Before attempting any new tasks, it is important to make sure your tools are working properly.
For auto mechanics, car tools in good working order are essential for a successful repair job. For guitarists, a good setup makes the guitar—brand-new or used—easier to play and sound better. For brand-new guitars, many manufacturers ship the guitars with the nut and saddle higher than necessary, allowing later adjustments for different climates.
If you are unfamiliar with the names of different parts of the guitar, take a look at this article and video about the anatomy of guitar.
For used guitars, it is important to adjust it to fit your hands.
You might ask, why is it necessary to set up a guitar?
A guitar not properly set up might have a variety of problems. For example, if it’s physically difficult to play your guitar, the strings might be too high and thus need adjustment. A good setup makes the guitar easier to play and sound nicer. Moreover, with a good setup, you’ll improve faster and feel more motivated to practice.
If you have never done a setup before, you might want to bring your guitar to a professional, but this article will give you an idea of what will be adjusted. If you have seen a professional do it and want to do it by yourself this time, this article will definitely be useful. Below, we will explain what a guitar setup is and what are adjusted during a setup.
What is a guitar setup?
A guitar setup adjusts two things: the string action and the intonation. The string action—the distance between the strings and the fretboard—affects how well your guitar plays and its sound. When the strings are too high, there is extra buzzing. They should be low enough, so playing is easy rather than awkward or even painful. The intonation—the accuracy of the pitch—is adjusted from the saddle, so the strings are in tune with themselves.
What are adjusted: nut, truss rod, and saddle?
The slots in the nut are often not deep enough. A nut file can be used to file the slots, making the first few frets much easier to play. The truss rod controls how straight the neck is by counteracting the tension the strings put on the neck. It can be accessed either at the headstock or inside the body of the guitar through the sound hole. Finally, the saddle controls the intonation and the string action. It can be taken out and sanded down by a sand paper.
I hope this article gives you a good idea of the need for a guitar setup and what is involved in the process.
Watch our video on guitar setup here, in which our guitar instructor explains the topic and shows you some parts of his guitar setup.
To see the full lesson, on which this article is based, please go to the course page.