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  1. #1

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    Do you guys set up you own guitars? If so, how did you go about learning how to do it?


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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Set up/repair DVDs from StewMac.

  4. #3

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    I do my own, and I learned by doing it. It ain't rocket science.

  5. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell
    I do my own, and I learned by doing it. It ain't rocket science.
    Same here, but there are lots of good videos on YouTube these days for reference.

  6. #5

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    Yabbut, YouTube didn't exist when I started learning. I actually learned a good bit by watching my father, back about 60 years ago. I didn't actually use it for a few years after, but I think it was better than a video. The thing about YouTube videos is that anyone with a computer, or even a phone, can post anything. Not every video ever posted can be fully trusted to be accurate in every detail.

  7. #6

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    No YouTube when I learned either. It was all trial and error for me. I wouldn’t recommend trusting any random video, but there are many done by great professional luthiers out there.

  8. #7

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    check out the old school repairman dan erlewines books

    The Guitar Player Repair Guide ...and/or.... How to Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great!: The Electric Guitar Owner's Manual





    he's affiliated with stewart /macdonald music supply...he's got many great vids up as well

    a real treasure..wish the info was in one book form when i was startin!!..tho i read dans guitar player column very early on!!

    cheers

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by ThatRhythmMan
    No YouTube when I learned either. It was all trial and error for me. I wouldn’t recommend trusting any random video, but there are many done by great professional luthiers out there.
    The hardest part is figuring out who is a professional you can trust, and who is a jackleg wannabe. There are certainly excellent videos available. I can tell pretty quickly which is which, through experience, but many newbies don't have any experience at all. I suppose as good a way as any is to view multiple videos covering the subject of interest, and using the majority opinion. Erlewine's videos are very good, and one of the best places to start.

  10. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell
    The hardest part is figuring out who is a professional you can trust, and who is a jackleg wannabe. There are certainly excellent videos available. I can tell pretty quickly which is which, through experience, but many newbies don't have any experience at all. I suppose as good a way as any is to view multiple videos covering the subject of interest, and using the majority opinion. Erlewine's videos are very good, and one of the best places to start.
    Exactly. That’s the biggest reason that I want to learn. I’m not sure if half of the guys in local music shops really know what they’re doing; I know they have a hard time finding and maintaining guitar techs. The only person I really trust my guitars with is me..

    Thanks for your help, fellas. I’ll check out books and videos that you suggested.

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  11. #10

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    There is one guy in Houston whom I would trust with anything, but I only use him for jobs that are more work than I want to do. Basic setups are easy enough, and I know more about what I like than anyone else ever will, because I can change my mind. I do not take my guitars to Guitar Center for anything, nor to anyone else for that matter. Finding a guitar repair person is as hard as finding a barber, harder in fact. With a bad haircut you know it will grow out eventually. A bad repair job does not get better with time.

  12. #11

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    Good luck!

    One thing that I have always rejected is measuring string action with feeler gauges. I have seen a lot of guys bring out the feeler gauges. Do my fingers care what numbers are on the gauges? No, they only care that the action is the way that I like it. If I can't get that action without buzzing, then I see if adjusting the truss rod helps, or if the nut slots are correct for the first position on the fingerboard. If neither of those are the fix then I move onto the frets themselves. I just don't see any use for actually measuring the action.

  13. #12

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    exactly lammie...once you get some experience..many of the "setup" tools and trinkets sold become unnecessary...with experience there's very little you can't eyeball upon picking up the guitar!..same as in any field, from cars & motorcycles to cooking

    i was gonna mention in my above post..stew/mac obviously has selling luthier tools in mind..so choose wisely

    cheers

  14. #13

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    Feeler gauges have their uses. They used to be essential for setting the gap on spark plugs and distributors. I've never actually used them for measuring the action on my guitar, but some other things sometimes need to be measured, so I still have a couple of sets in the toolbag. Measuring the action can be necessary if you're doing setup work, though. Some players specify the exact action they want, and they expect it to be set just so. They may not have any clue at all about whether that is ideal, it's probably just what they've heard some famous guitar god uses, so they want the same. So if you want to make a living doing guitar work, you have to be able to deal with that. IME, some guitars allow lower action than others. I just make sure the nut slots are the proper height (or depth, as you prefer), the neck is straight, and then adjust the bridge to give the tone I want. I start with some fret buzz, then raise the action until there is no buzz and the tone is clean. But I don't do setups for others for a living. If I did, gauges would certainly be required. And StewMac caters mostly to people who do guitar work as a business.

