This article will explain what happens when you put stickers on your bass guitar, what does it change, and clean up some misunderstandings. What are the best spots for them to last long, and how to preserve them?
First, we need to discuss where the sound comes from. In an electric bass guitar, sound comes from the pickups and the strings. So our top priority to keeping our sound clean is to not get on their way, building our layout leaving them space.
So, will putting stickers on my bass guitar change its tone?
No, it won’t change your bass guitar’s tone because your pickups are still intact. So, while sticking on its body, you are safe. Stickers are just not strong enough to impact your tone, even when stuck on the fretboard/neck, which are considered the most important woods for its tone.
Just think about it, when you buy a bass, it is usually stuck with a code or something that says where it’s been made. It’s really fine when you stick them in the right place.
However, there are some tricky spots and some planning you need to do to keep your bass and tone in top condition safely, so always try to be careful and plan for your next step.
What do I have to consider before placing a sticker on my bass?
Your safest bet will always be to stick it onto the main body’s wood. But that’s not your only option; sticker customization can get even onto the fretboard. You have to consider where you want to stick it and why, always plan your layout and, if you can, avoid the tricky spots.
Customizing your bass is something personal, so have fun with it. Let your ideas sink in a little bit and then stick it. Before sticking, try more than one arrangement, take pictures and compare. You can even photoshop the stickers onto the pictures. Take your time and don’t rush it. It’ll be better if you do it slowly.
Which are the best places to stick my stickers?
There’s no stopping to the possibilities and, with enough preparations, you can get them almost all over your bass. But if you are going to stick just a few, I would suggest you start by planning your layout on either the front of the body, the headstock, or the pickguard.
These spots are really a safe place to start. You just need to tinker around a bit and find those empty spots far away from pickups, screws, or tones. For example, a really good place to stick is on the main body’s horn, just beside the strap button.
Other good places to stick can be just above the bridge or pickups, or just to the side of the cutaway, even below the strings in the headstock. These places are hardly ever touched, so the stickers will last a long time unscathed. Just keep in mind to not get too close to screws/tuning pegs or planning your way around them.
Although we want our basses to be pristine forever, it’s just impossible. Eventually, they will get hit, they can fall, or someone may accidentally trip over them. Things like this happen all the time, just like it happened to me (picture below for reference). So, it’s fine if you want to cover those common mistakes.
If you played your bass long enough, you probably have a scratch or two that you want to cover up. Consider getting a sticker to do so. It’s a really fun way of revitalizing your instrument.
Lastly, a really good sticker is the one that the manufacturer includes with some basses, as you can see below. Yes, knobs are a pain to work with here; but it also comes with a specific piece of plastic made to fit underneath them. Gluing the plastic is a great idea because, if you don’t, it will eventually get wobbly, and the borders will wear out.
You’ll be able to do just fine with some glue. Gluing it will still be tricky, but the piece of plastic is made to fit there. The only thing that you’ll need to do is cut away the screw holes. You could eventually need them.
Which are the worst places to put stickers on my bass?
Usually, stickers won’t bother you, but in certain places, they can be more annoying than anything. These spots are the neck and the back of the body, as well as the sides. Sticking here won’t be changing your tone. Rather, it will just end up annoying you.
Sticking on the back of the body will just end up tearing down the stickers and, if they are bad stickers, their dye will end up on your clothes. It’s just not a great idea.
Likewise, sticking on the neck isn’t really a good idea because it will get in the way of your hand. You will end up wearing them down, and it’ll just bother you while playing.
This one is a great example of a sticker on the neck, or rather too close to the neck. Here you can see the mark the sticker left after being rubbed away. After getting this bass, it only took a few months of playing, and it just rubbed off. On the contrary, you can see the one better placed on the headstock being intact after almost five years of use just because of its better placement.
Just below the tuning pegs, you can see the rectangle where the sticker used to be. These kinds of spots are really bad because you’ll just get stains like that where the sticker rubbed off.
On top of that, there’s a tricky spot just below the strings and pickups. It’s not the same for every bassist, and you have to look at your technique. This spot is where your hand sometimes touches the bass while slapping or popping. If you touch it once or twice, everything will be alright but constantly slapping it will break it down, so try to know where that spot is before sticking there.
And lastly, I recommend you avoid the spot where your arm tends to rest while playing. You will inevitably scrape it little by little; it’s just not good if you don’t end up covering it with vinyl. Consider it as a “last spot to cover”.
