Getting a guitar “setup”

Discussion in 'Telecaster Discussion Forum' started by MapleTwang, Jul 11, 2019.

  1. MapleTwang

    MapleTwang TDPRI Member

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    Troops,

    I took delivery of a 75 Tele today that badly needs to be setup. I think it must’ve gotten rattled a bit in delivery (reverb purchase).

    Low E was fretted out and high E was super high. It just needs adjusting etc.

    I’ve never had an electric guitar setup before so I’m a bit curious about a couple things.

    Here is what the guys says he does (super nice guy - great reviews - surely knows what he’s doing):

    “Full setup :Truss adjustment, intonation, string height, fret polish and board conditioning, tuner tightening and lube, strap button tightening, on electric we go over all electronics and clean, nut slot go over and lube ...“

    With a 75 that’s all original (except tuners) do I want all of this done? What is fret polish and “board conditioning”

    How would he clean all electronics? It’s all original and hasn’t been messed with (original solders etc).

    Do I want all of this stuff with an almost vintage tele?

    And what’s the usual turnaround for a setup? He told me a week and a half. That’s cool if that’s normal - I will just miss the thing. I was excited to get playing on it.

    I’d post photos but I rushed it off to the guitar tech so fast I didn’t get any...
     
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  2. Toast

    Toast Tele-Meister

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    How much is the setup? Is the guitar technician reputable? Why wouldn't you want it checked out? I imagine they clean the electronics by vacuuming out the dust and whatnot. Hopefully, they'll find some money inside it and set it aside for you for when you return :) <--I'm only saying that because I want to encourage people to hide money in guitars.

    I took one of my guitars in to get set up and the guitar tech accidentally dropped his screwdriver into the finish. The store offered to replace the guitar or give me $500 in store credit. I took the credit and took a new tube amp home with me that day.

    Edit: If it's your first guitar, then I would say getting it set up by a tech is easiest. If you're something of a craftsperson, then you can probably go the DIY route with Youtube vids.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2019
  3. SixStringSlinger

    SixStringSlinger Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    They want your money now and later, so if you ask them to hold the pickles I'm sure they'll accommodate you. If they're super cool (or if you negotiate) they may even lower the price some if you don't want the full works.

    I think the week-an-a-half turnaround time may have more to do with how busy they are with other work on top of yours. Some guitar tech/luthier work is a lot more involved than a simple set-up, and they probably have customers who dropped stuff off before you. Setting up any individual guitar from "scratch" will take maybe a couple of hours, tops, if that's all you have on your plate.

    I strongly recommend learning to do your own set-ups. It can seem overwhelming, but it's dead simple, and everything you can possibly "mess up" is reversible (with very few exceptions). You don't need anything more than information, screwdrivers/allen keys of the correct size(s) for your guitar, maybe a ruler with small increments, your hands and your ears.
     
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  4. Steve 78

    Steve 78 Tele-Afflicted

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    If you want to keep all the old dirt and mojo, I would just explain the situation to him. Ask him to do adjustments to truss rod, intonation and string height but please don't do any cleaning or polishing or use any product on it. A week and a half sounds pretty average/good to me. I would guess board conditioning is oiling the fretboard, but I'm no luthier. +1 on learning to do it yourself.
     
  5. stratcatt

    stratcatt TDPRI Member

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    Spend your $$$ on the tools and do it yourself. It will take you a while the first time, but once you learn how, you'll never have to wait a week and a half to play your prized new ax again. All of the information you need is on YouTube. Just punch in "setting up a ....name and model of your particular guitar." Just be very careful the first time you adjust your truss rod, as over tightening it can ruin your neck. Also, don't put anything on your neck or finish to clean it without first making sure it is safe for your particular instrument. Like SixStringSlinger said, everything else that you would do is reversible. If your smart enough to play it, your smart enough to set it up yourself. Go for it, and good luck with your new guitar!
     
  6. brbadg

    brbadg Tele-Afflicted

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    It is a waste of time if you don't know what you're doing,or not particularly good at it.
    Getting a basic setup is a must with ANY guitar,and you should get the work done
    by somebody who knows what they are doing .Totally worth the money.
     
  7. Milspec

    Milspec Friend of Leo's

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    If the shop has a good reputation...let them do as suggested.

