What defines the perfect guitar set up?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by Sleepy, Oct 25, 2008.

  1. Sleepy

    Sleepy Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    Reading through the threads, I got to thinking.
    I have fairly high action and I use 11-56 strings and large frets.
    I play the blues and use a lot of bends.

    For me when I play a guitar with low action and low frets and light strings I cant play it at all, bending wise there is no grip, but a jazz guy might love it

    also what about the players hand size?
    I think to each his own as far as what the perfect set up goes.

    what do you guys think?
  2. David Collins

    David Collins Member

    Feb 10, 2007
    Ann Arbor, MI
    As I believe you are already indicating, I'd say there is no such thing as a "perfect setup", in a universal sense anyway. Every setup is a compromise of a number of factors and opposing goals. A perfect setup for an individual instrument for an individual player, is simply the point in that big grey area that works best for them.
  3. darth_vader

    darth_vader Member

    Aug 24, 2008
    I'm the opposite. If I picked up a guitar and found it had 11s on it, I'd put it back down without playing a note.

    I'll take low action 9s any day of the week. That's what I have on my Les Paul. On my strat I have 8s to match up tension-wise with the LP.
  4. dead of night

    dead of night Member

    Feb 26, 2007
    I like my action, as the cliche goes, "As low as it can go with no buzzing." I like to slip and slide all over the fretboard, and want the bending and slurring to be as lubricious as possible.
  5. shane88

    shane88 Member

    Oct 10, 2008
    i guess you can get used to anything but i prefer not to fight the strings so i use 9-42 and fairly lo action
    gives me lots of reserve cos i'm not on the limit all the time + i have a light touch
  6. gerryguitar

    gerryguitar Member

    Apr 5, 2007
    setups are very personal.... what I like other players will not... after a while playing you kinda find what you like... action is always a personal preference as is string guage... intonation and neck relief are crucial.... in the end the guitar must play in tune and cleanly... go into a studio with a guitar that dosen't and you will soon change it.....
  7. PFCG

    PFCG Member

    Feb 23, 2006
    Calabasas - CA
    My motto is dont have the guitar put up a fight. When the guitar is set up perfectly in all your preferences and playability is at the highest level, then its up to you to make the music right. here is my perfect setup.

    On a strat, i like the strings a low as humanly possible so i get no fret out on bent notes in the upper registers. I either use tens with a heavy bottom or nines with a heavy bottom. Usually tuned to Eb with the 10s and standard with the 9s.

    On Downtuned guitars, i use 12s or 11s set as low as possible without eccessive buzz on lower chords and no fretout on higher strings when bending a minor third. This is usually for a D standard or C standard setup.

    Frets shined with a Tiffany's silver polishing cloth, and the fretboard properly oiled.

    This makes me a happy guy.

    Lower action means less energy spent for an equivalent sound, which keeps your endurance up when you play quickly and your fingers dont get torn up.
  8. forum_crawler

    forum_crawler Member

    Aug 14, 2008
    Winnipeg, MB
    Very interesting, I downtune one half step while using 9~42. I find this makes my strings feel very comfortable while not too sloppy. I also find these gauge to be easy to use for wide vibratos and 2 step bends.
  9. ~el gringo loco

    ~el gringo loco Member

    Apr 29, 2005
    Easy playability, or sometimes a level of playability, like maybe higher action with a little "fight" built in, is one measure of a great setup.

    But there is more -- getting the guitar intonated up and and down the neck is really important. Getting the guitar to "play free" where note ring clean and sustain freely is really important. Getting the pickups adjusted to their sweet spots where they sound great but don't exert too much magnetic force and "strangle" or "beat" is really important. Getting the pots and caps right is an important part of setup in my mind, too.

    For me, it's all about balance -- a well set up guitar should be joyful to play, whatever that means to you, and all of the competing interests like nuts and bridges and tailpieces, neck relief, frets and pickups should be working together to provide the best possible playing platform. I have four or five guitars, all of them fairly different, and it takes weeks, sometimes, to get 'em dialed in just right.

    For example, I have a 335 and I replaced the nut, the pickups and the electronics all in one sitting. When I put it back together it was like starting with a half built puzzle -- took me a couple of weeks of carefully tweaking the nut and bridge, getting the truss rod just right, getting the pickups just right, etc, before the guitar really opened up. But when it did, it was easy to hear and to feel -- notes sustained cleaner and longer, the volume and tone controls allowed me to shape the sound I wanted to hear more easily, and the guitar can go from a woody bite to that warm, liquid singing sound 335's are known for.

    And that's just an example; I've done the same thing with my other guitars -- it's all about getting the guitar in balance with itself so that it sounds pure and rings true with the kind of playability that helps you make the music you want to make . . . to me, that's what a setup is all about.

  10. Strat58

    Strat58 Member

    Dec 17, 2006
    Hi yeah thats right at a certain point the strings will vibrate together with the neck, so around 1,5/6 mm on the high strings and 2,0/2 mm on the bass strings. I have always adjusted mine guitars on that height, the strings must be free the give sustain. Are your strings to low the strings will choke and no wall of Marshall can prefend that. Thats why player like Yngwie and Jimi and Blackmore have a clean tone in their sound, try to get a vintage rock sound raise the bridge, those players had only a Marshall and no TS9 or other pedals, okay they had a Fuzz Face but thats a totally other sound, I am talking about Paul Kossof, Jimi Page and Mick Taylor. I always use a refence pont for adjusting the intro from Alright now and the lead part with sustain on the notes, no sustain strings are to low and I raise them untill I hear the notes sustain like the should. Even at low volumes I have plenty of sustain and can go from fret to fret without losing the note I am playing (with out picking). Specialy legatto playing sound nice and when using your pick you easily get high pitched harmonics (not those Zak but more Joe Walsh and Leslie West). It plays more difficult but you have more reward because you have a nice clean tone. I also play blues/rock and do a lot of bends and just can't play those low guitars. IMHO high strings with more relief is better tone, at least it works for me.
    Peace Strat58
  11. bluesjuke

    bluesjuke Disrespected Elder

    Feb 26, 2005
    Gretchen's House, Bluesland, TX.

    That's exactly what I always aim for.
    When all things come together in this manner the guitar is a sheer joy to play.

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