[Step By Step] Guide To Setup an Electric Guitar

No matter whether your electric guitar is new or old, the correct setup ensures smooth sound. If it is new, you need to set every single part. Even the old one requires to be set up as a part of regular maintenance.

By any means, you should know how to set up an electric guitar. Whenever you notice your electric guitar’s strings become challenging to hold down or buzz. Probably loads of questions come in your mind.

You possibly think, did I buy the wrong electric guitar? Is the setup enough to solve this problem? Can I do it myself, or should I leave it to a pro? Hold on, don’t panic. In such a case, you only need to change action and intonation.

To do so, you may need to adjust the truss rod, bridge, nut height, strings, and pickup height. By making all the adjustments, you can get your electric guitar in the best playing condition. Without wasting more time, let’s get started!

Before We Start…

If you want to best result, you need to assess your style, preference, and technique. Make sure to set your guitar with your desired string type and gauge. It should be in tune.

For instance, if you like low action, choose a lighter gauge string set. Else if you want chunky sound, go for heavier gauge strings. Before buying an electric guitar we think you should read our experts recommendations about the electric guitars.

[Step By Step] Guide To Setup an Electric Guitar

How to setup an Electric Guitar?

Now comes to the main part, make the following adjustments in your electric guitar. Here we come with a complete guide to setup your electric guitar.

Adjust the Truss Rod

Every electric guitar includes an adjustable truss rod. It is needed to counter the tension put on the neck by the strings.

Tools needed:

  • Screwdriver
  • Wrench
  • Bolt-neck axes with concealed nuts
  • A surrogate body
  • Neck jig

How to do this?

  • Initially, hold down one string at the 1st Then another one of the frets that are near to the neck-body joint. See, the holding strings now form a straight line between two frets.
  • At this point, the neck should be perfectly straight. Check if there is a tiny gap between the strings and frets. Press down one of the frets at the top stings.
  • If it moves a lot, that means there is a large gap. It means the neck has too much relief, and you need to tighten the truss rod. Or if the string doesn’t move, it means there is no gap. So, you need to loosen the truss rod.
  • Now use a screwdriver to remove the screw in the truss rod cover on the neck’s guitar. Make sure to remove the plastic or wood cover before adjusting the truss rod.
  • If there is a large gap, use a truss rod wrench to tighten the truss rod nut. Turn the wrench clockwise a quarter to tighten it. Elsewise, loosen the truss rod nut if there is no gap. Turn the wrench counterclockwise to loosen.
  • Once you are done with the truss rod setting, don’t play the guitar for a day. Check the strings next, screw the truss rod cover if needed.

Read more: 10 Best Classical Guitars under 500 in 2022

Raise or Lower Bridge Height

The bridge height refers to the distance between the strings and neck at 12th frets. This distance should be 1.6 millimeters.

Tools needed:

  • Screwdriver
  • Allen wrench or hex-key
  • Calipers

How to do this?

  • Check whether there is any hole on your bridge. If any, use the Allen wrench on the hole to lower or raise the string on the bridge. You may want to turn the wrench about 2 or 3 rotation to do so.
  • If the strings seem too high, turn the Allen wrench clockwise to lower the bridge. Or if it is too low, turn the Allen counterclockwise to raise it.
  • You will need to adjust each string until there is a 1.6mm gap on the 12th Play each string by holding them down the 12th frets to check the bridge height.

Guide To Setup an Electric Guitar

Examine the Nut Height

Once you set the truss rod and bridge height, it’s time for the final phase of the action setting.

Tools needed:

  • Nut files
  • Shim stock
  • X-Acto knife
  • Electric tuner

How to do this?

  • The open strings buzz if the strings slot is low. You need to shim up the nut. Also, other slots must be deepened to compensate for the higher nut.
  • Check if everything is clear or not. If all ok, check the pitch using an electronic tune.
  • The high nut slot causes the notes at the 1st frets to sound sharper. Remember, the nut slot must be deepened. Use a nut file to shim up the slots.

Change the Strings

Sometime you may need to change the strings. You’ll need heavy-duty wire cutter for trimming excess string length. Here is how to change the strings;

  • For nylon-guitar strings, it should be brought through the bridge. Then take it back around and woven under-and-over the knot.
  • Pass the strings over the tuning post. Press the speaking length of the string tightly and then bring the loose end around the post.
  • At this point, wrap the string tightly around the post and under the speaking length. Next, cover the free end over and around the speaking length. Make sure to give it a downward tug.
  • Finally, take the pitch up to pitch and clip the strings with a wire cutter. Similarly, give each string a gentle tug in a similar way.

Adjust the Pickups

Pickups are rectangular studded pieces in your guitar where you strum. It is placed near to square spaces pickups on your neck.

Tools needed:

  • Ruler
  • Screwdriver

How to do this?

  • Press down the fret close to the pickups on the top strings. Check the distance from strings to pickups.
  • Hold a ruler flat upon the top of pickups and hold down the fret at a time. Measure the distance strings and pickups.
  • Take a screwdriver to make sure there is a 1.6mm gap in the pickups. Likewise, adjust the pickups on the bottom strings.