  15. #14

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    When I was young I was ignorant (uninformed) as hell, looking back it seems like living in the dark. There was no Internet, and Youtube. I do not mean that anyone can use any info on Internet without critique, indeed it is a skill how to find useful info, and filter out junk and noise and how to avoid stupid ignorant click baits and maintain your independent opinion in serious topics.

    However as guitar setup is not rocket science and relative an exact thing (I mean not based on beliefs), with minimal common sense you can find out. Because the topic calls for visual guides, the first place to look for is Youtube.

    Key topics: intonation, bridge, saddle, action, neck relief, truss rod, those all good search words combined with words guitar setup

    Key tools: Tuner app, screw driver, for minimalistic action measuring I use business card fitted on frets with its edge and having some level lines on it, like 1.6mm, 2mm.

    (one advice what is my own and rarely can be seen: when checking bridge intonation with a tuner, do not use exclusively the 12th fret octave, use one fret below, and one fret above too, and also check against some other frets like 7th 10th or any. Except the best instruments there could be at least +-3 cents by frets, also depends on strings, so if your 12th fret say on string G is sharp by 3 cents compared to average, and you use only that fret to for setup intonation you will end up mainly a low G string, on which some frets (what are below the average) could be low even 6 cents. In worst scenario, if the case is on some other string is the opposite, then on the "tuned" guitar there could be chords where two notes are 12 cents out of tune relative each other, which is pretty hearable).

  16. #15

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    Besides a simple setup, you have to learn to recognize when the instrument has problems, which is a common enough thing especially with archtops, acoustics, generally hollow body guitars. Stuff like a badly cut nut, unleveled or uncrowned frets, fretboard tail rise, bad neck angle, top sinking or bridge rising, wrong placement of the bridge. Otherwise you might be doing an excellent setup with poor results no matter what.

    But I agree, you do have to learn to do setups. Because there are many ways to setup a guitar, learn what you prefer, experiment.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hobbs
    Do you guys set up you own guitars? If so, how did you go about learning how to do it?

    Yes... I was fortunate that my first few guitars were cheap total junk crap, allowing me to satisfying my rather fearless curiosity with the wrench and screwdriver. I learned to understand what is going on and how the adjustments interact so they may be done in the right order. Now days it's also important I know my limits (knowledge and tools) to avoid attempting some procedures.


    Some thoughts...

    - Strings (new)
    If you have a guitar where you can take all the strings off at once without losing the bridge's position, or are just doing so anyway for cleaning or maintenance, the neck relief may change a little bit during the time the strings are off since the string tension (80-100 lbs. +) is absent. It won't move much, but it will take about the same period of time that the strings were off for it to come back to it's original shape after the strings have been put on... so if that is an hour because you were cleaning the neck, just keep in mind that action and intonation adjustments may not settle for about an hour... so if your guitar spends overnight or the weekend without strings, don't rush any adjustments after restringing. Just tune it up and let it settle back in for a day or two as needed.


    - Neck (relief)
    Adjusting the neck with the truss rod should be very infrequent. Most avoid this because it has some risk... you are supposed to recognize if it is taking too much force to rotate the truss rod, but only pros with special tools and experience (and a few guitarists with experience) seem to have a good sense of how much is not too much.

    - Bridge (action)
    Generally, the action (string heights above the frets) adjustment (adjusting saddle heights) must be done before the intonation (adjusting string lengths between the nut and the saddles) because changes in strings' heights also changes their string lengths. However, on a guitar where the bridge is held to the body by the strings (typical for jazz boxes), the correct position of the bridge must have been maintained, or marked, (or must be reestablished by an intonation in order to set the bridge position), then an action adjustment, then a final intonation adjusting the saddle positions in the bridge. The action adjustment is often done with the pickups lowered if necessary.

