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. Ebidis

    Ebidis Tele-Meister

    Jun 27, 2016
    How does doing a setup avoid your warranty? Never heard that before.

  2. televillian

    televillian Tele-Meister

    Oct 3, 2013
    Clarkdale, AZ
    set ups require the same thing as playing, practice
    boredguy6060 likes this.

  3. Wally

    Wally Telefied Ad Free Member

    Mar 17, 2003
    Lubbock, TX
    Short instrument that is properly set up will yield the same feel on every fret position on every string. That is, one area will not exhibit stiffer tension when fretting than any other...from the nut to the end of the fretboard. There will be no fret rattle anywhere with a moderate/medium pick attack. The high E string will bend the appropriate musical distance for the player’s style, and the low end will be higher than the high E which yields that balanced feeling nd the lack of fret rattle with the same pick attack from string to string. With proper fretting technique, the instrument will intonate accurately up and down the board.
    A well setup instrument is easy to play and musical due to the harmonics created by accurate intonation. The instrument becomes an instructor of correct fretting because it can be played in tune...and using bad fretting technique will cause the guitar to yield poor intonation and dull, flat sounding notes and chord. The musical difference can be heard. If the instrument is not well setup, it really doesn’t matter how one plays or tunes the instrument because it will not truly play in tune and never exhibits the best musical tones that it could and should.

  4. Jakedog

    Jakedog Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Mar 26, 2003
    The North Coast
    Well, we'll see. Fender's warranty says any work not performed by an authorized service center voids the warranty. This needed a full fret level to address a neck issue the authorized shop told me wasn't actually there.

    They charged me money to not fix it. Said they "made it playable". I don't want playable. I want right. So now it's got a full fret level, crown, and polish, nut work, and plays better than new, even though the neck is still whacky. But according to Fender's warranty, I most likely no longer have one.
    boredguy6060 and RadioFM74 like this.

  5. Thebluesman

    Thebluesman Tele-Meister

    Feb 20, 2009
    nowhere anymore/UK
    The 1 st thing watch how the guitarist plays.''naturally!'' Not to 'impress'.,but to inform me,and gives me instantly an 'approximation' i can mentally make for what Action may now suit his playing style...that guides me to a set up that caters for his weaknesses & strengths.
    The fret hand informs me of the string height that may suit.The plectrum/finger style hand ,how aggressive he strikes the strings...also guides too..towards a set up that he now seeks.To tailor the guitar to 'fit like a glove'
    A set up should cater for the players fret hand comfort...his musical 'uniqueness' catered for not mine.!
    His musical preferences thus steers me accordingly.More easily attainable on a guitar with an adjustable bridge type design.Harder but still achievable within certain limits on an acoustic guitar that has limited adjustability because of its bridge/saddle type.
    The player expects me to pretend that his hands..are attain the desired end result.,the set up that is carefully 'tailored' to suit.
    The end result may not suit me musically,my musical preferences but suits his as near perfect as possible etc.
    Every set up requires the instrument to be firstly examined closely and if any faults (in the frets) traced to then be rectified after consultation with agreement to do so made.
    Any fret errors found will effect any set up regardless of action/string height preference.
    The string slots now lowered,then the saddle height & Relief now adjusted accordingly to suit.
    The set up should then be complete and hopefully satisfactory etc.If the player does not show me how he naturally plays then the set up resulting maybe found to be satisfactory but i would expect further minor adjustments to be made accordingly.
    telemnemonics and Jakedog like this.

  6. TC6969

    TC6969 Friend of Leo's

    Dec 28, 2007
    Rockledge Florida
    I was checking out these guys who are apparently the big dogs in the Tampa area.

    I shot them a message asking what would happen after I laid my guitar on the counter and ordered their complete setup @ $50.00.

    Lets see what they do.

  7. gitold

    gitold Friend of Leo's

    Mar 25, 2009
    Greeley Co.
    The problem with having a pro set up your instrument is there isn’t a right way to do it. I’ve set up 100’s of instruments and it differs for everybody. All my guitars have no relief, low action at the nut and bridge. I have pretty good chops and play with a light touch. That works for me. I just set up a guitar for my friend who has a very heavy hand and plays simple leads. I set up his guitar the way I would like it then we talked about how it felt to him when he played it. We ended up giving it some relief and raising the action and he was happy. I set up a guitar for a guy who had his stings super low and they fretted out on any bend over the 12th fret. We raised his action a bit but talking with him I realized that he played mostly cowboy chords and never bent strings so his super low action was fine for him. Anyone who sets up your instrument for you with out working with you through the process isn’t really doing the job right. There is no “I have a Tele with a 9.5 radius” perfect way to set it up but that’s what most people will do. Same with pickup height. I have 20 some guitars with humbuckers and some of the pickups are almost touching the strings and some are much lower. Just use your ears, nobody else knows what you want. When I was young all my acoustics had 13’s and no buzz what so ever, nice stiff action. Now that I’m a old dude they have 12’s and I put up with a little buzz if I’m beating the poop out of it because of my arthritis. Learn how to do as much as you can do yourself because your the only one who knows what you want

  8. Frank'n'censed

    Frank'n'censed Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 27, 2011
    Parts Unknown
    He only axed about tone wood

  9. rebelwoclue

    rebelwoclue Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

    Jan 15, 2012
    +1- I thought I had a pretty good guitar tech at one time- found out he took short cuts on wiring up a couple of my guitars and made them sound like crap. No more.
    Jakedog likes this.

