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Old 04-17-2016, 09:55 AM
Ralph124C41 Ralph124C41 is offline
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Default How often should a guitar be set up?

Hi

Well that is the question. I've read that pros should have their guitars set up about every three months and that the casual player should have their guitars set up every year.

(I'm not talking about setups needed by a change in string gauge or some type of repair or customization, such as installing a new nut or bridge but just for general improvement.)

Of course I've known people who have never had their guitars set up at all ... not because they know how to do that themselves ... but just never have had their guitars looked at by a luthier or guitar tech, just change the strings and do some cleaning as needed.

Is a setup something like an oil change, every three months or 3,000 songs?

So what's your thought? Every year? Set it and forget it? What is this thing called a "set up"?
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Old 04-17-2016, 10:06 AM
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Bruce Sexauer Bruce Sexauer is offline
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Some players are able to wear their frets noticeably in a few months and may indeed need attention in as little as 3 months, but that is rare. Most of us divide our attention between several guitars so the fret wear is distributed. A player who really wants their guitar at optimum playability would be advised to have it looked at twice a year, most for truss Rod and saddle height adjustment. This is more about heat and humidity than wear and tear, and is best done a couple of weeks after seasonal change, so here in the golden state that'd be November and May, give or take. I include this twice yearly check up with all of my guitars, but for those who have to pay someone, once the guitar is properly adjusted in the first place, the check up takes minutes and should not be very expensive. It makes a world of difference.
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Old 04-17-2016, 10:21 AM
Ralph124C41 Ralph124C41 is offline
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Thanks. I'm looking to getting back into playing acoustics. I'm too old to be playing electric bass any more.

I was just wondering. I don't have a local luthier, although I do have a guy who works well on my electrics but I prefer somebody who works on acoustics. There's one guy somewhat near me who makes guitars and sometimes gives one-day workshops on guitar setups and stuff like that so I'm hoping he can help me out. He also used to host an acoustic jam and he's a nice guy but I don't know if he does regular setups.
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Old 04-17-2016, 10:22 AM
sdelsolray sdelsolray is offline
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Where I live (Portland, OR) I find it useful to have two different saddles, a "summer" one and a "winter" one. I swap them when changing strings when the seasons change. The winter one is about 1/32" higher than the summer one. As to truss rod adjustments, I try to get away with as little relief as possible, and that will vary depending on the guitar, usually somewhere between .005" and .008.
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Old 04-17-2016, 10:31 AM
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Having had the pleasure of getting Bruces attention to a few of my guitars, the difference in the playing, even if any changes are quite minimal, is very worthwhile. But if you have a good guitar that you intend to care for for many years, it is also worth having a good luthier take a look at it at least once a year, because even if they don't do any "work" on it, I've found that they may pick up on subtle changes or notice issues that you should be aware of and keep an eye on whenever you play it. Their expertise in evaluating the instrument as a whole can help identify a wide range of issues - structure, finish, they can even notice wear patterns on the instrument that they can use to advise how you might want to adjust your playing style a bit - long before they might become much more serious problems. You can file it under that "ounce of prevention" heading -
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Old 04-17-2016, 10:41 AM
PTC Bernie PTC Bernie is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sdelsolray View Post
Where I live (Portland, OR) I find it useful to have two different saddles, a "summer" one and a "winter" one. I swap them when changing strings when the seasons change. The winter one is about 1/32" higher than the summer one. As to truss rod adjustments, I try to get away with as little relief as possible, and that will vary depending on the guitar, usually somewhere between .005" and .008.
This is a good answer. Depending where you live you might want to have two saddles. One for summer and one for winter as the top swells or shrinks with the seasonal RH changes.
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Old 04-17-2016, 10:54 AM
Ralph124C41 Ralph124C41 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sdelsolray View Post
Where I live (Portland, OR) I find it useful to have two different saddles, a "summer" one and a "winter" one.
I also think that is a novel and a well-thought out option, sort of like "snow" tires for the winter.
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Old 04-17-2016, 11:03 AM
MC5C MC5C is offline
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Having two saddles is actually quite common among serious players up here. I find that once a guitar settles in I leave it alone for a long time. I check things like relief, action height, buzzy frets quite often, but rarely get the tools out. Being a fan of vintage guitars means playing around little issues rather than doing yet another fret dress or making yet another saddle or nut.

