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I’ve often seen advice to locate a good guitar technician or luthier to perform setups and routine maintenance. For example, Ali Maxwell advises, in “How do I set up an electric guitar?”:

The first time during your ownership of a guitar that you come to the point where it has to be set up, my suggestion would be to take it to a qualified guitar tech who will set the instrument up for you. If you ask him, he will talk you through what he is doing, so that you know a bit more about it for yourself. He will fix any problems on the action, nut, neck, truss rod, and bridge piece that will be affecting how the instrument sounds/plays/tunes.

But where do I find a helpful guitar expert like this? I looked into this online and found wildly varying opinions about guitar service options. Some people like the convenience of major shops like Guitar Center, but others complain about their expertise or attention to detail. Independent specialists have a lot of fans, but they also have a lot of detractors who claim they’re arrogant, difficult to work with, or sometimes downright fraudulent.

So how do I locate guitar technicians, and how do I figure out whether they’re helpful and competent? I don’t have much experience with hiring technicians in general, and in particular I don’t know what to look for specifically in a guitar technician.

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2 Answers 2

In my experience (all over Scotland) it comes down to one of two ways. Either try them and see how your guitar comes out, or use my preferred option:

Ask the opinion of guitarists you know - ideally ones who play similar guitars/style to you. If a few of them recommend a particular guitar tech and can tell you why, then you should have reasonable assurance that they are competent.

I found my current tech through recommendations, and he is teaching me how to do it myself with my various guitars.

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Thanks! I'm not really in tune with local guitarists, although I do know where to find them – lots of blues bars and cover bands in my area. –  Bradd Szonye May 8 at 21:27
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There are no absolute answers to this, and it will depend where one lives in the world.My first move would be to ask a guitar teacher. Some will (including myself) go through the set-up routine as part of a lesson, as it's important that a player has at least some knowledge of his instrument. Next could be a trip to a local music shop, or a local guitar maker (luthier). Asking others who own guitars would be a good move.

It's like finding a good barber, butcher, dentist etc. You don't really know till it's too late ! My first piano tuner made a right pig's ear, but came recommended. It's down to the old adage 'give a man a fish = one meal. Teach him to fish = feed him for life.' Find someone who can show you how to do it for yourself, maybe on an old guitar that actually ends up being so well set up that you love playing it ! Ergo - no money spent later, but potential earnings for you.

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Of course that raises the question of how to find a good guitar teacher. ;) I haven't had much luck in tracking down local music teachers or other guitarists, but it would probably help. Thanks for the advice! –  Bradd Szonye May 8 at 21:24
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