Friday, 30 August 2013

How to Set-up an Electric Guitar!

Once you’ve bought a new guitar setting it up correctly is essential so that you get the most out of it. When you get a new guitar, the factory setup is likely to have general playability issues and intonation problems, which can make playing the guitar impossible since it is always out of tune.

Setting up your instrument involves adjusting the hardware of a guitar and fine tuning it so that these obstacles are removed. You will need to adjust the neck, string height and saddle position.

Tools Required for Electric Guitar Setup:
1) Allen Key 2) Screwdrivers 3) String Cutters 4) Straight Edge 5) Feeler Gauges 6) Ruler 7) Capo 8) Guitar Tuner

Step One - Neck Adjustment

Tools required:
Allen Key (or sometimes a screwdriver or nut driver)
Straight Edge

Firstly you need to check whether the neck is straight or not and If the neck is not straight, then it will need to be adjusted via the truss rod.

The truss rod is a metal rod running through the centre of the neck and tightening or loosening it will determine the bow of the neck. This means that you can manually flex the rod in either direction in order to achieve the straight neck.

Where the headstock meets the neck, is the place where the truss rod is usually adjusted. Although, some models may be adjusted from the base of the neck, meaning that you will have to remove the neck in order to make your adjustments.

Checking the bow of the neck:

If you have a Straight Edge, you can place this along the neck or you can place a Capo on fret 1 then press the string on fret 17.

At this point, If you have them use your feeler gauges to measure the gap between the string and the fret at fret 8. If you do not have these then you can try to use a ruler or your best guess. The gap should be approximately 0.10inches or 0.25mm between the string and the top of the 8th fret.

If the gap is less than 0.25mm you will need to loosen the truss rod by turning it counter-clockwise.

If the gap is more than 0.25mm you will need to tighten the truss rod by turning it clockwise.
Tip: Always be careful when adjusting the truss rod, if you are finding it difficult or it is stiff when you are trying to adjust it, you may be better taking it to a professional instead.

Result: You should finish this process with a straight neck setup, with no curve or bow along its length. It is important you get this right, because if you need to adjust it again you will have to repeat all the steps again.

Step Two - String Height

Tools Required:
Allen Key

Once you have the neck setup straight, you will need to check your string height. It is important to set the string height correctly as any changes made at the end of the setup will require you to correct the tone a second time.

To setup the string height you will place a Capo on fret 1 and then use the Ruler to measure the gap between the strings and the frets at fret 12.

You may use your personal preference when setting string height, however there is an widely accepted measurement of 1.2mm-1.6mm gap from the fret to the string.

Adjusting the string height is done via the saddles on a Fender style guitar bridge or by adjusting the entire bridge on a Gibson style bridge.

Step Three - Intonation

Tools Required:
Guitar Tuner

Intonation is the relative tuning of your guitar as your play up the fretboard. To put it simply, intonation can make your guitar sound really good or really horrible. Without having your guitar properly intonated, chords and solos played higher on the fretboard will sound out of tune while open chords sound in tune. Basically, it will be impossible to tune your guitar.

Adjusting intonation entails changing the length of each individual string by moving the saddles on the guitar bridge backwards or forwards. The aim is to make the a harmonic at fret 12. I.e. the note will be the exact same pitch as when the string is played open (but an octave higher).

Plug in your guitar tuner and tune the instrument so that it is at the correct pitch when played open. Once done:

Play the low E string open and then fretted at fret 12.

- If the note is flat you will need to move the saddle forward towards the neck, shortening the string.
- If the note is sharp you will need to move the saddle backward away from the neck, so that the string is lengthened.

On a Fender style bridge, the screws to adjust the saddles are at the back of the bridge.

On a Gibson style bridge, the screws to adjust the saddles are accessed from the front of the bridge beneath the strings.

Once the length of your strings have been adjusted, the notes played at the 12th Fret and the notes played unfretted ought to be the same. I.e. an E string played open is also an E note when the same string is played with the 12th fret depressed.

You’re done!

If you’ve got this far without any problems then you should have effectively completed the setup of your guitar. If you do have any problems don’t hesitate to contact a professional, as the initial setup may be daunting to a complete beginner.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Are you a left-handed guitar player?

If you are, do you play a left-handed guitar, a modified right-handed guitar or have you just learnt to play right-handed?

Left Handed GuitarAccording to Wikipedia some of the big names in the music industry including Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney, Bob Geldof and Paul Simon are or were also left handed guitarists. Some choose to play a right-handed guitar and others, a modified or left-handed version.

Playing a left-handed guitar 
Generally players either chose to play left-handed guitars with the strings conventionally arranged to suit the left-handed, so with the low string on the top side of the guitar’s neck, or with the strings arranged as they would be on a right-handed guitar. With the latter, the strings are essentially backwards for a left-handed player, but that doesn't stop Bob Geldof strumming a tune. 

Playing a right-handed guitar 
However, some left-handed guitarists play modified right-handed guitars. This is when the strings are arranged to suit a left-handed player. Paul McCartney favours both left-handed and modified right-handed guitars. Well he is multi-talented. 

So was Jimi Hendrix. He learnt to play the right-handed guitar, right-handed under the insistence of his father despite being left-handed. However, being a rebel he also secretly mastered playing the guitar left-handed, but upside down and right-handed with the strings upside down. 

How to change the strings on a right-handed guitar

This involves changing the nut to accommodate the string widths. Also the bridge to allow the lower strings to be longer than the top strings for the right intonation. Remember the controls will be backwards on an electric guitar if modified in this way.

Need a little help getting to grips with your left-handed guitar? Then you’ll find a selection of useful books on our website dedicated to left-handed technique, chords and scales.