Here's what you need, tool-wise.
1) small tape measure2) set of feeler guages (available at most hardware stores/automotive stores)3) machinists ruler4) capo
Intonation: First, you need to know what scale length your guitar has. No idea? Don't worry. Measure (with the aformentioned tape measure) from the contact point at the nut to the 12th fret. Double this measurement = your scale length. Take yer tape measure and set the first saddle so that the contact point of your high E string (G for the bass players out there) is exactly this distance. Now, set your B string saddle so that the distance between the contact point of the first saddle and this saddle is the width of the second string. Repeat for the G string (wrt the width of the G string this time). Set the D string at the same contact point as the B (why, you ask? Because the core wire underneath the winding should be the same.) Set the A saddle back to the DIFFERENCE in thicknesses between the D and the A. Set the E back to the difference between the E and the D.
Bass players - do as above, but keep using the difference rule, because all of your strings are wound, right? OK.
Acoustic types - you don't have movable saddles, so you can ignore this part and hope that your guitar was built with this in mind.
This is the part where most people start objecting to the fact that we aren't creating perfect intonation at the 12th fret...bad news for y'all. Perfect intonation isn't possible on a multi-gauged stringed instrument w/o tempered tuning. What we're trying to do is mathematically average the overall intonation so that we are as close as possible across the entire fretboard, rather than perfect at the 12th fret and nowhere else...
Neck Curvature/Truss Rod: First things first - don't be afraid to adjust your truss rod. People (like me) that work in guitar stores tell you how dangerous it is to adjust your truss rod because it makes guitar adjustment seem like some sort of alchemical procedure best left to the experts, which it isn't. Here's the overall rule of consulting an expert when doing your own adjusments. If you have to apply significant force to tighten a truss rod, stop. If you loosen a truss rod to the point where it turns in a floppy "I'm not doing anything of use" manner, stop. Outside of that, you're fine. Remember, turning your truss rod clockwise equals tightening/straightening your neck/lowering your action. Couterclockwise? The opposite.
Now, here's step two. You place your capo at the first fret, and press your finger down at the last fret. Why? Because we're eliminating the nut and the string height at the bridge. If you still have problems after we finish all the steps there, you probably have a problem with your nut or your bridge angle, and we're going to skip those for now...
Now, take your feeler gauge and pick one of the following measurements according to the chart below (borrowed from my Fender setup guide, all credits due..)
7.25" - .012" (0.3 mm) 9.5" to 12" - .010" (0.25 mm) 15" to 17" - .008" (0.2 mm)
Not sure what your neck radius is? Well, fuck it, use .010. It'll work for most...Ibanezy speed necks are generally .008, vintage stuff might end up being .012. Bassists, try .012.
Now, slide the feeler guage between the low E string and the 8th fret (still capoed and pressed down at the last fret, right? Good.) The feeler guage should slide between the two with just a bit of lift on the string, just enough to know that it's touched it. If it doesn't fit, turn the truss rod counterclockwise until it does. If it doesn't touch, go clockwise...
String height: Bored yet? At least you're saving money...and we're almost done. Take off the capo. Take your ruler and measure from the top of the the 17th fret to the bottom of the low E string. Raise the saddle until the distance here is 1/8" (If you are one of those fortunate enough to know what your radius is, cheat a bit high for the 7.25 vintage types, a bit low for the speed neck 15/17"ers.) Repeat for each string, realizing that as you cross the neck, the radius will be compensated by the curvature of the fret, so you don't really have to think...just measure.
Bass players: Use 5/64".
Ta-dah! Your instrument is now set up (within reason). The obligatory fine print - string guage and playing style will affect this...if you are getting buzzing, increase your truss rod/string height in small increments (retuning each time) until it works for you. Fingers bleeding? Lower until you are comfortable. Questions? Ask away.
― John Justen (johnjusten), Wednesday, 13 July 2005 07:01 (fifteen years ago) link
― Chewshabadoo (Chewshabadoo), Friday, 7 October 2005 10:06 (fifteen years ago) link
1) It'll get you closer overall, even if it doesn't exactly nail the 12th fret...2) It's really fast. Once you get used to it, it should take about 5-10 minutes to do a full setup.
