Set up

How to get the best tone and response

An upright bass can be very difficult to play.  Set-up is one way to make it a little more forgiving.  Have your bass set up by a luthier, the fingerboard should be planed correctly and your bass should not have any string buzz.  You want to make sure that your bridge sits on your basses belly perfectly (no gaps). The sound post should be snug, but not too tight.


I've found that the best way to fight feedback is a equalizer. Either, one built into your amp or a preamp will work great. Usually the cause of feedback is a poorly fitted pickup, bad EQ settings or simply too loud of an environment.

Some Rockabilly slappers have a sound post under both sides of the bridge to help fight feedback.  Other ways to fight feed back are wedge something in between your tailpiece and you basses belly, put tape over your f holes, put foam in your f holes, play at a lower stage volume and mic your amp, don't stand too close to any speaker, squeeze your bass with your knees.  For more sugestions search the message board for 'feedback'.
String height
The action should be fairly low to make the bass easy to play, but high enough to allow for the string vibration.  Your tone may be better with higher action as well, I suggest finding that happy medium, with experimentation.  I recommend an adjustable bridge (especially if your action changes during the different seasons).

Measuring at the bottom of the fingerboard, my recommended heights for rockabilly are...

G - 9mm
D - 9mm

A - 9mm
E - 9mm

Or about a 1/4 to a 1/3 inch above the fingerboard for slap style rockabilly playing.
Pick ups

Three of the most popular pickups for slap bass are the Revolution SOLO, the Underwood and K&K's Rockabilly model pickup.

As of 2005 I've been using the Revolution SOLO pickup with great results. When in a big theatre I think it sounds best to pick up the fingerboard noise with a mic. But for small clubs, large venues and rehearsal it seems to be the best bang for the buck.

Click here for a close up of the K and K pick up Underwood The Revolution
K&K Slap Bass The Underwood The Revolution SOLO

Some players recommend bass guitar pickups mounted on the end of your fingerboard, but then you can only use steel strings. If you want to play real loud, this may be a good option, but in my opinion, your bass will sound more like an electric bass than an acoustic bass.


A lot of rockabilly players use gut strings.  If you want to use steel strings you should use an Orchestral set, they are a little looser when tuned to E, and may save your finger tips...  Strings are heavily debated issue, depending on the tone your after. Search the message board for 'strings' and you'll have plenty of reading.