Adjust the Tuning Machine Hardware

At times tuners may feel firm while tuners are under tension. If you remove the strings, you may find loose nuts and screws. It means the hardware in your electric guitars needs to tune-up.

Tools needed:

  • Small screwdrivers
  • Adjustable open-end wrench
  • 3-in-1 oil

How to do this?

  • To find out the faulty parts, slightly shake the parts. Once you detect the loosen parts, you need to tighten those parts.
  • Most of the time, screws at the tuners become wobbly. The tuner has a small screw on the backside and nut on the face of the headstock. You need to tighten these screws with an appropriate size screwdriver.
  • Also, check for a small screw on the top of the tuning button. Adjust the tension of the tuner by tightening or loosen it.
  • In case of an open-gear tuner in your guitar, add a drop of oil on each part.
Setup an Electric Guitar
[Step By Step] Guide To Setup an Electric Guitar

Adjust the Intonation

Electric guitar sounds at the correct pitch for each fret while it has accurate intonation. You can adjust intonation by increasing or decreasing the string’s length.

Tools needed:

  • Screwdriver
  • Chromic electronic tuner

How to do this?

  • While the strings are tuned to pitch, you need to play each string at 12th Now check the pitch using the electronic tuner. Check if the fretted note is sharp or flat.
  • In case of a sharp fretted note, you’ll need to adjust the saddle to lengthen the speaking length. If the fretted note is flat, adjust the saddle to shorten the speaking length.

Change the Tremolo Spring Tension

It’s time to adjust the springs and claw. It lets the tremolo assembly to float.

How to do this?

  • At first, tune the guitar to pitch. Then check if the tremolo base plate floats and flush against the guitar’s body.
  • Then turn the guitar and remove the trem cavity cover. Make sure to rest it on the soft surface.
  • Adjust two screws at the claw. If you loosen the claw, it creates more float on the tremolo. Similarly, you may want to pull the tremolo close to the guitar’s body by tightening the screw.

Adjust the Saddle Height

At this point, you can set the action by adjusting the saddle’s height.

Tools needed:

  • Screwdriver
  • Wrench
  • Metal ruler

How to do this?

  • After tuning the guitar to pitch, you’ll need to place a Capo on the 1st Use a precision metal ruler to measure the activity on the 12th fret.
  • Start from the 1st Now turn the height adjustment screw beside the saddle to raise or lower the string. The string height depends on the type of sound you want to make.
  • Do the same for the rest strings until you get the required action setting. Make sure to keep an arc across all the strings. It should match the radius of the specific fretboard.

Care and Maintenance Tips

Sometimes the proper maintenance ensures the right set up in electric guitar. If you are well-aware of the following things, it will become easier for guitars setup. Make sure you follow all these things.

Check the Electronics

In case your guitar switches snap or crackle, you must check the electronics immediately. Discard the plastic cavity plate on the back of the guitar. Then plugin to check the source of the noise.

Most of the time, dirt and oxidation cause sound.

Use an electronic contact cleaner to spray on a particular point. Also, spray on all other switches, including volume and tone pots. Check for noises and spray again if needed.

Maintain the Frets

To ensure your guitar plays like new, you need to clean and polish the frets frequently. This process is similar to other housecleaning jobs. You’ll need a metal polish, paper towel, and chemically impregnated fibrous cloth.

Rub some metal polish across each fret until the dullness fades away. Use a paper towel or rag to wipe up any excess polish.

Lubricate the Fretboard

You can clean and lubricate the fretboard as you polish the frets. Take lemon oil or wood oil, Windex, cotton rag, and a guitar pick. Check whether the frets and fretboards have dirt or grease. Use a little Windex to soften this filth.

Now take a guitar pick to remove the grime that blocks under each string and frets. Use a light coat of lemon oil and wipe away the excess oil with a paper towel.

Check for Structural Glitches

Most of the time, the electric guitar may suffer from losing neck-joint screws. Especially if you have a bolt-neck electric guitar, twist the neck. See whether it shakes or not. You’ll need to tighten the bolt at the neck-body joint.

Apart from that, the problem of the guitar happens at the neck joint and the headstock behind the nut. Make sure to check all these parts and adjust if required.

Check for Fret Buzz

Once you set the guitar, play each note to check for any buzzing. If you are able to find out where buzzing happens, you’ll know what adjustment is required. When the guitar buzzes at the first five frets, it’ll need more relief.

If it buzzes above 12th frets, the guitar’s action needs to rise. Else if the guitar sounds in the middle of the neck, you’ll need to add too much relief.

To sum up!

That’s it; you’re done. Our guide will certainly help you know how to setup an electric guitar. However, the features vary with specific electric guitars, so as the setup procedure. It is better to understand how all the different parts interact.

Thus you can fine-tune the guitar for maximum playability. Its time to set up the most-wanted guitar that you’ve been eyeing for long. So, don’t look for a pro; instead, do it yourself!