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Setting Up Cheap Electric Guitar
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Guitars, Basses, Amps & FX  
Author Setting Up Cheap Electric Guitar
JustGlyphs
I've read a lot of conflicting advice about what to do when setting up a new guitar and would appreciate some advice from real-ass folks here.

One consistent thing has been sanding the frets to all be level and smooth, which seems pretty doable, and replacing tuners, which seems expensive and much more difficult. I've also read one should adjust the truss rod, bridge, nut, sand the neck, replace various electronics/pickups, reshield the compartment housing the electronics and swap the strings.

Of course these partially depend on the specific model but in general... What's worth it? What can I do myself for little money? What's worth a professional shop?

Thanks!
dkcg
Personally, I feel if you need to do all those things to get the guitar to be playable, you should've bought a better guitar.

However, my Squire BassVI could use a better bridge, possibly a better nut, and pickups for sure, the neck is ok, I'm not sure putting money into it would improve it very much. A new neck would, but at that point, why even keep this Squire... I have no plans to put in at least half the price of the guitar to upgrade it to possibly play and sound a little better. I paid a little shy of $300, and don't want to put in a couple hundred bucks (or much more). Only upgrade I would actually do is new pickups. But even that's like almost the cost of the whole guitar.
sduck
The obvious thing to do is only fix what needs to be fixed.

Some of these things are much more difficult to do right that is immediately evident. Like leveling/sanding/polishing frets - it's much easier to mess them up than fix them. Unless you have the appropriate tools and skills don't try it. Get just one or more of them a hair too low, and it's going to be buzz city, and require some major work to get it back right. Truss rod - seems like it should be easy, but there are a lot of variables involved, only mess with it if you need to. Bridges are generally easy to replace, depending on the guitar, and not that hard to set up, but you want to know appropriate string heights to set it for, and how to intonate the string lengths. Nuts are not for unskilled people to replace - there's a lot of non-obvious mojo involved.

Tuners are usually relatively easy to replace, it just takes some time. Electronics also, as long as you can do competent soldering and can follow a wiring diagram. Adding shielding to a electronics cavity is fairly easy, but kind of a tedious job - you have to cut all these pieces to fit just so.

I've built up 2 guitars from Warmoth parts and other places - most of the basic set up is pretty straightforward. Just takes the time to do it all right, and of course the needed parts. For both of these guitars I've taken them to a local guitar repair tech to do the final setup - the fret leveling, string heights and such. With the first one he gave it back untouched - said it was fine as is. The other one only needed minor fret leveling. He said the warmoth necks are pretty famously excellent right out of the box.

I'm currently in the process of setting up a cheapo chinese les paul clone I bought. Shengze guitars makes a really nice line of clones, but like most chinese stuff the electronics stink, and the hardware is pretty bad. I've replaced the tuners, and will be doing the electronics next. The neck and frets seem pretty good so far, it plays nice. The tuners are the Ratio ones from Graph Tech - I also got one of their bridges for it, but it doesn't fit - they used some weird one that's just a little off, so it can't be dropped in replaced. I've got some Seymour Duncan pickups on the way, and new pots and caps and copper shielding lining.



Mechanic
I would in your place have thought that it's better: invest money in a simple guitar to make it better or add up money, sell the old one and buy a new one.
I would have done so!

Cheers, Mechanic
GuyaGuy
sduck wrote:
The obvious thing to do is only fix what needs to be fixed.

Some of these things are much more difficult to do right that is immediately evident. Like leveling/sanding/polishing frets - it's much easier to mess them up than fix them. Unless you have the appropriate tools and skills don't try it. Get just one or more of them a hair too low, and it's going to be buzz city, and require some major work to get it back right. Truss rod - seems like it should be easy, but there are a lot of variables involved, only mess with it if you need to. Bridges are generally easy to replace, depending on the guitar, and not that hard to set up, but you want to know appropriate string heights to set it for, and how to intonate the string lengths. Nuts are not for unskilled people to replace - there's a lot of non-obvious mojo involved.

Tuners are usually relatively easy to replace, it just takes some time. Electronics also, as long as you can do competent soldering and can follow a wiring diagram. Adding shielding to a electronics cavity is fairly easy, but kind of a tedious job - you have to cut all these pieces to fit just so.

I've built up 2 guitars from Warmoth parts and other places - most of the basic set up is pretty straightforward. Just takes the time to do it all right, and of course the needed parts. For both of these guitars I've taken them to a local guitar repair tech to do the final setup - the fret leveling, string heights and such. With the first one he gave it back untouched - said it was fine as is. The other one only needed minor fret leveling. He said the warmoth necks are pretty famously excellent right out of the box.

I'm currently in the process of setting up a cheapo chinese les paul clone I bought. Shengze guitars makes a really nice line of clones, but like most chinese stuff the electronics stink, and the hardware is pretty bad. I've replaced the tuners, and will be doing the electronics next. The neck and frets seem pretty good so far, it plays nice. The tuners are the Ratio ones from Graph Tech - I also got one of their bridges for it, but it doesn't fit - they used some weird one that's just a little off, so it can't be dropped in replaced. I've got some Seymour Duncan pickups on the way, and new pots and caps and copper shielding lining.




+1 to all of this--although the OP might be talking about filing just the fret ends and not leveling fret levels. Either way, if it's something you don't feel confident about it's easy to fuck up your new guitar. And you shouldn't do it unless it's necessary.

I'd say all guitarists should be able to do a basic setup including relief/truss rod adjustments, intonation, and saddle and pickup height adjustments as needed. Those are things you'll need to do on just about any guitar--some of them more than once a year. Relief typically needs to be set twice a year depending where you live.

As for swapping out hardware and electronic I'd reiterate: Don't do it unless it needs it. For example, cheap volume pots can have weird tapers (10=max and 9=almost min), but if yours is fine then leave it.

If you do want to dig in then this book is a good starter on some setup basics:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B002BLZ6GE/
MrTurboparrot
I have several guitars that I have setup myself, and I have owned almost 30-40 in my life now.

Over the years I have taught myself to every single setup element, inc. shaping and filing nuts, headstock repairs, electronics, and fret levelling/crowning.

It's not really that hard, but you have to be (in my opinion) technically orientated and REALLY enjoy it. If not, you will get annoyed and frustrated REAL fast.

In order to better advise you, perhaps send some info on the guitar: model, year, and your intended uses. How long have you been playing?

Pics would help. cool
Quota Earl
The guitar should have a standard set up that was done at the factory. The first thing I would do is the basics like getting the string heights right and consistent all the way down the fretboard with proper intonation at the 1rst and 12th frets. Then you can tell if any fretwork is necessary. Personally I would not mess with them in the absence of an obvious problem. I would leave the tuners, knobs, pickups, etc. alone unless there was a problem, until I had played the guitar enough to know whether it suits me or not.
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