How Often Should You Setup Your Guitar?

how often guitar setup

Every guitar can experience small adjustments that alter its performance and sound over time, due to factors like humidity, temperature or how often its strings need replacing. These changes could be caused by factors like humidity or temperature variations as well as whether or not its strings have been recently changed.

As with a car, your guitar requires regular care to ensure its optimal functioning; this process is known as setup.

Acoustic Guitars

Acoustic guitars require different maintenance than electric ones, yet still benefit from regular upkeep and setups. Even if you only play it for a few hours each week, an acoustic upkeep routine will allow it to perform at its best while helping prevent minor issues from turning into major ones that cannot be fixed quickly.

Acoustic guitars should also be tuned regularly. Even though your instrument may appear to hold tune well, if it starts shifting out of tune while playing it can be a telltale sign of a larger issue – usually caused by string size changes; but other issues could arise as well – bringing your acoustic into the shop for setup could help pinpoint its cause and solve any potential issues quickly.

Most acoustic guitarists should bring in their instrument at least once annually for professional set up, which is usually enough to prevent problems from developing which result in unsatisfactory performance and playability.

As acoustic guitars are made from wood, it is normal for them to react to changes in temperature and humidity by reacting in different ways – which can impact their action height, neck relief, fret alignment, intonation and holding pitch. A professional can often resolve such issues by adjusting nut, truss rod and bridge saddle adjustments.

As with other stringed instruments, acoustic guitars need to be tuned regularly. At least once every week is recommended; for optimal results consider scheduling routine checkups every two to four weeks depending on how frequently you play them. This will ensure accurate tuning and strings conditioned properly.

As with any product, new acoustic guitars typically need at least some form of setup when they leave their factory. This is due to shipping – often via cargo ship – before waiting in an importer/wholesaler warehouse until being ordered by a guitar shop; during this period the instrument may become susceptible to warping and shifting over time.

Electric Guitars

Electric guitars require more regular care and maintenance than their acoustic counterparts due to constant usage, increasing wear and tear on its components and leading to issues like buzzing strings, loose necks or intuned strings. A good setup can ensure smooth playback of your instrument with zero hassle – and can even help avoid embarrassing live performance miscues!

Most guitarists who regularly practice should get their instruments set up at least twice annually, particularly those who practice daily. How often your guitar needs resetting will depend on various factors including frequency of playing sessions and string changes.

Many new guitars need to be properly setup even before leaving the factory, due to some manufacturers cutting corners to keep prices low, and this resulting in guitars not properly adjusted before shipment. Temperature and humidity changes during transit also can have significant repercussions for quality and playability of new instruments.

When you bring in your guitar for professional setup, the technician will typically start by inspecting and adjusting its truss rod, tuning machines, pickup height and intonation settings. They will also clean any hardware they find as well as lubricate its nuts and saddles before polishing its fretboard – with particular attention paid to ensuring each note played is in tune with all others along its fretboard. Intonation plays an essential part in keeping every note playing properly balanced against its surrounding notes on the fretboard.

While it may be possible to do some basic setup at home, this can be hazardous for your guitar. Without experience or the correct tools and advice it’s easy to cause permanent damage – better leave this task to an experienced professional!

Bass Guitars

All fretted stringed instruments, from guitars and violins to electric guitars and bass guitars, should be regularly inspected and adjusted. This applies equally to acoustic, electric, bass and violin stringed instruments – each needing regular maintenance to bring tuning stability and proper intonation. While an acoustic may require more attention due to its thicker strings and unique construction, basic setup will help all stringed instruments perform at their best.

A professional bass guitar setup involves all of the same components as for an acoustic or electric guitar setup. In essence, this means having the instrument cleaned, its strings replaced and setting its action (the distance between fretboard and strings) at an appropriate height for your playing style by either lowering or raising saddles (Photos 15-16). Classical musicians may require lower string action while metal and rock musicians might require higher string actions to reach notes without buzzing out their strings.

String action plays an essential part in defining the quality of sound you can obtain from your bass guitar. Low string action results in thin sounds while higher action provides fuller and thicker tones. In general, for optimal tone production and playing style experiment with different string action lengths until finding one that best matches both instrument and style.

Making sure the strings are in tune is an integral component of bass guitar setup, and should be done regularly to maintain accuracy. An easy way to know if your bass guitar is out of tune is to play an note high up on the fretboard before inspecting its nut and bridge for sharp or flat spots.

If your bass guitar has become out of tune after changing strings or its action has altered significantly, or if its fretboard action feels tighter or looser than expected, a guitar setup may be in order. A basic setup typically entails general inspection, intonation adjustment, fret leveling/resurfacing adjustments, saddle height changes and height adjustments, cleaning/detail work as necessary as well as new strings/nut lubrication services to get things rolling again smoothly.

Other Instruments

Your instrument requires regular care and maintenance – including cleanings, string changes and setup – in order to function optimally and sound great! A properly set up instrument will make playing easier while sounding even better, plus regular setup can prevent small issues from getting worse over time.

Guitars made of wood are extremely sensitive to humidity and temperature changes, affecting their necks, intonations, and playing actions. Without proper setup, an unplayable or uncomfortable guitar may make practicing music harder while potentially leading to serious damage on its own.

Setting up your acoustic or electric guitar regularly will allow for optimal playback while preventing small issues from compounding into larger ones that you might not be able to solve on your own.

Professional setup services typically cost $50; however, repairs could become more expensive if needed. To save yourself the expense and visit to a shop, consider investing in a guitar stand; this simple device can prevent leaning against objects that could throw off intonation and action of the instrument, while protecting it from falling over or being stepped on by passerby.

Even guitars that play well out of the box will benefit from regular setup. Not only will regular setup help your instrument sound its best, but it will also prevent small issues from growing into bigger issues.

