Fender Squier Bass VI – Fixing Tone, Tuning and Intonation

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Introduction: Fender Squier Bass VI – Fixing Tone, Tuning and Intonation

About: I'm just a compulsive DIYer that plays guitar and tries to fix just about everything around the house and garage. Sometimes I even succeed!

The Fender Pawn Shop Bass VI and its sister the Squier Vintage Modified Bass VI are truly a unique design. As a guitar player, it’s great to be able to pick up this 6 string bass guitar and be at home right off the bat. The shorter scale is more guitar player friendly as well (but maybe not as authentic as a P-bass or something). The style of this guitar falls under the “offset” category.

This is one of those guitars I should have done a little more research on before I bought it. I didn’t realize how much of an issue these (and all “offset” guitars apparently) have with tuning, intonation and bizarre overtones. There’s a laundry list of issues with this that will keep it off the mainstream for most people:

  • They ship with really light strings (.084 low E) and do not have the bottom end girth that you might be expecting.
  • The bridge is a masterpiece of "What were they thinking" - as you will see in this Instructable:
    • The bridge posts are much smaller than the receiver slots and the bridge can move all over the place. So the bridge ends up in the wrong position (leaning toward the nut end) and the geometry doesn’t allow you to set the intonation properly.
    • Because the posts are sort of floating around, they never make very good contact with the body (that might have contributed to some of the weird overtone things I kept hearing).
    • It’s not very obvious that the bridge height is adjustable – I didn’t find out that there was a screw in the bridge posts until I took the bridge out to work on this thing. So many people (ok, maybe just me) try to adjust string height with just the saddle adjustments.
  • A trem is fairly useless on a bass.
  • The neck pitch was slightly off. This isn’t a big issue, but I notice if you adjust this, the strings seem to seat better in the saddles and will not be as likely to slip out. This seems to be common with these offset guitars.

So what’s the fix? Actually it turned out to be fairly easy and affordable.

Note: Aside from changing the strings, all the mods in this Instructable can be done without removing the strings entirely. Just loosen them and you will be able to get through all off this if you don’t want to buy new strings.

Step 1: Adjust the Neck Pitch With a Shim

Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures of this operation. This is a somewhat routine procedure – so there are plenty of resources on the web for this. But here is the general process I used:

1. Loosen the strings.

2. Unscrew the neck screws and remove the neck.

3. Place a shim between the neck and the back of the neck pocket nearest the body.

4. Put everything back together.

I used a small piece of brass stock from a hobby store - 1mm thick, 8mm wide and about 35mm long.

Even by adding that small piece of metal, you could visually see a difference in the string break-angle between the tailpiece and the bridge. This will help keep the strings from coming out of the saddles somewhat (although I personally did not have an issue with this).

FYI - This will also effectively lengthen the overall string length due to the change in geometry.

Step 2: Replace the Strings

There are plenty of string vendors out there. I went with one of the recommended sites for custom sets, Kalium Strings.com. I liked that all six strings were wound on their sets. Some of the vendors had unwound strings for the B and high E.

I will recommend the strings from these guys – they were packed very well, labeled clearly, the correct strings were sent, and the strings appeared to have a quality build. But they need some help in getting their shipping figured out. For whatever reason, it takes them several days to get their orders to the post office. So the shipping took longer than I would have expected. Their strings get a B+ or an A, shipping gets a C.

The Squier VI has vintage tuners – I’m not sure why all guitars don’t have vintage tuners. They are the easiest tuners in the world to work with. Since they seem to be uncommon, I recommend you do a quick search on how to use them if you haven’t used them before.

Note about the nut: The nut material is unfortunately very soft, which is, fortunately, easy to file out a little. You can either just run your wound string back and forth to open up the slot or CAREFULLY use a small file (Harbor Freight has a set of little files that work well). The key is to only widen the sides – DO NOT MAKE THE SLOT ANY DEEPER. It didn't take much work to get all the new, bigger strings to fit.

2nd note about the nut: Because of the cheap material they use, it’s a prime candidate for replacement when you have more time and money.

Step 3: Fix the Bridge

As you can see in the pictures, the bridge posts are nowhere near thick enough to fill up the receiver holes. Take a look at my drawing to see how this affects the contact points between the bridge and guitar.

1. I measured the posts and the receivers to get an idea of what I needed. It turned out the measurements were about ¼” for the post OD and 5/16” for the receiver ID. If I could find something to take up that space, I’d be set.

2. A trip to Ace Hardware - They had brass sleeves that where 1/4” ID x 5/16” OD! UPDATE 5/7/15: I just found that you can get these at Grainger.com http://www.grainger.com/product/DAYTON-Bearing-2X3...

3. So I simply slid the sleeves into the opening and reinserted the bridge. The sleeves were ¾” long which also happened to be the perfect length for the receiver as well.

4. At this point it’s just a matter of making routine intonation adjustments.

All this for $6.50. The sleeves are pricy for what they are, but that’s a super cheap fix when compared to something like the $75+ for a replacement bridge.

