Taking good guitar care is very important to make your instrument look good and maintain its working condition. Just like any other machines we used in our day-to-day life. If you own a car from time to time, you take it to the mechanics for a checkup. The same applies to how often a guitar should be set.
To ensure that you maintain an excellent working condition, you need a guitar set up. How regularly you conduct a guitar setup depends on a couple of factors. They include environmental factors, temperature and humidity.
How often you play with the guitar, the brand of your guitar, and how often the strings get changed are more factors.Many guitarists who use their guitars regularly at least get guitar setup twice or thrice in a year to maintain an excellent working condition.
For those that play a few times at least once a year is advisable. For guitars that are not used, the same applies to them since they can be affected by environmental factors. If you wonder how long a guitar sets uptake, what entails a guitar set up and if you can do it by yourself, how much it costs for a guitar set up, and the importance of guitar set up.
Then we will cover this issue from a broader perspective.
A guitar setup is where step-by-step adjustments are made on a guitar to achieve a balance between the neck, nut, and saddle of a guitar. When you strike a balance with the proper adjustments, your guitars’ optimal working conditions will be achieved.
Thus, a standard setup helps maintain the condition of a guitar and improves its playability.
Importance of a guitar setup
There is a big difference between a well-maintained guitar and a guitar that lacks good maintenance.
An excellent guitar setup makes a guitar sound good, has a more excellent touch, and maintains it in an excellent working condition.
Wooden guitars are affected by environmental factors such as humidity and temperature, so a good setup is advantageous. In addition, some guitars suffer bumps and knocks, so adjustments are essential.
A good setup will reduce buzzing, and playing with them feels nice. You will not need to apply so much pressure when playing barre chords, giving the player a good time.
For an intermediate or a professional player, one will always know when the guitar is in a good state; hence they would always want to maintain that state. When the guitar becomes warped, a player would know that a proper setup is needed.
How often should a guitar be set up
A guitarist should at least be set up a guitar two times a year. For every guitar, with time, it may start changing and having minor problems, which may develop into big problems if not corrected at the right time. It may affect the enjoyment that comes when playing them.
Your guitar is an essential machine, and like all machines, it needs regular checkups, and all its parts examined well to maintain their working.
Whether you are an acoustic guitar or an electric guitar, the same principles apply. If you play it regularly twice a year, set up would be very helpful.
As the season’s change, most wooden guitars are prone to be affected by humidity and temperature; hence noting the seasons can be helpful to schedule the setups.
How long does a guitar setup take
For a professional, a setup would at least take one hour, depending on the brand of your guitar, its condition, and the span from the last setup. It sometimes depends on where you have taken your guitar for setup.
If you opt to take to large music stores or the factories, it will take some time, up to a week at most. This happens when you take your guitar to a company with an extensive customer base.
How much does a guitar setup cost
For a professional tech guy, the setup would cost approximately 50 USD. However, if your guitar has a lot of damage and requires a lot of tuning, the charges would go up, and it can cost up to 80 USD.
Smaller local companies would charge less for their services, but the cost would be a bit high for big companies. The price differs with where you want to get your services from. For example, the setup cost for acoustic guitars may be different from that of electric guitars since electric guitars have more components that need servicing than acoustic guitars.
It is important to note that if you haven’t had your guitar set up for some time by a professional, there might be more underlying problems requiring repair. Some parts may require to be replaced or fret sanding, which costs morethe more reason for a regular guitar setup.
Parts of a guitar
Any guitarist needs to know the components of a guitar and its functions. This will also enlighten you on what is done during a setup and which parts are involved.
Neck –the part of a guitar that holds the fretboard, strings, and headstock at the bottom. It is connected to the body.it is the long thin part
Fretboard – this is the place where a player places their fingers when playing. It is directly underneath the strings. It has some small metal subdivisions known as frets that run across the neck.
Headstock –this is the upper end of the guitar. Tuners and tuning pegs are located here.it marks the end of the strings in a guitar
Body –the big part of the guitar on one end, lays typically on the body when playing. In acoustic guitars, you will find them hollow on electric guitars; they can be semi-hollow and hollow.
