How To Do Your Own Guitar Setup

How To Do Your Own Guitar Setup

One thing that most people enjoy is having solutions to their challenges. Setting up the guitar is also something that you will desire to do by yourself. The problem that most people face is lacking the eagerness to learn the setup process.

The process of setting the guitar by yourself is simple. Then, after you learn the tricks that guitars come along with, you will have your quick setup. We always aspire to make things simple.

We have done research that has resulted in our guide that will probably make work easier for you. Both beginners and experienced players will find this helpful guide suitable for use.

Why do you need to understand your instrument

Part of becoming a professional involves understanding the instrument you use. You have to get facts about how the guitar works and then understand how to fix a few issues. By doing so, you will also learn how to set the guitar to get a specific outcome.

The bad thing about guitars is that when you buy them, they are usually poorly set. You will therefore need to start by setting it up. One unfortunate thing that happens is that the players get discouraged. Most of them will end their guitar-playing career at this point.

Understanding the instrument will save a big deal because you will manage it without a hassle. You will not have a good reason to look for a professional to do the setting. You will have to set the guitar every time before you begin to use it.

Each part of the guitar comes g its complexity that you need to learn as a player. The moment you have a clue about how each part behaves, you will have an opportunity to manage it every time you need it.

What is guitar set up

Now you need to understand what exactly guitar setup is. By understanding what the guitar setup is all about, we will know what exactly we are doing and the purpose of our doings. In addition, having an overall goal in mind allows us to make the necessary adjustments to meet the primary goal.

A guitar setup involves a series of adjustments whose primary intention is to balance the components. The saddle, neck, and nut are exact components that must always balance to get the best sound quality.

There is also a sequence that you must follow during the adjustment for effectiveness. Learning how the three relate will help you know when one is not functioning as you expect, affecting the overall outcome.

These three parts are located one after the other. The neck is the part between the body and the head. A saddle is located on the guitar’s body, while the nut(s) is located on the head of the guitar. Its adjustment follows these three major areas.

Tools for guitar setup

There are tools that you need to do the guitar setup. Some are complicated, while others can even work with substitutes. However, buying quality tools is essential because you will need to do various management tasks.

A good luthier will tell you the tools that have a reputation and how they work. Then, you can choose to buy all or a few depending on your needs and budget. Some of the basic tools that work conveniently are as follows.

Guitar maintenance kit

The guitar maintenance kit is essential. It works for both electric and acoustic guitars. You will notice that the kits come at different prices, but you may need a starter kit.

You will conveniently use several tools in the starter kit for the adjustment and initial setup. In addition, some of the things you will find in the maintenance kit are string adjustment tools, screwdrivers, nut tighteners, and pliers. All these serve specific roles, and you can use them where necessary.

Straight edge

A straight edge is significant for the loosening and adjustment of the neck components. In addition, it helps you to know if it is straight or you have a back bow. Therefore, the role of a straight edge is not one that you can always ignore because it determines how effectively you will work.

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Screwdriver set

You will find the screwdrivers on the maintenance kit, but they may not work so well in some models. It is essential to have a screwdriver set because of the various screw sizes. Also, to manage the multiple fixings, you need multiple screwdrivers.

The advantage of the screwdriver set is that each screw will work with the exact screwdriver. Chances of having the screws getting damaged lower to a great degree. An alternative is to buy a single screwdriver that is compatible with a guitar you are using.


The adhesive sandpaper is not an essential tool for the guitar setup. You will, however, need it when you have to lower the saddle to the proper height. What the luthiers recommend is the 120-200 grit.

However, you may need to change if you have to take off a lot of stuff from it. If you need to have a flat surface, then you need a more effective sandpaper adhesive. A square also comes in at this point to helps you to maintain the shape of the saddle. This happens for acoustic guitars only.

Nut files

Another thing that you need to have in place is the nut file. The nut files are essential because they play a significant role in ensuring that you can link the various gauges with ease. Files also come in various sizes, as you can get those that will serve larger gauges and those that will not.

When choosing the files, you need to have a close consideration for the gauge of your strings. They work conveniently for both electric and acoustic guitars. It is essential for both electric and acoustic guitar.

Guitar tuner

Another thing you need to have is a guitar tuner. If you have to do the tuning effectively, you need to have a good tuner. Some people prefer to use the guitar tuner apps. You will also find some using the pianos and other devices to do the tuning.

The essential thing here is to ensure that you have the one thing to use for the tuning exercise. Most importantly, it should be practical and offer a reliable solution.


The capo is essential for both electric and acoustic guitars. One that is convenient and simple to use is the clamp capo. You can also get them from the various brands so long as you get good quality.

Truss-rod wrench

You also need a socket wrench as they help you to fix the hex key wrenches. They are dependent on the kind of guitar you choose to use as they are not compulsory for each guitar. You will also notice that they have a variation with the sizes that they come with.

You will therefore need to choose a size that is compatible with the tasks at hand.

Non-essential tools

These are tools that are not very important but will make the adjustment and the setup process quick. Therefore, using them will save your time and give you a different dimension for the setup activity. Some good examples of the components you need are as follows.

Notched radius gauge

The notched radius gauges are nice because they save the process of removing the strings. It acts as a substitute for the under-string radius gauge.

Neck support

The guitar neck needs support to help very much when adjusting. It helps in the elimination of the distractions that come along when you begin changing the strings.

When you use the support, you will notice that you enjoy an easy time while making the changes.

Work mat

The work mat is good because it makes your work clean. You will experience less distractions and scratches when you make good use of it. It is worth purchasing if you need to have some good care for the guitar.