As soon as I added the sleeves, I could immediately tell how much of an improvement it made in the tone. It actually sounded like a regular bass guitar with a regular bridge! And that was even without plugging it in.

Step 4: Do a Set-up and Have Fun!

I did a normal set-up after all of this and was blown away by the quality of the sound, solid bass punch and tight tuning. To fully appreciate the Bass VI, be sure to have a real bass amp. These work with a regular guitar amp, but you really need a bass amp for a bass guitar. Plus you might blow the speakers on your guitar amp!

The pickup selector is a cool idea. The neck pickup alone or neck/middle combo seem to have the best bass sound – but that’s just a personal choice.

I struggled with this guitar off and on for several months. I normally play electric at church. But I like playing bass, so I volunteered to play bass guitar for an upcoming service and figured that would be a good time sink or swim with this.

After the neck shim, string change, bridge mod and final setup, I think most of the issues on this Bass VI have been solved. The trem is still weird. But I most likely won’t use it on this guitar, so that’s a non-issue for me.

Now go out and enjoy your Bass VI!

If you have any comments, questions, corrections or suggestions, feel free to let me know!

1 Person Made This Project!

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36 Comments

0
MichaelO219
MichaelO219

4 years ago

Just got a Squier VI. I am having issues with the low E; it seems that if I want to get the intonation right, I have to back the saddle up so much that the protruding intonation adjustment screw gets in the way of the vibrating string. Did you notice this as an issue? I figure I will just grind it down at some point, but it seems like a fairly large oversight...

0
captainzeb
captainzeb

Reply 5 months ago

Cut a bit off the low E screw with a Dremel tool.

0
fishpotpete
fishpotpete

Reply 4 years ago

Exactly. I did the same thing. I mention it near the beginning of this Instructable, but I don't have any pictures: you need to adjust the neck pitch. If you haven't done this before, it really is easy. I used a short piece of a flat brass rod. It was 1mm thick, 8mm wide and about 35mm long. The key is to angle the neck back a little - and that in turn forces you to raise the bridge saddles and that's what keeps the strings from hitting the edge of the bridge. You could grind it, but because of the shallow string break angle, you still run the risk of the strings slipping out of the saddles while you play. If you study that first page of this Instructable, it goes over all of this.

Let me know how it turns out or if you figured out another way or if you have any other questions. Thanks and good luck!

0
MichaelO219
MichaelO219

Reply 4 years ago

Thanks for the fast reply! But I'm still concerned about that low E - because I have to pull the saddle so far back to gain proper intonation, it forces the end of that screw up in the air, like a cannon getting ready to fire, and it hits the vibrating string and makes a BZZZK sound. Maybe I'll just grind the one, and shim the neck as you suggested...?

0
fishpotpete
fishpotpete

Reply 4 years ago

That's exactly that same problem I had. If you do the neck shim/etc, it takes care of all that. I fought with my Bass VI for a long time before I was able to figure out the many steps I needed to take of these same issues.

0
subbermoario
subbermoario

Question 8 months ago on Step 2

Thank you, and thank´s for that great article.
I bought a bass VI and immediately fell in love with, so I want to fix these minor issues asap.
Thing is, I was looking for the sleeve you mentioned and tried to get one in metrical measures which is (inside 6,35mm, outside 7,93, length 19,05). My question now is: How percise will I have to match these? Does your sleeve fit very thightly? May I get away with a bit of clearance of a fraction of a mm?
BTW: I read about only using full-contact-shims and to avoid using non-full-contact-shims. Is this true? Will the neck bend. Fender makes this since the 50ies. Putting in just veneer stripes, right? Would be nice to hear from you. Thank you.

0
fishpotpete
fishpotpete

Answer 8 months ago

I found the sleeves at Ace Hardware - But I just found them at Grainger. Here's the link: http://www.grainger.com/product/DAYTON-Bearing-2X3...
If the link doesn't work, it's item 2X355, UNSPSC # 31171509. They are cheaper at Grainger. But I'm guessing you're not in the US. So I think you'd be ok if you got close. You could wrap them with some Teflon tape or something if they're too loose.

Using a trem on a bass isn't the most useful thing in the world. Especially with these guitars. You give up a lot on keeping it in tune/etc when you keep the trem fully functional. I'm sure they work fine on a standard gauge electric strings. But not for bass.

As far as the shims are concerned, I've been using brass strips like this for years and never had a problem. I would think to hand make a full contact shim would be extremely difficult for most people. However, you do want to have the shim span the entire width of the neck (or as much as possible).

Please let me know if you have any other questions - And congratulations on your new Bass VI!

0
subbermoario
subbermoario

Reply 8 months ago

Hey Pete, thank´s for your quick reply. Yes I am from Europe/Germany, so no grainger ;-). I will possibly be restricted to metrical measures. The idea with the teflon tape ist great. Did not think of that a first but I put these on my standard Strat trems to keep the arm not moving that much.