― John Justen (johnjusten), Friday, 7 October 2005 15:45 (fifteen years ago) link
― Roxymuzak, Mrs. Carbohydrate (roxymuzak), Friday, 7 October 2005 16:59 (fifteen years ago) link
― k/l (Ken L), Friday, 7 October 2005 17:11 (fifteen years ago) link
But anyways I'm back.
― martin m. (mushrush), Thursday, 3 November 2005 21:29 (fourteen years ago) link
within the bounds of your advice and proceeding carefully, if you do make a mistake and go a bit over with a truss rod adjustment are you gonna do any permanent damage?
when i get my jaggy (reissue, relax) i'm gonna have to get a lot more detailed on this. at the moment my main is a semi which doesn't have a truss rod.
but shit, thanks for this.
― John Clarkson, Thursday, 3 November 2005 22:08 (fourteen years ago) link
― AaronK (AaronK), Friday, 4 November 2005 13:51 (fourteen years ago) link
John, how old is yer semi-hollow? Seems odd it wouldn't have any trussrod unless it's a 60's Harmony, Kay, or the like. Let me know what it is, if you get the chance, just to satisfy my curiosity.
― John Justen (johnjusten), Friday, 4 November 2005 19:57 (fourteen years ago) link
2002 Dean Electro Jazz Stylist. about £500 new. fat-bodied, lovely sound, wiped the floor with similarly priced epiphones and such in the shop. does bluesy filth just perfect, humbuckers, feedback, right up my alley.
i might be being dim but i've looked everywhere for the truss rod nut and i can't find it.
― john clarkson, Friday, 4 November 2005 21:57 (fourteen years ago) link
I'm thinking there must be a truss rod somewhere...I'll do some research when I get the time.
― John Justen (johnjusten), Friday, 4 November 2005 22:48 (fourteen years ago) link
― george bob (george bob), Tuesday, 30 January 2007 10:22 (thirteen years ago) link
― Lukewarm Watery G. Tornado Is Sicker Than You (The GZeus), Tuesday, 30 January 2007 17:13 (thirteen years ago) link
Everything I find seems to indicate that the truss rod adjustment should be under a truss rod cover up at the headstock, but I haven't found absolute verification yet. This is only useful if you're still reading this out there somewhere, I suppose.
And, George Bob, thanks, and I'm glad it helped.
― John Justen waitin to get his W2s back so he can file his tax and ball out (john, Wednesday, 31 January 2007 23:43 (thirteen years ago) link
brief addendum to clarify something that a guy who linked to this mentioned to me.
If you have a tunematic style bridge, it is likely that the 3 low strings will have the saddles reversed (angled side towards the neck). if this is the case, you can't do the setup described above. I'm going to go out on a biased limb and suggest reversing those saddles, at which point you will be able to do proper intonation. (note: this can be a pain in the ass at times. also, don't lose the little wire they use on the vintage style ones, you need it to hold the saddles down in position.)
also, remember that if the tunematic is angled, you have to figure that into the mix, so your saddles may seem to not follow the standard double stairstep in spots, because the angle creates more distance wrt the nut.
― SHOT INTO A FAN LIKE A CHRIS ROCK ROBOT (John Justen), Monday, 22 September 2008 17:32 (twelve years ago) link
B-b-but John, what about teh Buzz Feiten system?
― Retrato Em Redd E Blecch (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 24 September 2008 02:26 (twelve years ago) link
I just got a new guitar (copy of a tele thinline by this company called Xaviere and it is really awesome and really incredibly cheap) and this thread reminded me to finish setting up the action/neck. A few days ago I had put a different bridge plate on and just eyeballed the saddle placement for the time being. Checked the intonation, sounded dead on to my muck ears. Tried measuring nut to high E like John recommended, holy shit, EXACTLY 25.5"!!
