Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

How Do You Tell a Good Setup Tech From a Hack?

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by TC6969, Mar 12, 2018.

  1. TC6969

    TC6969 Friend of Leo's

    Dec 28, 2007
    Wimauma Florida
    Now that I've played my Paramount a little bit, it's time for some minor tweaking.

    Whats the deal?

    Any questions to ask?

    My luck with buying mail order guitars has come through for me again, and I'm not handing it over to some Bozo.
  2. FenderGyrl

    FenderGyrl Friend of Leo's

    Jul 22, 2012
    I would see if they have one of their guitars that you could play, or one that they just set up that you to check out.
    LocoTex, P Thought and Jakedog like this.
  3. Jakedog

    Jakedog Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Mar 26, 2003
    The North Coast
    Best rule- do it yourself.

    If that rule doesn't apply, use somebody you can trust. As in personal experience. Not anecdotal.

    I recently broke my own rule and went to a new (to me) repair shop because it was highly recommended by people I know very well. I didn't want to do the work myself, because the guitar is under warranty and 1. I shouldn't have to, and 2. I didn't want to void the warranty.

    Long story short, it got botched, and I ended up doing it myself anyhow.

    Now I don't have a warranty, but at least I have a guitar that works.

    The world of "guitar techs" and "luthiers" is highly populated by half-assers, poseurs, and flat out liars. All of whom will tell you happily that they're the best. I've never seen a field more full ego driven idiots. Most of them shouldn't be allowed near an instrument.

    For clarity, there are some REALLY good techs and luthiers out there, but much like finding music on the internet, it's can be real hard to find the gems amongst all the pure crap that permeates every corner.
    gtrplr, Ricky D., RyCo1983 and 4 others like this.
  4. Toto'sDad

    Toto'sDad Telefied Ad Free Member

    Jun 21, 2011
    I don't what to tell you about having someone work on your guitar. I have driven several hundred miles to have two different techs of great renown work on a couple of my guitars in opposite directions to each other. Neither of these setups really suited me. The only defense you have really and it's a long, hard, rocky road getting to where you can really do a good job, is to learn to do it yourself.

    I finally bit the bullet ordered some stuff from StewMac, then ordered more stuff when I found out what else I needed. Now I could duplicate most everything I ordered from stuff lying around the house, but that was part of the education process too. The thing about setup, it's never over! It's on going. The weather changes you tweak it. Your playing style changes a little, you tweak it a little. I can't begin to tell you how many different things can affect guitar setup because after nine years of doing my own I'm still learning. I know the slightest tweak can make a guitar play better or worse. It just depends on how particular you are. Acoustics are really more a matter of art than science. The Telecaster is a device of the devil, it's simplicity has been much stated, but it's a complex beast to get the most out of, maybe impossible to ever get it completely where you want it. I have learned that really low action on anything is the enemy of tone, playing, bending, and your wife or girl friends mood swings.
    gtrplr, moosie, DonM and 3 others like this.
  5. Toto'sDad

    Toto'sDad Telefied Ad Free Member

    Jun 21, 2011
    I think we must have been typing at about the same time. Actually I only mentioned two setup guys who had "impeccable" reps that I went to. Like Valdez, before I knew better. There was another who ruined a D-18 for me! AN OLD ONE! He's dead, so I guess I can get over it now. (no I didn't have anything to do with it, natural causes) Now I don't trust anyone. If somebody is going to F*** it up, it might as well be me! It is amazing how far you can go with luthiers, each of them will hand you a stool have you stand on it, tell you what grand experts they are, then give the stool a good swift kick, when you a%% hits the floor, you realize you're getting smarter already.

    I realize I'm being a bit caustic, maybe I ain't over that 18 yet! :lol::lol::lol:
    Piggy Stu, Jackadder, aerhed and 4 others like this.
  6. tlsmack

    tlsmack Tele-Holic

    Jan 20, 2007
    Lonk I-lant, New York
    I had a tech ask me so many questions about what I wanted, it was almost annoying. But his detail and quality of work were amazing. I think I prefer too many questions than too few. A guy who just takes your guitar and writes "set-up" on a tag does not inspire much confidence.
    LocoTex, bcorig, kuvash and 4 others like this.
  7. Boomhauer

    Boomhauer Friend of Leo's

    Aug 18, 2013
    Guitar work isn't rocket surgery, and for the price of a couple of professional set-ups, you can buy tools and literature that'll allow you to do it yourself.
    The Angle, Piggy Stu, kuvash and 8 others like this.
  8. boredguy6060

    boredguy6060 Friend of Leo's

    Mar 28, 2012
    Sou Cal
    I have found this to be true.
    All you need is the desire and some simple education and a few hand tools.
    As TD said, set up is an on going thing, if your gonna have your strings sitting right on the fret, then many things can effect that.
    Humidity and temperature are the main things that can change your set up.
    But to play it with super low action, be ready to tweak it here and there frequently.
    kuvash and tedbergstrand like this.
  9. AngelDeville

    AngelDeville Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

    Dec 27, 2007
    If they can set up your guitar without asking any questions....

    They might be a hack....
  10. heltershelton

    heltershelton Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

    Sep 14, 2016
    not houston
    i set up all my guitars now. learned a bunch of things at ST, since all my electrics are strats. dont have a tele yet but im having one built.
    it pays to learn how to do it yourself, that way you can set it up exactly how you like it, every single time. whats really annoying is when i start asking myself all these questions.
    Jakedog and Ebidis like this.
  11. Rockerfeller

    Rockerfeller Tele-Meister

    Feb 14, 2014
    Denver, co
    Find out who the pros go to in your area and go there. BUT, and this is a big but, you must know what it is you like. You have to tell the tech how you want it because if you don't, they are going to set it up the way they like it, and you might not like what they like.

