What is a Setup?

April 7, 2013

What is a Setup?

 “remember the first step towards fixing the problem is to admit you have one”

Hello there fellow guitar junkies.

For some time now, our loving customers have asked me to do a blog, so that is what I will attempt to do (a blog, not a sermon right?). The question is, where to start? I know! I’ll start with the most common question I get asked: “What is a set up?”

To which I cordially respond “ Can you tell me your idea of what a set up is?” I ask this with all sincerity because most folks don’t really know. That is why we offer an appointment based system which allows the client to actually watch the whole process from beginning to end. So if you have an hour or so up your sleeve and don’t mind being strung out on massive quantities of caffeine, this might be right up your street.

I’ll try to lay out the basics.

A setup is:

  • Set the intonation, neck relief and action
  • Set the individual string heights both at the nut and the bridge saddle (s)
  • In some cases, frets will need to be levelled and re crowned, we call this a “fret dress
  • But there’s one overriding factor here that can’t be quantified and that is “feel” and “balance”. Feel, being how the instrument sits in your hands, how easy it is to press the strings, how comfortable the instrument is to play. And balance relates to what we hear. Is the volume even, are the low’s to high’s balanced and delivering even resonance, does the guitar give even volume and tone when being played at all positions on the fretboard.

Consider these qualities when choosing to purchase a guitar.

A good example of this is a new guitar. A new guitar is treated to a factory setup, and are always in need of finer tuning due to the minute variations in each instrument requiring different amounts of “tuning”. A good set up will remove the initial stiffness and make the guitar feel “played in”. These are qualities that can be set via factory specifications but an accurate setup done right is done by feel. Only by being aware of what the guitar is lacking, what its strong qualities are and having a knowledge of the techniques and methods used to correct or amplify them will you have a guitar playing at its optimum setup.

So if you think your guitar could use some TLC, or aren’t happy with how it feels and plays then you probably need a good setup. So come in and see us and we can put you back on the right path.


Right there, I did it!.  PS in reference to my “guitar junkie” quip.