― RabiesAngentleman, Wednesday, 24 September 2008 09:50 (twelve years ago) link
So no helpful hints on adjusting the nut? I mean they never come set up very well from the factory, I always set em up myself. Then again that involves irreversible filing and is a little less DIY.
― RabiesAngentleman, Wednesday, 24 September 2008 09:52 (twelve years ago) link
not as irreversible as you think. bumping to remind myself to finish that thought once i get to work.
― SHOT INTO A FAN LIKE A CHRIS ROCK ROBOT (John Justen), Wednesday, 24 September 2008 14:35 (twelve years ago) link
ok, so if you want to step up to recutting your own nut slots (yeah i know), try this:
1. capo at the first fret, use your feeler gauge and measure the gap between the string and the top of the second fret.2. now, capo at the third fret and measure the distance between the string and the top of the first fret. the goal is for these two measurements to be the same. cut slot until this matches the gap from step one.
a few things - you need decent files to do this right. in a perfect world, they would either be sized to your string gauges, or you would be very good at using round and edge files. if you aren't, maybe think twice about attempting this. Also, if you end up notching deeply into the nut, you are going to want to sand down the top of the nut to avoid binding etc. (the string should sit so that half of it is above the nut surface). also, the nut slot should angle backwards toward the headstock. i can get into this in more detail if people care.
sound scary? well, it kind of is, and every so often, it will be a nightmarish pain in the ass. so don't tackle it unless you have a high frustration threshhold, or are fairly comfortable doing gradual, machinist-like tasks.
now, the good news i alluded to above. if you cut the slot too deep, all is not lost. filling a nut is easy, and odds are you already have the stuff to do it sitting around. all you need to do is fill the offending nut slot with baking soda. make sure it isn't above the top surface of the nut, and take the time to brush away any of it that is protruding from the sides of the slot. now, take liquid (NOT GEL) superglue and drop one drop onto the baking soda, and let it solidify. the glue and baking soda will form a substance that you can file, and that has the same structural properties as the original nut material (this doesn't apply to bone or brass nuts obv.) i'm sure i don't need to say this, but be careful w/the superglue, if you put too much on, it will run down the nut and glue the nut to the neck, which you do not want.
i'm sure i forgot a few clarifications there, but i'll get to them later.
― SHOT INTO A FAN LIKE A CHRIS ROCK ROBOT (John Justen), Wednesday, 24 September 2008 16:10 (twelve years ago) link
oh yeah, here's one - make sure that the string is up to pitched tension when you do the measurements for the slot cutting, and preferably not horribly out of whack setupwise.
― SHOT INTO A FAN LIKE A CHRIS ROCK ROBOT (John Justen), Wednesday, 24 September 2008 16:12 (twelve years ago) link
While you're at it, any recommendations for refilling screw holes? (have pickguard that fits, screw holes slightly off and too close to the previous holes...) I'm thinking of trying a similar thing to your nut fixer (lol) with glue and fine sawdust.
― RabiesAngentleman, Wednesday, 24 September 2008 16:15 (twelve years ago) link
that can work (as with all things guitar related, i'd use elmers white glue, not wood glue). Normally I just use dowels for all that sort of jazz, just size it to the screw hole, cut to length, sand the tip to a blunt point to get into the end of the screw hole, sand the sides to rough the contact points, skin with glue, and insert.
― SHOT INTO A FAN LIKE A CHRIS ROCK ROBOT (John Justen), Wednesday, 24 September 2008 16:20 (twelve years ago) link
problem with the sawdust/glue thing is that if you mix it too sawdusty, it's hard to get it packed in there witout ending up with voids, and if you mix it too glueheavy, well, you're basically filling a hole with glue.
shouldn't matter for pickguard screws though, it isn't as if they're load-bearing or under any real tension, so i'd do the sawdust thing because it's easier. when yer filling strapbutton holes, it starts to get a little dicier.
― SHOT INTO A FAN LIKE A CHRIS ROCK ROBOT (John Justen), Wednesday, 24 September 2008 16:23 (twelve years ago) link
bump because goole and i were talking about this so now he can find it
― O_o-O_0-o_O (jjjusten), