How do you know when your guitar or bass needs a setup?

Every guitar or bass will at some point require setting up.

Instruments are usually setup at the factory, and often by the retailer.

But once you’ve got your guitar home, what are the tell tale signs that your guitar needs some attention to make it play its best?

Here are a few ways you can tell your guitar needs looking at.

String height (action) is too high/low. 

This is a matter of taste, but if it’s not comfortable to you, it should be fixed. Try playing with your eyes closed and see how it feels. String height is usually measured, but it’s easy to be distracted by what you see into thinking that the height is wrong. There are lots of opinions about what good action is, but the bottom line is that it needs to feel right to you.

Changing string gauge

Changing to heavier or lighter strings will change the tension on the neck and cause a difference in string height and intonation. 

Buzzing (frets or something else)

Buzzing is often blamed on uneven frets, but it can be caused by a number of other things, including the nut, screws or bridge saddles.

Out of tune

Playing further up the neck or at the first fret sounds out of tune, even when the open strings are tuned. This is due to the intonation not being set correctly.

Something just doesn’t feel right

Sometimes you can’t put your finger on what is wrong, so it could be a combination of things. It sounds elusive, but since there are a finite number of parts in a guitar, it’s simply a matter of deduction until the issue is found.

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