How Often Does A Guitar Need a Setup? (Acoustic, Electric, Bass)

How Often Does A Guitar Need a Setup? (Acoustic, Electric, Bass) |

Let’s discuss about guitar setups, including the recommended frequency and specific aspects of the process.

It’s recommended that an acoustic guitar be setup twice a year or every 6 to 8 months. At least one setup per year is recommended, although it can be less than enough for good playability. This is appropriate for players who practice on a daily routine and have a mid to high-end instrument.

Every instrument will have subtle physical alterations over time, and it’s no different with the acoustic. As discussed in a previous article, acoustic guitars are very delicate, and every small change can harm their sound.

It features a hollow construction, usually with delicate woods and parts attached to it, so it’s important to take good and regular care here. Whether steel or nylon-stringed, the acoustic guitar will deal with the same variations regarding temperature or even dirt, for example, so everything applied for a steel-string acoustic can be applied to a classical as well.

How Often Does A Guitar Need a Setup? (Acoustic, Electric, Bass) |

The acoustic guitar setup can involve adjustments to the bridge, the nut, the tuning pegs, the scale, and the frets. By changing parts or simply tweaking them properly, your guitar can feel much smoother when you play, ringing notes very clearly and in proper tuning.

The constant usage of the instrument, be it just practicing or doing gigs, will certainly require a later adjustment, so it’s important to always pay attention to how your acoustic is playing and adjust it as soon as possible if needed.

Is an acoustic guitar setup necessary?

Yes, an acoustic guitar setup is necessary. Whether you play professionally or not, your instrument will require regular maintenance through setups and will keep it in a better shape over time. A proper setup can make your guitar’s playability more comfortable and leave your guitar sharp and clean.

An acoustic guitar’s sound depends entirely on the sound projection through the body and the soundhole, but a proper setup will explore essential details for comfortable playability. As the acoustic can have a very natural and organic aspect, every slightly minor detail can disturb your practice routines, such as fret buzzing or an unbalanced neck.

Not only will a setup fix these technical issues, but it will guarantee that your guitar will sound as it’s supposed to, taking into consideration all the wood types and overall construction of the instrument. It can also be beneficial to say woods, as a setup can include the cleaning and hydration of the top, back, sides, neck, and fretboard.

How often does an electric guitar need a setup?

It’s recommended that an electric guitar get a setup twice a year or every 06 to 08 months. At least one setup per year is recommended, although it can be less than enough for good playability. This is appropriate for players who practice on a daily routine and have a mid to high-end instrument.

Although it relies on electrical hardware to produce its sounds, the electric guitar also features wooden construction, so most setup requirements will also apply. There are different guitar types, such as solid and hollow-body guitars, but overall the periodicity of maintenance is the same. The same applies to bass guitars, as they feature similar wood construction and electric components.

If an electric is kept for quite some time under a bed or just hidden away, a setup may be crucial to bringing it back to life. Over time, aspects such as humidity and dust can interfere with the hardware and the woods as a whole. Adjusting the neck and the bridge properly should do most of the job, but a complete inspection of these conditions could also be important.

Is an electric guitar setup necessary?

Yes, an electric guitar setup is necessary. Whether you play many gigs per month or just practice at home, a setup should maintain the best characteristics of the instrument flourishing and sound better than ever. It will also make playing much more comfortable, especially if new strings are used.

Any stringed instrument can greatly benefit from a proper setup. By tweaking the bridge saddles, adjusting the neck’s truss rod, and ensuring the nut is well-cut, your electric guitar can sound considerably better and with very smooth playability. The overall intonation of the instrument will be adjusted as it should be – leaving no room for out-of-tune octaves and open chords sounding bad.

The same aspect about the woods applies to this instrument, too. Although it may not be as distinctive as in an acoustic, an electric guitar often features high-quality woods that must be cleaned, hydrated, and well-kept. If done so, not only will the guitar look cleaner, but it can also increase its lifespan.

The '5-STEP SETUP' every guitarist should know!


Is a bass guitar setup necessary?

Yes, a bass guitar should have a setup from time to time. The same situations about playing music can apply here: no matter if you strum it every night or just a few days of the week, a setup will greatly benefit the playability and comfort of your instrument, keeping it clean and fresh at the same time.

