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What is a guitar setup? How To Guide

Let’s start our discussion addressing one of the vital questions – what is a guitar setup?  Well, a guitar setup consists of a series of adjustments done to ensure the playability of the guitar. So, do you know what steps to follow for this?  If not, then don’t get bothered at all . In today’s article, you will learn what steps you need to take to set up a guitar.

Things that are involved in guitar setup 

1) Truss Rod Adjustments

Sometimes you need to adjust the truss rod to relieve the tension of the guitar neck so now let’s jump to the discussion of how you can adjust it.

  • First, you will need some tools like a spanner wrench, Allen wrench, ruler, electronic tuner, etc.
  • Then you have to understand how much relief is needed by conducting the tap test.
  • If you want to add relief to the neck then release the truss rod or turn it hostile to clockwise which means revising the back bow.
  • Again if you want to reduce some relief then tighten the truss rod or turn it clockwise which means correcting the upbow.

2) Adjust the Bridge Height

By adjusting the bridge saddle height you can adjust your action on guitar so let’s know the method now:

  • Take a ruler and measure from the 12th fret to the last string and then modify accordingly.
  • Test your guitar for a clear tone by playing different notes and checking the buzzes.

3) Check the Nut Height

Checking the nut height is the final phase of modifying your guitar action. So,  now learn the process below:

  • Tools like a nut file set, an electronic tuner is needed for checking properly.
  • Play your guitar with each string open first and afterward at the first fret. In the event that any string hums that implies you need to shim up the nut.
  • If no problem is found, check the patch with an electronic tuner and then fix it with the nut file set thereafter.

4) Change the Strings

Changing the strings frequently is good for better tunes and practicing. The process is a little bit hard and time-consuming but I am here to present it more easily.

  • You will require a few instruments like wire cutters, a tuning machine, new strings.
  • With the help of a  tuning key, you should loosen the strings, remove them and then remove the bridge pins.
  • After that, set the new strings and bridge pins and tighten them one by one.
  • Lastly, use your wire cutter to cut off the excess strings.

5) Clean and Oil the Fret & Fretboard

Polishing the fretboard is as similar as polishing the fret. Know the procedure below :

  • First, you need some tools like lemon oil, Windex, a guitar pick.
  • Now, you should use Windex to remove filth from frets & fretboard. Sometimes grime sticks beneath the strings. For dislodging them, you should use the guitar pick.
  • After that, coat the surface with a layer of lemon oil & wipe it with a paper towel.
  • Lastly, you should use little oil on an acoustic guitar from time to time as most of them build with an unfinished wood bridge.

6) Inspect for Structural Problems

It is very essential to know whether your guitar is in good playing condition or not. Like, string tension sometimes keeps some conditions hidden i.g. loose tuning or loose joints & cracks. That’s why you should inspect it properly. For this,

  • You need some tools like a small Flashlight & inspection mirror.
  • Because of the pressure of the strings, the neck once in a while extricates from the body.
  • For a bolt-on guitar neck electric, you should twist the neck. But, if you find it wiggling, then you should tighten the bolt on the joining portion of the neck & body.
  • However, if you have an acoustic guitar, then you should use an inspection mirror and a small flashlight to inspect it.
  • You should also check the soundhole. If you find any problem, then bring it to your expert friend or a luthier.

6) Adjust the Pickup Height

Start with measuring the right height. For this,

  • You need to press and hold the E string at the most elevated fret.
  • Now, you should gauge the distance from the lower part of the string to the top of the low E pole.
  • Follow the same procedure to measure the high E string.
  • Now It’s time to adjust the height. For this, you need to set all the pickups at 3/32″ on the bass & 2/32″ on the treble side.
  • Now, you should check the sound. Does it make something worse?  At that point, continue changing until you get the correct sound.

7) Set the Intonation

Intonation bears great importance.  You need to increase/decrease the string’s length to adjust the intonation. For this,

  • First  off, you need an accurate chromatic electronic tuner or Screwdriver ( if you have an electric guitar)
  • After that, you need to compare the pitches. For getting the right reading, you should press the string at the level of the 12th fret. However, you can see both notes in-tuned on all strings. But, most of the time we see that two notes come slightly sharp or flat. That time you have to position the saddle at the right place.
  • Now you need to adjust the string length using the screwdriver.
  • But, when you should adjust the saddle towards the neck forward & when to adjust towards the bridge backward?  Alright, you can memorize it with a mnemonic:  flat/forward, sharp/backward.
  • Perform the same procedure for every string.

8) Clean and Polish

And here comes the final touch. We all love to pick up & play a cleaned & polished guitar. For doing it,

  • You can use cotton, guitar polish, Windex, etc.
  • If you find any major filth, then use Windex. It will do wonders.
  • After that, you should apply the guitar polish. All you need to spray a very little quantity on an old cloth to tackle a major surface.
  • Lastly, you should keep the polish away from the fretboard if it is not coated and without closing any moving parts.


The guitar is an incredible instrument to play music. Like other instruments, you also take care of its basic maintenance. Hopefully, our article will give you a fair knowledge about the guitar setup. Still, if you can’t do it by yourself,  then you can take the help of a qualified guitar repair person.

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