Poorly setup guitars really make playing the guitar a bigger challenge. As if it is not an endless challenge itself. But why make it more difficult? As you probably know by know, the faster you learn to play brings you more personal gratification and desire.
What is ‘guitar setup’? Basically it means to have the specifications adjusted to the actual factory standards or your personal specs. Simply put, a set-up includes:
#1. adjusting the height of the strings over the neck
#2. making sure your frets are level or the same height all the way up the neck
#4. adjust and lubricated all remaining components, in general.
The purpose here is to help you to have a guitar you can play to it’s max potential. Hopefully without confusing anyone or using unusual terms that don’t really mean anything to you. As a matter of interest, I have rarely handled a new guitar, especially Gibson Guitars, that are really poorly set-up from the factory. Realistically speaking, it it a real mystery as to why more time is not spent setting up the guitars at the factory.
The Fender and Squier line of guitars seem to be the best set-up guitars from the factory, especially the Artist Series and Custom Shop series, and sometimes they leave a lot to be desired. I don’t really want to beat down any brand of guitar, it is not personal.
That being said leads me into the fact that every guitar a guitar store unpacks should be set-up before it is shipped or sold. Due to many conditions, it is not realistic for guitar retailers of any type to set-up every guitar. With the low profit levels guitar dealers are saddled with, it is not economically possible.
Regardless of whether it is new or used, once your guitar is properly set-up and adjusted, you may not recognize it in terms of how well it plays and just as important, how excellent it now sounds. It does not matter what your feelings were in term of playability and tone, your mind will be changed and blown.
I got lucky, my teacher of many moons is not just a brilliant teacher, he is a bona-fide Guitar Hero. He has 51 years of playing, including a music education at Berklee School of Music. FYI, that is one of the top two leading music schools in the world. Period. Richard Mac plays at a level only achieved by guitarists like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Eric Johnson and other players in that class, although he clearly has his own vibe.
Back to the subject, my score from Richard, other than teaching me to be a pretty good player (always getting better) is all about guitar set-up. He is sick about having every one of his many guitars set-up before he even plays it. Since I am his disciple, I now set-up every guitar I own immediately upon arrival. Believe this, I bought an Eric Clapton Custom Shop guitar a few years ago and set it up immediately. Actually it was well set-up from the Fender Custom Shop, but It had to checked and set-up perfectly.
The point is that if you buy a Mexican Standard Stratocaster and set it up properly, you have a guitar that plays as good as an American Standard Strat at four to six hundred dollars less. Same thing with an Epiphone guitar. Why buy a poorly set-up Gibson Les Paul for a few thousand bucks when you can buy an Epiphone guitar for less than half that price and have a better playing and sounding guitar?
Lets get down to brass tacks. A good guitar set-up is less than a hundred bucks. Believe me, that is a steal. A lot of precision work along with some expensive tools go into a set-up. Not to mention the ‘love’ built in by the luthier or guitar maker. I spent a lot of my life rebuilding automotive transmissions, and anyone in the know, knows they are precise and delicate. Guitars take the same delicate precision and time to make right. Don’t take my word for it, cough up the bucks and at least try it.
Not mentioning the many upgrades possible would be a disservice to you. If you had designs on upgrading your pickups or adding a TBX active tone control, locking tuners or whatever you can imagine, this is a great time to do it. Like I said, you can change the entire vibe of your guitar by locating a well trusted guitar maker/luthier.
For more information and ways to get a good set-up, and other cool guitar upgrades or modifications contact Guitar Players Center for a competent luthier who has the experience. Point of importance, don’t just shop by price, not every guitar maker/luthier is the same. Get a reference first, it’s the ‘love’ that counts most, not the cost.