    Learning how to do it on your own is pretty easy and if you get the right tools it is a snap.
    thunderbyrd and Hiker like this.
  12. bgmacaw

    bgmacaw Tele-Afflicted

    Feb 11, 2006
    Near Athens GA USA
    As a hack, I recommend learning to do setups yourself. Get yourself some basic tools and a couple of cheap Chinese kits or used Squiers and the like to learn on. The problem is that once they know you can setup a guitar properly, friends and relatives and their friends will want to you to do the work for them, for free.

    What's a "minor tweak" to you? The better you can define that, the better the end result will be.
  13. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI

    using that Jeff Foxworthy voice-over:
    If ... they talk about tone-wood ... they might be a red-Tech!
    They will have other mystical and magical concepts to incorporate into your guitar and best to avoid.

    You could take a Squier as a test first and then take your Fender or Gibson if the Squier worked out well.

    Rockerfeller likes this.
  14. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 2, 2010
    I do encourage everybody to learn to do their own setup and basic repairs, even customers whose guitars I work on.
    But IME some people are just kind of at odds with conceptualizing the physics of alignment and curvature of planes, or at odds with using basic tools.
    Then some people can fix stuff but have other things they prefer to do with their time.
    Those two groups are good candidates for paying a tech to keep their guitars in good working order.

    It's worth considering the possibility that learning to adjust a guitar is not always the same as having the skills to adjust it optimally, or having the experience to identify a problem that doesn't seem to go away with basic setup procedures.
    Gaining skills takes time IME.

    If looking for a tech, I'd go with the description below.
    I would even go so far as to bring in a guitar for a setup and see what they do.
    If they ask no questions and just tag it, ask for it back and take it to another shop.

    Maybe it's unfair to some good techs who cannot be there when guitars get dropped off, but unless you want a spec setup, the customer deserves the services of a tech who is there when you bring in the guitar.
    I ask to see the customer play before and after a setup or whatever work.
    I may also be a PITA!

    I've also known techs and luthiers who kind of got famous in their craft and forgot the customers needs. A great rep doesn't always make a great service provider.
    The handful of techs to the stars or famous luthiers whose names grace the headstocks of world class guitars don't change the fact that a tech is just a tradesman or woman with some tools, training (or not) and a workbench.
    We don't put plumbers or HVAC techs on a pedestal, and we damn sure expect the fixed stuff to work right after the job is done.

    So yeah it's worth a little vetting!
    While they may be busy making a living and not up for chatting, you could say you're looking for a tech, and ask them if and why you should pick them.
    A decent tech will get it. Go with your gut but don't expect mad social skills.
  15. TC6969

    TC6969 Friend of Leo's

    Dec 28, 2007
    Wimauma Florida
    I don't trust myself.

    All my life, be it guitars, guns, cars, relationships with women, whatever, when I get something perfect I always think "If I hit it just ONE MORE lick, it'll be perfecter!"

    And it never is!
  16. boredguy6060

    boredguy6060 Friend of Leo's

    Mar 28, 2012
    Sou Cal
    One way to get some practice is to go to and buy one of those 79$ Strats or Tele’s and do everything it needs to play like a CS model.
    You will have to
    Level frets
    Crown frets
    Polish frets
    Bevel fret ends
    Replace nut
    File nut slots
    Replace tuners
    Adjust truss rod
    Adjust bridge
    Set intonation
    Adjust pick up height
    If you want to learn wiring, that’s another field, but good to know.
    Once you have the guitar playing like a CS job, sell it, buy another one, and repeat.

    Good luck.
    Jackadder, Hiker and telemnemonics like this.
  17. IronSchef

    IronSchef Tele-Holic Platinum Supporter

    to answer your question - you can only really tell by the results. Its a great thing to learn how to do yourself, and it really isn't that hard to do.

    There's a guy named Frudua on the net that has all kinds of great videos on guitar set-up - a great place to learn the needed skills
  18. boredguy6060

    boredguy6060 Friend of Leo's

    Mar 28, 2012
    Sou Cal
    Then setting up guitars is a harmless way for you to learn to trust yourself, and
    Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.
    Or as my grandma use to say, quit picking fly sh#+ out of pepper.
  19. Hiker

    Hiker Poster Extraordinaire

    Jul 20, 2008
    How they answer the most basic of questions - assuming you catch them when they have a minute. It's really about reputation with most of those guys. If you have any doubts about what they can do for your guitar, don't bother.

    The problem with DIY setups is this. Say you do buy $500 or $1,000 guitars. Do you want it to play halfway, or like a $3,000 guitar that's been setup by a real professional? It's that simple. The average guy on this forum could not have delivered the setup on my Telecaster. Not even close. A guitar builder with a good rep took care of business, and it was setup LOW, and more - just like we discussed.
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2018
    boredguy6060 likes this.
  20. messhead

    messhead Tele-Meister

    Apr 13, 2007
    Rochester, NY
    I find Squier Bullets on CL for next to nothing. I bought a few and watched videos, read, and learned how to level, crown, dress frets, cut a nut, etc on them. I have a few Bullet necks now that play incredibly. I wouldn't recommend learning on a new custom shop model, but for the current price of a setup, you could spend a small bit more, get a Bullet that some mom is selling because her kid lost interest, and a few tools.
    Piggy Stu and AngelDeville like this.
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.