When should I get a setup?

Getting your guitar setup is important for many reasons. Whether you play every day or once a month, your guitar can experience subtle and extreme changes. These changes can effect playability and, if left unchecked, could lead to more serious damage to your instrument.

Here are some common reasons to get a setup.

  • Change of season.

When the seasons change, temperature and humidity change. This can cause the wood to expand or contract, affecting neck relief, action and intonation. Particularly in the case of acoustic instruments, if these changes aren’t identified and addressed they could be the catalyst for severe damage in the future.

I’ve personally seen it too many times to recall. The belly starts to bulge. The bridge begins to lift and then hairline cracks begin to form in the top, starting at the bridge and ending at the tail. Meanwhile, the area around the sound hole begins to sag and cave in. This guitar will need a crack repair, bridge re-glue, possible brace repair and potentially a neck reset. At the end of it all, you have a huge repair bill on your hands that far exceeds the value of most guitars.

Keeping the humidity under control is a very important aspect of owning an acoustic guitar. It’s a good idea to bring your instrument to a professional when the seasons change just to see if it needs any adjustments and make sure it hasn’t developed any structural problems.

  • Changing string gauge or type

Changing the gauge of strings you use always requires a fresh setup. String gauge will effect tension on the neck, intonation and nut slot width. When the string tension increases or decreases, the neck relief will also increase or decrease. The truss rod will need to be adjusted to compensate.

Also, intonation is directly affected by string gauge. If you change the gauge of string the intonation will need to be adjusted in order to maintain note accuracy.

If you change to heavier gauge strings the nut slots may need to be widened. Strings that are too thick for their nut slots can cause breakage requiring a nut repair or replacement.

Even if your not changing the gauge, switching string brands or types can warrant a setup as well. Often different strings can exert more or less tension because of materials and being engineered for specific tensions.

  • The guitar has been stored for a long time

If you have put your guitar in a closet for months or years and are just now picking it up again, you may notice it doesn’t feel or play quite the same. The tension of the strings may have pulled on the neck and caused a bow or perhaps the truss rod tension slowly overcame the tension of the strings and now they are too close to the frets and buzzing.

Strings will definitely need to be changed and if the environment is humid enough they will end up rusting. If the environment is too dry, fret ends can start to protrude from the sides of the neck and acoustic guitars can develop bulging, cracks and bridge damage.

Sometimes, if a guitar has been untouched for a long time, the truss rod can seize up entirely. If it can’t be moved or if it’s forced so hard that it brakes, be prepared for a pricey repair. It’s good practice to check the truss rod every now and then to avoid such damage.

  • New guitar

When buying a new guitar we have certain expectations. We expect it to play smoothly and easily without any buzzing. We expect a new guitar to be set up properly and ready to play. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

Many times, guitars end up sitting in warehouses for weeks or months before being shipped to their new owner or being opened and displayed in a showroom. Many of these warehouses and stockrooms are not adequately climate controlled and, dependent upon location and season, these instruments can experience extreme changes in temperature and humidity. Sometimes guitars are shipped from very warm and humid environments to very cold and dry environments. When the guitar arrives it can be unplayable, even though it received a complete inspection and setup before it left the factory.

Even if a guitar store has a tech on staff, it’s often impossible for them to properly setup every instrument that comes through the store. Many times, novice guitar players will purchase a guitar that is setup poorly and be unaware. This can affect the comfort and quality of their playing. Because so many people learn on their own online, they may not have a knowledgeable person around who would notice certain issues. If no one points out the problems with the instrument, the beginner can easily become discouraged and give up playing all together.

Playing your instrument should be an extremely enjoyable experience. Having an instrument with good action and accurate notes that’s easy to play shouldn’t be a lofty idea. Typically, with some minor adjustments made by a skilled professional, just about any instrument can be made to play beautifully.

If you are in the Dallas, Fort Worth area and would like to schedule an appointment to have your guitar setup, call today,


The Importance of Humidification

When someone brings me a guitar that has not been properly humidified I can tell immediately. The signs are always the same. It starts off with action problems and then progresses to excessive bellying around the bridge and caving at the sound hole, sharp fret ends, body cracks, bridge lifting and neck angle problems.

