A guitar needs to receive regular maintenance if it is to keep its intended levels of playability and sound quality. Caring for a guitar involves a process known as a setup. This describes a group of fine-tuning procedures that work together to bring the instrument to its highest potential. The cost of a guitar setup is often well worth the value of the service. New strings will be added, their height adjusted, intonation will be set, and the neck may be adjusted to allow for the proper amount of relief in the wood. Most guitars need to be setup at least once a year to account for swelling of wood and shifting of parts that are caused by changes in humidity. Guitar setup cost is usually around $50, but can fluctuate wildly depending on what adjustments are needed for your specific instrument.
Acoustic Guitar Setup Cost
The process of setting up an acoustic guitar is not exactly the same as it is for an electric. New strings are usually added, and the amount of relief in the neck is adjusted as required, but the bridge adjustments are very different from the setup of an electric guitar. At the bridge of an acoustic, the strings are raised by a piece of plastic or bone that is known as a saddle, and are then anchored by individual pegs that are made of a similar material. When the intonation needs adjustment it usually means that you need to replace the entire saddle. Luckily this is a cheap and easy endeavor that isn’t likely to add to acoustic guitar setup cost. The saddle can sometimes be shaved at the bottom in order to lower the strings’ height (or “action”). Only someone with experience should perform saddle shaving, as it is very important that the saddle bottom remains even and flat. The cost of guitar setup for an acoustic is similar to that of an electric setup, though it may be cheaper at times due to the less complicated bridge.
Electric Guitar Setup Cost
Setting up an electric guitar will bring out the true potential of that specific instrument. A poorly setup guitar will be harder to play due to high strings and neck bending, and will sound subpar with improper intonation. Electric guitar setup cost will cover all of these adjustments and more. For a price close to $50, your guitar will also have its neck adjusted so that the playability is as good as possible over the entire fret board. In the ideal setup scenario, the string height will be optimized so that playing is easy. The height of the strings should also provide for the best sound as they are able to ring free of the frets, allowing for the cleanest and strongest possible signal for the pickups to capture.
Guitar Setup Tips
If you are inexperienced, it is only recommended that you attempt to setup a guitar that is of little value to you, both financially and sentimentally. If you don’t have one that fits these requirements, then it is best to pay the cost of a guitar setup as performed by a professional. The primary risk while setting up the instrument is over adjustment. Working any part of the bridge too much will cause wear and tear, and irreparable damage to the neck is often the result of improperly adjusting the truss rod. It is always hard to justify ruining a perfectly good instrument in order to avoid guitar setup cost.
If you feel that you must attempt a setup on your own, and you have a suitably worthless guitar to work with, then there are a few pieces of advice that you should know. When adjusting the truss rod on any guitar (this changes the bend or warp in the guitar neck) you want to move in small, one quarter or less turns. Over-tightening the truss rod will lead to a back-bend which can permanently destroy your guitar’s neck. Loosen the rod to bring it from this kind of a bend to flat. From there, you will want a slight amount of sag in the guitar neck to allow the strings room to vibrate. Intonation on an electric guitar is achieved by making sure that the pitch of the note when a string is struck open matches the pitch of the note as struck at the twelfth fret of that string (one octave higher). If the note at the twelfth fret is higher, the string should be slightly loosened at the bridge (achieved by moving the saddle towards the neck). The opposite is true for flat sounding notes at the twelfth fret. It is best to use a high quality tuner when intonating an electric guitar.
If your instrument receives regular maintenance, then you are likely to avoid any unneeded guitar setup cost. A properly cared for guitar will be regularly cleaned, oiled, and treated gently at all times. Of course, this is not possible for all people, as their preferred style of music may negate the ability to treat a guitar gently (metal and punk are good examples). Having the guitar setup can be thought of as maintenance in itself, as it is an invariable need in environments that have inconsistent weather patterns (which would be virtually all of them). The cost of a guitar setup can be insignificant if you maintain it on a regular basis.
Professional Guitar Setup Price
It is possible to perform a setup at home, but it can easily become a laborious and time-consuming process. You can instead bring your instrument to a local store or other professional. Guitar setup cost is usually a large value in comparison to the work it would take to do the job at home. You should consider that the cost of a guitar setup includes the addition of new strings but may not cover the actual cost of them. Whether or not strings are included in the price is something that should be investigated prior to having an instrument professionally setup. Guitar setup cost may also increase if the tuning keys need adjustment, or if you have a complicated bridge system (like a Floyd Rose) that requires extra knowledge and skill to be properly fine-tuned.
Guitar Repair Tips
The first rule of making repairs to any instrument is to decide if the value of the instrument, financial and otherwise, is worth the price of the desired repairs. If the repair is small enough to be comparable to guitar setup cost (about $50) then it is almost always worth having done. However, for large and expensive jobs like painting and neck replacement, the cost can easily outweigh the need of repair.
Guitar Repair Prices
Sometimes a guitar needs more than a setup, and actual repairs are required. Guitar setup price is minimal when compared to the price of most repairs, so be sure that the problem is not something that can be easily adjusted before making any patch-ups. The cost of repairs can be virtually any price depending on the damage. Refinishing might be over $100, and if a neck needs replacement due to warping, then the price may be several hundreds of dollars. A cracked neck can be glued and clamped for under $100, but the quality of the guitar is unlikely to be regained with this process.