Your New Electric Guitar Setup: Tips and Advice
A blog listing important tips to consider when setting up an electric guitar. In short, it’s a guide to getting the best possible sound output from an electric guitar.
So you’ve just bought a new guitar, have had it for a couple of weeks and are now starting to find that playing it is becoming more and more frustrating? Here’s some bad news: your new guitar needs setting up!
You see, when you buy an instrument “off the shelf”, no matter how carefully the manufacturer has stuck to their specifications, there will always be some kind of compromise. It’s not possible to mass-produce instruments with perfectly consistent necks and action (the distance of the strings above the fretboard).
The best thing you can do is get a reputable guitar shop (like us) to set your new guitar up properly for you. However, if you fancy having a go yourself, here’s some things to consider…
You’ve got your new electric guitar, but it’s not set up the way you want it yet. It’s time for a setup.
We’ll list some important tips to consider when setting up an electric guitar. In short, it’s a guide to getting the best possible sound output from an electric guitar.
You may already know that your electric guitar has a bolt-on neck and is made of woods such as maple, rosewood or mahogany. But how are those woods affecting the sound of your instrument?
Alder and ash are popular choice for body woods, but what about tonewoods? What are tone woods? We’ll explain.
Guitar makers use words like “bright” or “dark” to describe what they hear when they play different woods, but these words don’t tell us much about why we might prefer one wood over another.
When you buy a new electric guitar, you’re probably going to notice that the strings are higher off of the fretboard than they were on your friend’s guitar or what you have seen in the store. This is common for many electric guitars because most of them are shipped out of the factory with fairly high action.
High action means that it will be harder to press down on the strings and make it more difficult to play clean notes. Luckily, getting a better setup for your guitar is easy if you have some patience and can follow basic instructions.
A setup is just an adjustment made to the neck of your guitar in order to achieve optimal playability, intonation (tuning across all frets) and tone. The cost of a setup varies from shop to shop but usually costs between $40 and $100 USD. In order to get a proper setup, it’s important that you take your electric guitar into a music shop and ask them to do it so that it gets done right.
If you want to save money by doing it yourself, I’ve provided eight easy steps below which outline how you should go about setting up an electric guitar using my own experience as an example.
It’s often said that an electric guitar’s setup is critical to how it plays and sounds. While this is very true, many folks neglect some important initial steps before their axe is dialed in and ready to rock. This article details those important first steps, which are directly related to the functionality of your instrument.
It’s important to setup an electric guitar with low action. This reduces fret buzz, improves intonation and makes it easier to play.
Adjusting the action too high means you’ll struggle to fret notes cleanly, which will lead to sloppy playing. If the action is too low, you’ll likely find that the strings will buzz on frets as you play. Having a good setup will make your guitar sound better than it did before.
String height at the nut. You want around 1/16″ (1.5mm) or a hair less, but no higher than 1/8″ (3mm). It should be possible to get a clear tone when you play an open string and then gently touch the first fret.
In this position, you should be able to keep all six strings ringing clearly with no buzzing or deadening of sound when you press the strings down just behind each fret at the headstock end of the fingerboard. If some notes are deadened when pressed onto a particular fret, that means that particular fret is too low; if they’re all deadened, then the action is too high at that end of the fingerboard.
Action at the 12th fret – this should be around 1/8″ (3mm
If you’re thinking about buying an electric guitar, it’s absolutely critical that you set it up correctly for your personal preferences (and what feels good to you) before you start playing. If not, it’s likely that the guitar will play and sound terrible.
The most important thing is to have the proper string height at the nut and saddle; these are the two points where strings touch the guitar.
1. Check your guitar’s intonation.
2. Adjust your guitar’s string height.
3. Style is not a factor when it comes to purchasing a guitar!
4. Your guitar is not the only factor that determines sound quality; you also need to consider your amp and pedals!
5. Don’t be afraid to try out different amps!
6. Don’t be afraid to try out different pedals!
7. What kind of strings should you use?
8. Should you use a pick or pick with your fingers?
9. Should you purchase an acoustic-electric or electric?