Setting up my electric guitars

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by Califiddler, Apr 10, 2020.

  1. Califiddler

    Califiddler Friend of Leo's

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    I have decided that, during this stay-at-home period, I am going to try to learn to set up my electric guitars myself. I have that video called "how to make your electric guitar sound great", or something like that. I have allen wrenches, gauges, tuner with needle, etc.

    I would like to start with whichever guitar is easiest to set up, and work my way up to the most difficult. So how would you rank these guitars in difficulty of setup, from easiest to most difficult?

    Telecaster
    Stratocaster
    Les Paul
    SG
    Yamaha 335-type.

    Thank you!
     
  2. beyer160

    beyer160 Friend of Leo's

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    Tele
    LP/SG (tied)
    335
    Strat
     
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  3. SixStringSlinger

    SixStringSlinger Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    The Tele is probably the one where you can do the most but is still relatively simple.

    The Strat will be similar, though a touch more complex because of the trem bridge, particularly if you want to set it to float. Not necessarily difficult, but more to do and more back-and-forth as you slowly zero in on it.

    The Les Paul and SG will probably be simplest in that the neck is set (so nothing for you to do there without some specialized knowledge/experience), as is the radius at the bridge. So just less variables to think about.

    I don't have much experience with 335-types, but i'm guessing it will be a lot like the LP and SG.

    And of course you should keep in mind that what you like on one guitar (action, pickup heights, etc.) will not necessarily be the same on another guitar. Though using what you like on your Tele is as good a starting point as any for when you start on your Strat, and then just go from there.

    So I'd say start with either the Les Paul or SG if you just want less stuff to think about on your first go, or the Tele if you want to try a little of everything but still keep it simple.

    Have fun! And don't worry about getting something "wrong". So long as there's no damage, you can always raise/lower something back to where it was.
     
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  4. iamjethro

    iamjethro TDPRI Member

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    One of the few things I learned when I started doing VERY basic set ups is measure heights, etc. FIRST. That way if you get too far off you can go back to the beginning and start anew.
     
  5. SixStringSlinger

    SixStringSlinger Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Good advice, also for when you find something new that you like, just because things will shift over time due to temperature, humidity etc.

    Some people will say to leave the measuring alone, "use your ears", "use what feels good", etc. They're not wrong about the ultimate goal (the guitar sounding and feeling good to you), but there's no reason not to start at a point you already know you like. You can always adjust from there.
     
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  6. Hey_you

    Hey_you Tele-Meister

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    I had just started setting-up, adjusting too.The factory stats on basic settings can be found easily.Tho, that's a starting point.Adj to taste from there. I believe my ordered Dan Erlewine’s guitar repair book is at the po box now. This too ... https://www.tdpri.com/threads/basic-setup.952636/
     
  7. Toto'sDad

    Toto'sDad Telefied Ad Free Member

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    There is a wealth of info on the net for setting up guitars, it's not rocket science and unless you really screw up, you can correct your mistakes. I'm at the point now where I start at the nut, and then go from there. If the nut is right, everything else is easier. Pickups can be set at factory specs and be fine. Your ears can help you get them a little better. Too far away, and you begin to lose volume, but you may like the tone. Too close gets you some ice-pick and the pickups can pull the strings a little out of tune and cause them to warble. Bridge pickups on Teles are kind of the exception you can run them pretty close, but I don't. :lol:
     
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  8. Peegoo

    Peegoo Friend of Leo's

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    "...and more back-and-forth as you slowly zero in on it."

    That statement perfectly captures the setup process, because adjusting one aspect of a setup subtly affects one or more aspects. You have to sneak up on the ideal setup for your guitar and playing style.

    Generally, the order of work goes like this on a non-vibrato bridge guitar, once the guitar is tuned up:

    1. Check neck profile/relief and adjust.

    2. Check strings' action (height over the 12th fret) and make adjustments.

    3. Check nut action and adjust.

    4. Check intonation and adjust.

    5. Go back to step 1 and start over.

    Usually it takes two or three iterations of the above to dial in a guitar. The order of adjustment matters. Always start with neck profile, and then string action, because these two indices have the greatest impact on playability.
     
