I need to repair the electronics on my Stratocaster, which will require me to remove the strings. I then want to get the guitar set up. Will sending a guitar to the workshop without strings affect the repair-person's ability to analyze my guitar prior to putting new strings on it and setting it up?

  • 1
    You can't set up a guitar that is not strung. Even ignoring the fact that the string tension will change the amount of bending the neck, how would you set the action height to avoid fret buzz, or adjust the intonation, with no strings?
    – user19146
    May 31 '17 at 2:51
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    Is your real question "If my guitar is unstrung for X days while I repair the electronics, how long should I leave it to settle down after re-stringing it, before I get it set up by a professional?" That question would make more sense than the one you seem to have asked.
    – user19146
    May 31 '17 at 2:55
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    I obviously plan on having new strings put on the guitar along with the setup. I was wondering if it was necessary for strings to be on the guitar when it goes into the shop for the purpose of analysis. Do they do all tests and adjustments after putting on the new strings? May 31 '17 at 3:01
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    If nothing else, the old strings are show exactly what string gauges you are using. If you say "I want a new set of brand X strings fitted" there is always a chance that something gets lost in the message, or you didn't know the company that makes brand X has just renamed them to brand Y, or whatever.
    – user19146
    May 31 '17 at 4:20
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    Ok, so it doesn't appear to be necessary for them to play/ examine the guitar as is with the old strings. That means I can go ahead and do the electrical work and just give them the guitar without strings. I'm not particularly attached to the gauge of the current strings. May 31 '17 at 4:28

It's best to let the luthier put the new strings on as part of his setup.
It's also best if he can see what it's like before he starts.

So... best of both worlds...

Put the old strings back on & in tune - & send a pack of new strings with it.

That way you cover three aspects.

  1. Luthier gets to see it as it was.
  2. He gets to put on the new strings at the end for final checks without risk of damage. He can do all his fiddling - strings off, strings on, strings off... using the old set.
  3. You ensure you get the correct strings.

& a late 4... it's not sitting around for days unstrung.

This even applies if the string gauge will change. He should have sufficient experience to make an educated guess as to what differences that will need in his set up even before he starts.

There's always the consideration that the first set of strings used for a setup are somewhat sacrificial. Account for the price of another new set in the not too distant future as part of the total setup cost.

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    Really can't see how he can set up neck relief, action or intonation with a set of different gauge strings which are probably old anyway. Tension's different, changing everything. You work with what you have, so a change of gauge needs to happen before, not after. No matter how good he is, he'll have to re-do everything, albeit minimally, so why not start with what he needs to work to and with?
    – Tim
    May 31 '17 at 8:04
  • He can get a feel of it from the first time he picks it up; quickly look at the neck, see how even the frets are, whether there's anything disastrous in the existing setup. It's just a rough guide, but it's a guide. Of course his final trimming will be done with the new strings [which is why they can be sacrificial] but if the neck looked like it would be better for an archer than a guitarist, he could get it into rough shape before putting the new string on. My own luthier always says he prefers to see it 'as is' before starting work.
    – Tetsujin
    May 31 '17 at 8:10
  • I've been doing this stuff for decades, and unless the same gauge of strings replaces the old, I'd rather go my way. Never had sacrificial strings - the new ones are not my guides, but the end product.
    – Tim
    May 31 '17 at 8:14
  • Then I guess we're down to Todd's "ask the tech what he'd prefer".
    – Tetsujin
    May 31 '17 at 8:19

Like you, every setup I've ever had done required new strings be put on by the tech, so all the old strings I've had on when dropping off guitars were thrown away. I can't see any reason to string up a guitar just to have the strings removed again for the setup.

You could ask the tech what they prefer, but I'm sure they would be happy to put a set of strings on for you either way.

  • I suppose it's possible that if something in the setup was grossly wrong, the tech might get it approximately right with the old strings, to the reduce the chance of damaging the new ones. For example if you are trying to find the best sound post position for a violin, you might be slackening off and re-tuning the top two strings 10 or 20 times before you find the sweet spot, and there's always a chance doing that will break a string. (Admittedly, that's not a talking about a guitar setup issue.)
    – user19146
    May 31 '17 at 5:22

It sounds like you need to do the electrical work, then send the guitar off for re-stringing and set up. The present strings will come off for the work, but then you say you don't like the existing gauge. On the assumption you do have a replacement guage in mind, if you know how to put them on correctly, do so, and get the guitar to the luthier.

All this is on assumptions. That he will need to take off the string again is unlikely - unless he dresses the frets, or changes the nut. With the new strings, he can tension the truss rod, check the intonation and adjust the action. All assuming you know what strings you need. If you don't know much about how to do the luthier's job on your guitar, you may be choosing the wrong gauge, so it makes good sense to go with the guitar as is now, and discuss with him. He'll measure the strings, and suggest what you should get as replacements.

As far as keeping the old 'uns; providing they're not rusty and worn, they may do for replacements if you don't already have some extras.

As Todd says, you could always ask what the luthier prefers - old or new, since he's actually doing the job!

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