Inlay-small decorative markings found on the fretboard. They are dots that indicate fret positions.
Tuners and turning pegs– they are located on the headstock of a guitar. They are used when tuning a guitar. Loosening some them or tightening changes the tension on the strings.
The nut– at the point where a neck joins the headstock, there is a piece of metal that runs horizontally called the nut. According to its location, we would say that it marks the end of the playable part of a string.
Bridge– it is the part that marks the end of the strings as they travel over the guitar body. It amplifies the vibrations of the string on the guitar body. During set up, its position can be changed to achieve the desired action on the guitar.
Saddles –marks the end of the playable part of the strings. It is the opposite of a nut. Its design varies on different guitars. Strings can be adjusted at this point during the guitar setup.
Soundhole– this is mainly found on acoustic guitars. It is the hole in their bodies. It helps in amplifying the sound.
What does a guitar setup entail?
We have discussed the importance of a guitar setup; the approximate cost; hence, we would find out what you are paying for. We are going to find out what a standard guitar setup entails.
For a professional guitar technician, first, they inspect the guitar’s condition and check all parts in the guitar. They will not use the parts that need repair and adjusting, and sometimes written notes might be constructive for future references. In the future, someone might choose to do the setup by themselves; hence the written notes might be very insightful.
Action and intonation
The action of a guitar means how high the strings in a guitar sit above the fretboard. A high action in a guitar happens when the gap between the strings and fretboard is significant, while low action is when the gap is smaller.
A guitar with high action will require a lot of pressure fretting, and this is a bit stressful, especially when playing barre chords. Therefore, most guitar players prefer between a low to middle action for a better experience.
The action of a guitar is adjusted by moving the metal rod inside the neck of a guitar. Changing the tension of the metal will affect the bowing of your neck. Making the best tension will give a low-string action while at the same time eliminating any string buzzing.
Intonation-this is an essential aspect of a guitar setup. This is how well a guitar sustains accurate tuning through the whole fretboard. Although perfect tuning is essential for any guitarist, it is frustrating to fall out of tune.
If a player finds himself in a situation where their guitar needs constantly tuning from time to time. They would need to get the guitar fixed. Your guitar technician will set the intonation by tuning the guitar and comparing the open string. If the guitar is far out of tune, he will fix the issue by adjusting the saddle.
Many have the impression that fretboards are flat. However, the fretboard differs from guitar to guitar. For example, Gibson and Epiphone guitars have a flat board, while fender guitars tend to have a rounded fretboard.
Therefore, it is essential to have the strings of a guitar match with its fretboards radius to achieve a uniform action, suitable intonation, and perfect harmony.
Polishing and hydrating
Many guitars are made from wood products, and they require good care to prevent them from irreversible damages. There are unique guitar cleaning products for cleaning and polishing a guitar’s body. A fretboard also requires polishing to maintain it in perfect condition.
There is an excellent relaxed feeling that comes with a nicely polished fretboard while strumming the well-adjusted strings.
With time for a regularly used guitar, grooves may start forming on the frets of your guitar. This will cause the frets to be uneven and rough hence affecting the working condition of your guitar.
This problem is corrected by filing your frets to maintain their shapes, make them leveled and uniform across the entire fretboard. A standard guitar setup might not include fret dressing, and these may result in additional costs.
How to determine if your guitar needs setup
As a guitar player, it is essential to know when your guitar needs a setup to visit a guitar technician or do the setup by yourself. We are going to discuss signs that indicate your guitar needs maintenance.
When you find that your guitar won’t stay in tune despite how many times you do the tuning. Earlier, we discussed the action of a guitar. We learned the difference between a high action and a low action, so it is significant t always check the gap between the strings and the fretboard. When you feel that your guitar is not performing as usual. When you not, your guitar has unnecessary buzzing when playing some notes and gets cut off suddenly.
How to set up a guitar on your own
A player can set up a guitar by themselves. The essential tools needed are locally available, and you can access them at a fair price. In addition, many resources can help you step by step perform a setup on your own.
