As guitars/basses are wooden instruments (which move slightly when subjected to changes in temperature and humidity), small adjustments will need to be made throughout the lifespan of the instrument to keep it playing nicely. This applies to all guitars – from sub-£200 right up to Custom Shop models costing several thousands. No guitars will need absolutely no adjustments, so it’s worth familiarising yourself with how to carry out some basic maintenance to prolong the life of the instrument. It’s recommended to regularly set your guitar up - very much like your car needing a yearly service and MOT!
Guitars are designed to be fully adjustable, so most of the maintenance can be done at home with just a few simple tools (usually a set of allen keys and screwdrivers should do the trick for most tasks). Your warranty should normally not be affected by adjusting the guitar carefully in the way it’s designed to be.
Setup is not covered by warranty, but if you’re having issues within the first month of owning the guitar, our team may be able to sort them for you. After this cooling-off period has elapsed, you will be responsible for the maintenance of your instrument. We are able to accept repairs after this, however the service would be chargeable. Please see HERE for a breakdown of the pricing.
If you’re having any issues with the playability of the instrument, you should check the following:
ACTION – Make sure that the strings are the right height over the frets, so the instrument is easy to play with no string buzz.
If you’re finding the guitar is difficult to play because the strings are too high in comparison to the frets, or the strings are too low and you are getting a lot of fret buzz, you may need to adjust the action/string height. The action can usually be adjusted by lowering or raising the bridge posts (using a screwdriver for most types of bridges or by turning the bridge wheel on a tune-o-matic style bridge). It’s recommended that you check the recommended string height that the manufacturer suggests to get an idea of how high it should be, but you should be able to make it higher or lower to suit your own personal taste.
INTONATION – Make sure your guitar is intonated correctly so it remains in tune all the way up the neck.
If you are finding that the guitar is going out of tune when played further up the neck when you have just tuned up all of the open strings perfectly, you will need to adjust the intonation. The 12th fret should lie exactly equidistant between the bridge saddle and the nut. If the measurement is even a millimetre off centre, the intonation of the guitar will be out.
A good way of checking that your guitar is correctly intonated would be to tune the string up to pitch and then check the tuning when fretting the 12th fret with a finger against the harmonic at the 12th fret. If the fretted note is sharp, you’ll need to adjust the bridge saddle out a bit until the note matches the harmonic. If it’s flat, you’ll need to adjust it in slightly. This is normally done with a screwdriver or allen key depending on the guitar’s design. You’ll need to keep tuning the string after each adjustment until the fretted note matches the harmonic note. When all the strings are full intonated, you should be able to play in tune all the way up the neck.
STRINGS – Make sure they’re clean, in good condition and the correct gauge.
Wiping down the strings when you finish playing will maintain the lifespan of the strings, meaning you’ll need to change them less often. If you haven’t played the guitar in a while, it may be worth putting a fresh set of strings on as they can corrode over time when sweat/dead skin has not been wiped off properly and the string reacts with the air, which can change the string’s reactivity to tension.
Check the string gauge you’re using is the right gauge for that model of guitar. If you have recently put a new set of strings on your instrument and are finding the playability has changed, you may well have not put the correct gauge on. Guitars are set up specifically to cope with a very specific amount of string tension, and if a different gauge of strings is put on, the difference in tension on the neck can cause the action (string height over the frets) to change. If you are finding the action is too high, you may have used too heavy a gauge of strings, which is causing higher tension on the neck. If you are finding the action is too low, this could suggest the strings are too light and there is not enough tension on the neck to bring the strings away from the fretboard, causing the strings to buzz against the frets. If you wish to use a different gauge of strings to what the guitar is already set up to, you will need to adjust the neck relief accordingly (see below).
RELIEF – Make sure there is the right amount of relief/curve in the neck.
Neck relief refers to a small amount of concave bow intentionally created in the neck of a guitar or bass by adjusting the truss rod. Adding relief (increasing the amount of bow) to the neck, increases the space between the strings and the frets, allowing them to vibrate freely without buzzing. It is normally adjusted by either tightening or loosening the truss rod inside the guitar’s neck to either increase or decrease the bow. It’s especially important to adjust the relief of the neck if you’ve just changed the gauge of strings the guitar is set up for.
Adjusting neck relief is one of the few maintenance tasks only recommended to be carried out yourself if you know what you’re doing. If you don’t feel confident or experienced enough, please speak to a qualified technician.
CLEAN DOWN AND LUBRICATE MOVING PARTS
Cleaning the guitar regularly will keep it looking newer longer, and making sure any moving parts are well lubricated will make adjusting the guitar easier down the line.
It’s advised that you should clean the fretboard and frets of any dead skin or dirt each time you change the strings. Use specialist fretboard cleaners and oils to make sure the fretboard stays clean and conditioned and make sure any parts where movement occurs (springs, bridge posts, nut slots etc are well lubricated).
Of course, it’s advised that you should take your guitar for regular setups to keep it playing well.
If you would like to have your guitar set up by one of our in-house technicians, please feel free to bring it into the store. Please note there is normally a 1-2 week turnaround on most jobs (this can sometimes be longer at busier times of the year).