Can you set up my guitar with super low
I don't know - It
depends on your guitar. Normally, I set a guitar up to factory
specs, and then see what the guitar will let me do from there. The
"shredder" guitars - Jackson, Ibanez, etc.. - usually have a
fretboard radius of 14" or higher, meaning that they are flatter
than Gibson's 12" radius or Fender's 9.5" or 7.25".
A flatter radius tends to allow for lower action because there is less
of a "hill" in the middle that the high E and B strings have
to clear when bending. I can set a Fender up with super low
action, but if it frets out every time you bend the string, it doesn't
do you much good. Sometimes I have to set the action a little
higher than I would like to avoid the "hill" when
bending. This can happen because of the fretboard radius, or
because of wear to your frets - if you do a lot of bending at the 14th
fret, over time the 14th fret will become lower then the 15th or 16th
frets, and when you bend the string, it will "fret out" on the
higher frets. When this happens you need a fretdress to level the
tops of the frets. If your strings buzz a lot, a fret dress is usually the
I was just looking through
the April 2009 issue of Vintage
Guitar Magazine (if you love guitars, it's worth subscribing to!)
and it has a column on repairs written by Steven Stone, entitled, Repairs:
DIY vs. Pro. I thought I'd share some of
the info... DIY For Sure:
Change Strings, Clean and Polish, Raise/Lower Action at Bridge,
"...when you lower or raise action, you'll have to make adjustments
to the guitar's intonation, as well. If this makes you anxious, my
advice is 'Don't try this at home.'", Check and tighten loose
screws. Some Skill Required:
Truss-rod Adjustments, Changing tuners "can be simple, or it can
require major surgery." Definitely
Don't Try This At Home: "The list of
repairs you shouldn't attempt on your own includes installing a pickup,
fret work, neck work, saddle repairs, bridge work, and ...
refinishing. I'm sure I've left out something (I'd include nut
work)..." And the last two lines of the article, "just
because you can do something, doesn't mean you should. Now
put down that big screwdriver, back away slowly, and no one will get
hurt." Well, put. I've crossed paths with many guitars
that were damaged when their owners decided to perform their own
work. To borrow a quote from Harry Callahan, "...you've got
to ask yourself one question (before you attempt a guitar repair
yourself): Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?"
Why should I replace the nut on my guitar?
reasons. The nuts on 99% of the guitars out there are
plastic. Of those, in my experience, 75% are either hollow, or
semi-hollow. Having a dense, solid, bone nut will improve the tone
of the instrument. Ask any player who's had a bone nut installed
(The same thing goes for the saddle on an acoustic). Second, most nuts
are cut to fit generic string gauges - usually .009 - .042, or .010
-.046. A nut that's cut to fit a .046 low E string, will be wide
for a .042 E string, but narrow for a .052 E string. Does the
guitar company make the nut to fit YOUR preferred string gauge, or some
hypothetical "average". You already know the
answer. When the slot is too narrow, the string will bind in the
slot and cause tuning nightmares. If the slot
is cut too wide, the string will rattle and buzz when played in the open
position. I cut slots to fit YOUR string gauge.
This is really more advice
than a tip. But first, let me give you the
background... I stopped in at a local guitar store to check out the
gear. They claim to specialize in "vintage"
instruments. This usually just means used, or old, or
overpriced. So I asked to try a newer model Epiphone Flying V
(How's that for "vintage"?) and, while it played well up to
the 12th fret, it fretted out very badly at, and above, the 14th - I'm
talking dead, not just buzz.
I mentioned this to the owner - who seemed to be more preoccupied with
his cell phone conversation to a friend about going golfing - and his reply
was, "I'll have my repair guy look at it when he comes in".
then went back to his phone conversation. I was hoping to get a
deal on the guitar and repair it myself, but in the end, they lost the sale, and I'll never
buy from them in the future. My advice is this: Don't
buy from dealers who don't provide service along with the sale.
If you're in the market for a new guitar, before you hand over your
money, make sure that they will give the guitar a final setup before it
leaves the store (at no additional cost). If they won't, buy your
guitar from someplace that will. When you consider the cost of a
new instrument - at least a quality one - it should be in perfect
playing condition, set up for YOUR playing style, from the moment you
get it. If you're not getting a professional set up with your
guitar, you might as well order from an internet store and save yourself
the sales tax, because you're getting the same guitar. (See the
I have a new guitar, why would it need a
fret dress instead of just a set up?