The trem is still teasing me but for the most part, I want to bring this thing in stable tuning and good intonation.

Concerning the shim I was just reading through the internet. I never shimmed a guitar before. So I guess I will try your method first and will see if can get a full shim. Stewmac sells them. But as I already said, Fender does shims since the 50ies. You are sure to solve the intonation problems on the low E string with the shimming? Will try this too. Thanks again for all the input and the quick reply. Stay safe, stay healthy
Best
SubberMoario
https://www.stewmac.com/tonewoods/shop-tonewood-by...


0
Steve Dallman
Steve Dallman

9 months ago on Step 2

The purpose of the loose bridge sleeves is so the bridge can move when the vibrato is used. It rocks back and forth for better tuning stability. With the bridge fixed, the strings have to slide across the saddles. Your drawing is in error. Sticking out from the bottom of the bridge posts are adjustable pins that are sharp on the ends. They sit in the cone shaped bottom of the sleeves. The bottom of the posts stay in the center. The tops move back and forth with the vibrato. I have a couple guitars (Mustang and Mustang knockoff) with the same bridges. They work well. They wouldn't if I fixed the posts.

0
stonymanstudios
stonymanstudios

Question 1 year ago

Can you still use the trem if you use the sleeves?

Thanks for making this post! Great work!

0
fishpotpete
fishpotpete

Answer 1 year ago

Yes you can. But the trem on these don't alter the pitch late much - not like a strat or something. You really have to put some muscle into it to get it vary the pitch significantly. You probably get a little more play without the sleeves, but you also get a lot more tuning issues/etc.

0
MichaelO219
MichaelO219

4 years ago

Got it! Shim inserted, bass set up, issue solved. :-)

I have the sleeves on order, and they'll be here Wednesday. Went ahead and decided to set the bass up anyway without the sleeves, and I noticed that at the bottom of the "bridge holes", it's not flat; there's a divot where the bridge set screw "points" go into, and if you can get them to stay in the divots with the strings up to pitch, then the bridge rocks back and forth with use of the tremolo arm. It gives it a nice gentle bend when you play spaghetti western guitar licks. :-)

Having said that, I'm looking forward to the tonal difference that the brass sleeves will give me. Do you use the tremolo at all with your current setup?

0
stonymanstudios
stonymanstudios

Reply 1 year ago

Did you try the sleeves? And if so can you still use the trem?

0
MichaelO219
MichaelO219

Reply 1 year ago

I tried the sleeves, and I prefer the tone! I rarely use the trem bar, and have stored it away, but I remember it working at least to some degree. I like my VI-string as a small bass rather than a large guitar.

0
fishpotpete
fishpotpete

Reply 4 years ago

Great to hear you got it going!!!! I labored for mine so long, I never thought it was going to be playable... as far as the trem is concerned, I don't really use it. I have trems on several of my other guitars I use all the time. But I've never felt the need on this thing. But I've heard others use the trem on these and it sounds pretty cool.

0
fun2fix
fun2fix

2 years ago

So you are lucky that you have "adjustable" bridge saddles.
My 1990's MIJ uses the old-style barrel saddles that are not adjustable.
In this configuration, the sleeves won't help when lowering the bridge, because you can't compensate with saddle height. Oh Well. I've been avoiding the Mastery bridge because I'm not fond of combined saddles.

0
liquorsbass
liquorsbass

2 years ago on Step 3

Bought sleeves. They are precisely made, fit perfectly in receiver holes. Problem is in bridge posts: their OD are just a little bit bigger than sleeve ID. Come on, where's QC? Gotta sand the posts down to make them fit. Bummer. Other than this issue, this page helped me a lot. Thank you!

0
fishpotpete
fishpotpete

Reply 2 years ago

Good to hear you got it to work! I love my Bass VI - my only issue now is that I still can't get the low E to intonate as much as I would like (like maybe get to the 7th fret before tuning starts to go). The rest of it is spot on. I'm not sure why we have to go through all of this in the first place on these!

0
Kj123456
Kj123456

2 years ago

Thanks for this. I bought one of these on a whim because it was second-hand and going very cheap. I was at the point of giving up ever getting the intonation set up. Leo was clearly on an off day when he designed these! The bridge is raised and reversed, and tight in the thimbles and the neck is shimmed, I now have very playable guitar.

0
JasperJ5
JasperJ5

5 years ago

This article is fantastic! I mean literally if you do all these thinks it *will* be better.
Sure there are reservations like the wobbling bridge supports the trem, but then do you want an almost imperceptibly better trem or do you want to feel in touch with your instrument? your call, then chose whether to make the mod.
Similar with the string change, the strings are chosen to straddle the bass world & the guitar world with some precision. if you add heavier strings it will sound and feel more bass like which is great for bassists. if you leave the strings as they are or go for baritone stings & tune little higher you will have a more guitary experience. I know this because I already pay both & always did. All I'm achiving here is to add more to the decision in what was a spectacularly helpful article I really appreciate existing.