Part of the problem is that when purchasing an acoustic guitar the subject is either not brought up at all or looked over as an attempt by the salesperson to up-sell the customer on something they don’t actually need. The reality is that nothing can cause more problems for your acoustic guitar than improper humidity.

It still thinks it’s a tree…

The reason for this is that in nature trees use the capillary action of the wood to  deliver water up through the trunk and branches of the tree. Taking the wood from the tree does not stop this action from occurring. Wood will always absorb the moisture in the atmosphere but if the atmosphere is too dry the water in the wood will begin to evaporate. When wood looses moisture it looses mass and starts to shrink. It also becomes more brittle.

There are many forces and tensions constantly at work on an acoustic guitar. If the top begins to shrink due to lack of humidity it will begin to warp in a very particular way. The sides and bracing will be pulling in one direction while the strings and neck are pulling against them.

The belly will begin to bulge resulting in significantly higher action. Shaving the saddle can be a temporary fix but it won’t address the real problem.

Eventually, radial cracks begin to appear. Under constant string tension the bridge itself starts to tear away from the weakened and brittle top of the guitar. Meanwhile, and almost unnoticeably, the neck angle has shifted below its original position, again contributing to higher action.

While all of these problems can be fixed, they are not cheap. On less valuable guitars it my just not be worth the cost of these repairs. All of this can be avoided though by keeping your guitar properly humidified from the very beginning.

Your guitar wants to be in its case…

The first component to keeping your guitar humidified is a good hard-shell case. A gig bag will not help in any way. The enclosed space of a hard-shell case is much more easy to control than an entire room and it offers protection from physical damage as well.

The next thing you’ll need is a guitar case humidifier. There are many different options available but most of them involve a sponge that you fill with water and hang in the sound hole. These are fine but they require some babysitting. If your guitar and case are dry they can suck up all the water in the sponge in just a single day. The sponge will be dry as if you never added any water to it at all. It can take some time to reach equilibrium so you will need to check and refill the humidifier every day until it retains water. It’s a good idea to keep a small hygrometer in the case as well to monitor the actual humidity.

D’addario/Planet Waves produces a system that is designed to maintain a relative humidity between 45% and 50% at all times without adding any water to your guitar. The D’addario/Planet Waves Two-way Humidification System  is a set of three gel filled packs (2 for your sound hole and 1 for your case) that add humidity when it’s too low and eliminate humidity when it’s too high.  There’s no guesswork and you simply replace the packets when they get crusty (between two and four months).  This is by far my favorite system and the one I recommend above any other.

If you absolutely must…

Many guitar owners like to keep their guitars out of their cases, displayed on stands around their rooms. This is only a good idea if you can assure that the relative humidity in that room stays between 45% and 55%. If you must have your guitars out, purchase a room humidifier and a hygrometer to monitor the humidity.

There is still hope…

If your guitar has been damaged because of improper humidification, all is not lost. Believe it or not just about any damage can be repaired. It really only comes down to cost vs. value. If you need an evaluation for this or any other type of work please give me a call.

Call Today: 1-518-817-1710

Thank you!

I just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who has come out to help me and this budding business over the past few weeks.

It seems our plans to bring the vision of our business into the forefront and really seriously do this thing have been accelerated.   My wife and I had planned to wait until we had a little more money saved and slowly take steps along the way but that is not how it turned out.  But that’s okay.

I truly love what I do.  I love helping people get their instruments into the best shape and best playability possible.  I love designing guitars and bringing those designs to life.  For me it is very rewarding work and I can see myself doing it forever.

We find ourselves surrounded by family and friends who have been there in anyway they could.  Whether it was sharing a facebook post, business cards, and spreading the word, or helping record demo videos, so many people have been very supportive.

Often times in the pursuit of building a small business you are flooded with negativity and the prospect of every terrible thing going wrong.  This has not been the case in any way and we are thankful, humbled, and inspired by the support.

I won’t list any names because I know I’d leave some out and put them in the wrong order of importance but if you have been involved even in the smallest way then I thank you from bottom of my heart!