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  9. Blue

    Blue Tele-Afflicted

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    Don't forget to set the radius on the Tele bridge by matching the radius of the fingerboard.

    The others have the radius built in except the strat which you should throw away. ;)
     
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  10. Peegoo

    Peegoo Friend of Leo's

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    When you set the strings' action over the 12th fret, that will automatically set the bridge saddles to match the fretboard radius :twisted: because you're using the radius as the index when measuring string action. Radius gauges really are unnecessary for doing setups.
     
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  11. rangercaster

    rangercaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    I'm not that picky and kinda lazy

    .. I might do a minor tweak or two on a new acquisition.... then I'm good ... I'd rather play it than fuss with it ...
     
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  12. 985plowboy

    985plowboy Friend of Leo's

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    Congrats on the decision to work on your own guitars!
    You will come to have a much deeper understanding and appreciation for your instruments.

    Go slow at first, use common sense and don’t be afraid. Within reason, most anything you do can be undone by someone with more experience should you get off base too far.
    Don’t overtighen your truss rod.

    Not sure what you are using as references material, but my go to guru on all things guitar is Dan Erleweine. He has books and videos. Check out some of his YouTube videos.
    Have fun. Good luck.
     
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  13. EsquireBoy

    EsquireBoy Tele-Afflicted

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    Although it depends on the instrument itself (some guitars, for whatever reason, are more difficult to set up than others of the same model), I would say the Strat would be the trickier because of the vibrato. So I would keep that one last.

    As others have said, with a tune-o-matic bridge, the radius is preset, and you only have to deal with the overall bridge height under both E strings.
    Moreover, there is one saddle per string, so setting up the intonation will be easier.
    I would start with the Gibsons and Yamaha.

    The telecaster I would consider in between: easier than the Strat in a way (no vibrato), but it can be tricky if you have the vintage three-saddle bridge. You've got to find out where the best compromise is intonation-wise. And IME there is no absolute here: it can be relative to your playing habits.
    Moreover, when angling the saddles to follow the neck radius, strings tend to slip towards the saddle's end (unless you have threaded saddles), which can mess up your string spacing.

    As TD said, it's really not rocket science, you just have to remember to follow the steps in correct order:
    - neck relief (by pressing at 1st and last fret usually)
    - nut height (measured at 1st fret when pressing down at 3rd fret) -> arguably this can be the first step to your setup, but in rare occasions if the neck relief is really wrong it can mess up your measurement.
    - saddles height (string "action" at 12th or 17th fret), which goes along with radius
    - intonation

    Before all these steps, a good pro setup would begin with checking (and eventually correcting) fret levelling. But this I would not consider beginner level, because when you level the frets, you have to do it perfectly right, and then you need to re-crown each fret.
    Not rocket science neither, but you need a bit of experience, and most of all the right tools.
     
  14. Blue

    Blue Tele-Afflicted

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    Radius gauges really are necessary if you know what you're doing. :twisted:
     
  15. Peegoo

    Peegoo Friend of Leo's

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    Horses for courses!
     
  16. beagle

    beagle Friend of Leo's

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    If you know what you're doing, you wouldn't use a radius gauge to set up the action. Maybe if you were on the end of a production line on piece work, giving a rough set up to perhaps 20 guitars an hour, one might be useful.
     
  17. Wrighty

    Wrighty Friend of Leo's

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    Agree, but bear in mind you’ll never get the Gibsons to stay in tune!
     
  18. Toto'sDad

    Toto'sDad Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Radius gauges must be useful (for something) I've got a set of them in my tool box. I agree with not needing them especially for a Tele with a three saddle bridge. If you adjust the string height off the frets, you should be okay for radius, and beside that with three saddles, what do expect? :D
     
  19. Peegoo

    Peegoo Friend of Leo's

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    For the way I work, radius gauges are useful only when a player asks me what the radius of their fretboard is.

    Your mileage may vary!
     
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  20. Lake Placid Blue

    Lake Placid Blue Poster Extraordinaire

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    As my dad used to say “tune it up and play. It’s a telecaster, not a grand piano! What’s with all of that Tom Foolery adjusting you’re trying to do?”
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2020
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