Setting up your own electric guitar

Setting Up Your Own Electric Guitar

By Erick Gerber
In Jun 2, 2016
Setting up your own electric guitar

Setting up your own electric guitar

Many of you new guitarists out there who can only afford basic entry-level electric guitars, get really disheartened when you pick up your friends’ guitars that are 3 times the price of yours and realise that theirs feel much nicer to play on. Although it’s true that you get what you pay for and there’s a good reason for the price difference, it doesn’t mean that you can’t make your guitar perform at its peak potential, by setting up your own electric guitar you can make it perform way better than off the shelf. 

Most entry level guitars come with an old set of strings and get neglected when it comes to giving them a good setup. Understandably so, since they want you to buy the most expensive option instead. Giving your guitar a good, thorough setup can make it feel and sound much better. It might not quite be able to surpass your friend’s overpriced guitar but it can definitely make it come much closer. The best thing would be to take it to a professional guitar technician for a setup, but I understand that many of us don’t have the extra 500 bucks to fork out. That’s why I’m going to tell how YOU can set up your own electric guitar!


Step 1: Getting New Strings

There’s nothing better than a fresh new pair of strings to make your guitar instantly sound better. It can also make it feel better by changing the string gauge. If you feel like you’re struggling to press down hard enough on your strings to get the notes to come out cleanly, then you might want to get some lighter gauge strings. If you feel like your strings are too floppy/flexible when playing riffs, you should try some heavier gauge strings. It’ll increase your string tension and get rid of that floppy/flexible feeling under your picking/strumming hand.


Step 2: Setting Up Your Truss Rod

After you change your strings, especially if you change to a heavier or lighter gauge, the tension will make your guitar neck bend slightly. You need to readjust your truss rod. This will help have it at the optimal angle so that your strings can be as close to your fretboard as it can go while having as little fret buzz as possible. Be careful when adjusting your truss rod, as you can end up damaging your guitar neck if your adjustments are too drastic. Do small adjustments at a time.


Step 3: Adjusting Your String Action

This is one of the main things that will make your guitar feel ten times better to play on! Your action determines how close your strings are to your fretboard. The closer the strings, the less your fingers need to move, the easier and more comfortable it is to play. Note that if you set your strings too close to your fretboard, you will experience a lot of fret buzz. You do not want this so try and get it as close as possible, without too much fret buzz. When testing for fret buzz don’t just play the string open but, play the frets all over the neck. It will buzz more in some places than others.


Step 4: Setting Up Your Intonation

This is the final step to completing your electric guitar setup. With all the adjustments you’ve made in the previous steps, your intonation is bound to be all over the place. Sometimes it’s not even set up properly in the first place. Intonation affects your tuning when playing chords or notes higher up on your fretboard. Although a specific string might be in tune when played open, if you play a note on fret ten, for example, the note could sound completely out of key. Setting your intonation fixes that problem so that all your frets are as in-tune as when the string is played open.

For The Specifics:

This page isn’t big enough for me to explain every process in enough detail. YouTube and Google are your friends when it comes to teaching you exactly how to perform all of these steps in detail. You now know the benefits of giving your guitar a setup, and you also know what to search for. Be sure to pay very special attention to the instructions. You may end up damaging your guitar if you do some of these steps incorrectly. Proceed with caution.


© Guitar Excellence 2016 All Rights Reserved


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Plays for “Red Helen” and “Truth and It’s Burden”. Can make his guitar sound like an accelerating car. Currently doing his BMus Honours degree with the University of Chichester. Sucks at Guitar Hero. Can solo behind his head. Has gigged extensively throughout South Africa.

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