.
I started with the fret erasers and then used my Dremel with a little polishing compound to get a good shine.
Lube the Nut
Then before I set about re-stringing with my fresh set of Axion strings, I used some of my nut lubricant on the nut, the string tree and the Mustang bridge saddles.
Essentially, you need either, Nut Sauce, Chapstick or similar here. I actually make my own and so I had some prepared in a syringe that makes it easy to apply.
Any points of metal contact will want lubrication, as it will help everything stay in tune.
Now, it was time to re-string the Bass VI and you need to be careful with these Hex Core strings.
DO NOT CUT YOUR NEW STRINGS
- Measure the strings, before you cut them.
- They need to be pulled past the next machine head and then bent using the pliers, as this stops the string from unravelling.
- This gives us enough string at the end to poke into the hole of the Vintage Tuner Slots
Thankfully, Neil Silverman of NewTone Strings has a made great little video to demonstrate this and it is well worth watching before you undertake this job.
I used a string winder attached to my electric screwdriver to speed up the re-stringing, but a standard string winder is just as good. Keep the string taught as you wind them on and feed the string downwards around the tuning post.
This will ensure a good break angle over the nut and help avoid any tuning issues.
Tuning & Intonation
Tune the strings to pitch and stretch them in, now set the intonation of the guitar. I would recommend the TRAIN system to get this right.
Tune, Relief, Action, Intonation and Noodle. This is the order you should make these checks and adjustments in.
A lot of relief in the neck will have both an uncomfortable high action and dodgy intonation, so there is no point in adjusting the action and intonation if adjusting the relief will undo your other adjustments.
Check the neck relief by fretting the first fret of the Bass VI, and then fretting the 17th fret. Then around the 8-9th fret, there should be a little gap, a bit smaller than a bank card.
Adjust the truss rod accordingly, lefty loose – less tension righty tight – more tension. I always loosen a truss rod a little first, because that will get it moving and stop any accidental overtightening of the rod.
Always adjust in quarter turns, as a little goes a very long way with a truss rod.
Check your action next. Action is adjusted by the two Mustang bridge posts and requires the correct size tool. Ideally, you are looking for around 1.5mm up to 2.5/3mm with a bass string and you measure at the 12th fret.
Now double-check your tuning, relief and action. Once you are happy that all three are how you like them, now you can adjust the intonation.
Check the intonation by playing an octave at the 12th fret which should be perfectly in tune. Now fret the 12th fret and then adjust the Mustang saddles backwards or forwards until the fretted note is perfectly in tune.
If the note is sharp you need to tighten the saddle screw as it will lengthen the string length, from the 12th fret to the bridge saddle. Whereas, if it is flat, then we need to loosen the saddle and move it forward, to shorten the length between these two points. Repeat this process for each string and take your time, a chromatic tuner will make this job a lot quicker.
Now it is time to noodle!
If you uncover any tuning, intonation or action issues then repeat the whole process in the correct order. I have found over the years that if you follow the TRAIN method then setting up any guitar or bass becomes a lot easier.
A good rule of thumb when adjusting the saddles is that with a Bass VI, you will probably want to move that Low E backwards to get the intonation correct. I would go roughly the width of the low E string (.100 ) itself backwards to start off with and go from there.
Now your Squier Bass VI should play like a dream and that low E will be nice and in tune, properly intonated and sound huge.
I have no affiliation with Newtone Strings or Andertons and I purchased everything with my own money.