I'm just wondering what the ideal steps are to set up a guitar. For instance, it needs a complete setup, you're changing the string gauge, setting the action, getting it intonated. I'm not asking about more technical issues like changing pots, electronic issues etc., more just in relation to strings and getting it playing well and in tune.

2 Answers 2

  • Change strings, bring it up to tune, leave it or a couple of days.
  • Check neck relief, change using truss rod if necessary.
  • Change action height to preferred, by adjusting bridge/saddles height.
  • Check intonation against 12th and 19th (and 24th if there) frets using harmonics.
  • Re-tune. Leave to settle for a couple more days, while playing it.
  • Go through it all again.
  • 1
    for curiosity: why leave it for a couple of days?
    – coconochao
    Dec 19, 2018 at 18:05
  • 2
    to let the new tension on the neck set in. The guitar doesn't fully adjust to the new tension instantly Dec 19, 2018 at 18:18
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    If you want the guitar to play along with equal temperament instruments, it would be better to check and adjust intonation using a chromatic tuner. Harmonics are just intonated notes, and do not match the equal temperament notes. In addition to that, I've noticed on my guitars I can't have the intonation be totally accurate across the whole fretboard, so it may make sense to check and adjust intonation to match most closely at the frets one plays at most often. For me that's the 7th through 10th frets on electrics and the 1st through 5th frets on acoustic. Dec 19, 2018 at 21:56
  • How do I know whether I need to adjust my truss rod or the bridge? How do I know when my truss rod is good for the guitar and how do I get the strings intonated all over the neck, not just with the harmonics. Are there any tools to set the best neck for the guitar? Dec 19, 2018 at 22:12
  • @ToddWilcox: Although that's technically true in general, the 12th fret harmonic is very nearly equal to the octave, and the 19th fret harmonic is less than 2 cents off an octave plus a fifth. It's common for chromatic tuners to have accuracy somewhere in the +/- 3 cent range, so using the harmonics here is not likely to result in measurable differences. Dec 19, 2018 at 23:46

Depending how far you might want to get into this, there are some books by author-guitar tech Dan Erlewine on guitar maintenance and setup that explain in detail, step by step, along with what tools are needed, and how to deal with problems one might encounter in the process of doing a set-up. I found his books very helpful when I started setting up my own guitars and when I have a problem, I still refer back to them.

  • 1
    We often suggest that folks put a link (if only to amazon) to an online source of the book recommended; that would improve your answer quality. Dec 19, 2018 at 15:53

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