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Setting Up Your Electric Guitar

Date: Wednesday, March 09, 2005 2:45:32 PM

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Changing Your Strings

Strings are the soul of each guitar. When your strings aren’t in top form, neither is your playing. In order for strings to provide the maximum performance, they should be changed on a regular basis. Strings that have lost their integrity (worn where the string is pressed against the fret) or have oxidized, rusted or are dirty, responds poorly. Run a finger underneath the string and feel for dirt, rust or flat spots. If you find any of these, you should change your strings. After you have installed a new set, make sure to stretch your strings properly and have them tuned to pitch, hook your fingers under each string (one at a time) and tug lightly, moving your hand from the bridge to the neck. Re-tune and repeat several times.

Setting your floating tremolo height

Turn your guitar over and unscrew the plate on the back of the body.
You should see an amount of strings holding the tremolo in position. Simply remove a spring to lift the tremolo away from the body, or add one to tighten the tremolo.

Making Bridge Adjustments and Setting Intonation

There are numerous types of bridges, but one basic point that should be remembered; ensure that there is sufficient break angle of the strings over the saddles (at least 30º). Much of the remainder of bridge adjustments, as in the case of setting a floating tremolo, is determined by personal taste.
At this point you can pre-set the basic intonation of your guitar, by taking your tape measure and measuring from the inside of the nut to the center of the 12th fret (the wire, not the fingerboard). Double that measurement to find the scale length of your guitar. Adjust the 1st string bridge saddle to this scale length, measuring from the inside of the nut to the center of the bridge saddle. Now, adjust the distance of the 2nd string saddle back from the 1st saddle, using the gauge of the 2nd string as a measurement

(Example: If the 2nd string is. 011" you would move the 2nd string back .011" from the 1st saddle). Move the 3rd back from the 2nd saddle, using the gauge of the 3rd string as a measurement. The 4th string saddle should be set parallel with the 2nd string saddle. Proceed with the 5th and 6th in the same method used for strings 2, and 3. Each string should resonate naturally at the 12th fret.

Adjusting Your Truss Rod

The purpose of the truss rod is to counteract the tension placed on the neck by the strings. This tension can be affected by movement of the wood from environmental influences like temperature and humidity.

To adjust your truss rod: check your tuning, then install a capo at the 1st fret, depress the 6th string at the last fret. Check the gap between the bottom of the string and the top of the 8th fret - the measurement should be approximately. 010" (The thickness of your thin string.)
Adjustment at headstock (Allen wrench): If neck is too concave, (the guitar in playing position, looking up the neck towards the keys) turn the truss-rod nut counter clock-wise. Too convex - clockwise.
Adjustment at neck joint (Phillips screwdriver): If neck is too concave, turn the truss-rod nut clock-wise. Too convex—Counter clockwise. Check your tuning, then check the gap again.

Setting Your String Height

Players with a light touch can get away with lower action, others need higher action to avoid rattles. Check tuning. Using a ruler, measure distance between bottom of strings and top of the 17th fret. Adjust bridge saddles or if your saddles are preset, the bridge height adjustment screws, to approximately 1,5mm. Experiment with the height until the desired sound and feel is achieved.

Adjusting Your Pickup Height

Set too close, pickups can cause a myriad of mysterious effects, which is caused by the magnetic “pull” the pickups have on the strings. Depress all of the strings at the last fret. Using a ruler, measure the distance from the bottom of the 1st and 6th strings to top of the pole piece. Adjust the distance with the two outside pickup mounting screws. The distance should be greatest at the 6th string - neck pickup position, and closest at the 1st string - bridge pickup position. The distance will vary according to the amount of magnetic pull of the pickup, but a save option is about 4mm. When you’ve completed the above steps you should be ready to rock. Remember guitars are tempered instruments, retune, play and make further adjustments as needed. Most of all, have fun!

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