Holy grail setup?

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Cousin Eddie's cousin
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How particular are you about your guitar’s setup? I can pick up a guitar and think, “Man, this is the perfect action”, and then another day with the same instrument think, “There’s buzzing on the 2nd string”, or “The action is too high.” And then I’m tweaking the truss rod or adjusting the saddles again. Conversely, I have friends who are good players who seem content with whatever is in their hands at the moment.

We’ve discussed before how a small adjustment (eg. quarter turn of the truss rod) can make a significant difference.

So, how about you guys? Are you setup tweakers, or are you normally one and done? And, does it vary from guitar to guitar?
 

Simon Says

A Dentist for the Lawyers
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I have almost religious approach to setup, but... not on daily basis. I usually take my time with full setup once in 4 months or so. That includes trust rod adjustment if necessary, string radius on the bridge side, and intonation.

Since I play 11-50 string set I opt for as low setup as I can get away with. I'm not a soft player so neck needs a bit of relief but my setup is still lower than of most of my jam mates
 

gush

She said "huge bag of dibs".
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Interesting question.

As far as action goes, if it's in the ballpark I'm good but what I agonize over is pickup height.

I've had 5310s in my CE24 for about two weeks and I loved it instantly but I've been playing it, tweaking it, playing it, tweaking it this whole time.

There is a fine line between what the pickup likes and what I like. It is a process.

When I got my beater ce22 the trem was much higher on the bass side than treble side and it just bugged the crap out of me. After I had done my pickup tweaking I just couldn't stand it so I leveled it up.

Then I had to tweak pickups all over again but my pickup screws weren't long enough on bridge PU to get it down where I wanted it.

I had these metal chrome PU rings that were really thin so I threw them on there but the mounting holes didn't line up so I think I only have two screws in each one. They were thin enough to get PU down where I wanted it.

It looked goofy with only two screws in each ring but I decided to give it a "threw it together" kind of look so I lightly glued some polished stainless washers on top of the black speed knobs in hopes that it would look cool from dance floor. I don't know.....

I always THINK I like the WF neck on my McCarty best but two of my CEs just FEEL good in my hands.
 

Andrew Paul

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First I adore 25" scale. I like a flatter fretboard, very important to me and tweak it when necessary, usually late fall and when it gets hotter late spring. Now it can be more often sometimes dependent on temps and humidity. I don't have my guitars near me right now so can't give measurements. String height is of course very important to me. My acoustics are set to be on the edge of buzz, the "Neil Young sound" My electrics avoiding any buzz. When it comes to scale length 25" or shorter, I really liked the Santana's. I also found whether the guitar neck is 22 or 24 fret I still like it on the flatter side. I'm also not one of those guys that can play ANY guitar unless I set it up to my specific liking. I totally agree with you, a quarter inch turn on the truss rod can make ALL the difference. Not that you asked but what varies from guitar to guitar regarding PRS is the string gauge. My one piece wrap around bridge on my Paul's guitars I prefer the feel of 9.5's...... on my trems I prefer 9's.
 

Aahzz

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Not a tweaker here. I adjust when I first get a guitar, and as long as it still feels and sounds good I leave it alone, hit the truss rod maybe every 6 months with seasonal changes. I also tend to do it all by eyeball/feel - I don't get out the gauges/rulers and measure string height, if it looks and feels about right then it works for me.
 

RickP

Established 1960, Still Not Dead
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I don’t think I have two guitars that play exactly the same, even identical models, and it doesn’t bother me at all. As long as it doesn’t buzz (I don’t use low action anyway) or fret out, I am good to go. This assumes it plays in tune, but otherwise I can adjust to it.

When I hear people saying they can’t play a guitar because of a neck carve, or a fret type, or a fingerboard material, I just feel sorry for them. I love the way a guitar feeling different makes me play differently, and takes me to new places. No offense intended to those who have to have every item just so. I’m just happily oblivious to the minutiae of setups.
 

veinbuster

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Anything in the ballpark is fine with me. A couple guitars might get a seasonal tweak of the truss rod, but most don’t. Between the super wide, flat classical and my insanely narrow LP proto 1/32” has become meaningless to my fingers.

And my fingers aren’t precise enough for super tight tolerances to matter any more.
 

WEDGE

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My favorite guitars historically are the ones I almost never have to touch the setup on. If I am fighting to get it right I think I subconsciously label it trade bait. My favorite now I have never touched and actually leave it hanging on the wall which is a first for me. Maybe that helps to not be in the case all the time?
 

BrianC

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I play with the truss rod a bit to dial it in to my preference. Maybe a bit too high for some.

