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Help with guitar setup (it's more than just adjustments)

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The difference between a great guitar and total junk is whether its setup is proper or not. But it is more than just adjusting a few things.

Here is a list of regular adjustments concerning guitar setup.

1. Bridge height and/or string saddle height

If you're playing a Les Paul style guitar, string height is adjusted by moving the bridge up or down. You can also choose if you want one side higher than the other.

If you're playing a Stratocaster style guitar, most (usually all) of the string height adjustment is done by adjusting each string saddle.

With some guitars, you have both styles of adjustments, such as a traditional Fender Jazzmaster or Fender Jaguar. Both of those allow both the bridge and the string saddles to be raised/lowered.

For guitars with bolt-on necks, if you "run out of" adjustment, a shim can be placed in the neck pocket to accommodate for that.

2. Pickup height

Generally speaking, this only matters when the pickups are too close to the strings. More often than not, you know the strings are too close if you hear weird "double notes" when playing the wound strings on the higher frets.

For example, if you play a "power chord" (i.e. 5th chord) on the 14th fret using the low-E and A or A and D and hear those weird double notes, lower the pickup and it will usually go away.

3. Truss rod adjustment

Many guitar players never adjust the truss rod in their guitar. This absolutely must be learned because it can mean the difference between a guitar that plays great or terribly.

I wrote a whole thing on that. It applies to vintage style truss rod adjustments at the butt end of the neck, but also applies to a rod adjusted at the headstock as well.

But are you done after doing that stuff?

Sometimes, but usually not.

The photo at top is me getting rid of some sharp fret ends on my Glarry GJazz bass...

...and this is where it's required to do the "scary" stuff, so let's talk about that.

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Published 2020 Nov 12

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