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How’s Your Setup?
Keeping The Components Of Your Guitar Playing In Balance
By John LeVan, Guitar Services Workshop
(more articles from this author)
2005-09-14
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Greetings guitar lovers! I have received some great questions lately that fall into the category of Guitar Setup. What is a setup? Why is it important? Does my guitar need a setup? Where do I go to get a setup? Never fear, all of these questions will be answered.

What is a setup?

A setup is a series of adjustments to keep all of the components of your guitar playing in balance. In other words, a setup will make you guitar play great. By adjusting the neck (trussrod), bridge, nut, pickups and intonation, your guitar can play better than it did out of the factory. See Figure 1.1


Figure 1.1 Photo by John LeVan

Why is a setup important?

Most players don’t like a factory setup, that’s because we all play differently. I have customers who have a super light playing style; as a result they can perform well with low action. If I play their guitar it rattles and buzzes, but it doesn’t when they play it. Likewise, there are a lot of heavy-handed players out there who must have higher action in order for their guitar to perform as desired. All of this is important. Knowing how to adjust the guitar to the player is the key to a great setup! I can’t stress enough how we all play differently and need our guitars adjusted to our individual playing style. This is one of the reasons why I wrote the FAQ book series for Mel Bay, In fact, I teach Guitar Setup & Repair workshops to help the guitar techs, guitar sales specialist and luthiers to better serve their customers and employers. You can learn more about my workshops at: http://www.guitarservices.com/Workshops/workshops.html.


Figure 1.2 Diagram by John LeVan

Does my guitar need a setup?

Yes! Even if you guitar is brand new, you probably need a setup. The purpose of a setup is to adjust the guitar to the player, so even a new guitar can be tweaked to play better. Each change of the seasons will affect a guitar. Wooden instruments are greatly affected by weather changes. Temperature and humidity can be helpful or damaging if not properly controlled. If you change string gauge, you need a setup. If you change the bridge, you need a setup. Why? Because every time you change a component on your guitar, you should adjust the other components accordingly. If you change string gauge, you need to adjust the trussrod, bridge, re-cut the nut and set the intonation in order to get the maximum performance from your guitar. If you keep the same string gauge, you only need to setup your guitar every season. This will keep your guitar playing easy, in tune and buzz free. See diagram 1.2, above, and figures 1.3 and 1.4, below


Figures 1.3, Photo by John LeVan


Figures 1.4 Photo by John LeVan

Where do I go to get a setup?

Find a qualified repair technician or Luthier. Make sure that they are certified and/or factory -authorized. If you go to the manufacturer’s website, they usually list authorized services centers in your area. Make sure that the technician understands your playing style. A good tech will ask about the tuning you use, pick size (if you use a pick), string gauge, strumming techniques and if you play rhythm, lead or both. Good communication is critical to good customer service. See Figure 1.5, below.


Figures 1.5, Photo by John LeVan


Figures 1.6, Photo by John LeVan

I encourage you all to check the new FAQ series, written by yours truly, on guitar care and setups. This four book series is a step-by-step guide on setting up a guitar like a pro, carving string nuts and bridge saddles, as well as other important upgrades and repairs. Of course, I have detailed instructions on how to control humidity. I even have a chapter on the top ten signs of a problematic guitar. The information in that chapter alone could save you from buying a lemon! See Figure 1.7, below


Figure 1.7 Photo by John LeVan

Each of the FAQ book is specific to the four most common types of guitars; Acoustic, Electric, Bass and Classical.

I know that you will find these books to be informative, fun and an excellent investment in you’re guitars future. To order go to www.guitarservices.com or any Mel Bay Dealer. Enjoy!

For more information and to contact the author, click on the author’s name at the top of the page.


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