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Old 04-17-2016, 11:05 AM
HDRider HDRider is offline
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A guitar should be set up when the player decides it's not playing and/or sounding as well as he knows it can.

Doing a set-up for the sake of doing a set-up is a complete waste of money.
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Old 04-17-2016, 02:38 PM
guit3090 guit3090 is offline
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I just got a new bone saddle from Alvarez, going to have it set up while it is having new saddle put in. Like what Bruce S. said.
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Old 04-17-2016, 02:47 PM
AZLiberty AZLiberty is offline
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Once - maybe.

Like fitting a suit, it should only need to be done once.

Unless your playing style radically changes there should be no need for a setup. The point of a setup is to fit your playing style, so a factory setup might be too high or too low, but once adjusted it's not going to change. (assuming you don't let it dry out from low humidity - but that doesn't get fixed with a setup that gets fixed by humidifying the instrument)
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Old 04-17-2016, 02:58 PM
cooper59 cooper59 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AZLiberty View Post
Once - maybe.

Like fitting a suit, it should only need to be done once.

Unless your playing style radically changes there should be no need for a setup. The point of a setup is to fit your playing style, so a factory setup might be too high or too low, but once adjusted it's not going to change. (assuming you don't let it dry out from low humidity - but that doesn't get fixed with a setup that gets fixed by humidifying the instrument)
^^^^^ this when i buy a guitar and thats it. never in 40 years have i had the need to do it twice
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Old 04-17-2016, 03:05 PM
dcmey dcmey is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HDRider View Post
A guitar should be set up when the player decides it's not playing and/or sounding as well as he knows it can.

Doing a set-up for the sake of doing a set-up is a complete waste of money.
That is what I think also. Get the guitar setup when you first purchase it, and then when it needs it, not on a schedule of any kind.
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Old 04-17-2016, 03:16 PM
Ralph124C41 Ralph124C41 is offline
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Quite a spread of answers.

And I'm certain there are some players who never had their guitars set up. My junker Esteban has never been set up. I took it to a guitar store and asked the owner his advice on maybe adding a Tusq saddle and bridge pins. I was surprised when he passed on the chance to make some money and he told me basically to keep my money because, as he said, "Hey, it's an Esteban."
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Old 04-17-2016, 03:44 PM
SpruceTop SpruceTop is offline
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A guitar is usually setup once when it's new, either at the factory or at the dealer or by a knowlegeable owner, and may need adjustment due to aging or if attention isn't paid to the conditions in which it's kept. For me, I've learned to keep all my guitars in a climate-controlled family room using a Sears humidifier and a GE dehumidifier, the use of which depends on the season. My conditions are easily maintained, year-round, between 65- and 74-degrees Fahrenheit, and 40% to 52% Relative Humidity. My guitars stay in good tune and the action and neck-relief don't vary worth mentioning. Under these conditions, the only time I'll need to adjust my wooden guitars, with a slight tweak of the truss rod, is due to aging as they gradually fold-in on themselves. As long as they generally remain climate-controlled, a neck reset should be years in the making.

Being climate-controlled guitars, when they're played out for gigs and jams over the course of several hours, the only thing that needs to be done is tuning them to the present conditions. Please believe me that I've experienced wet and dry guitars and the damage that can be done to them when not properly maintained! In the past, I've used summer and winter saddles, and had to adjust the neck-relief, but this was necessary because I didn't maintain a climate-controlled environment for the guitars to live in when not being played elsewhere.

So, my experience is this: If you maintain your wooden guitars in a climate-controlled environment, initial setup is quite easy to maintain for a long time but if you subject your guitars to larger swings in temperature and, especially, Relative Humidity, you'll likely need frequent adjustments to try to maintain a good initial setup and a neck-reset will likely be necessary sooner.
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Last edited by SpruceTop; 04-17-2016 at 03:54 PM.
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