String Change, Setup and Maintenance of Your Guitar

String Change, Setup and Maintenance of Your Guitar

Okay, we’ve all bought or traded for that new or used guitar and can’t wait to get it home and jam! Chances are we plug it in and start playing it and it just doesn’t feel as great as we thought it should. Don’t panic! It’s probably just not set up to suit your playing.

There are two ways to remedy this. You can take it to a shop and wait for them to get it done and then pay them a high price for their work…WAIT! Remember you just bought it, so who has money to pay to wait longer just to play it? Well, I’m going to walk you through how to do it yourself and save some money in the process. Plus, you will gain some skills you can use on all of your guitars.

First off, maybe the strings are too light/heavy for your preference. We start by removing the strings and cleaning the neck and frets. If your frets and neck are brand new, just skip to the 31: 00-minute mark of the video and I’ll show you how to properly replace your strings. Before you start though, you need a few things to get started. You’ll need some wire cutters, some rags and some cleaner (rubbing alcohol works well) and a string winder. While a manual winder is better than nothing, I really the *rechargeable electric ones to save time and energy. If you change your strings often or own more than one guitar, this thing shows its worth pretty quickly. Last, you need a good *electronic tuner which you will use several times in setting up your guitar.

Maybe the strings are fine, but it just doesn’t play “right” or the frets buzz. If that’s the case, you probably need a setup. My guitar is a Telecaster, but this guide should work well for almost all electric guitars. The first thing we do in our setup is brought it up to tune (40:48) and then we’re ready to adjust the truss rod (44:45).  For this, you will need a few more tools. You will need a good *capo, which you’re going to need to play with anyway. You also need a *1.5mm Allen screwdriver to adjust saddles. Finally, you need a set of *feeler gauges and a string action ruler to make all of your adjustments.

After we adjust the truss rod, we’ll tune it again and adjust our string height (47:30) using our action ruler. There is some personal preference here for your height, but Fender recommends a factory height of .060″ at the 17th fret and this is a good starting point. The most important part is to keep them all the same as you adjust across the radius of the*fretboard. Remember to re-tune your guitar after every adjustment. It’s very important to keep the correct tension on the neck at all times, otherwise ,the setup wont be correct when you bring it back to pitch.

The final step of our setup is to set the intonation. When the intonation is correct, the string will be the same key played open and at the 12th fret. This step requires the most time with a lot of adjusting and tuning, but when done correctly, it will make the difference between a good guitar and a great guitar. Ideally ,the distance between the nut and the 12th fret and the distance between the 12th fret and the saddle should be exactly the same. This makes the notes played at the higher octave at the higher frets the same pitch as the lower octaves. Tools need for this are your tuner we mentioned above and a #1 or #2 tip *phillips screwdriver.

OK, as a guitar player, I can speak firsthand that I learn better by seeing and hearing than just reading something. That being said, please take the time to watch the video for a visual of each part of the process and an explanation of all the tools and techniques involved in a professional setup you can do at home. Just be patient and take your time. Learning setup skills is just like playing a new song, the more you do it, the better you get at it.

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Steven Capes

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