Most techs suggest having your guitar serviced twice annually due to wood’s natural expansion and contraction with temperature and humidity fluctuations throughout the year.


Guitars, like other wood instruments under string tension, must balance various forces of physics to sound and play properly. A successful setup entails everything from replacing strings with new ones and action adjustment to fine-tuning neck angles with the truss rod, dialing in intonation across fretboard and raising or lowering string height for your playing style.

A proper setup also involves lubricating the fingerboard, frets and hardware–specifically tuners and output jacks–before cleaning them thoroughly. This step is particularly crucial if using a tremolo system as its friction creates additional wear on frets over time; otherwise they could become dull over time, becoming less responsive under stress from pulling back on the tremolo pull or even breaking under stress from its pull back action.

One of the key aspects of guitar setup is the nut, which determines how easily and accurately strings can be bent. A poorly adjusted nut may cause string snapping at either the neck joint or nut which will drastically diminish both tone quality and playability.

Fret buzz, in which strings vibrate against multiple frets at once and create an audible buzzing noise, is another common issue. An adjustment to the nut will often resolve this issue and make the strings easier to bend.

A guitar setup involves returning an instrument to its condition when first sold or produced, in order to ensure optimal playback and sound. This will help avoid issues caused by temperature or humidity changes or player habits over time that could compromise sound and playability.


Frets are one of the most essential components of any guitar setup. Experienced guitarists know that too-high frets cause strings to buzz against them and sound terrible, leading to frustration that could ultimately cause you to stop playing or at least cut back your sessions significantly.

A high-quality guitar should typically leave its factory already intonated, meaning all strings are equal length and all are in tune at the 12th fret. Unfortunately, this requires special tools not readily accessible to consumers like Stewart MacDonald Luthiers Mercantile International Allied Lutherie; you may find these online or at some good music stores.

Fret leveling must be done correctly to be effective, which means using a fine file to level out each fret’s height and oiling it to keep it from drying out. Once completed, lightly oil the frets to maintain their condition and prevent dryout.

Most guitarists should regularly have their guitars set up either through learning to do it themselves or hiring a qualified professional. At least twice annually should suffice; more frequent adjustments may be necessary depending on factors like string gauge changes and hardware additions; wood isn’t 100% stable so adjustments may need to be made over time to keep things playing well.


A proper setup requires several procedures that can be considered basic maintenance, much like tuning-up a car. These adjustments address issues caused by changing weather or string conditions as well as other external influences which might hinder performance; as novice guitarists might mismanage these steps incorrectly. It is best to leave this task to professionals who understand how minor tweaks affect overall functioning of your instrument.

At the first stage of a setup process, an instrument will undergo a visual inspection to asses its condition and identify areas needing most of attention. This includes inspecting its nut slots and saddles for excessive wear that could indicate that a set-up is overdue, as well as measuring string-to-string balance at various fretboard points to ensure all strings sound equal in volume.

Step five is particularly essential when working with electric or amplified acoustic guitars, since their sound can be drastically affected by how far away from each string the pickup is placed. Also take this opportunity to assess overall intonation of your instrument – which measures how accurately a string sounds at every fret along its length.

Acoustic instruments require this step to assess and adjust their string break-angle over the saddle, and make any necessary changes based on this assessment. In addition, it’s an opportunity to review all nuts, screws and hardware used to hold down electronics properly and avoid buzzing noise during playback – keeping its sound clear!


A guitar setup involves making adjustments that make the instrument sound and play its best, acting as a health check for its instrument. Regular guitar setup should be carried out to maintain peak condition of your instrument; since proper setup requires many steps that often require skill to do correctly, if possible it should be left to professionals.

Electric and amplified acoustic guitar setup typically involves checking and adjusting the pickups, such as moving them closer or further away depending on a player’s touch; or moving them further away for fuller and compressed tones. Furthermore, their height or angle of orientation can impact how much string energy is captured, ultimately altering their tone and consequently the playing experience.

Acoustic guitars can also be affected by temperature and humidity changes, so professional setup is the only sure way to keep them stable and playable. Just as environmental conditions affect an acoustic’s tuning stability, so do they impact its sound or performance – it is therefore crucial that both types of instruments are setup accordingly.

One sure sign you need a guitar setup is when it begins to sound out-of-tune further up the fretboard than normal. To correct this issue, use a string tuner to test 12th fret harmonics until they match up with notes played from your guitar’s neck – doing this regularly will prevent headaches related to losing pitch!


Guitar setup involves fine-tuning its hardware – including the truss rod, pickup heights and angles, saddle heights and bridge angle, fine tuning intonation and action as well as fine tuning intonation and action. This step should be performed both upon receiving new instruments as soon as they come out of the box or upon instruments that have been playing well but need an update.

The initial step in the process involves conducting a general inspection and assessment of your instrument, such as inspecting for wear in its nut slots, saddles and frets. This step is especially essential because improper filing of your string slots could easily result in creating sharp edges which could harm it over time – something a great luthier can easily prevent! This way you save both money and hassle in the future!

A good luthier will always file the nut string slot to ensure proper intonation and action for your style of playing. This step can save a lot of unnecessary headaches; yet is often neglected.

An integral component of the process is ensuring all electrical components are connected correctly and tightened, to avoid issues with hums, buzzes and signal loss. Checking connections regularly to make sure they remain tight and clean is often all that is necessary – using contact cleaner where necessary may also help.

Ideally, both acoustic and electric guitars should be professionally setup at least twice each year to account for seasonal humidity changes that affect its wood surface. If traveling frequently with your instrument is part of its use pattern, more frequent setup may be required as being exposed to changes in both temperature and humidity may have a profound impact on performance.