Bass guitars have two fewer strings than an electric or acoustic (basically, the high E and B strings are left out). It may seem like an easier job, but at the same time, these strings can be significantly thicker, thus creating different tensions than lighter strings would. All the tools and steps towards a bass guitar setup remain the same, but the increased thickness can be imperative when dealing with string height or intonation.

Is a classical guitar setup necessary?

Yes, classical guitars should have a regular setup routine. These guitars are very similar to acoustics, so the same steps and tools can be used for a proper setup, even though the strings are made from a different material. The setup can help a guitar sound better and more comfortable, as it should be.

In the past, classical guitar strings could be made of animal gut, a delicate and unique material to maintain. Setups were already common back then, and luthiers mostly did them. However, besides having better and more accessible tools nowadays, we also got a better material for strings to be manufactured with: nylon fiber. It’s very durable and resistant, and with the proper maintenance over time, it can sound wonderful.

How should I get my guitar setup?

The best way to get your guitar setup is with the assistance of a luthier, a specialized professional that can repair and adjust your instrument. However, many guitarists prefer to do it by themselves, as it can be easier to set according to the player’s specifications, thus tailoring it to their playability.

If you decide to do a setup by yourself, the first thing is to ensure that you have the proper tools at your disposal, such as hex keys, different sizes of Philips-head screwdrivers, and some other products like the good old WD-40 for the electric parts and rusty screws. After having all tools gathered, you can begin to follow these steps.

  • Adjust the truss rod

The truss rod is a metal bar hidden beneath the fretboard, inside the guitar’s neck. Almost any acoustic or electric guitars from the 1960s up feature this part, as it can be easily adjusted to set the neck as straight as possible.

Basically, you can loosen (the neck will get more concave, thus increasing the distance between the fretboard and the strings) or tighten (the neck will bend backward, moving the strings closer to the fretboard) the neck, keeping it as straight as possible.

To adjust the truss rod, first, you need to locate the adjustable end. On most electric guitars, it’s featured beneath the truss rod cover, right at the headstock. Remove the lid, and you’ll find it. If it’s a bolt-on neck, it can also appear at the body end of the neck.

On acoustics, it’s usually located near the sound hole, where the neck joint meets the body. After finding it, simply insert your hex key, and the neck should twist in any direction needed.
How Often Does A Guitar Need a Setup? (Acoustic, Electric, Bass) |

  • Adjust the bridge height and saddles

Electrics and acoustics differ when dealing with bridge adjustments. Any acoustic instrument will probably have bridges and saddles made of wood, bone, or even plastic, so you’ll most likely have to sand or shim the piece to adjust it. However, the electric guitar often features a metal bridge with metal saddles, easily adjusted by twisting some screws.

Each player can setup the height differently, according to a particular style or technique to be played. By raising or lowering the vertical screws on a bridge, you’ll be able to set the strings’ height instantly.

This is recommended to be done after dealing with the truss rod, as you’ll want the neck to be as straight as possible to accurately measure how high the strings are.
It’s essential to have some kind of ruler to better measure the distance between the strings and the fretboard.

Basically, measure the distance between the scale and the bottom of the low E string at the 12th fret to adjust the lower three strings and repeat the same process for the other higher three strings, using the high E as reference. Below there are some common measurements regarding different actions.

Low action
Middle action
High action
Low E string
1.6mm (.063″)
2.5mm (.098″)
3.5mm+ (.138″)
High E string
1.5mm (.059″)
2.4mm (.094″)
3.4mm+ (.134″)

The saddles will adjust the overall distance of the string between the bridge and the nut. This is crucial to set the proper intonation of the instrument, so it’s nice to do it after changing the strings and with the help of a tuner. Each saddle usually takes care of a single string at a time, with a few exceptions like some Fender Telecasters models.

Simply twist the screw clockwise or counter-clockwise to increase or diminish the string’s length. Play the string open and check the tuner to see if it’s tuned. After that, press the 12th fret of the same string and see if the note is tuned exactly the same way.

