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Setting Up Your Guitar

If your guitar seems to have lost its magic touch, perhaps it's time to consider giving it a setup.


What exactly is a setup?


A setup entails a sequence of adjustments performed on a musical instrument to ensure that it performs at its finest. It revolves around three pivotal aspects that influence its playability: action, intonation, and string buzz.


The primary modifications executed during a setup involve changing the strings, tweaking the truss rod, refining nut slots, adjusting intonation, and raising or lowering string height as required.


Here are a few common reasons musicians often express their desire for a setup, especially if your guitar:

1. Has Been Neglected and Gathered Dust: Life often denies us the time to engage with our guitars. Furthermore, if the instrument proves difficult to play, it's less likely to be picked up. If your guitar has been idle for a stretch, a setup could reignite your passion for playing.

2. High String Action: Frequently, when inquiring about guitars, the question arises, "How's the action?" This query hints at the guitar's setup quality. In particular, "action" pertains to the proximity of the strings to the fingerboard. Many players are unaware that this aspect can be adjusted on most guitars. An adept setup can often rectify this issue, granted there are no underlying mechanical problems. If uncertain, it's advisable to consider a setup.

3. Emits Buzzing Sounds on Certain Frets: The most common request we encounter is, "Low action without any buzz, please." A considerable number of players seek low action due to its generally easier playability. However, excessively low action might result in fretboard buzzing.


This is often attributed to an excessive or insufficient curve in the neck or excessively low string height. Although setups can mitigate most unwanted noise, certain buzz issues might be caused by other factors. In such cases, seeking professional assessment for your guitar is a logical starting point.

4. Undergoes String Gauge/Tension Changes: Guitars exhibit resilience, yet they are also sensitive to change. Shifting string gauges, or thicknesses, might necessitate a setup to accommodate the varying tension levels on the guitar.


For instance, transitioning from standard 10-gauge strings to heavier 11-gauge strings adds around 15 pounds of tension, impacting the instrument's structural integrity. The same logic applies to using lighter strings.


Even a minor alteration like shifting from 10s to 9s can affect your guitar's playability and necessitate fine adjustments to its setup. If you are considering using your guitar for drop tuning you may need to have your guitar setup to accomodate this.

How often should you schedule a setup?

The most opportune time for a setup is when your guitar deviates from the feel and performance you desire. While you can arrange for setups multiple times a year as required, for most players, a biannual schedule, or one aligned with the changing seasons, is recommended.


This season-based approach is ideal, as weather fluctuations have a profound effect on a guitar's playability. The wood responds to environmental changes by contracting or expanding, often warranting some adjustment.


For those who frequently perform or record and need their instruments in top shape consistently, more frequent setups might be prudent. However, for the majority, a schedule of every six months or with each seasonal transition should suffice.

A setup serves as preventive maintenance, guaranteeing that your guitar performs at its best for you. Even if your guitar appears to be functioning acceptably, a slight tweak might enhance its performance and cater to your preferences. If you remain uncertain about opting for a setup, feel free to consult one of our technicians. They are happy to assess your guitar and establish if a setup is the way to go.

At Twang Guitars a basic guitar setup is £35.00 (£56.95 with new strings fitted) which includes an overall inspection, tuning, intonation and detailing. It often includes adjusting truss rod (neck), pickup heights/angles, string action, string radius, saddle heights, bridge angle (floating trems), and tightening loose jacks, knobs, tuners, etc.


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