To keep it in a language that is easy to understand, it is a rare thing to find me handling a guitar, which plays well and does not need any adjustments or setup guitar action by guitar maker. The use of the word setup or adjustment refers to the string’s height over the fretboard, regardless of whether the guitar’s neck is straight or has the perfect bow or relief to it, how the guitar’s frets are way up the intonation and neck. Is there any fret that is taller than the rest? Can you think of how this may affect your playability and tone if the frets do not reach the neck of the guitar?
To tell the truth, if you do not have experience playing a properly setup guitar, then you do not know the potential of your guitar. A guitar that has a proper set up not only plays better but will produce a good sound because of the ease in playing it. It is quite obvious that any instrument including a guitar if adjusted properly will produce better sound. Nowadays, the majority of equipment are produced in huge quantities making it hard to individually check each equipment to ensure it is worth its price.
Things You Must Know About Setting Up A Guitar
Some people buy a low-cost guitar and then give it to a genuine guitar center, which has a skilled luthier who will undertake the necessary setup guitar action and give you back a guitar that sounds and plays better compared to expensive models. Smart guitar players always set up their guitars this way. However, keep in mind that this is not meant for replacing the Zakk Wylde Custom Gibson or the Jeff Beck Custom Shop Fender guitars or Eric Clapton Stratocaster. These guitars are expensive, and the setup guitar needs to be worth it.
It is not easy to give a description of the setup guitar action procedures. For one to comprehend the services and terms involved, you should consider going to Stewart-Macdonald, Warmoth, or Guitar Players Center where you will get comprehensive setup techniques that are used as well as excellent explanations in easy to understand terms.
One easy to understand analogy I usually use is that driving a car that is un–tuned or has not been set to specifications is not an enjoyable experience and not an efficient ride. The same applies to your guitar. You will find it easier and more fun to play a properly set up guitar.
How Much Does It Cost For A Single Guitar Setup?
The majority of the setup guitar action I am aware of cost between $50 to $100 in addition to parts or strings. However, what is more, important during the setup is precision craftsmanship rather than parts. Do no go to a luthier just because of his friendly prices. You can enquire from the BBB or go around asking about the business. Ensure you choose the services of a good and experienced guitar maker. In any setup guitar action, there is more than just the price; quality also matters.
Alternatively, you can try to set up your guitar yourself. However, You will need the guitar setup tools to perform the configuration.
Steps on Adjusting the Action on an Acoustic Guitar
Adjusting the action on acoustic guitar is more than turning just the Allen wrench. There a few different ways that the action can be modified and the way that you choose depends upon what is the issue with the guitar. Mostly, the cause of the low or high action could be taken care of by merely adjusting the truss rod. As long as one hasn’t dropped the guitar or there is something significant wrong with the nut or neck, the adjustment of action is a reasonably straightforward process. But keep in mind that the action adjustments are also dependent on the hardware and the type of guitar.
There are three steps for completing the action setting on the acoustic guitar. Single issues with the action can be mostly taken care of at home, so be vigilant against the salesman at the Guitar centers. To adjust the action on acoustic guitar, you need to look for and adjust three different parts: truss rod, nut, and bridge. By adjusting only the truss rod, a guitar might play okay, but it will not play as good as when you have worked on the three areas. The adjustments should be performed in above-said order, as one adjustment will affect the other adjustments, which were to follow.
Step 1: Truss Rod Adjustment & Neck Relief
The truss rod in a guitar is a threaded, metal rod, which is inlayed inside the neck of the guitar. A truss rod provides the support to the neck and keeps it straight too. It can be loosened or tightened to flatten or straighten the neck.
At most of the times, the weak action is the result of the straightness of the guitar. Check your activity and adjust the truss rod accordingly. If by adjusting the truss rod, you can reach the action, then you can stop at this step.
