When Does a Guitar Need a Setup?

Repairs   |   April 20, 2023

posted by: Tone Tailors

So you bought a brand new guitar and it’s been an absolute dream machine! You’ve been playing it all summer and then out of the blue, the whole things starts feeling and sounding a bit… off? What’s going on here?! Since most guitars are made out of wood (and wood being a natural, ephemeral thing) there will come a time when adjustments become necessary. However, it’s not always completely obvious as to what adjustments or changes might make your guitar play and sound better. That’s why we’re here to answer exactly when does a guitar need a setup?

If you’re certain your guitar or bass needs a setup, get in touch with our techs here!

When Does a Guitar Need a Setup Exactly?

Before we get into the specifics of how to tell your guitar needs a setup, what does that even mean?

Basically, a setup refers to making adjustments to a guitar which either brings it back to factory specifications or makes it more playable based on the individual player’s preferences. However, that can mean many things based on what your guitar needs.

The most common issue guitar players face when it comes to a guitar’s playability is the action, or the height of the strings from the fretboard. While having a low action (strings closer to the fretboard) may make a guitar more playable, it can also mean a certain amount of idiosyncratic fret buzzes throughout the neck.

Now, if you play a style of music where those buzzes may not be audible, having an extremely low action may work perfectly fine for you! Inversely, some styles call for higher action, most notably slide guitar playing. With more space between the strings and frets, a slide can do its thing much more easily.


In most cases, bringing a guitar back to “factory spec” is the best place to start because the sum of all components might mean certain setups aren’t as optimal.

Does my guitar’s hardware need adjusted?

This leads us into hardware and electronics! When guitars have certain floating style bridges or tremolo systems, the setup can be a bit more intense. Not only is the repair tech adjusting the guitar’s neck to create the right amount of relief, but they are also taking into consideration the counterbalance of the bridge in order to achieve the right intonation.


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Take the Stratocaster for instance:  You can setup an S-style guitar to allow the tremolo the ability to dive bomb with minimal effort or a bit more resistance so things don’t go out of tune as quickly. However, players who want to optimize their tuning stability without the need for a tremolo can “block off” their bridges. This means they won’t have the ability to use the tremolo, but don’t have to worry about tuning issues as much.

Nonetheless, it is certainly possible to get a setup which allows both tuning stability AND tremolo use, just contact our techs!

Adjusting Pickup Height

If you feel that the output of a certain pickup is weaker than the rest, you may also be in need of a proper setup. Sometimes a pickup’s spring which supports it within the pickguard or body of the guitar loses tension causing it to retreat from the strings. This causes a loss of output and overall tone. Of course, you can experiment with different pickup heights, although most pickups are finely tuned to be played at a very specific distance from the strings.

Want to upgrade your pickups? Check out what’s in stock!

So when does a guitar need a setup exactly? Reach out to our techs here and they’ll definitely let you know! Our basic setup for electric guitars, basses, and acoustics includes:

Just make sure to tell us exactly what you’d like and we are happy to accommodate you!

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