Getting a guitar “setup”

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

  1. Stu Cazz

    Stu Cazz TDPRI Member

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    Another vote here for learning how to do it yourself. With all the information out there today it's piece of cake!
    IMHO, a good tech can do a pretty nice setup to how he likes it, or how you tell him you like it, but first you need to know what exactly you want in terms of action and pickup height to name a few.
    For the rest, cleaning isn't relly that hard, you just need the right products, for the finish for example nothing beats Virtuoso cleaner and polish, for electronics deoxit does wonders in potenciometers, and a bit of fader lube if needed. Just a few videos and some elbow grease and that thing will play like a dream and look like a million bucks.
     
  2. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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  3. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

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    .

    Take some pictures and then compare when you get it back with more pictures, if you are worried about more relicing happening when it's away.

    A good setup can make a world of difference in playability.

    If it were any cheap starter guitar, or if the frets show divots/pot holes of play wear on a pricier/vintage type, then I'd ask about a full fret level (usually a fret level is $100 and includes the $50 worth of setup work you'd pay for just a setup -- so that extra $50 is super high value). If the frets are worn and no meat left for a fret level then you'll need to look at just a setup and/or a re-fret situation (and go with stainless if that path is taken).

    I'd avoid taking it to any 'GC'-type of place, even if you have to drive a ways and pay more, find a talented guitar tech. Even if only doing a setup, ask what equipment they use to do a full fret level. Prefer a place that has a leveling jig that puts the neck in string tension position. Because then they will know more about doing a good setup.

    .
     
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  4. hdvades

    hdvades Tele-Holic

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    Had a simular "full set up" on an older SG I just purchased to include staighening up the electronics/wiring issues caused by some amateur. Luthier did a great job. $100 bucks.
    I'd say get it done to that '75 Telecaster.
    As far as DIY...I'd recommend finding something cheaper to learn on down the road.
     
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  5. dannyh

    dannyh Tele-Afflicted

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    Yeah you should know how to do basic maintenance on a guitar, but this guitar is probably not the one to learn on and that’s not your question anyway...

    If you want to play the guitar, then all of the services the tech is laying out would be good to do. If you’re worried about damaging the vintage value, talk to him and explain your concerns. If he’s an experienced tech he’s probably worked guitars older than a 75. Just be upfront with him and then see how your gut feels about his response.

    A week and a half is a pretty good turn around in my neck of the woods.

    Congrats, post pics and good luck!
     
  6. Marc Morfei

    Marc Morfei Tele-Afflicted

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    Excellent well-reasoned post. Thank you for posting this.
     
  7. Ricky D.

    Ricky D. Doctor of Teleocity

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    I'll quibble with that a little. I've been playing for over 50 years and did my own setups for the first 40 of that. Then I built a partscaster and I just couldn't get it to play as well as I knew it should. I connected with Mellicaster here at the forum. At the time, he had been a full time luthier with a well equipped shop in his house for 20 years. I decided to bet $75 on a full setup. He does all the usual adjustments, and also tweaks the nut slots and fixes a couple high frets. The results were astounding. It's now the best player I've ever had, equal to the very best I've ever played. I can maintain it from there, truss rod and bridge adjustments, now that the bones are right.

    So I say absolutely learn how to adjust your truss rod, bridge saddles, pickup height, intonation, all the screw driver stuff. But one time, spend the money to have an experienced pro get it just right. The pros are better, trust me.
     
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  8. bgmacaw

    bgmacaw Friend of Leo's

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    But, it is very unlikely that they'll be working at your local Guitar Center.
     
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  9. Marc Morfei

    Marc Morfei Tele-Afflicted

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    I will say I am impressed by many of the comments here.
    Following this board closely for the past couple years, this topic comes up from time to time. Responses always seem to fall into two categories:

    1) "Spend the money on a pro setup. Your guitar will play better, you will enjoy playing it much more, and it is totally worth the money. If you don't know what you're doing, you are likely to screw it up trying it yourself."

    2) "What's the matter with you for Chrissakes? You mean you can't just do these simple things yourself? Holy Christmas, you call yourself a guitar player? I would never let another soul touch my guitar! Waddya mean you don't have $100 nut files from Stewmac?!? What kind of idiot are you?"

    It's nice to hear some people pointing out there is a middle ground.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019
  10. Blue Bill

    Blue Bill Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    LOL, that's what I was thinking. My 2 cents: I do most of my own setup and certainly don't have $100 annual tune-ups on my guitars. If a guitar is almost there, plays OK, but just seems a little off, and I can't seem to get it perfect, that's when I'll pop for a pro tune-up. I've had that experience, when a favorite guitar comes back from a talented tech, and it is just amazing how much better it feels.

