Setting Up The Guitar

The idea of this part of this web page is to help the individual guitarist in “setting up” his or her guitar.  This information is geared at the general guitar enthusiast and not necessarily those just interested in building.   By “setting up”, we mean making the instrument play in tune and with ease of effort.  Ease of effort, or making the guitar easy to play, is often referred to as “action”.  So from here on, when you see a reference to the “action”, we are talking about the playability of the instrument.

Here is some general information about the guitar:
T. L. C.

To stay focused on the setup, we will not get involved in matters such as fixing a broken nut, or filing frets, and so on. We will refer you to your local qualified repairperson when we feel the repair is beyond the scope of this discussion. Now, assuming all your equipment is usable, we will explain how to put it in top working order.

Take a few moments and leaf through the rest of this information to get a feel for how this procedure flows. Approach each part of the setup in the order presented. This is the best way to complete your setup without having to go back and redo procedures. Take your time and work carefully.

1) Remember… IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT!!! It’s no fun to start turning nuts and bolts only to find out that you were better off the way it was. Make sure you need to make these adjustments before you go experimenting.
2) Be patient, take your time and work at a pace that is un-rushed. Once you start the set-up, allow yourself plenty of time to complete the procedures.
3) Know what you are going to do and why. Think through the process. Once you decide that you do need to make some setup changes in your instrument, remember that you can always undo what you have just done. So don’t be afraid to learn how and when to make these adjustments.
4) Find an adequate, clean, quiet, work space.

A word about tools…
If you have just purchased your instrument new from a store, then it should have all the necessary tools with it for making these adjustments. These tools generally consist of some type of wrench for adjusting the truss rod, the rod that runs through the neck. With instruments that have adjustable bridges or adjustable neck sets (generally electrics), wrenches for making these adjustments should also be included.

If you find them missing, go back and ask the dealer if they have them. (NOTE: Not all new instruments are shipped with these tools.) If your instrument is used, it may have long since lost its tools. In this case, take the guitar to your local music store to see if they have replacements or find what you need at the hardware store.

Besides these, you will probably need to purchase a medium to small phillips and/or flat head screw driver and some medium grit and fine sand paper. For some adjustments, you may need special files or other tools. We will address these as we talk about each adjustment.  “0000” (x-tra fine) steel wool is good for buffing/cleaning the frets and fingerboard.

So let’s get started…..  Click on the topic, from the drop down menus above, that you think needs attention or for the complete set-up, start at the first drop down and read through the whole procedure …  !