Well, in my
opinion, it shouldn't (see above tip). That said, it all depends
on the guitar. In the past few weeks, I've seen several lower-end
guitars - some were famous brand names (and not cheap at all), and
others were brands I've never heard of, straight off the boat from one
of the Asian countries. Many of the lower-end guitars don't get a
fret dress. The theory goes like this: You've got a new,
freshly radiused board, the frets are new, so once they're installed,
they should all be the same height, right? So companies save time
and money by not having the frets dressed, and their stockholders
collect nice fat dividends. The problem is that sometimes the
frets don't go in perfectly, or sometimes the fret slots are not the
correct size for the fret tang. When this happens, the frets are not all even, and
there will be buzzing where there are high frets, this is especially
true if the guitar has a good set up, because there is less room for
error. And it only takes one or two misaligned frets to make a
guitar unbearable. Take a look at this photo...
a new, famous brand-name instrument. Where the frets were high,
you can see that more material was taken off than on the adjacent
frets. Once the frets are all level, the guitar can be set up to
very tight tolerances, and will play wonderfully.
How did you learn to repair guitars / What
is your repair background / What are your qualifications?
I am a
professionally trained and certificated stringed instrument repair
technician. I am a graduate of the Galloup
School of Lutherie, one of the most respected luither training
schools in the country. I have been a member of the Guild of American
Luthiers, as well as a member of A.S.I.A. - The Association of Stringed
Instrument Artisans. Both are professional trade organizations
designed to provide a comprehensive database of resources, supplies and
technical information, as well as being a means of providing multi-level
education within the profession. My shop is one of only three in
the entire state of Michigan that is an authorized Buzz Feiten
retrofitter for acoustic guitars, and the only one in the entire Metro
Detroit area - the other two are in Big Rapids, and Kalamazoo.
Beyond that, I have over twenty years of experience playing and working
on guitars and basses. Like most, I began by taking apart and modifying
my own guitars - long before I had any clue as to what I was doing. ;-)
How do I know if my guitar even needs a setup - I don't notice any
Just because you can play a guitar doesn't mean that it doesn't need a
set up. A set up is kind of like a tune-up for the guitar.
Just like you take a car in periodically to have the oil changed and
check the air in the tires, you should have your guitar setup at least
once a year - twice a year for acoustics. The biggest factors
affecting guitars are humidity (too much or too little) and string
tension. Your guitar should be set up each time you change string
gauges (different brands of string have different tensions, even if the
strings are the same gauge, so pick a brand you like and stick with it),
or when there is a major climate change - which in Michigan happens in
the spring and winter months.
I just bought my
guitar. Didn't they set it up at the store?
stores that have 20 - 75 guitars hanging on the wall do a quick basic
set up when the guitars first come off the truck. And then they
sit there. The string action is almost always set high, so that
when a person comes in and plays it, there will be no buzz. Is this
a playable guitar? Yes. Is this guitar set up to play it's
best? Not even close.
A second scenario
involves a guitar purchased online. Here's a little-known fact:
Most guitar companies don't do a final setup before it leaves the
factory - They assume that their dealer will do the final set up before
the instrument leaves the store. Many internet sellers never even unpack the
guitar when it comes in - it goes to a warehouse until someone orders
that model off the web page, and then it continues it's journey to your
front door, never getting a final set up.
time again I've seen this happen: A person brings me their guitar and
says, "It plays great, but I figure it could use a good cleaning,
and I need some new strings." After I've done a set up on it,
they can't believe it's the same guitar - more than that, they can't
believe how much BETTER it plays. It's only then that they realize
that the guitar they thought played great, played pretty much
average. A guitar that is set up correctly is a joy to play.
All my setups have a 30-day warranty, so you're guaranteed to like the
way it plays.
simple test - fret your low E string at the 1st fret. While
holding it down, use your other hand to press down at the 14th fret
(same string). Now look at the space between the string and the
top of the 8th fret. Is there a gap that is bigger than half the width
of the sting? If so, you could use a set up. Is the string
touching the fret? If so, you could use a set up (and I'd guess
your strings buzz like crazy when you play).
I can hear my strings buzzing when I play. What causes this?
Here's the short
list of potential causes:
- FLAT SADDLE TOP
- NO BREAK ANGLE ON NUT
- UNEVEN FRETS
- FRETS TOO LOW
- LOOSE FRET
- LOOSE GEAR
- WINDING FUZZ TOUCHING SADDLE
- LOW NUT
- LOW SADDLE
- LOOSE STRING BALL
- LOOSE TRUSS ROD
- POOR RELIEF
- DAMAGED OR DEFECTIVE STRING
- STRINGS TOO LIGHT
- FLAT FRET
- ACTION TOO LOW
- NUT SLOT CUT IMPROPERLY
- DEEP SADDLE NOTCHES
- STRING INSTALLED INCORRECTLY
Is the top
of your 12-String flat-top acoustic no longer flat? Is your bridge
starting to lift on the ends? Most 12-String
guitars are designed to be tuned down one whole-step, to provide some
relief from the added tension of the octave strings. Instead of
E-A-D-G-B-E (low to high), tune D-G-C-F-A-D. To play in standard
tuning, use a capo at the 2nd fret.
the acoustic bridge repairs I see are on 12-strings because they were
tuned to standard tuning.