    - Saddles (intonation)
    The intonation is done by moving the saddles to adjust nut-to-saddle string length to match the scale length of the finger board frets (moving the saddles across the bridge) after the bridge position and saddle heights (elevation) are set. This matching is done by ensuring that the 12th fretted strings' pitches are the same as those strings' 12th fret harmonics. The strings must be retuned to standard pitch after each intonation adjustment of string length.


    - Nut (height and slots)
    Adjusting the nut is another thing that should be very infrequent. Relief, action, and intonation may need to be set to diagnose nut issues, and if the nut is altered then action and intonation adjustment may need to be repeated. It's quite a bit more involved than it looks and requires special tools and experience (the slots for the wound strings need to have flatter side walls more in the shape of a "V", but the plain strings need a more "U" shaped slot, the wound strings sit in their slots without touching the bottom, so their center longitudinal axes ride a little higher in the slots than the plains which contact the bottom of their slots, and all the slots need to have some specific conformations, one being that the front of the slot on the finger board side is narrow with the slot becoming progressively wider toward the back, another that the floor of the slot is higher at the front and rolls down toward the back of the nut, etc... unless you have cut nut slots before or have a box of them to experiment, might let a pro do it.)

    - Pickups (height)
    Pickup heights must be adjusted after string height (action) is set. Since this is a listing test and adjustment, pretty much everything will be in adjustment to check and set the pickups.


  18. #17

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    Fender website has setup instructions for their guitars.

    They're detailed and easy to follow.

    I also watched a few youtube videos, but the Fender website was the main way I learned.

  19. #18
    Awesome guys! This is excellent information!


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  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by neatomic
    check out the old school repairman dan erlewines books

    The Guitar Player Repair Guide
    This is the one that got me going on setups and simple repairs many years back... great book!

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell
    I do my own, and I learned by doing it. It ain't rocket science.
    Truer words don't exist. When I first started doing my own setups, I had the strings shockingly high and fat because I had some misguided leftover ideas from sports (play through the pain and whatnot), so I got tendonitis a couple times. Anyway, I kept at it and can do a good one now. Additionally, I've read some mags and seen some videos, plus had instruction by my tech, but above all, just do it. I know guys who say to me that their strings are too high, and I ask about the neck relief, they say they're too afraid to touch the truss rod...

  22. #21

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    One exact measurement is better than 1000 guesses. Once it gets to a certain point you need proper tools and good ones are not cheap. One can easily invest in a good sum to get things done. Unless you do it all the time my Summit fret tang nipper was $140 with additions, but it saves me a huge in long run.

    It is not like launching the space shuttle but sometimes gets frustrating. Too many things to think about.

  23. #22

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    I decided to learn how to fix my guitars when in 1998 a luthier in Savannah Ga, wrecked my 60' ES-345. This was a guy with a great reputation a a Martin repair person and one who made his own guitars and mandolins. His shop assistants decided to liberate my original pickup rings, knobs, and substitute them for new parts. The worst was the "luthier" installed Klusons on my guitar. It came with factory Grovers which over the years got replaced with Schallers. I asked him to find Grovers and replace the Schallers. Instead he drilled the headstock for Klusons and told me that Grovers were not installed in 1960. I owned the only vintage Gibson where the factory Grovers were replaced with Kluson tuners. This "work" took over 9 months to accomplish. In hindsight I wished I had just gone over and picked up my guitar before he started on it. Very bitter experience. I traded the guitar for my Guild Benedetto AA in 2001.

    After that experience, I decided to do my own work. I learned from experience putting together part-o-casters with help from the Dan Earlwine books. Buy a cheap solid body guitar and test your skills. With cheap guitars close to $100.00 one can practice without ruining their own guitar. Frankly the cheap guitars made to today are light years ahead of the cheap guitars available in the 60's and 70's.

    I now have a good friend and guitar builder close to me who I trust and I will take him the finish, wood work and difficult repairs i.e. neck resets. Today, there are so many good resources at ones fingertips, that unless you are a complete mechanical idiot I can't see why one wouldn't do their own setups and maintenance.