  10. RadioFM74

    RadioFM74 Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

    Hi, I agree with all the others that you're better off learning to DIY. I am now where I can do all basic maintenance myself and set-up my guitars the way I like them. So yeah, even though you've brought you guitar to a tech do take the time to check the many DIY setup resources available.

    Even if you set out to learn to DIY, you still need to locate a good tech because:
    a) even when you get good at setup there might still be repairs beyond your skills

    b) you can learn from him/her (don't be afraid to ask questions);

    c) you need to start from a proper setup and learn from there.

    So when you get your guitar back, check that everything is ok as Wally said, and that the action is to your liking. From there, you could do some experiments (e.g. with pickup height) noting current settings down beforehand so you can fall back to what the luthier did.

    As for identifying a good tech, it's trial and error. Reputation is all you can go by at the start, although you may have disappointments. I brought an archtop to a rather famous and specialized (and busy!) luthier: fret leveling ok, intonation and action (I suppose done in a hurry, or by apprentice) wrong by a mile! Luckily I had the skill to identify the problem and do my setup.

    I personally favour small local shops where you actually get to talk to the guy and learn from him.
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2018

  11. wyclif

    wyclif Tele-Afflicted

    Nov 29, 2011
    The difference between a luthier and a setup guy is that the former knows a lot about how to work with wood. I'd be far more likely to pay big bucks for the work of a luthier than a setup guy.

    I'm not dissing great setup guys and guitar techs, you can find them. But the distance between your expertise and that of a setup guy is not that much IF (and this is a big IF) you're willing to spend some time and money learning and equipping yourself.

    Also, when shopping around for guitar repair or setup work nothing can replace the power of solid recommendations from guitarists you know. I'm not talking about social media reviews, I'm talking about personal recommendations.

    If a guy has a great reputation, you shouldn't feel bad about taking a guitar to him for work.

  12. wyclif

    wyclif Tele-Afflicted

    Nov 29, 2011
    Oh, I forgot to add that one good way to tell a hack from a good setup guy is if they ask to watch and listen to you play when you bring the guitar into the shop.

    As someone else above observed, it's simply impossible to do a real custom setup job if the guy doesn't know how you play. That's the best way for them to tell how to set the action and relief, how hard you pick, whether you bash chords a lot, &c.
    Wally and boredguy6060 like this.

  13. wyclif

    wyclif Tele-Afflicted

    Nov 29, 2011
    [Please ignore this post, it was a dupe. I'm still amazed that there's no way to delete a post on TDPRI. This is 2018, for cryin' out loud!]
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2018

  14. Paul Jenkin

    Paul Jenkin Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

    Aug 17, 2017
    Essex, UK
    Ask to see some testimonials for work done and then check / verify them. My dad was a cabinet maker and was always more than happy to provide testimonials to anyone who wanted them. If you do good work and get praised / thanked for it, it's the best advertising you can get.

  15. 5ofeight

    5ofeight Tele-Holic Ad Free Member

    Oct 17, 2016
    it is trial and error to find a good set up guy, when I started this here guitaring lark 3 or so years back I took my then acoustic to a shop the next town over, The lad there was very helpful and did a great job setting my guitar up..Anyway, about 3 or 4 guitars along the story line and having used the same place to set my guitars up I ventured in with another acoustic, This time though it was a different lad behind the shop counter and well, he butchered my guitar.
    I never went back to their shop as after that I went to night school for eight weeks to learn how to do my own setups and repairs.
    The course cost me £100( about $140 american) which is the cost of one set up with a fret level here, so money well spent on a course which has paid for itself 4 or 5 times over so far..

  16. TC6969

    TC6969 Friend of Leo's

    Dec 28, 2007
    Rockledge Florida

    I got an E-mail back from the guy.

    I told the guy exactly what I had PM3 Limited.

    He rattled off a (short) list of what he would do that included cleaning and oiling a NEW fret board and dressing fret ends (Bound fret board)

    The only thing left was truss rod adjustment, nut height adjustment and string slots.

    Not a lot for $50.00.

  17. DrPepper

    DrPepper Tele-Meister

    Nov 24, 2017
    Unfortunately, only in hindsight... did he do a good job or not.

  18. Old Tele man

    Old Tele man Friend of Leo's

    May 10, 2017
    Tucson, AZ
    It's ALL in the FINGERS...your hand & fingers, they'll tell you when things are RIGHT or WRONG!

  19. Wally

    Wally Telefied Ad Free Member

    Mar 17, 2003
    Lubbock, TX
    Set-up....truss rod adjustment, nut regulation to the first fret, bridge saddle adjustments for radius and action at the 12th fret dependent upon the radius, line of neck and player preference, new string installments, recheck all of the a little bit....intonate. Any board cleaning and oiling and light clean up and polish falls into the service at N/C as long as the gunk doesn't have to be scraped off. Fret end dressing is not part of a set-up and would be a bit extra. A good set-up is worth more than $50.
    Prior to the set-up, a good tech will go through an evaluation of the instrument with the player and find out how the player wants the guitar to much bend, tunings, etc. this eliminates a lot of guess work on both parts...the tech knows what the target is and the player knows what to expect.
    Jakedog likes this.

  20. Boomhauer

    Boomhauer Friend of Leo's

    Aug 18, 2013
    Having a tech who isn't Fender certified can potentially void the warranty. That's Fender's way of protecting themselves in the event that some knob from three blocks over messes up your guitar, then you go crying back to Fender saying "My warranty!" They'll say "Nah, brev. That cheeky monkey from three blocks over confuckulated your gear. Yeh should've gone to yer local Fender dealer, innit, pip pip cheerio," because apparently Fender hires Dickensian-era orphans to work in their call centers.
    Jakedog likes this.

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