Learning Guitar Setup and Maintenance

If you start playing guitar regularly you will inevitably be confronted with maintaining and adjusting your guitar. At the very least you will be changing strings (unless you’re like a guy I know who didn’t change strings on his strat for five years – not recommended!). If you’re not happy with your guitar setup or start dabbling with different string guages you will need to adjust intonation, string height and neck curvature. If you’rel no happy with the sound you’ll want to replace the pickups. You can have a guitar tech do all of those things, but it’ll cost you…

If you’re the least bit handy you can learn a lot of the basic guitar setup and maintenance and get a much better feel for your instrument and how it works.


I wish I’d read up on these things a bit earlier since I was pretty unhappy with my main guitar setup after having switched around string guages quite alot. The four highest bands would make the same notes if I didn’t raise the bridge a lot and get horribly high action. I thought the frets were uneven in height or the the fretboard was coming loose from the neck closest to the body. Turns out the neck had to much curve and that the truss rod needed tightening. Took me months before I mustered up the courage to just do it. It was pretty simple, but read up on how to do it and be very careful turning very small amounts at a time.

I’ve done the following things to my guitars:

  • Change strings – this is pretty much something any guitarist should know how to do and that everyone can learn
  • Change string guages
  • Adjust bridge height (electric and acoustic)
  • Fretboard rejuvenation (thourogh cleaning and applying lemon oil)
  • Change pickups (real soldering involved!)
  • Trussrod adjustment (electric and acoustic)
  • Intonation

My best advice is don’t be afraid but be very careful. Read up carefully on how to do things before you start or ask someone knowledgeable before you start. Some things are less risky (changing strings) and some require more attention (like truss rod adjustments).

Since I’m really no expert guitar tech I won’t try do describe each task, instead I’

ll leave you with some great links:

Changing Strings

Basics from about.com/guitar
Changing strings on an Ibanez with ZR bridge (probably similar on other floating trems)


Complete tutorial on setup of electric guitars at Project Guitar

Fixing Problems

Great articles on fixing almost anything on acoustics and electrics at Fret not Guitar Repair.

Changing Pickups

Pickup FAQ at Ultimate Guitar

Please give your best link tips on the subject in the comments!