To check the relief of the guitar, press the string at 1st fret, where the neck is joining the body. The guitar needs some severe adjustments if the strings are touching the middle of fingerboard. But, if the distance midway is 1/64th of an inch between the two points, then you are in luck. For someone who is a light player, less is okay! But if you are a hard player, a little more room is needed for fiery passages. Follow the manufacturer guidelines to adjust the neck, making sure also to adjust the truss rod to compensate. What this means is that loosening the truss rod a little for increasing the relief and bow in the neck or making it tight to decrease the relief and straighten the neck.
Step 2: Adjusting the Action at the Nut
After adjusting the truss rod and making sure the neck is straight, then examine the height of the strings with a ruler. Sometimes the problem is not solved by the straightening of the neck, so checking the action, which is at the nut, becomes a must. Use a feeler gauge set to measure the action at the nut. Measure the action of the nut at the 1st fret. “. 060” inches is the standard measurement of the distance between the top of 1st fret and the bottom of the string. File down the nut if the distance is more than .060 inches.
Step 3: Adjusting the Action at the Bridge
Checking and adjusting the action at the bridge is the final step in completing action adjustments on the acoustic guitar. Almost all the acoustic guitars have a single saddle, which spans the bridge. It is removable and then can be easily adjusted. This process sounds complicated, but it is a straightforward DIY repair you can do it yourself.
List of Guitar Setup Tools You Will Need
Below is a list of guitar setup tools that I have obtained over the past years. I have not given a description or shown the entire lot to you, just those that can be able to make a simple set-up kit.
Screwdrivers will come in handy when you need to adjust the screws, setting the heights of the pole-piece and for height adjustment of pick-ups. It is also impossible to make Trem adjustments without them.
2. Hex or Allen Keys
It can turn out to be your lucky day as you these can come along with the guitar you buy, and in this case keep them together with the guitar and take good care of them. Hex keys are not only cheap but are also easily obtainable.
I have put handles on two of mine. This is because they make them comfortable to use apart from making them simpler to use. The tiny one belongs to the Strat and Tele’s bridge screws while the larger one is for changing the truss rod’s Strat. Hex keys also happen to be necessary for the adjusting of the trim units that are locking- type.
3. Wire Cutters
The strings on a guitar are made using extremely hard steel, and only cutters of high quality can help you to deal with them. Inexpensive cutters often get nicks inside the blades and are ineffective almost immediately you start making use of them. There are two kinds I use. Side cutters are suitable for different jobs, but all the others are best used for ease of access around the guitar’s head.
4. Steel Rule
Regarding this tool, the best to use is one whose level is 6/4 of one inch. It might not be readily available, but that does not meet it is impossible. You require this to set up the action as well as pick-up height and so on.
5. Feeler Gauge
Of the guitar set up tools, you will need this to take measurements of the action. A set entailing both metric and imperial are handy. I think in some instances some are known as spark plug gauges.
6. Socket Wrench
Sometimes just as with my very own Les Paul, the adjustment of the truss rod is made using a socket. To be let through you require a socket to be attached to the handle of a screwdriver. If the socket happens to be a deep type of “long throw” it can help.
7. Nut Tools
If you want to cut wound strings’ nut slots, the best tool to use is the needle files while a junior hacksaw blade piece bearing a set that is knocked out will cut the plain string’s slots.
8. String Winder
This is a very useful tool! It saves time that could have been wasted winding and also comes with a bridge pin puller to be used by acoustic guitars. Get one. Do not put it off. Get one now!
9. Bridge Radius Gauge
For as long as you have known the radius that is found on your guitar’s fingerboard you can be bale to make your very own. You are going to have to compensate the fact that all the strings that are wound will have to be put somewhat higher in the middle. You require this for the Fender bridges and here every string saddle will be changed individually.
10. Neck Block
This particular one keeps the head of the guitar from the flat surface that you are using as your work surface and makes doing work on that particular end much easier. It is to protect the guitar neck from scratching during the set up with the tools.