I know some of these spots aren’t easy to find and difficult to understand. As a rule of thumb, know that the last one mentioned is in the recess from the wooden body, but just to be precise, here is a picture highlighting them in yellow to help you identify them better.
Keep in mind that even though these spots are bad, they won’t be affecting tone or bother you while doing maintenance to your bass. They are still safe to stick to; it’s just that they may end up being in vain. But with enough care, you will be able to avoid these problems.
With those spots, you have to be careful, but you should never put a sticker on the frets themselves because the string won’t be making contact with the metal, and instead, it’s touching the sticker’s paper. Doing so will change your tone and should be avoided at all costs.
What you can do is simply crop out the sticker parts where it meets the fret, and you will have no problem with your sound. As long as the sticker isn’t in contact with the string, it’ll be fine.
That being said, there are still those tricky spots where you shouldn’t start. But with enough patience, you can work your way around to a really good design while keeping your bass intact.
What spots do I have to plan around before sticking?
The issue with sticking up the screws isn’t a tone problem, but rather a maintenance problem. If you need to calibrate or re-wire your bass and there are screws on the way, you’ll have to take them out. To prevent this, you can either avoid them on your layout or carve out the part of the sticker where the screw will be.
While sticking near the knobs, you want to be especially careful not to end up jamming their movement. If your knobs are too tight and don’t have much space between them and your bass, this will not only obstruct its movement but also start wearing down your sticker. Consider carving it, or if you happen to have another knob laying around that’s a better fit, you can change them pretty easily.
- Crossing between pickguard and body
Even though these two are safe spots, putting a sticker that crosses them will end up being more troublesome than you think. This is because you might need to take off your pickguard for some reason, and it will end up being a nuisance more than anything. Instead, try to line them up with the borders or attempt to make a really clean cut, so it seems as if it’s not.
- Near the pickups
Sticking close to your pickups is difficult by itself, but that’s not all. If you like your bass but think you may change your pickups, it may end up being bothersome. For example, you might want to change a single-coil pickup for a double-coil. Doing so is fine, but you’ll have to make extra space on your bass for it to fit, so if you are already planning that kind of customization, make sure to leave some room.
Is it safe to remove stickers from my bass?
It usually is, but you have to be a little bit careful with them for it to go smoothly. If a sticker is really old and worn down, you won’t have any problem. But if you didn’t plan your layout too much and just put it on, it can tear down paint or even lacquer. You should always be sure before sticking.
Even so, there are some tips and tricks to taking them off. If you didn’t like how it turned out, or you just had a slip-up, try using a little bit of water or alcohol to rub it off and wear it down, you will slowly tear it apart, but your bass will be unharmed.
If you had to tear down your sticker and there’s some glue left, keep rubbing with alcohol. After that, if you want to go fancy, you can use a flannel with high-grade car polishing (if your bass’s finishing is made with lacquer) or rub its oil (if your bass’s finishing was done with oil). After that, you are good to go and try again with another sticker, but remember, always plan ahead. Don’t just stick because you have it lying around and don’t know what to do with it.
How to preserve the stickers I put on my bass?
If you just started with stickers, the best way to preserve them is to know the spots that will wear them down easily and avoid them. But if you are going to go all out and cover your bass up, you might want to consider getting clear vinyl to cover them up.
Vinyl will make your stickers last longer, and when it gets worn out, you can just change it. But that’s not the only option. If you are 100% confident that that’s how you like it and you are done sticking, you can do a varnish finishing, it’s costly, and you can’t do it on your pickguard, but it’s a good option if you did a really good job and don’t want it to age out.
So, to recap, putting stickers on your bass is totally fine. There are multiple places where you can just stick and play, but most importantly, it will not affect the sound of your bass, so go ahead and have fun sticking. Once you know what spots to avoid, you are good to go.
Keep in mind that the instrument is meant to be played, so prioritize the bass itself. Being able to open it up to change the wiring, pickups, or calibrate it is really important, so leave yourself some space for it.
Also, know that the stickers will wear down, try to start using those long-lasting spots where they will stick around for a while, and preserve them the best you can. Take your time and have fun customizing your bass!
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Nicolas Rotondaro is proffesional bassist, producer and luthier based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He has a bachelor’s in arts and is currently finishing his studies on popular music in EMPA. With over 15 years since he started playing string instruments, he teaches, produces, and fixes instruments to request.