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A note to all the beginners and struggling beginners...


(@lue42)
Reputable Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 356
Topic starter  

A little story for you all...

I began playing about 2 years ago.

I have (I know, it's crazy) 5 guitars, and during the two years have owned 4 others (I like buying deals and flipping them for a profit).

I have spent a lot of secondary money during that time... books, accessories, lessons, etc.

Recently, a guitar playing friend commented to me that my "main" guitars action was a little high. On his advice, I took the guitar to a local luthier to have it professionally set up. But, mainly... I went in wanting to know if it needed the setup in the first place... I needed a professionals opinion.

As it turns out... the action was high. Very high. It ended up costing $125. That included strings, string change, nut replacement (a previous owner filed it down too much and it was way too low), major saddle adjustment, neck adjustment, total cleaning (fretboard/bridge de-greasing and oiling, fret polishing, tax.

All I can say is that in my 2 years, it is the best money I have ever spent on my guitar playing quest.

Since getting it back, I have been playing songs that I haven't been able to play properly, songs that I could play I can play much better. My fingers hurt a lot less and overall the experience is much more enjoyable.

There are many analogies in life where you go to an expert for advice and repair because you know nothing about it (car, plumbing, electrician, etc.) This applies totally to guitar - especially when you are a beginner. You don't know what a good guitar is supposed to feel like and you could be making your life a lot more difficult if you are trying to learn on an improperly setup guitar.

Trust me, find a good, honest tech and find out if your guitar is setup correctly, and if not, get it fixed... you will not believe the difference

My Fingerstyle Guitar Blog:
http://fsguitar.wordpress.com

My Guitars
Ibanez Artwood AWS1000ECE-NT
Schecter S-1 30th Anniversary Edition
Ovation CS257
LaPatrie Etude
Washburn Rover RO10


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(@joehempel)
Noble Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 2418
 

Yep, couldn't agree more....I take my guitars in twice a year to get setup and maintenance done on them.

It works wonders!!

In Space, no one can hear me sing!


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 Ande
(@ande)
Honorable Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 659
 

I live in different parts of the world than y'all, so my experiences may be very different:

I agree that having a properly set up guitar is essential, and makes it much easier on beginners.

I would rather eat bugs, really horrible nasty ones, that allow anyone, regardless how professional, to set up any of my guitars.

I've bought guitars, allegedly set up in the shop, and found that they needed hours of my time to set up before being as playable as they can be. I never considered taking them back to the shop- the guy there will never take the time and care that I will.

I don't know why, but I've had bad luck with the pros- the few times any guitar I own has been in the shop, they come back short-cutted- set up by someone who didn't take that time, didn't know how I like to play, and didn't care as much as I do about how it finishes up feeling. Just folks who wanted my passing trade, don't really care about what kind of instrument they are putting together.

My advice is, unless you have a pro in your neighborhood who real players you know really trust, learn to do your own setups.

Truss rods aren't rocket science.

Anybody with steady hands and a few simple tools can lower a nut or saddle, or replace one.

Don't get me wrong- I agree with the OP. A properly set up guitar is practically miraculous, compared to one that is badly set up. Too many newbies give up because they can't play things, when really the action was so high on their guitars that SRV would've sounded like an amateur.

But for me, the secret has been in learning how the adjustments work, learning how to make them, how to measure them, and doing them, slowly and experimentally, by myself.

If you're in my neighborhood, and need a hand setting up a guitar, I'll show you how! But if you touch the truss rod on my axe, I'll kill you.

Best,
Ande


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(@lue42)
Reputable Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 356
Topic starter  

I understand your concern about people messing with your guitars. I didn't want to bring mine to the neighborhood guitar store tech because of those reasons... I brought mine to a local, well known and respected luthier based on two personal recommendations.

One of the problems with learning to do your own setups is that a beginner probably would not know what a properly setup guitar is supposed to sound and feel like - at least that is the case with me.

