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Guitar Setups

//Guitar Setups

Guitar Setups

Haywire Custom Guitars – We offer set-ups to your specs!

A Few Words About Guitar Setups……

image Double cutaway guitar from Haywire Custom Guitars showing guitar setups

When is it necessary to “set up” a guitar?

When a guitar is set up properly you’ll notice: The guitar will feel and sound its best all the strings will sound with exactly the notes they are supposed to. All notes will sound correct when played at each fret up and down the neck. Good guitar setups will make it easy to play. Strings will break less frequently. If a guitar plays easily and sounds its best then it’s easy for the player to feel the music and play well.

What difference do guitar setups make? 

When a guitar is not set up properly you’ll notice: The guitar may not feel or sound quite right. Some notes may sound correct while some others may sound sharp or flat. The guitar may be difficult to play. Strings will break more often.


How is a set up accomplished?

Adjusting action at the bridge:

Adjusting the action at the bridge for easier play makes a difference.  The bridge saddles should be lowered if the string action is too high, that is, the strings are too far up off the fretboard. In some cases it may be desirable to raise the saddles for a higher string action.

Lower the saddles too much and the strings might rattle against certain frets (this may or may not be inconsequential on an electric guitar; listen through an amplifier). In more extreme cases, pressing a string against one fret might actually fret the string against a different fret, usually the one under the intended one. In both cases, filing the frets might alleviate the problem if the saddle really should be that low. Otherwise, simply raising the saddle a small amount on the side with the problem should be fine.

Filing frets

Filing frets should only be done by a qualified repair person and only to correct problems with frets buzzing or strings being pressed at the wrong fret (see “adjusting action at the bridge” above).

Filing the nut

Filing the nut should only be done by a qualified repair person and is used to reduce pressure at the nut to allow a heavier gauge of strings to be used.

Neck/truss rod adjustment

This particular adjustment has been known to ruin guitars when performed incorrectly, so here referral to a professional repair person is highly recommended. A guitar will need a truss rod adjustment if the neck is not straight. One way to check the straightness of the neck is to play 12th and 19th harmonics on the low and high strings. After sounding each harmonic, fret the note there and play it again: it should be exactly the same pitch. If it is not, the neck may be in need of adjustment. However, this may be indicative of an intonation problem as well, give the guitar to a repair person.

Adjusting intonation

You may notice each string on the bridge sits in a “saddle”. Depending on your setup, you might notice the saddles may be in different positions: some might be pushed forward and others might be pushed back, sometimes slightly. The positioning of the saddle effectively changes the length of the vibrating string. Tune the guitar to concert pitch with the aid of an electronic tuner, making sure the open strings are perfectly in tune. Play the 9th and 12th fret harmonics, then play the fretted notes. If the fretted notes are sharp, the string is too short and the saddle needs to be pushed back toward the base of the bridge. If the note is flat, the string is too long and the saddle needs to be pushed up toward the nut. Repeat this procedure for each string. Adjusting the intonation should be done every few months or at least twice a year to maintain guitar setups.

By | 2024-04-27T09:12:23-04:00 April 27th, 2024|Guitar Education|0 Comments

About the Author:

Mr. Rick Mariner Owner and Founder and CEO of Haywire Custom Guitars Inc. He is a member of The Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans (A.S.I.A.) as well as a guitar player. Rick holds a bachelors degree from University of Md. and a Masters degree from George Washington University. Rick developed his exclusive 8 – Point “Gig- Ready” guitar process that allows for Custom Guitars that are “GIG-READY”. With Rick’s many years of development and guitar set-up experience, Haywire Guitar shop “Builds satisfied players… one Haywire guitar at a time”.

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