How to Make Sure Your Guitar Is Setup
Taking care of your equipment is essential.
Guest post by Glen Parry
Whether it’s your car, PC, or your guitar, in order for it to work properly and as for long as possible, you need to make sure that everything’s in order. Sure, you could take your guitar to a professional and have them do it for you, but why not learn to do it yourself? Not only will you save money and time, but you will also learn a thing or two about your instrument. Here are some quick and straightforward tips that will make setting up your guitar a piece of cake!
Remember those small Allen keys and/or screwdrivers that came with your guitar? Well, it’s time for you to look for them. If for some reason, you’ve managed to misplace them, it’s fine. There is a good chance you’ll already have most of the tools you’ll need. If not, a quick trip to the hardware store and you’ll be ready to go.
A word of caution:
DO NOT use tools that are too small. This is the easiest way to damage your guitar.
Here’s a list of all the things you will need:
While setting up the neck of your guitar may seem like an intimidating task, it’s actually fairly simple.
To start, take a close look at the neck. You can do this in a few different ways. I like to sight my guitar by holding it up and using the body of the guitar as a reference frame. Does it look straight? Is the back bowed in any way? Are the strings touching the frets in the middle? Or maybe they’re touching the frets everywhere but the middle?
If you can see that the neck isn’t straight, you need to adjust the truss rod. The truss rod is a long metal rod that goes through the whole length of your guitar’s neck. You can usually access the truss rod on the top of your neck, at the point where it meets the head with the tuning mechanism. However, there are few different designs out there. A quick look-up of your specific model may sometimes be required.
If you are looking to make micro adjustment, you’re going to need an action gauge. Follow this guide here. The access point at the top of the neck is usually covered by a piece of plastic, so move that out of the way. Now, take the matching Allen key, and insert it.
• If the neck bows away from the strings, you need to tighten the truss rod
• If it bows towards the strings, you need to loosen the truss rod
Every time you turn the Allen key, do it a step at a time. Don’t turn it in full circles, as you will overdo it. Continue to make gradual adjustments until your neck is brought back into alignment. If it doesn’t turn smoothly – stop! Never force a truss rod. This is usually a symptom of a larger problem. Don’t worry too much if the neck wasn’t straight. This tends to happen over time, due to the differences in temperature, humidity, and general use. Just make sure that you check if the neck is straight from time to time. Your guitar will thank you!
If you had fret buzz before you adjusted the neck on your guitar, chances are that it’s still present. If that’s the case, you need to follow a couple of extra steps in order to get rid of it.
First of all, tune your guitar. It should be a tuning that you’re most commonly using, or just the standard E tuning if you’re just a beginner.
This is a good time to change your strings is you haven’t done so in a while. Just note that you will have to check if your neck is straight again, after you’ve put on the new strings. Once you’ve removed the old strings, use a soft cloth to clean the residue off the neck. Make sure you get all of it, especially next to the frets!
Okay, now you need to measure the gap between the 12th fret and all of the strings. You can use a ruler, or an action gauge. It should be around 1.5mm or 0.05 inches. If the strings are further from the fret than this, you need to lower the bridge, and if they’re closer to the fret, you need to raise the gap.
Adjusting the height of the bridge, or the action of the strings, is done by adjusting the screws on the bridge. Depending on the design of your guitar, it’s either done for the whole bridge using 2 screws, or for each string separately. Set the strings to the recommended height, and play each string on each fret. If the buzz is persistent, make minor adjustments to the height of the bridge until it’s gone.
The neck is straight, and there is no more buzz! Now, it’s time to set the correct intonation. Once again, tune your guitar as precise as possible. Pluck one string, and see if the tuning is on point. Now press the 12th fret and pluck it again. Is the tuner showing the same thing, or is it sharp or flat?
• If the note is sharp, you need to move the bridge saddle back towards the tailpiece.
• On the other hand, if it’s flat, move the bridge saddle towards the pickups
Similar to setting the action of the strings, different guitars have differently designed bridge saddles. You need to look for a screw that’s used for the lateral movement of the saddle and turn it accordingly. Repeat this for each string, and you’re good to go!
Due to the vibrations you make when playing your guitar, screws, nuts, and bolts move. You need to make sure that everything is securely in place. This covers the screws that hold your strap, the tuning mechanism, and probably most importantly, the screws that keep the input in place.
Oh, and don’t forget to keep your guitar clean! Dust, dead skin cells, the oil, and grease from your fingers make your guitar sticky, dirty, and downright less responsive. A soft cloth and guitar specific cleaning products is the best way to go. DO NOT use common household cleaning products. These are usually far too harsh for the tonewood on your guitar.
Well, that pretty much covers the basics of setting up your guitar. I hope that you found this article informative and that you’ve learned something new about your favorite instrument. Thank you for reading; if you’ve found this useful we’d appreciate a share on social media!
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