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     The String Workshop


Guitar & String Instrument

                             SET UP EXPLAINED

                                           Q & A


A Guitar Set Up is much more than merely taking an instrument out of the box or case and tuning the strings. A Set - Up is to regulate, configure, balance, harmonize, synchronize, optimize and/or calibrate all the factors involved with string height, finger pressure, playability, harmonic accuracy at every fret, position, and combination; neck and fingerboard straightness and alignment, string to neck radius , and overall tonal beauty and performance of an instrument.

"An instrument is set up best with a combination of precision measurement tools, continuous play testing throughout the process, and an expert-experienced eye, ear, and insight; to make visual and audible calculations that mix in with the other evaluations bringing out optimal play-ability, harmonic accuracy,  and or personalized performance style."

The final set up of an instrument is perhaps the most important single factor in determining its musical persona (or aura) and its attractiveness to a player, that is, how the player will perceive the instrument and its ability to meet the player’s needs and musical expectations. This set up is done after an instrument is crafted and fully aged. It is better if it can be done in the climate where the instrument user lives, as the instrument woods will then have a chance to respond to the local climate before the setup calculations are determined and executed. (However, if this is not always possible or practical, so better instruments may need to have additional set up work done by a skilled craftsman in their own local climate).



 What is Guitar or Instrument Set Up?

A series of adjustments to balance and coordinate the guitars string to neck ratios, which keeps it in ideal condition over time and helps develop long term stability, so it does not continually go out of regulated adjustment and require frequent tune ups. It can also be done in advanced versions that improve the harmonic accuracy for truer and prettier tuning sound, while personalizing the instrument to your preferred playing style.


Why does a guitar need to be Set Up?

A guitar setup helps to ensure proper health, longevity, stability, and play-ability, and is considered an important element in the final finishing of an instrument. Having a Set Up done on your guitar addresses changes a guitar may go  through over time and returns it to its proper equilibrium and playing-condition.

Does every guitar need to be set-up?

Every string instrument will have wood shift and resultant play-ability and tuning issues arise at some time over the course of its life. Set Up work simply restores the instrument to correct playing and tuning standards. As an instrument is used and is affected by the climate and season changes, it is common to need to have additional set up work or modifications done to retain the original design and equilibrium of the instrument, such that it plays and tunes in its optimal range of possibilities. The string action and intonation will be compromised with time, and a setup will restore the originality and perfection of the instrument.


How do I know if my guitar or instrument needs to be set up?

There are several signs that a guitar is in need of a set-up. If the intonation is out of tune, if the instrument is difficult to tune,  won’t stay in tune or sounds out of tune in some keys while not others, if  the string action is too high making the guitar difficult to play and press down the strings, if the strings are too close to the neck and the guitar buzzes or chokes when you fret or play a note, if the strings stop vibrating and buzz as you bend them, if the fret edges feel sharp, if the neck appears warped, or if you detect any other performance failures of the instrument as you try to play or tune it;  then your guitar definitely needs a set-up to remedy these performance failures and to address further deterioration of the instruments regulation.




What is done to the guitar during setup?

A guitar or string instrument set up simply involves a series of calculations and adjustments that allow the instrument to play, tune and sound its best. Advanced set up can be done to attune the instrument to a player’s personal playing style, harmonic perfection, and tonal requirements.

The parameters on the guitar are assessed and measured, then adjusted or modified to restore its original and optimal tonality, and play-ability. What is done exactly varies with each instrument and a good Luthier determines the optimal possibilities of an instrument and performs luthierie actions to the instrument that allow for correct alignment, intonation, play-ability and tonality; plus performance  personalization for a particular players personal style.



To see a list of the technical procedures utilized at the String Workshop in doing a professional Set Up to a guitar or string instrument, please see our Guitar Set Up Page (Click below):


Please click here:

Guitar Set Up

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