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Guitar Player Setup and String Action Tips

Jun 29, 2008
It is a real puzzle to me, why are new guitars so poorly setup from the factory? Unless it came out of the Custom Shop for lots of money, most guitars don't even seem to be checked out before they leave the factory. God forbid the music store selling it checked it out before you got it!

To put it in simple terms, rarely have I handled a guitar that played well and was not properly adjusted by a guitar maker or luthier. When I use terms such as adjustment, I am referring to the height of the strings over the fretbaord, whether the neck is truly straight or does it have the correct relief or bow to it, how level the frets are all the way up the neck and intonation. Is one fret a bit taller than the others? Can you imagine what that does to your tone and playability if the frets are not level all the way up the neck?

Realistically speaking, if you have not played a properly set-up guitar, then you probably have no idea how much potential your guitar has. Meaning that it will sound better, but more importantly, it sounds better because it is easier to play. Obviously a guitar or any instrument will sound better if it is adjusted to factory specs. Since most things are mass produced nowadays, a lot less effort is put into the time consuming part of checking each instrument individually in order to make sure it is on the money.

Some folks actually buy a less expensive guitar, take it to a reputable guitar center that has a competent luthier and bring home a guitar that actually plays and sounds better than a more expensive model. A smart player always has a guitar setup that way. Mind you, it is not a replacement for a Jeff Beck Custom Shop Fender guitar or a Zakk Wylde Custom Gibson guitar, or maybe the most versatile guitar ever, the Eric Clapton Stratocaster. Again, these are really expensive guitars and one should expect it to be setup right on the money.

Describing the detailed procedures of a setup is not easy. To understand the terms and services involved one might go to Guitar Players Center, Stewart-Macdonald or Warmoth for in-depth setup techniques used and excellent explanations, in terms we all understand.

An analogy I use that everyone seems to understand is that an un-tuned (not set to specs) car is not fun to drive or very efficient, and it is the same with your guitar. It is more fun and easier to play your guitar when it is setup properly.

Most of the setups that I am familiar with cost about $50.00 to $100.00 plus parts. Parts meaning strings generally. Most of the time it is precision craftsmanship needed, not parts. And don't forget, never choose a luthier because of his prices. Check around and ask about the business, call the BBB. Just make sure you get a good guitar maker. Price is not the only important issue, quality is.

Enjoy.
About the Author
Much more information and tips for Guitar Players and Guitar Makers at Guitar Players Center. Feel free to visit our website, ask questions, share it with others, make comments or simply enjoy.
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