It is very cost-effective comparing with the instances you would need to take it to a guitar technician.As a guitar player, it is essential to know when your guitar needs a setup to visit a guitar technician or do the setup by yourself. We are going to discuss signs that indicate your guitar needs maintenance.
When you find that your guitar won’t stay in tune despite how many times you do the tuning. Earlier, we discussed the action of a guitar. We learned the difference between a high action and a low action, so it is significant t always check the gap between the strings and the fretboard. When you feel that your guitar is not performing as usual, When you not, your guitar has unnecessary buzzing when playing some notes and gets cut off suddenly.
Ensure that you have all the tools needed for servicing
The essential tools needed are as follows: Allen keys, screwdriver, and a chromatic tuner. Ensure that your tuner is of the best quality with an accuracy of 1/10th semitone.
Most preferred are tuners with an accuracy of +2 cents. Have the best tools because even a lousy screwdriver can damage the screws, and in the future, it will be hard accessing them.
Make sure your guitar neck is straight
If your guitar neck is straight, then we can assume that the truce rod is well adjusted. For an electric guitar, not all buzzes can be heard on an amp. Hence a little buzz is not enough indicator that the truce rod needs adjustment.
Sometimes you may need to adjust the bridge or saddle. To check that your neck is straight, you need to hold two E strings down, in turn, the third and sixteenth fret, and examine the gap between the strings and the crown. If you note that your neck is bowed, you would first need to set it straight first.
Adjusting the truce rod is the next
A truce rod is a metal rod fixed into the neck of a guitar adjusting it allows curvature on the neck of a guitar altering its position and, in turn, changing its playability. First, adjusting the truce rod, you use the Allen keys and turning it either clockwise or anticlockwise. Next, turn the truce rod slowly while checking its characteristics.
Replacing the strings with new ones
After a period of using a guitar, the strings may lose their tension hence affecting your intonation. A point to note when replacing the string is to choose a good string gauge. The most preferred is between gauge 0.9-1. A lighter string will produce week tones. A stronger string of a higher gauge can also damage the neck.
The next step is checking the gap between the strings and fret
You can raise or lower the gap between the strings and the fret by adjusting the bolts at the bridge. By turning the bolt clockwise, you will lower the bridge, and by turning the bolts anticlockwise, you will raise the bridge. After adjustments, check if the frets for any buzzing. To minimize buzzing, you raise the bridge.
For this step, you will use the chromatic tuner. To check if your guitar’s intonation is good, you pull one of the strings, hold it at the 12th fret, and then pull again. Again, if it displays the correct result on the chromatic tuner, then your intonation is good.
If the intonation is sharp, you will need to adjust the bridge saddle and move it back vice versa. If your intonation is flat, you will need to move the bridge in the opposite direction. It is preferred that you make slow turns since a wrong turn can bring a huge difference. Keep turning as you check on the 12th fret as you compare with harmonic.
Repeat the process for all strings until you achieve perfect intonation
After you have set the action and intonation, you try playing the guitar. Again, you will observe the differences brought by the setup, and you will also be able to note the difference in tone production. If you make it a habit of doing the setup, it will get easier with time.
When buying a guitar, do they come set up?
Most guitars, when they come from the factory, are not set up. Unfortunately, many retailers and vendors will ignore presale maintenance. So it’s up to the buyer to follow up for a standard setup to be done straight away, or if you are a pro, you can do it by yourself.
Regardless of the model of your guitar, any working machine requires servicing from time to time. Both electric and acoustic guitars require equal care to maintain their playability and condition.
You may also be interested in reading our article on Best Acoustic Guitars Under 300 Dollars
Regular guitar setup minimizes damages on a guitar, and its performance will not be affected in the long run. Some components of a guitar are prone to change with continued use and also with environmental changes.
So for any guitarist, you should observe that your guitar gets set up twice a year. A good guitar setup produces a good performance and increases the durability of a guitar. If a person sees the need to take their cars for regular servicing, a guitar is also a machine that requires good care.