When finished, play these notes to make sure everything is in tune. You can also transpose it to different regions of the guitar fretboard (like starting from the 5th, 9th, or 11th fret, for example), so every note will be covered.
How Often Does A Guitar Need a Setup? (Acoustic, Electric, Bass) - 2024 Update

  • Check the nut

Other than the bridge, the other contact point for a string is at the nut. Usually made of bone or plastic, this little piece will help each string perfectly align and be in place, so checking for irregularities is very important.

Each string slot should be cut perfectly and according to the others, and for most brand-new instruments, they will be well made from the factory. If you spot anything out of place, a set of nut files will be your best friend. With extreme caution, remove the nut from its position and correct the carving of each slot.

If the overall nut height is not good, a small shim might help, but make sure that the nut is even, not moving around, and fixed in its place.

  • Check the electronics

Any electric, bass or even acoustic can present malfunctioning pieces on their circuits, so it’s nice to check them from time to time. Dust and any dirt can get inside your instrument, and sometimes it can be not nice. This can result in undesired noises, hums, and even bad contact when plugging your cable or turning a knob.

Some good materials that can help you are electronic contact cleaners (that can be easily sprayed on the circuit and parts without damaging anything), screwdrivers, socket wrenches, and even a soldering kit if you know how to use it.

Take this time to meticulously analyze each part – the output jack, each knob, the pickups, etc. – without a hurry. A tight output jack can avoid any unnecessary changes in the near future, thus prolonging its usage over time.

If you’re not comfortable dealing with this section of your instrument, don’t be ashamed to leave it up for a luthier to work on. It’s better to have any problems fixed than further damage your instrument.

  • Clean and hydrate the fretboard

Before putting new strings on your guitar, it’s imperative to give special treatment to the fretboard in its entirety. After all, most of the time, this is where you’ll be resting one of your hands, and we know how dirty they can get. Years without cleaning it can leave disgusting marks of dirt along the fret, getting in the way of a nicer feel and playability.

The materials needed are fret protectors (little metal strips that allow you to protect the scale wood when cleaning it), some lemon oil, and small pieces of steel wool. Place each protector within a fret and gently rub the steel wool on it with special care.

The protector will stop the wool from damaging your fretboard, but it will also polish your frets just like they were when new. Do that to each fret, calmly and one at a time. After that, get a cloth or something similar and rub the lemon oil along the scale wood, but only if it’s of a dark consistency (like rosewood or ebony).

This will clean any dirt left on the frets and also healthily hydrate the wood. If you have a maple fretboard guitar, simply apply some polishing cream – the one used to polish furniture can be of great help.

After taking these steps, simply change the strings and make sure they’re all in perfect intonation and without any buzzing coming out of the frets. Fresh, new strings are one of the best moments of a guitar’s life, as it’s in the perfect condition to be played around.

Having a clean, polished, and fresh instrument in your hands can be very uplifting and may inspire you to play more than ever.

Do new guitars need to be set up?

Yes, it’s recommended that brand new guitars go through a setup process. Usually, most guitars will come out of the factory with a decent setup, but, likely, it may not be done as meticulously as it should. Having a setup can prepare your instrument for your playing style in a better way.

The average mid-end guitar will probably be crafted within a factory, so the attention to detail might be missed in the process. Aside from that, it’s not known whether the particular setup from the factory will adjust to your playability, so it can be pleasing to have the instrument set to your liking from the first moment you play it.

It’s important to note that most guitars do ship out in a good playing condition, and it’s most unlikely to get either an electric or acoustic with bent necks or misaligned bridge saddles. You can do these alterations yourself, but the good thing is that most tweaks can be easily done and reverted if not done properly.

Unboxing a New Electric Guitar and How to Set It Up | Fender

Does every guitar need a setup?

Yes, it’s highly recommended that every guitar have a setup done. The setup on such instruments can be imperative to increase its lifespan and significantly improve playability and tuning stability. As guitars are all stringed instruments, they all demand similar care when talking about setups.

Electric, bass, acoustic, or classical guitars are common stringed instruments. They rely on the string’s vibrations to produce sounds and eventually music, so it’s crucial to ensure that they’ll sound and feel good when you play them. No matter which instrument, a proper setup will bring the best out of it simply by refining some adjustments.