I read a lot about setting up guitars... it really doesn't sound too complicated and I am a hands on type of guy so I wouldn't be scared of doing it. And, I probably will from now on. I now have a good point of reference on what my guitar(s) are really supposed to feel like when set up.

For anyone in the Southern Ontario, Canada (London/St. Thomas) area... I highly recommend going to the guy I went to.
Here is his website... worth checking out anyway to see his beautiful hand made guitars:
http://www.lacroixguitars.ca

My Fingerstyle Guitar Blog:
http://fsguitar.wordpress.com

My Guitars
Ibanez Artwood AWS1000ECE-NT
Schecter S-1 30th Anniversary Edition
Ovation CS257
LaPatrie Etude
Washburn Rover RO10


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(@rparker)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 5492
 

I've stood on the guitar set-up soapbox many times. I normally do mine in mid autumn after the weather breaks and then again late Spring as the weather breaks. I think it's the humidity changes.

I set them up myself and do get a sense for when they're needing some attention, and make a mental plan to do the set-up during the next string change. I just don't do it right before the summer -> Autumn change, not the Spring to Summer change. I did that once on a SG and was fiddling with that thing for what seemed like a solid month. If the seasons are changing too far out, I'll do it rather than wait. I don't gig, and I certainly have enough toys where I can play any number of guitars, so no biggie waiting a few weeks.

My PRS SE has supremo action normally, but I just noticed a touch high the other day down around the 12th - 15th fret area. I won't mess with it until after the humidity changes. Another few weeks. Otherwise I'd have to do it twice.

Roy
"I wonder if a composer ever intentionally composed a piece that was physically impossible to play and stuck it away to be found years later after his death, knowing it would forever drive perfectionist musicians crazy." - George Carlin


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(@moonrider)
Noble Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 1309
 

I think this thread should be a sticky. LOTS of good info here . . .

Playing guitar and never playing for others is like studying medicine and never working in a clinic.

Moondawgs on Reverbnation


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(@apache)
Reputable Member
Joined: 12 years ago
Posts: 301
 

I'm really lucky that my teacher is also a guitar tech, he spent ages sorting out the set up of my new ESP so it sounded amazing.


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 cnev
(@cnev)
Famed Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 4478
 

Then there are people like me. Never had it set up and never did it myself. Change strings and tune them to pitch is about it.

Both of my main guitars seem fine although there is a slight buzz on one string of the Epi LP but you can' hear it when playing so I don't bother.

The action is fairly low and I've never had an issue with playability so I've never messed around with it.

I agree with Ande that in alot of cases you are probably better off adjusting yourself rather than trust it to some guitar tech that couldn't give a damn, but if you find someone that comes recommended than I would bring it to them. I definitely don't have the time or desire to do it myself. (Technically it isn't very difficult)

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


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(@imalone)
Reputable Member
Joined: 12 years ago
Posts: 267
 

Are the people saying setups are easy talking about electric or acoustic guitars or both?

I ask because the electric looks far easier to make bridge adjustments too, all I think I'd be able to (semi-)confidently do to an acoustic is adjust the truss rod. Having spent a few months learning with the acoustic I finally found the time to take it along and get it set up by a luthier (which in my case was incredibly cheap) and the improvement in playability is amazing. I wouldn't have been able to do it myself, at least partly because I wouldn't have known what to aim for.


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(@rparker)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 5492
 

Funny this topic would pop up. The hot, humid Summer air has left and the cool dryness of autumn has set in. For me, that means one thing. 11 guitars, all going sharp for a month. Even got one buzzin' already. Same thing, twice a year. They'll all get string changes, measured up and adjusted as needed. Well, string changes maybe more often, but every Summer -> Autumn and then again sometime in the Spring. Humidity changes, temp changes, etc.

Roy
"I wonder if a composer ever intentionally composed a piece that was physically impossible to play and stuck it away to be found years later after his death, knowing it would forever drive perfectionist musicians crazy." - George Carlin


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