How to do your guitar setup

The process of setting up the guitar by yourself is now straightforward. We have come up with several points that you will comfortably follow to manage the whole setup process.

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Adjust the truss rod

The first thing you will do is to adjust the truss rod. The older models have an adjustable truss rod that covers the area from the neck to the body hence making the strings stand straight. On the end of the truss rod, you will find either a female ora male nut.

If you pull it to the extremes, it forms a bow and remains straight when you manage it. A hex key and a screwdriver are the tools that you will need to adjust. Finally, you will tune the guitar and string it to pitch.

The next thing you do is to press the string on the first fret and the fret that joins the neck towards the body. You will notice that the string will form a straight line. If you notice a bow, you will do a slight loosening.

Using your eyes, observe that the string does not firmly lie on the fretboard and does not form a curve. After it is straight, you will adjust using the screwdriver until it firmly holds up.

Adjust the bridge height

The next thing you need to look at is the height of the bridge. Simple twisting and action of the guitar can adjust the height. Because it is a task that needs twisting the screws, you will need the screwdriver or a hex key.

After working on the trussrod, you will use the machinist rule to measure the distance between the 12th fret top and the string. You will check if the strings are low or high. Finally, some surgery will take place on the bridge and saddle.

The top 3 strings should not get below the height of 3/64ths of an inch, and the bass side should not get below 4/64ths of ich as they will be low action. You need to hear if the notes are accurate or not. You will also need to double the height so that there is adequate space.

Note the buzzing sound during the adjustment. If everything becomes clear, then you can proceed with the tightening process using the screwdriver.  You should do the process until you feel that the bridge is okay.

Work on the nut height

The truss rod and the bridge are now in order, but they will not work well until you check the nut’s height. The nuts come with a distinct character in that they come with a design that sometimes brings about cracks to the guitar. You will need nut files to do the whole process

You will need to play each of the strings open and then work on each individually.  Note any string that buzzes as it is the one you will work on.

You will use the pitch to check the accuracy of the notes. Note deepening and lightening are the activities you do here. Once you feel that the adjustment is accurate, you will tighten the nut.

Work on the electronics

The other thing that you need to work on is the electronics. Check on the switches and note if they crackle, pop, or they snap. When adjusting the volume, you will also observe the behavior of the guitar.

Remove the plastic cover and then pluck to get the exact source of the noise. You will then check if there is any dirt or traces of oxidation. You will then loosen and then tighten the strings to remove the accumulation. Spraying at this point is adequate.

Change the strings

Part of guitar maintenance and the setting is changing the strings. You will do this task frequently so long as the guitar is not working as you expect. All the adjustments we have discussed come before you change the strings.

You need a wirecutter that will help you to trim the excess string. When changing the strings, you will remove the existing ones first and then place the new ones. Now get the strings and begin to put them on the bridge.

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When aligning the strings, you will start by putting them loosely to the holders. You can then start by adjusting the last one on the bass side, then the last one. The middle one follows, then you work on the rest. After you complete, you will do a new tuning.

Check on the tuners

Most tuners have nuts that help you to adjust. Using the small screwdriver, you will loosen them and then adjust. Check below the tuner if there is any other screw and then make the adjustment again.

You can now adjust or loosen the strings to maintain the tension.  The gear-like tools are simple to operate, and you will need a tuner app to get the proper tension. Finally, you can add some oil to make the outcome stand out and sound best.

Clean the frets

After doing the process of adjustment, you have to clean up the frets. This is a stage that most people will prefer to skip, but it causes more harm. You need to have the fretboard clean so that the strings don’t pick any dirt from them.

A metal polish and paper towels are helpful for the cleaning. You will do the cleaning until the dullness goes.  Once you achieve the mission, you will need to apply some oil to the fretboard.

Lemon oil and a cotton rag make the best tools for the application of the oil. First, you will apply a small coat of oil to all the strings. It acts as a protective layer and also makes it playable.

Inspect the work you have done

After setting the guitar up and making the various adjustments, you need to do some inspection. The string tension can hide loose tuning gears hence making the functionality have a challenge. Structural problems are some of the things you will need to give a close eye on.

Some of the tools you will need are the inspection mirror, the screwdriver, and a flashlight. First, check on the neck and twist it a bit. If you see it is shaky, then you have to adjust it. Next, check on the presence of any cracks and work on them immediately.

Finally, assess the problematic parts of the guitar and rectify them immediately. When assessing acoustic guitars, you will need a flashlight and check even the body if it is in order.

Adjust the pickup height

Now you have to adjust the pickup height. After the modifications, the height may experience some effect. This is because the pickups need to get closer to the strings. At this stage, you will need a screwdriver and an amplifier to manage the sounds.

The tune is one thing you will look at when adjusting the height. You will need something such as a CD to help you to get all the notes right. The basic thing is to ensure that the sound it picks is accurate and matches the notes’ transition.

The first and the 6th strings will have the adjustment done individually, and then you play the rest. Accuracy is one thing you need to ensure you achieve.

Set the intonation

The last stage of the setup process is setting the intonation. A screwdriver and an electronic tuner are the tools you will need for the task. Play each string against the tuner to ensure that the note is accurate.

If you feel a sharp note, then adjust the saddle. Whenever you note a longer note, then adjust the saddle to shorten the length. 1/16th inch adjustment makes a very significant change. You also need to check on the guitar type, especially those that have tremolo.


You can set up the guitar by yourself so long as you are willing. Our guide is comprehensive and has all the details you need to the guitar yourself. If you are starting from scratch or it is after maintenance, the process is fast and effective.