What Is a Setup and Why Is It so Crucial?
Make sure you're getting the best out of your guitars.
By Mike Duffy
Although it would be great if all guitars sounded perfect and played like a dream straight from the factory floor, most guitars will require a “setup” before achieving their full potential.
But what exactly is a setup? And why is it so crucial?
In short, a guitar setup ensures that your electric, acoustic or bass is performing at peak condition, keeps little things from going out of whack and personalizes the instrument to your preferences.
Guitars are made of wood, an organic, sometimes temperamental, material. As such, temperature and humidity can affect their shape and the way they play as they expand and contract moving through different climate situations. Regular maintenance will mitigate those factors.
A simple procedure, often conducted by a technician or luthier, a setup addresses the guitar’s action and ability to be tuned properly, including:
- - Removing the strings and possibly replacing them
- - Cleaning the nut so the strings sit perfectly in their corresponding grooves
- - Adjusting the neck by tightening or loosening the truss rod
- - Pinpointing the height of the pickups
- - Fine-tuning the height of the bridge
- - Setting the intonation by shortening or lengthening the scale length of each string
Everyone has their own unique playing style and knowing exactly how you like your guitar to be set up might take some time, but a solid setup can not only breathe new life into a guitar, it will also make a new purchase or gift perform great from the first chord.