    I am starting to view guitar set-up in the same light as a tune-up on your car. Sure, you can do it, but the shop might find things that you didn't notice which will save you down the road. I did my own set-ups for years, but I found a shop that just gets it perfect and will do it in 2 days so I give them my business.
     
  8. Bones

    Bones Telefied Ad Free Member

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    MapleTwang, post: 9198720, member: 147343"]Troops,

    I took delivery of a 75 Tele today that badly needs to be setup. I think it must’ve gotten rattled a bit in delivery (reverb purchase).

    Low E was fretted out and high E was super high. It just needs adjusting etc.

    I’ve never had an electric guitar setup before so I’m a bit curious about a couple things.

    Here is what the guys says he does (super nice guy - great reviews - surely knows what he’s doing):

    “Full setup :Truss adjustment, intonation, string height, fret polish and board conditioning, tuner tightening and lube, strap button tightening, on electric we go over all electronics and clean, nut slot go over and lube ...“

    With a 75 that’s all original (except tuners) do I want all of this done? What is fret polish and “board conditioning”

    If it's a maple fretboard, there's no way to condition it, it will just be cleaned. Fret polishing is just that, there's different ways to do it, but it makes the frets very shiny and slick, this can help with making bends easier as the strings don't drag as much on the frets. It's not the same as crowning and leveling, the shape and height of the frets will not change.

    How would he clean all electronics? It’s all original and hasn’t been messed with (original solders etc).

    "Cleaning the electronics" Means he's going to spray a little contact cleaner into the pots

    Do I want all of this stuff with an almost vintage tele?

    You want the guitar to play nice, don't you? You can opt out of things that you don't want, but generally the things he's going to do are just "tweaks", not major work.

    And what’s the usual turnaround for a setup? He told me a week and a half. That’s cool if that’s normal - I will just miss the thing. I was excited to get playing on it.

    Pretty normal for a reputable dude with a good client base.

    I’d post photos but I rushed it off to the guitar tech so fast I didn’t get any..
    .
     
    AZMLI and Doctorx33 like this.
  9. The Angle

    The Angle Tele-Meister

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    With a guitar of that vintage, it would have been a good idea to run a short inspection of the instrument with the tech when you dropped it off and make a fairly detailed list of its condition -- scratches, dents, etc. No one looks forward to it, but if it comes back with any damage that you don't recall it having before, it's good to have some proof. That's doubly true when you haven't had the guitar long enough to really know it inside-out. Odds are this tech is careful and nothing unfortunate will happen, but an inspection checklist (or a bunch of photos) is cheap insurance.
     
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  10. TwangerWannabe

    TwangerWannabe Tele-Meister

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    Yes, you want them to do all that. You spent good money on a vintage guitar, now go the extra (and necessary) mile and get it set up so it plays it's best. It's like buying an old car and saying you don't need to give it a tune up because you want to keep the old brakes, tires and oil.

    Cost would depend on where you live, could range from $60-$100. I'm in the Bay Area so it's usually closer to the $100 mark. And a week and a half is normal, especially if the shop is busy and the guy is in demand, which is a good thing.

    As much as I recommend everyone learning how to do a basic set up on their instruments, this probably isn't the time or guitar for you to learn on. have a pro do this one for you, then take notes and measurements when you get it back and mess with your lower end guitars first and/or pick up a cheap Tele and use the as your guinea pig. You can't really "ruin" anything doing a basic set up, but since you have no prior experience you really don't have a reference point, right? Once you get your Tele back from the shop you'll now know how it should feel.

    It's not rocket science, but at the same time there is an art to getting the right balance between the relief, action, nut slots, etc., and dial all that in to a player's particular preferences.
     
  11. ladave

    ladave Tele-Holic

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    I feel like before we give somebody advice to do it themselves we should first ask them if they are somebody that likes working on stuff like that. Those of us who are naturally inclined that way (or perhaps conditioned by our upbringing) just assume that others are the same way as well.

    I agree all the things mentioned are easy to do, don't require special tools, and great instructions are easily found online. But some people just don't seem to be wired for working on things with tools. Perhaps they can learn if they want to, but if they have no interest in that then it's probably better just to pay somebody who is good at it.

