DIY GUITAR SETUPS
By PETER HODGSON
There’s a reason the great techs earn a living from setting up and repairing guitars: it’s tricky, exacting work that can really benefit your instrument. But many techs will tell you there’s a lot you can do yourself. We asked pro tech Joseph Price for some pointers on how to set up your guitar and get it singing sweetly.
CHECK THE NUT HEIGHT
As you can see by the space between the string and the first fret, this Stratocaster's nut is at the optimal height: not too high, not too low.
To check the nut height, barre your finger behind the third fret, again using the string itself as a straight-edge. Focus on the gap over the first fret: this gap needs to be as low as it can possibly be for tuning and intonation, with only the tiniest of spaces between the top of the fret and the bottom of the string. If it’s too high and you’re new to this, you may want to take your guitar to a luthier to have the nut properly finessed to lower it.
Ditto if it’s too low. If you’re comfortable doing the work yourself, you can buy a set of fret files from many different parts suppliers, but be warned: it’s easy to go too far and once you’ve taken that material off the nut, you can’t put it back on. Remember to go slow, and continually re-check your work.
This is a slightly more advanced step for ensuring smooth travel of the strings when bending or whammying.
Another step you can do if you have a Stratocaster is to take the string tree off, pop it upside down in a clamp and lightly file the undersides into a little bit of a frown shape. This minimises the point of contact for the strings, and therefore allows them to move more smoothly under the string tree when you bend or use the whammy bar.
Steps three, four and beyond are on the way - keep an eye on australianguitarmag.com.au in the coming days!