Electric guitar choice & set up.

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There are many reasons to purchase a certain electric guitar and it's a good idea to make yourself a check list before you make such a purchase because once you start looking, there are a vast number of guitars available and it's easy to lose sight of your goal.

I see many auctions stating that a guitar is a 'beginner' model. Does this mean 'good for the money' or 'cheap and nasty'. The very best way to be sure is to try the guitar before committing to buy but if you can't do this, buy from someone who has lots of good feedback in selling guitars and who will answer your questions. Better still, seek advice from someone who's opinion you trust.

Generally there is  a good reason why expensive guitars are expensive and cheap guitars are cheap. I have built a couple of electric guitars myself from scratch, from selecting the wood to the choice of electrics and hardware. My last guitar cost me approximately £500 to purchase all of the bits. Add to that the time and effort to actually make it and the guitar would cost in the region of £1000 - £1300 were I to sell it. It doesn't have a major manufacturer's name on the headstock so were I to offer it for sale I would probably get a couple of hundred pounds for it at best.  Buyers usually go for well known brands. It is not a guarantee of a great guitar but it is a good banker that the guitar has at least been made reasonably well.

Providing that a guitar has been designed and made correctly, it should be capable of being set up corectly. Note the words SET UP. A good set up is vital. It makes the difference between you possibly selling the guitar because it just doesn't feel right or vowing to keep it forever.

The set up of a guitar involves adjusting the

1. string height from the fingerboard (action)

2. intonation (the vibrating length of each string)

3. nut (the precise cutting of a nut is vital)

4. neck relief (to counter the slight bow in the neck caused by string tension)

5. pickup up height (the distance from the strings is vital - unless using Lace Sensors)

6. fret levelling (unlikley to need doing but if it is needed,  luthier skills may be required)

There are many articles about guitar set up online so no need for me to dwell on this here but a set up is extremely important. I played for many years without fully understanding the importance of a set up and thus went through many guitars hoping to find 'the one' when all I really needed to do was get the guitar set up properly.

My advice to save money would be to get a cheap guitar and practise setting it up yourself. Nowadays a guitar can be bought on ebay for less than the cost of a good set up. Once you've mastered the art you will appreciate your intrument much more.

Read the owner reviews of top brands. Web sites such as Harmony Central are very useful. Take note of how many players refer to the set up of their guitar, especially when new from the factory. Most will state that they needed to make adjustments. Think of a set up as a 'made to measure' service. You are an individual and as such you deserve that your guitar be tailored to suit you.

Remember that an electric guitar is firstly a musical intrument and if it isn't set up to play comfortably and in tune over the whole fretboard,  it will never 'feel right' for you.


Have fun.

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