Why Guitars need setting up
Guitars bought new from a factory floor are only set up to average specifications and different players require varying specifications. However, a well setup guitar is far, far more enjoyable, and usually easier to play. Getting it right is often down to the taste and style of the individual player.
Whether you’re a regular player or not, your guitar will still need a regular setup because the
wood of the guitar can still be temperamental even if you don’t play it that often. Scientifically, the guitar will sound better because the perfect setup will optimise sustain and in-tonation – meaning your notes ring for longer and hit the exact pitch that you’re after.
Most all guitars will need a set up to achieve their full potential and playability for the user, this also needs to be done regularly for the following reasons:
- Guitars are made of wood and this is very sensitive to temperature and humidity causing it to move (this is why most guitars are fitted with a truss rod to correct any movement in the neck from concave to convex and flat), this can cause fret buzz and poor playability.
- When changing the guage of the strings, this can put higher or lower tension on the neck needing an adjustment of the truss rod, intonation and action height.
- Nut height may need lowering.
- Saddle height may need lowering or heightening.
- Movable saddles may need to be moved to correct intonation.
- Saddles may need to be adjusted to follow the radius of the fretboard making the guitar easier to play.
- Necks dry out with time and need oiling to prevent them cracking and making them smoother to play.
- Frets get pitted and dirty and need cleaning and polishing to make smoother bending and playing.
- Tremolo angle may need adjustment.
- Regular string breakages may be due to the nuts or saddles needed lubricating or widening and cleaning out rough edges.
- Strings need changing regularly.
Some players prefer a high action and others a low action (string height above the fretboard), some
use light, medium, heavy or hybrid guage strings, or if a player bends a lot he may need more truss rod relief on the neck.
Factors that can be adjusted in a set up to suit optimum playability are:
- Intonation at the 12th fret ( Notes in tune at 12th fret on all strings)
- Nut height
- Saddle height
- String radius set properly
- Tremolo height at the rear and tension adjustment
- Neck relief (Truss rod adjustment)
- Pickup height adjustment for optimal tone and volume
- Dry necks will need oiling
- Fret polishing
- Restringing often to maintain tone, intonation and playability
Set Ups cost:
£50 with strings provided
£40 without strings provided
As guitar strings age, tone and intonation are negatively affected by a build up of dirt, sweat, dead skin, and oils found naturally in the fingers. Strings start to sound dull, are difficult to play, harder to keep in tune and are prone to breakage.
New strings are easier to play, feel smoother on the fingers and have a brighter tone with better intonation.
Strings oxidize over time, a fairly short time.
Should I Get My Guitar Restrung?
- Is there mess under or on the strings? Do they feel rough if you slide your finger down the string?
- Is the fretboard dirty ?
- Do the strings look splotchy or discolored and dull ?
- How do the strings sound? Do they sound dull, are they hard to tune, is the intonation out ?
- Were the strings wound properly around the tuning post?
- Has it been more than 3 months since the guitar was restrung? Strings lose their tone after a few months.
See String joys post about why you need to change your strings regularly:
Restringing cost £25 including strings
Cost of Restringing – including strings, fret clean and polish and fretboard cleaning and oiling, plus the neck will be treated with lemon oil (not Maple necks), and the guitar polished free of charge if it is needed.