Ottawa's guitar repair shop

Detailed Setup

As mentioned in my article about guitar setups and tune ups, a new instrument is never properly setup. And guitar setups are unique to every player. So, what is included in my setup?

First, I need to understand how you play your guitar, bass or fretted instrument. I will ask you to play for a few minutes. Some of the things I will observe are the following:

- Most commonly picked section of the strings
- Pick being used (or finger pick, hand picking style)
- Strength of attack
- fretting hand movement

Then, we have a short conversation about what you really like about the instrument, and what you would like to feel as a difference. You could dislike the roughness of the frets as you slide notes, have a hard time with bar chords in a certain position etc.. Through experience, I can determine why the instrument responds in a certain way when you're playing it. But I cannot feel your frustrations or likes. Communication between the Musician and the Luthier is key to a satisfying experience.

Once these two steps are completed, I will tailor your setup to your playing style. If more complex modifications are required to achieve your goals, I will share my suggestions with you (change in fret size, nut material, hardware etc.), but my priority is to setup the instrument for you without any modifications.

Setups include:

- Installation of new strings

New stings are necessary in order to ensure proper harmonic adjustment and ease of workflow on other components of the guitar

- Cleaning and polishing of the frets and fingerboard

This step is executed with steel wool and make the playing surface much smoother to the touch

- Oiling the fingerboard (except for lacquered fingerboards)

Lemon oil (no solvents in the oil)

This might seem like a small issue, but proper guitar string installation is key to staying in tune. Many clients came into my shop wanting to change tuning keys because their guitar was always going out of tune. Little did they know, they weren't installing their guitar strings properly. Money saved!

- Neck relief adjustment

Proper neck relieve will depend on the string gauge being used, playing style and type of instrument.

- Action adjustment

I don't think this part needs explanations...

- Nut height adjustment

Action adjustment is done at two points, the bridge and the nut. A properly setup nut will not only make the action of the guitar lower, but will also make chording easier and improve tuning

- Matching of the bridge (or saddle) radius to the fingerboard radius

I could talk about this one for hours, but the point is that, after having setup over 5000 instruments so far, I can say that almost 50% of electric instruments did not have the bridge radius matching the fingerboard radius.

- Harmonic adjustment (when hardware allows adjustment. If your instruments configuration does not allow for harmonic adjustment, this portion is extra and quoted prior to execution)

Well, whats the point of trying to play music if you're out of tune? Ok, Neil Young pulls it off quite well...

- Pickup output balancing

In the case of electric guitars and basses, I position the pickups in order to balance the volume between them. It's kind of annoying to have a pickup out up lower than the other...

- Electronic cleanup and time proofing (if the instrument has electronics)

A proper cleaning agent will not only clean the components, but stay present for years to come and prevent dirt and rust from ruining your component (and you gig!)


Fixed bridge and 1 way tremolo electric guitars, and acoustic guitars: 95$
Floating tremolo electric guitars (ex: Floyd Rose, Khaller), and 12 string guitars: 100$

Fret work:

If your guitar has never had its frets glued and levelled, I will inspect it before a setup in order to assess if fretwork is necessary. In many cases, it's possible to work around an uneven fret condition while still performing a great setup. If the condition of the frets absolutely requires attention prior to setup, I will share this information with you prior to beginning any work. You can learn more about fret levelling here.