Is your guitar set-up right? Many people have discovered that buying a guitar online can be a great way to save money. But what happens when your brand-new instrument arrives and you can’t play it because it isn’t set-up right? Well, if this has happened to you, don’t panic or think you need to ask for a refund. It may be that your guitar just needs a few adjustments.
How To Check Your Guitar Set-Up:
1. Test the Intonation – This is one of the first things that will tell you if your guitar set-up needs adjusting. If the intonation is off the reoccurring tones along the fretboard will not be in unison.
In other words, if you play a middle C on the 1st fret/2nd string and then play a middle C on the 5th fret/3rd string, the tones should sound alike (unison) because they are the same. If they don’t match after you’ve tuned your guitar then something isn’t right.
2. Test the Action – This next video explains how to check the action on an electric guitar.
- If the action is set too low the guitar strings may interfere with the frets and produce a buzzing sound when you play.
- If the action is set too high it will be difficult to play the guitar because you will need to apply extra strength to press the strings down on the fretboard in order to produce a clean tone.
The video samples used for this guitar maintenance lesson were provided by Greg Voros of Learn & Master Guitar. A guitar that is not set-up correctly can lead to an extreme amount of unnecessary frustration on your part. You’ll be constantly trying to tune it. Having a guitar that is hard to play could lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. Believe me, you don’t want this to happen because it will hinder your ability to reach your full potential as a guitar player.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms…
- your guitar seems hard to play
- you have to apply a lot of pressure on the strings in order to get a decent sound
- your guitar seems to go out of tune easily
It may be an indication that the action is too high or the intonation is off.
Guitars are sensitive instruments because they are made of wood. This means they are pliable and easily effected by changes in temperature and humidity. So, if you ordered a new guitar that traveled through different climates and/or was exposed to changes in elevation, then chances are it will need some adjusting by the time it gets to you.
There are professional luthiers who can do this for you, but if it costs more than $100 then you might want to do it yourself. Besides, it’s normal for all guitars to need a periodic adjustment from time to time as they age. Learning how to setup your own guitar will help you keep it in good playing condition for years to come.
But even if you are not interested in doing your own guitar set-up, you can benefit from knowing how it is done. Understanding the process will equip you with a better means of communication whenever you have to take your guitar into the shop for maintenance or repair.
Keep these things in mind when you buy online (or off) so that you and your guitar will live long and prosper!