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Guitar Set-up - Intonation

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Eminent Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 9
Topic starter  

Hi all, A few quick questions about the need for guitar setup. I have 3 guitars that I've never setup either myself or professionally. Two have come in the mail, and one was of the wall from Guitar Center. I tune them up before I play and they seem to stay pretty much in tune between tunings. My question is, how do you know if they need set-up, and Is it something a fairly mechanical minded person can accomplish, or do I need a Luthier to perform it. If a Luthier is required, could I get a ballpark figure on set-up cost? And does anyone know of a decent Luthier in the Milwaukee, WI metro area? Thanks in Advance.


Gibson Ls Paul Studio (Black)
Gibson Flying V (Faded Cherry)
B.C. Rich Warlock (Green Tribal)
PRS Paul Allender SE (Purple Sunburst, Bat inlays)
Dean V Acoustic

Peavey VK 100 Head
Peavey Half Stack

Digitech DeathMetal Pedal
Boss Multi-Effect Pedal

Illustrious Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5038

set-up is required when

a guitar suffers from one or more playability issues: action too high/low, sharp or rough frets, strings pop out of bridge or nut, fretting out in bends, improper neck relief (curve), uneven or overall fret wear ...


there is something amiss in sound/timbre: note (actually fret) buzzing, intonation is off (this not tuning, but relative errors in notes on different frets, usually bridge adjustment and sometimes nut), abnormally high or low electric volume (pup height), pups need level (un)balancing, abnormally little sustain,


for player preferences, i.e., player would simply like to guitar change to be more comfortable or adapted to his/her playing style: raised/lowered action, setup for slide, change of string gauges (nut and bridge adjustments), trem setup, trem (un)blocking

if your guitar feel good to you, sounds good to you and plays in tune up/down the fretboard, then it's unlikely to require a setup.

-=tension & release=-

Noble Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 1167

a good, complete setup costs in the $50-80 range. A basic one would cost in the $20-40 range.

It would be a great idea for you to learn to do it yourself. It's very easy. However for me I find that electric setups are easy to do, whereas I can't do an acoustic setup to save my life.

I believe Greybeard's profile has a website on setup specs. Very handy.

btw Stewmac is selling setup kits now for about $80. I want one.

Active Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 4

I strongly recommend picking up a copy of the Guitar Player Repair Guide by Dan Erlewine. Having paid good money for setups that I felt were of poor quality, I decided to learn how to do it for myself, and Dan's book has paid for itself a few times over since getting it. I'm now quite comfortable with replacing pickups, setting intonation, adding neck shims and so on.

Really, unless there's any significant structural damage to your instrument or the work requires special tools and equipment and/or could cause irreparable damage if done wrong, general maintenance is pretty easy once you get over the initial fear. That said, if you have an old beater lying around (or can get one for cheap), it's worth practising on that before you get started on anything you'd cry over.

Good luck with it.

My Last.FM | My guitar blog

Illustrious Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5038

I strongly recommend picking up a copy of the Guitar Player Repair Guide by Dan Erlewine.

+1 I should have mentioned this.

-=tension & release=-