What Is a Guitar Setup and When Do I Need One?

Chances are good you've heard "guitar setup" since you began playing guitar. It's frequently thrown around as common knowledge, but do you really know what a guitar setup is and why it's important?

If you know don't know what a setup is, we're here to help! We've put together a basic explanation of what a guitar setup is and when you may need to get one.

What Is a Guitar Setup?

When you hear "guitar setup," what comes to mind? Is it the way you physically set up your instrument when you're ready to play? That would make sense, but that's not what it is.

To put it basically, a guitar setup is providing your guitar with maintenance. Like your annual doctor's visit or scheduled maintenance for your car, your guitar needs maintenance too to keep it in the best shape possible.

You can do your guitar setup yourself or have it done by a professional. However, you should only do your setup yourself if you have experience doing it or know someone who knows what they're doing. Doing a guitar setup incorrectly could permanently affect your guitar in a negative way.

When you have a guitar setup done, you're making a series of adjustments to get it sounding the best that it can. Getting a setup makes your guitar play the right tones at the right places, handles at its best and reduces buzz.

Why Does Your Guitar Need One?

Most guitars are made of wood. This material gives your guitar that great sound you love, but it also changes as the temperature and humidity change. Day to day, this alters the way your guitar sounds. This change in sound is because of the changes in temperature and humidity causing the guitar to expand and contract.

The change in your guitar isn't noticeable to the eye, but it's definitely noticeable in its sound. That's why your guitar setup is so important — the setup counters these changes to get your guitar sounding its best and to keep it in the best shape for as long as possible.

When you get a guitar setup, the following work may be done:

  • An evaluation of how the guitar plays and how clean it sounds
  • Adjusting the neck, tightening or loosening the truss rod
  • Removing the strings and replacing them if needed
  • Cleaning the nut so the strings sit how they're supposed to
  • Get the right intonation by adjusting the scale lengths of the strings
  • Fine-tune the bridge's height

A professional can give you a detailed rundown of how much work needs to be done and exactly which adjustments need to be made on your guitar.

When Should You Get a Setup?

There are a number of indicators to look out for that show you may need a setup for your guitar.

If you recently purchased your guitar, you probably need a setup. Guitar manufacturers will do generic quality testing before a guitar goes out, but they likely won't be closely tested. A setup will help fine-tune your new guitar. The same principle applies if your guitar has been unplayed for a while.

If your guitar feels difficult to play, it might not be you. A setup will help give your guitar the adjustments it needs to best fit your playing style and needs. A factory-standard guitar won't fit everyone perfectly — the setup can help customize your guitar for you.

Do you feel like your guitar always seems out of tune, even after you've tuned it? If so, a setup will get your guitar back in pitch.

If you're hearing your guitar buzz a lot while you're playing, you'll need a setup. But if you're just learning to play, it may not mean you need a setup. Beginners will hear this buzzing a lot until they improve their skills. If you continue to hear a lot of buzzing, you should get a setup.

Even if you're not experiencing any of these issues, you should get a guitar setup every six months or so, depending on how often you're playing, to keep your instrument in the best shape possible.

If you're looking for a professional who you can trust to give your guitar a setup, we've got you covered. Our setup and repair services will get your guitar back to sounding its best.

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