    Let us know how it works out.
     
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  11. Chunkocaster

    Chunkocaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    Most people that are over pedantic about a guitars setup just need to play more imo.
    Of course it's preferable to have the best setup that suits you but you are the only one who knows what that is and you can easily achieve that yourself after doing enough of your own setups or living with that guitar and tweaking it from week to week. If a guitar is in the ballpark there really is little to battle with playing from one guitar to the next. What might feel slightly less than perfect today will feel spot on in a weeks time if you play the thing enough.

    This is why you come across guys playing acoustics with sky high action and heavy strings yet they play fast and flawless lead on them because that is what they have become accustomed to. It might be a vintage 70's tele but it's still a tele and it was the generic off the rack tele when it was new just like buying a mim tele is today.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019
  12. Blue Bill

    Blue Bill Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    Chunky, I gotta respectfully disagree. I've done a hundred setups, but if something is off, and I can't figure it out, no amount of playing will magically fix it. I understand the idea of getting used to a setup defect, and dealing with it; but for me, the improvement a good pro luthier can make is dramatic enough to be worth the investment.
     
  13. Chunkocaster

    Chunkocaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    From time to time due to laziness I have paid for setups over the years in the past. Done by praised luthiers. Probably 4 times ever but I have always got the guitar back and thought to my self I should have just saved the dollars and done it myself. I like to do a setup on a newly assembled guitar and live with it tweaking it over the following week until it's just right. I use feel mostly. I have also spent a month or two playing acoustics with horrible action etc and become accustomed to them playing them just as well as a nicely setup guitar. Strats and les pauls can be more work to dial in but a tele is as simple as it gets imo which is one of the reasons I love them so much.
     
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  14. Ricky D.

    Ricky D. Doctor of Teleocity

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    So, we have three options: DIY, pay a pro to get it right, or just man up and play yer guitar. If you are ok with wrench and screwdriver adjustments but not with nut cutting or fret leveling, DIY is not an option if you've already done what you can.
     
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  15. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Sounds like you already dropped it off to get the work done?
    Also sounds like the shop has a front desk person that doesn't work on guitars?

    IMO you need to talk to the tech who does the work, not tell a front desk person which service package you want.
    The tech sounds like a Jiffy Lube style shop, not the place I'd bring a vintage or even a good guitar.
    As you noted you don't want all the things on the list done.
    There may be somebody there you can trust but you need to negotiate to talk with the actual tech about the actual guitar, and not settle for a service package.

    When I worked as a tech in a shop you could drop off your guitar on the way to work, tell me what you wanted done, I'd ask you to play a bit so I knew what sort of setup suited your style, and you could pick it up that evening.
    The work needed is 15- 30 minutes. Maybe even 5- 10.

    Also, the action seems odd and not what would go out of whack in shipping, unless the neck also shifted sideways and the hig E or low E is also hanging off the edge of the fingerboard.
    Otherwise the low E shouldn't have gotten lower and the high E gotten higher in shipping.
    I'd suggest getting to know the guitar better, maybe before letting a shop start making changes.
    Almost seems like you may have a complaint against the seller about either the condition of the guitar, the packing of the guitar, or against the shipper.
    Once the shop works on it you won't really be able to make any claim, but maybe it's fine.
    Sounds like the neck got a pretty good knock though, and sounds like you didn't really inspect it when you got it?

    If the shop has not done any work it would be worth taking pics before they start so you have a record of the condition it arrived in.
    A neck can shift sideways in the pocket but if dropped hard enough it can also crack the neck heel and/ or the body around the pocket.
    How was it packed for shipping?
    Who was the carrier?
    They all seem to break guitars, but still...
     
  16. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    There are a couple of issues with this idea.
    I used to agree with you but have shifted over the years as I've seen the range of tool and geometric visualization skills among guitar players. If you CAN visualize the fret "plane", you cannot visualize being unable to visualize it!
    Jethro Tull explained this aptly.
    If you can feel the relief change with 1/8 turn of the truss rod, you cannot imagine being those who keep turning it and later post that no matter how much they tighten the truss rod, the action just keeps getting worse.
    I used to think and have even written here that if you have the hand skills to play a guitar you have the skills to fix it.
    This after years of working as a tech before the internet and showing customers basic operations.
    There are people who literally cannot operate a screwdriver properly, who cannot understand that it must be aligned with the axis of the screw or they will strip the head. That's fine and I've come to accept that.