These instruments have nuts, bridges, necks, and tuners to be inspected, so the same rules apply to each one of them. Of course, particular elements such as thicker strings and different string materials can and will change how you’ll perform such maintenance. Still, the basic concept is the same: bring tuning stability, intonation, and comfort to your playing style, no matter which.

How long should a guitar setup take?

A guitar setup takes about 40m to one hour to be made. Obviously, the design and condition of the instrument are aspects to be taken into consideration and may increase this period, but the steps are relatively the same and should take this time on average to be done when doing a setup.

The overall steps described earlier in this article demand special attention when dealing with, so there shouldn’t be any haste when working on a guitar setup. The risks of missing some fix or not doing it properly increase when working hurriedly, resulting in some damage or possibly faulty aspects of the instrument.

Delicate aspects, such as the neck relief, the bridge adjustments, and the fret’s polishing should be done in a calm and relaxed rhythm. It’s nice to pay attention to every detail within your guitar, so there’s no need at all to rush things up.

How much does it cost to have a guitar setup? What’s The Average Price?

A professional guitar setup can cost about $50, going up to $100 if there’s lots of work to be done. It’s another aspect that can vary by region, professional, and what the instrument needs. New strings are usually included, as their gauges can affect the intonation and overall playability.

The prices involving a setup can vary greatly, from where you decide to take it to the work required to fix it. There are highly-regarded luthiers, specialized in every kind of instrument out there, so it’s nice to make sure you’ll get a good professional working on yours.

How Often Does A Guitar Need a Setup? (Acoustic, Electric, Bass) |

If you decide to do it by yourself, the only costs would be the necessary tools and the eventual string packs used on the setup. In the long-term, this can save you money and be quicker to resolve, but it’s always nice to count on the expertise of a professional if the problem is beyond your knowledge.

How do I know if my guitar needs a setup?

You can inspect your guitar to see if it needs a setup by checking if there are any buzzes, cracks, or weird sounds coming out of the instrument when you play it, but also noticing how well does the guitar hold up to its tuning and if it’s indeed stable after some time. 

Particularly, the upper frets (from 12th above) can be a lead indicator of intonation problems, as these upper notes may not match their octaves below. Playing open chords in a bad-intonated guitar can sound very unpleasant and should be noticeable, despite re-tuning it several times.

Another common issue is the bent neck. It can be visible if you look up from the bridge, aiming at the nut – you’ll have a good vision of how straight the neck currently is. Electrical problems, such as cracks and weird noises, can also indicate any problems regarding the circuitry or even some particular components.


Any instrument ever invented may require adjustments sooner or later. Be it a saxophone, a hi-hat, a piano, or even a harmonica; there’s always a luthier prepared and specialized in dealing with their maintenance. These professionals usually have a large variety of tools at their disposal, not to mention their years of experience and knowledge learned.

No matter which type, guitars can come in many sizes, shapes, and configurations. Bass, acoustic, electric, or classical guitars share a somewhat similar construction and temperament, so their setups are similar in many ways. The tools used are the same, most parts are identical, and so is their tuning. However, musicians are different from one another and may require particular tweaks and configurations to play around with. This is why you can setup your guitar in different ways, but always ensure that a good sound will come out of it.

Many of these players prefer to do the setup on their guitars by themselves to adjust it perfectly in the way wanted. It can be easily learned and done, but always with attention and great care not to damage anything. Having the correct tools will do most of the job, but some basic knowledge can help too – luckily, there are some great video lessons online for that. Setting up your own instrument means you’ll get to know it better than anyone could’ve, and to tailor it accordingly to your style is a nice technique to improve your skills.

Either with a luthier or by yourself, guitars should have a regular setup. It will increase its lifespan while also bringing the best sound possible out of it, all in a clean and polished way. It’s highly important to continue keeping your guitar in order, though – clean the strings after playing with it, changing them regularly, etc.
It’s awesome to know how to take good care of your guitar, and it’s the ultimate demonstration of love towards it. I hoped you’d learned more about the maintenance of such instruments and that some confidence might have grown to go out and try it by yourself. See you next time!
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