Be­fore you rock out, set up your gui­tar li ke t his.

Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - Contents - BY RHYN­HARDT K RYNAUW


Be­fore try­ing to get ev­ery­thing else per­fect, it’s good to get a fresh set of strings on and tuned up. If you don’t have a tuner app on your phone yet, get one. There are many free op­tions avail­able. Strings need some stretch­ing be­fore they set­tle in, though, so get them tuned up, then pull on each string till it’s out of tune, then tune up again. Don’t yank the strings, or they may break. Re­peat till the tun­ing re­mains sta­ble.


The gui­tar’s neck should be ei­ther dead straight, or slightly con­cave (up-bowed), but never con­vex (back-bowed). You can tell how straight the neck is by fret­ting the thick E string at the first fret and an­other fret where the neck meets the body – the 18th, say. Now, look at the gap be­tween the string and the top of the eighth fret. If there’s no gap, the neck is back-bowed and needs ad­just­ing; if the gap is big­ger than about 0.5 mm, it may be a lit­tle too up-bowed, but that will de­pend on you. A big­ger gap – more re­lief – typ­i­cally suits the more ag­gres­sive play­ers, but too much and the ac­tion ( see #3) be­comes in­con­sis­tent.

To set the bow of the neck, ad­just the truss rod – the me­tal rod that re­in­forces the neck. It typ­i­cally ad­justs at the base of the head­stock, some­times un­der a cover, and you’ll prob­a­bly need an Allen key (typ­i­cally 5 mm) for the job. Some ad­just at the base of the neck, but the same rules ap­ply. If the neck is too up-bowed (big gap), turn the nut clock­wise to straighten it out. If the neck is back-bowed (no gap), turn coun­ter­clock­wise. Al­ways ad­just in small in­cre­ments, no more than a quar­ter­turn at a time, and if it feels like you have to force it, stop: a busted truss rod is no joke.


The gui­tar’s ac­tion is how w high the strings are above the fret­board. On most elec­tric gui­tars, there re will be six in­di­vid­ual sad­dles on the bridge over which the strings travel, the height of which can be ad­justed with th a 1.5 mm-ish Allen key – clock­wise for higher, an­ti­clock­wise for lower. You want to set the open thick E string to have a gap of about 2 mm be­tween it and the top of the 12th fret. On the skinny E string, get it to about 1.6 mm, and have the other strings some­where in-be­tween. If you play slide, you’ll prob­a­bly want the ac­tion higher. If you want to play su­per fast, you may pre­fer it lower.

For pre­cise mea­sure­ments, use feeler gauges you can buy from a hard­ware store, or an engi­neer­ing ruler.

Some Tele­caster-style gui­tars may have only three sad­dles, but it’s the same idea. With Gib­son Tune-o-mat­ic­style bridges, the sad­dles are there for in­to­na­tion only – you’ll ad­just the height of the whole bridge as a unit.


Cor­rect in­to­na­tion is get­ting ev­ery fret to line up with the right pitch at ev­ery point on ev­ery string. It’s eas­ier than it sounds. Get the tuner out. Play any string open, then at the 12th fret. The fret­ted note should be ex­actly an oc­tave higher than the open string. If the fret­ted note is sharp, turn the in­to­na­tion screw or bolt clock­wise to move the sad­dle and lengthen the string. If the fret­ted note is flat, sim­ply turn an­ti­clock­wise to shorten the string. Make small ad­just­ments, and re-tune and test af­ter ev­ery one. Do this for ev­ery string. A float­ing vi­brato (you may know it as a tremolo), such as a Floyd Rose or Ibanez Edge, is a bit more com­pli­cated; go find de­tailed in­struc­tions on­line.


Pickup height is a quick one: turn the ad­just­ment screws clock­wise for higher, an­ti­clock­wise for lower. Not the pole pieces in your pick­ups. Don’t try to turn those.

With the thick E string de­pressed at the high­est fret, th the gap be­tween the string and the top of the neck pickup should be about 3 m mm. At the skinny E, try 2.5 mm. As­pic pickup height af­fects vol­ume, you can a ad­just the bridge pickup to be the sa same vol­ume as the neck, or have it closer to the strings and al­ways have a louder pickup to switch to for solo­ing. Play around. Just don’t get them so close that the strings buzz against them.

Got a back-bow? Turn left to loosen Up-bowed? Turn right to tighten

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