    Beyond operating a screwdriver though, there are also learned skills in the field of guitar repair.

    I think one of the biggest internet myths is the idea- born on the internet- that the player knows better what setup suits them than does any guitar tech.

    The most basic skill of the tech is to >asses the player< before they asses the guitar.
    One is by nature unable to self asses as well as the outside viewer who has assesed numerous different players.
    A tech who sets up guitars for a wide range of playing styles invariably knows more about setup than any individual who only sets up to their individual playing style.

    I do sort of half agree that our self chosen needs may be excessive, and we can learn to play on less perfect setups.
    But that has no bearing on setup quality, or on being able to spot and correct problems that are more than simple setup issues.

    I would agree that once a guitar has been well set up by a pro who repairs and tweaks it to the players needs, the player can keep it adjusted well. Until a problem outside of screw turning develops.
    Your finding that a GOOD tech was able to produce a better setup than you were able to do also illuminates the fact that not all techs are really much good.
    This is unfortunate. And further, many mediocre techs have excellent reputations, largely because we are scared to leave our guitars with strangers, and are relieved when 1) we get them back at all, and 2) they still work.

    I would point out that some luthiers who go to school for luthiery get jobs at their local GC after graduation.
    There they fix guitars and hand out business cards for a couple of years until they have a rep and some clients.
    Then they go independent.
    It's hard to a new trained and skilled guitar tech or luthier to start making a full time living because we have no reason to trust them, until they have built up a rep in the community.
    That said, I'd agree that these guys are rare at GC stores, and hacks are more typical.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019
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  17. WildcatTele

    WildcatTele Tele-Meister

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    I've always done my own; it's really not that hard, there are plenty of resources out there to learn from, and you can get it exactly how YOU want it to feel, not someone else's version of "proper" or what the factory says it should be. The best example I can think of is string height...some players will sacrifice a little sustain and string buzz for lower action, some are ok with higher action for a clearer tone. Those trade-offs can only be determined by the player and what they feel and hear when they play.

    But...(there's always a but). My dad received a brand new twelve string from my mom as a wedding present back in the early 70's. It being a twelve string he thought the action was always too high. It also being the 70's and with no help from Johnny YouTube Luthier available he thought the way to fix that would be to crank down on the truss rod. One crank too many and snap goes the neck, tears flow, and marriage crisis ensues.

    Moral of the story, you CAN do these things yourself, but as with everything there's a lot of risk management involved and you may not want to and that's ok.
     
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  18. EsquireOK

    EsquireOK Friend of Leo's

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    Setup instructions are in Fender owner's manuals, even going all the way back to the '50s. They have always been intended to be user adjustable. They are just little adjustments that are designed to be made by users, if they have any mechanical sense, and the setup does not require any specialized tools – just common stuff that most houses have (might need to buy a small Allen wrench is all, if you have a Strat, but not for an old-style Tele). I can see, just out of laziness and lack of time, spending $40 for a setup on a new guitar that is really out of whack. But if it's going to be more than that, I would just get a Fender owner's manual online, and start learning how to make the adjustments yourself.

    As for turnaround time, a week and a half sounds crazy to me. I go to a well respected guy here in L.A., and he turns more involved stuff, like fret dressing, around in less than that time. A setup takes him a day or two (though as I said, I don't pay the rates that respected techs charge for setups).
     
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  19. schmee

    schmee Poster Extraordinaire

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    Sounds like the guitar needs it BUT, make sure he also adjusts the nut slot depth as required. He doesn't say that... or does he? "nut slot go over", maybe he does.. That's the most time consuming and difficult part of the job relly. You could learn to do the rest readily.
     
  20. MapleTwang

    MapleTwang TDPRI Member

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    Thanks everyone.

    I took it straight to the luthier that will be setting it up. He has like 125 5 star reviews so it sounds like he's a good one. We chatted for a while and he measured things and etc. He looked at the neck etc and it looks straight. The truss rod may or may not need an adjustment.

    I did look at the guitar for a few hours and played and strummed it etc. Plugged it in.

    The action and intontation were off but otherwise it sounds and plays great.

    I did notice - when I pulled it out of the box - that the neck had shifted out of the case's "neck groove" and more over to the pocket/compartment. So maybe it had a jolt.

    But nothing looked cracked or seemed to have any issues like that.

    Here is how he had it packed (I did take photos of this for some reason).

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Honestly, he did a good job. I can't imagine it could've gotten rattled too much. And it was only a two day ship from nor cal to so cal.

    Thoughts?
     
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