I find that if I bend strings in high E I can gauge how it is - too low too high

I need to get some meat of my finger tips under the strings to bend better and not "skip off" if its too low

I start too low and adjust up slowly to find the sweet spot. A balance.
 

goat-n-gitter

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I Generally just make seasonal truss rod adjustments. My piezo equipped guitars are more sensitive, as any buzz will come through the piezo to the P.A., whereas a little buzz isn't as noticeable through an electric amp. So, I may leave a tiny bit of buzz in for better action on a purely electric model vs. higher action on the piezo to have zero buzz.
 

LSchefman

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When I first get a guitar, Jack Gretz checks the factory setup and might tweak it just a touch, because after doing biz with each other for many years, he knows what I like - I actually have no idea what exactly he does, and probably can't duplicate it! Anyway, that's my holy grail setup.

The guitars tend to stay beautifully set up for years. I keep them all cased with a D'Addario humidipak when not in use, which probably helps explain the stability.

It's worked out pretty well. I've only needed one setup in the last 7 years, on one guitar. Jack was kind enough to do that when he changed out a pot that had failed. That was two or three years ago, and it's still perfect.
 

CandidPicker

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If the guitar is a used piece, it's common and standard practice to set up a guitar, simply because the previous owner may have tweaked something to his liking, rather than what your ears might like.

Anything straight from the factory I've never needed set up. Only used pieces. Typically to accommodate string gauge, action, or pickup height.
 

alantig

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I'll do the occasional tweak. But for the most part, once it's dialed in, my guitars have been very stable. Two or three exceptions - I have a Hamer Eclipse that tends to need an annual tweak, an Artist V that needs a tweak probably every couple years. And the jury's still out on my parlor. I've tweaked that a couple times in the almost year I've had it. Once I get it over to Elixirs, I'll have a much better idea.
 

dogrocketp

I drank the PRS kool aid, and it was tasty!
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I'm mildly OCD, and I'd swear to you that every guitar moves a little when the weather changes. My son is also a musician, with very good hearing. The expression we use with each other in terms of how it sounds is....does it have the juice today? I'll pick out 2 or 3 guitars for a gig, and then play them unplugged and see which one sounds right to my ears. That is the one I take out. All of my electric guitars are PRS. All of them get played. The Johnny Hiland in my avatar seems to go first. It vibrates like a tuning fork when it's right.
 

DreamTheaterRules

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This is an interesting question. I've never been a fan of medium to high action, but have moved away from the ultra low action I used to play. I like low action and have a bit of a range. If it's outside that range, I'll tweak. My Custom 24 is the nicest playing smoothest guitar I've ever played. As such, I've never touched anything except the vibrato springs when I changed to 9's, and then when I settle on 9.5s. Nothing else needed and it is absolute butter!

The NF3 has a bit higher action but not much, and it's OK because that neck is just phenomenal. So again, even though it's a bit higher than the C24, I've never messed with anything but the springs when changing string gauges.

Now, with the strats I've had, I messed with them all the time. floating vibrato, decked vibrato, adjust saddles accordingly, etc. On my old American Standard I had years ago, I even played with neck shims, etc. A lot of it was just experimenting though, not really trying to fix an "issue" but just seeing if I could get it "better."

With my Floyd guitars, I really only adjusted bridge height and intonation where needed, but rarely. They are all low action to start with so no need for much tweaking.

With my Les Paul Custom and Ibanez Artist (fixed two piece bridges) I'd only adjust bridge for string height and intonation if I changed gauges. With the shredder Ibanez's I had, I had to do some trust rod adjustments. I've never touched a truss rod on any of my PRS guitars as the relief has always been spot on and even after years, stayed there.
 

Aahzz

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Now, with the strats I've had, I messed with them all the time. floating vibrato, decked vibrato, adjust saddles accordingly, etc. On my old American Standard I had years ago, I even played with neck shims, etc. A lot of it was just experimenting though, not really trying to fix an "issue" but just seeing if I could get it "better."

OK, you actually just reminded me of the one area where I am a tweaker - trems. I absolutely obsess over them - which is why my new rule is that I don't buy guitars with them any longer, because they drive me nuts - even when they're stable. We'll see how long the rule lasts....
 

DreamTheaterRules

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OK, you actually just reminded me of the one area where I am a tweaker - trems. I absolutely obsess over them - which is why my new rule is that I don't buy guitars with them any longer, because they drive me nuts - even when they're stable. We'll see how long the rule lasts....

I keep them level. And, while PRS doesn't really do this, I like decked trems, like my Axis, Wolfie and my Tokai strat have (I had to set up the Tokai that way).
 

Domingo Lantigua

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I'm an obsessive tweaker. I actually adjust more than I play, which is very bad. This is due to my various D's (OC, AD etc). If I can get everything to be like my IRW DGT , I might leave them alone , but I doubt it. However, I'm slowly learning that they are all individuals and will all never play the same
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