    So, enjoy the new guitar when you get it. I imagine it will probably play great, and you won't have to question if you did it right.
     
  12. Mr Green Genes

    Mr Green Genes Tele-Afflicted

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    I agree that it's best to learn how to do your own setups- even if you pay someone else to do it, you'll have a much better understanding of what you want done, and you'll be able to communicate with the tech much more effectively.

    That being said, the drastically uneven string height from one side of the neck to the other scares me a little. Allen screws aren't going to get turned that much in shipping. It's entirely possible that the neck has one or more issues (like a twist), and/or there's a fret that's high on the treble side, etc.
    For something like that, you could be opening a can of worms if you try to fix it yourself.

    If possible, I'd pay the professional to do the first setup while you watch so you'll have an idea of what's going on, that way when the seasons change, you'll be able to do the next setup on your own, with a little help from YouTube and TDPRI.
     
  13. EddieLocrian

    EddieLocrian Tele-Afflicted

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    In London (Kingston-upon-Thames) it's £50 and you have to wait 3-4 weeks to get the guitar back.

    Do it now.
     
  14. Chunkocaster

    Chunkocaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    Learn how to do it yourself and save yourself a fortune over the years of playing, even more if you own multiple guitars. It's really not that hard and you stand a much better chance of getting just how you like it if you do it yourself.
     
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  15. tfarny

    tfarny Friend of Leo's

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    The OP doesn't know what is involved in a common setup, and just bought a 40 year old guitar. He probably isn't someone who wants to learn to do it himself, and certainly not to learn on an expensive antique.

    OP, if you are in LA, McCabe's and Truetone Music, both in Santa Monica, are two shops I would definitely feel comfortable taking a vintage guitar. I don't know where you are located, of course there are lots of others. Some "techs" don't know what they are doing, some are amazing. I personally think 10 days is excessive for 1-2 hours of common labor. What, it just sits in the the shop while they service 100 other guitars first? Next day service would be better business practice.
     
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  16. AngelStrummer

    AngelStrummer Friend of Leo's

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    If you're even only moderately handy, you can do this yourself with basic DIY tools (screwdriver, allen keys). The Fender website gives a good indication on a standard set up (you can then 'season to taste'). All you need for truss-rod adjustments (i.e. measuring neck curvature) is a regular business card and a capo. You'll need a nickel (or 2p coin) for measuring regular low E string height at the 15th fret (2mm). 2 nickels (or 2p coins) will work for standard pickup height measurements (at low E) and a tuner for intonation is always helpful.

    The only thing you won't be able to do without specialist tools is nut height adjustments.
     
  17. Tonetele

    Tonetele Poster Extraordinaire

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    Find a GOOD luthier and the cost is about $100 here, but it varies, depending on who you go to.
     
  18. bgmacaw

    bgmacaw Friend of Leo's

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    I agree with the idea of knowing how to do your own setups but a vintage instrument you just bought isn't what you want to use as your learning experience. For that, you would want to get something inexpensive, like less than $100 used. If you are interested in DIY, it is also good to find a tech who is willing to show you their process. That's how I got started with it.

    As for the wait time, it depends on how busy the tech is and how much in demand they are. I've generally found a week or two is typical for specialty repair people, such as guitar amp techs and sewing machine mechanics. Much longer than that may mean they're swamped with work and may not be able to do the work as well or in a timely fashion.
     
  19. Fretting out

    Fretting out Tele-Meister

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    If you bought the guitar as a player the LAST THING you should worry about is keeping the nut and frets original. If the nut slot is worn (sounds like this might be happening) or the frets have no meat on them . Then the guitar ceases to be properly playable instrument .
    From what i understand frets and nut have the smallest impact on resale value because without them a guitar is useless.
    Just be aware when the 70s models need a refret it’s usually a must to strip the board because the finish is so thick it will chip, you can have someone retain the original finish on the fretboard but it is at a substantial cost increase
     
  20. tlsmack

    tlsmack Tele-Afflicted

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    When you drop it off, any good tech will do an evaluation with you, it protects both you and him from any surprises later on! You can get a feel for what you really want done. Any major issues, ask for a written description in case you need to address anything with the seller/ reverb!
     
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