What does instrument set up mean?
Here at Penny Lane Emporium we often hear this question from many of our online shoppers: “do you set up the instrument before you ship?”
The answer to that question is yes, but what does “set up” mean exactly?
Set up is very personal and varies from musician to musician depending on skill level and personal preferences.
For example, when talking about “action” or the distance of the strings from the fretboard, everyone seems to prefer low action but really, if you are a heavy strummer, you could cause the strings to buzz if the action is too low.
Intonation is another thing we look at, then again, in order to have an instrument that has good intonation, the player must know how to fret efficiently and not press the string so hard that can cause the string to bend and therefore go sharp.
We do a basic set up for an intermediate player, so the action is medium/low and the intonation of the instrument is checked ad adjusted whenever possible. Keep in mind that lower end instruments will have a less precise intonation compared to high end models.
We check the frets for uneven frets and adjust the ones which are not leveled.
We make sure all screws and nuts are as tight as they need to be.
We tune it before shipping although by the time it gets to you it’s possible that some fine tuning must be performed. (Oh and NO, you don’t need to loosen the strings when you ship an instrument).
Since most instruments we sell are made of wood and wood is very sensitive to climate changes, it is probable that once you receive it, after a couple of weeks you will have to adjust the truss rod or the saddle to compensate for the small adjustments the instrument is experiencing because of a different climate. No need to panic, those are pretty easy adjustment most people can do on their own but if you feel uncomfortable with doing those, you should check with your local music shop and have a professional do those adjustments.
I have been a musician for quite a bit and since I play differently depending what genre of music I’m playing, I might have to have two or more instruments with different setups.
At some point, I believe every musician needs to learn how to perform those little adjustments on their own, and it’s really not too hard. But like everything, it takes some time to learn. But I think it could be very rewarding and definitely a bonding moment with your instrument.
Sometime you may think you just need a new guitar, and instead all you need is to have your guitar go for an “oil change” if you know what I mean.