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.
SET THE BRIDGE HEIGHT
If your guitar has individually-adjustable saddle heights, the first part of this step is to set the low and high E string heights. Make sure they’re right where you want them to be, then use a radius gauge to check the radius of the fingerboard and frets. Then, match this at the bridge. Some YouTube tutorials put the emphasis on looking across the top of the strings to determine the radius, but really, you should think about what the fret itself sees - which is the bottom of the string.
Get a radius gauge from a luthier supplier and place it under the strings to determind if your saddle heights conform to the radius of the neck.
My Stratocaster’s radius is 7.25”, which is very curvy. Whereas a lot of modern Stratocasters have a 9.5” radii, Gibsons are usually 12”, and guitars like Ibanez can go to a very flat 20”. It’s important that the strings follow the curve of the fingerboard, so that you get a consistent feel and sound from string to string. Once you’ve determined the radius, adjust each saddle to fit.
If your guitar has a Floyd Rose tremolo, chances are that the bridge itself has a predetermined radius, which the guitar builder should have matched with the radius of the fingerboard in the blueprint stage. Ditto if you have a Les Paul-style Tune-O-Matic bridge. If you look closely, you should notice that there’s a radius built into the bridge plate itself, so your objective on this step should be based on getting those low and high E strings right and hoping the rest falls into place.
Steps five and six are on the way - keep an eye on australianguitarmag.com.au in the coming days!