I have an electric bass that I've been playing for a while now, and the action is very low.
Although this can be nice and useful for slapping, it often makes the strings buzz, which is especially not fun when playing fingerstyle. Right now, the strings are so low, that playing an open string will almost not play the note as the strings are almost touching the frets in places.

I have looked into possible solutions, and the two major ones seem to be either adjusting the height of the strings from the bridge, or adjusting the truss rod. I don't want to ruin my bass, but as of right now it just isn't fun to play.

Which method should I go with? Or are there better alternatives?

4 Answers 4


If you haven't been tweaking the height of the bridge saddles it is highly unlikely (though not 100% impossible) that they have spontaneously sunk down and lowered the action on your bass. It is highly likely that climatic conditions have caused a little movement in the neck. If you used to be happy with the playability and sound of your bass, and you're sure there has been no tweaking, then it is most likely the neck relief (truss rod) that needs adjusting. If, however, it has buzzed from the outset, then it could be either or both of saddle height or neck relief. If you have changed your strings to a lighter gauge this may have lowered your action.

You don't want to be stripping threads on the truss rod/truss rod nut or the bridge saddles/bridge saddle grub screws. It only takes a few seconds to loosen your strings and to re tune them afterwards, so always loosen them when adjusting the truss rod or bridge saddles. Remember, also, that the intonation will also have to be re set afterwards, by moving the bridge saddles towards the nut (shortening the string) or away from the nut (lengthening the string).

Tightening (clockwise) the truss rod nut pulls the neck down flat (and even beyond) decreasing neck relief and lowering the action. You do not want to do this. You want to raise the action a little bit, so you will need to loosen the truss rod nut (anti clockwise). Loosen it a quarter turn, re tune your strings and see how you like it. If you think it needs more, loosen the strings and try another quarter turn. If this hasn't fixed it, take a break, leave it overnight to settle, and re check in the morning. This is a very conservative adjustment, so have no fear.

Remember, you will have, ever so slightly, altered the string length: increasing the neck relief will slightly 'shorten' the string. You will need to 'intonate the bridge' by moving the saddles along, but that is another topic.


If you really don't know, don't guess.

Take it to a luthier, who can examine the instrument & make suggestions based on touch, feel & your live input.
This isn't one that can be 'fixed over the internet' if you are not confident in getting into the adjustments yourself

  • 1
    -1. How are people supposed to get confident into the adjustments if they aren't explained? Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 22:54
  • Hands-on, in the company of someone who already knows. Not by getting a vague description on the interweb.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Apr 1, 2019 at 17:11

For starters, the saddles on most basses are designed to be adjustable, independent of the action. Usually, it's either a small Allen key or screwdriver. Each string will have two adjusting screws, so take each up half a turn at a time, until you're happy.

However, it may be that the neck has moved slightly, althoug I doubt that would cause strings to buzz. We all have to start somewhere, otherwise we'd end up spending a fortune for someone else to set up the instruments - and eventually you'll be able to set up any bass to your liking. leave the truss rod alone for now, but sight along the neck - it should be almost as straight as the strings themselves, with a slight bow away from them around fret 12.


Have a luthier check the string height at the nut/1st fret, and the neck relief. He should also want to know (or see) how you play the bass, so he knows roughly where to set the adjustments. The height of the bridge isn't too relevant if the neck is out or the strings come over the neck at the wrong height.

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