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I have a Fender guitar that I purchased from Costco years ago. I think the whole package including a stand, tuner, gig bag, strap etc was $200. I did not use it all these years and started learning late last year. Now I feel the guitar intonation is not correct. I also get quite a bit of fret buzz on low E and A. I have not tried adjusting the truss rod. Being a beginner, I was afraid I may break it. I replaced the strings recently.

I looked up how much it costs to setup a guitar. A reasonable setup costs ~$100 around here in San Jose, CA.

Not sure if it is the exact model, but a Fender Squire guitar is only little bit more than $100.

Should I buy a new guitar or should I setup the one I have?

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Why not try it yourself. If the difference between a professional tune up and a new similar guitar is negligible you have little to lose. The experience will be priceless.

Reading your Question again I noticed that you have recently changed the strings. If it is a Strat and you have fitted a different gauge you may have to adjust the bridge height.See Here on how to set up Strat.

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    Great answer. And lets not pretend the intonation on the squire is gonna be great straight out of the box. – user6591 May 7 '15 at 14:55
  • It is a Starcaster strat. Not the original/reissue Starcaster. I think Fender discontinued it. I will try the setup. Thanks. – James Poovathummoottil May 7 '15 at 15:44
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Eventually you might want to get a better guitar. But your Fender should be easy enough to set up yourself. The two fattest strings are more prone to buzzing because the oscillation pattern of those strings is wider than the thinner strings.

Changing the string gauge in either direction (heavier or lighter) could potentially contribute to such a buzz. Heavier strings will have an even wider oscillation pattern and lighter strings may sit farther down in the nut slot and thus be closer to the frets. Also lighter strings have less tension and may allow the neck to become flatter (see below). Either way raising the saddle height (at the bridge) a tiny bit on those two strings should eliminate the buzz.

Adjusting the truss rod is not that difficult as long as you do it carefully and in small increments and allow time between turns of the truss rod for the neck to adjust. If you decide that a truss rod adjustment is in order, this should be done before adjusting the intonation or raising the saddle height.

To determine if your truss rod might need adjusting, check the relief (curvature of the neck). Ideally on a Strat (or similar guitar) many folks prefer an almost flat neck (for the lower action) with just a tiny bit of relief to prevent fret buzz.

To check the relief, you can sight down the neck to see if it curves and if it is concave or convex. Or even better, press down the low E string at the 1st fret (or put a capo on) and somewhere around the 17th fret and check so see how high the string is above the fret at the halfway point. If it's touching the fret at the halfway point it may be back-bowed. If this is the case you will want to loosen the truss rod by turning it counter clockwise to allow the string tension to put a slight bow in the neck so the strings don't touch the frets (and buzz). Always wait a few minutes after making any adjustments before making further adjustments. If you loosen the strings to make the adjustments - you must check the relief under full tension at standard tuning to determine how much the adjustment has affected the neck.

If there is too much relief (large gap in the center between string and fret) you may need to tighten the truss rod to counteract the string tension. To tighten the truss rod (and straighten the neck) turn it clockwise ("righty - tighty"). I like just a tiny bit of relief on an electric guitar, more on acoustic.

Here is a good article on adjusting the truss rod How to adjust a truss rod

After you adjust the truss rod, check the action on each string and adjust the saddle height as needed to eliminate any buzz. Finally, adjust the intonation as described in the article linked in David's answer. When adjusting the intonation, be sure your strings are well stretched or played in and be careful to only fret the note at the 12th fret enough to get a clear sound (not muted). Pressing too hard on the fret will cause the note to play sharp and your intonation will be off.

As long as you follow the advice above and in the linked articles, it is very unlikely that you could harm your guitar. Worst case, if your attempts at doing your own set up fail, you have not spent any of the money you have set aside for a replacement guitar.

Good luck!

  • I use the 19th fret harmonic/ fretted note as an extra check for intonation. – Tim May 7 '15 at 17:33
  • @Tim Sounds like a good idea. – Rockin Cowboy May 8 '15 at 19:22
  • @JamesPoovathummoottil Should only take an hour or two even if you adjust truss rod, change saddle height AND adjust intonation. Not as hard as it sounds. Just need to have the right tools. Tiny allen wrench for saddle, tiny phillips head screwdriver and the correct size allen wrench for truss rod. Be sure truss rod wrench is very tight in the socket or you could strip it out (be sure you have the exact right size not almost the right size). – Rockin Cowboy May 8 '15 at 19:29
  • @RockinCowboy I adjusted the truss rod and saddle height. Truss rod was harder to turn than I thought. Wrench was part of the guitar pack I got. Fret buzz is noticeably lower now. 12th fret fretted/harmonic note almost matches now. – James Poovathummoottil May 9 '15 at 17:38
  • @Tim Haven't tried 19th fret yet. Will give it a try today. – James Poovathummoottil May 9 '15 at 17:39
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It could be a simple setup issue, or it could be something more major like a warped neck. A reputable shop should do a free diagnosis, and then you can decide from there. For a guitar that cheap anything beyond an easy fix is not going to be worth it.

If you do end up needing a new guitar, then I would highly recommend looking for a used Mexican Fender Strat. They vary in quality tremendously so you need to either bring a friend who can judge for you, or buy only from a good local store (Guitar Center will gladly sell you crap), but the good Mexican strats are an unbeatable value.

  • I wish I could accept this as answer as well. If the fix doesn't work and I feel confident enough about my guitar playing, which is just a hobby now, I will look for a new/used strat. Sorry, I don't have the reputation to up vote either. – James Poovathummoottil May 7 '15 at 15:47
  • @ MattPutnam Guitar Center will sell you anything you want to buy - but they have a no questions no hassle 30 day return policy. I just purchased a perfectly good used Fender Strat Squire for $75. at GC - but then learned that the string spacing is too tight for me on the Squire's (made more for kids with small fingers) so I returned it for a full refund and they offered to let me keep the gig bag (I declined). – Rockin Cowboy May 7 '15 at 16:18

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