What’s a Setup?

AG 190 October 2008

Posted by Rick Turner

Few things make an acoustic guitarist’s day quite like playing a freshly set up guitar. Suddenly your ax feels like butter. Every string rings like a bell from the first fret up to the neck joint. And the simplest D chord sings like a symphony. You’re reminded why you fell in love with your instrument in the first place. 

Guitars are adjustable instruments, so you don’t have to put up with an instrument that buzzes or is tough to play. Adjustments can—and should—be made periodically to suit your playing style and preferred string gauge. They should also be made to address the changing nature of wood and a guitar’s reaction to string tension and climatic changes.

The definition of setup can encompass everything from a change of strings and action adjustment to a much more comprehensive job that corrects intonation, neck angle, saddle height, and more. If you’re comfortable changing your strings and doing other minor repairs, you can do a basic guitar setup yourself. While you may have to invest in a few simple tools, over the long haul, you can save a lot of dough doing it yourself instead of paying a luthier or guitar repair person. Better yet, you’ll understand the factors that are involved in making your guitar play and sound exactly the way you like. 

Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar magazine, October 2008

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