Simple Guide to Changing Your Bass Bridge
(((( Written by ))))) Evan, Best Bass Gear’s Prewire & Tech Support
Upgrading your bass bridge can have a number of advantages including: increasing sustain, increasing tuning stability, gaining more adjustability, dropping weight, or simply changing the aesthetics of a bass. Whatever your reason is, I’ve created a simple guide to help you get started. Feel free to reply with questions or start a discussion on our blog as you read along.
Choosing A Bridge
The first step in the process is to pick which bridge is going to work for your bass. Feel free to contact us about the correct choice, we will be happy to guide you along the way. Best Bass Gear sells top quality bridges including: Leo Quan Badass bridges, Babicz Full Contact bridges, and Hipshot bridges. Max and I have experience installing them on different models of basses and we stand behind the quality of all three of these manufacturers.
Most basses use a bridge with one of the standard mounting hole patterns. To determine which your bass has, you can either measure what is currently installed on your bass, look online to see if anyone else with your bass has swapped out the bridge, or simply asking us to look through our databases (we know the mounting patterns of many brands, but you will often still need to measure to confirm). If you’re able to buy a bridge with your mounting pattern, installation is quite easy.
Replacing the Original Bridge With Your New One
First, remove all strings from your instrument. Then, unscrew all mounting screws on your current bridge. Remove the bridge and place the new bridge in it’s place. You should have a small grounding wire running from the bottom of the bridge to your control cavity. Before you move on to screwing the bridge in place, make sure the end of this wire will be contacting your bridge. You can then screw down your new bridge and restring your bass.
Two important steps are now needed to complete your installation and get rockin: String height and Intonation.
Setting String Height
To set string height you will need all the strings tuned to pitch. Hold the bass in the playing position and measure from the top of the 17th fret to the bottom of your lowest string, while not fretting any notes. The distance between these points should be 3/32″.
Depending on many factors, including personal preference, you may end up raising or lowering the string past this number, but 3/32″ is a good average starting point I recommend. Different bridges have different ways to raise or lower the strings. Most, like Hipshot and Badass, use two allen screws on each saddle to raise or lower the string. Full Contact bridges use a single allen wrench to turn a cam which will raise or lower the string. Once you have the lowest string set to 3/32″ you should retune the string and check your measurement again. You can then go on to each string until all of the strings are an appropriate height from the 17th fret. Many people set their highest strings slightly closer to the fret than their lower strings.
To test height accuracy, play your bass listening for any string buzz (often signaling a string being too low) and pay attention to how easily you can fret notes (high strings often make playing difficult for some players).
Intonating Your New Bridge
Next, you will need to intonate the new bridge. For this you will need a good quality tuner and an appropriate screwdriver to adjust your bridge saddle position. You first want to tune all strings to pitch. Then, you will compare the sound of the harmonic at the 12th fret of your lowest string to the sound of the fretted note at the 12th fret, using as much fretting pressure as you normally use while playing. You will want to adjust your bridge saddle until the harmonic note and fretted note are the same exact pitch.
Move the bridge by adjusting the screw at the end of your bridge that connects it to the saddle. Tightening this screw will move the saddle away from the neck, while loosening the screw will move the saddle closer to the neck. Repeat these steps on all strings, making sure to tune and retune the strings between adjustments.
I recommend using the Cruz Tools GrooveTech Bass Player Tech Kit because it will help in properly setting string height and intonation and will help keep your bass set up properly. Among other things, the tool kit includes a 6-in-1 screwdriver and steel ruler which are needed to change your bass bridge.
As previously mentioned, if you have any questions, feel free to reply to this email, start a discussion on the eBass blog, or post on BBG’s facebook wall. Either myself, Max, or Chris will respond to any of your questions. Last time (Tuner Replacement Guide) we received great feedback and were able to help quite a few customers out.
Talk soon —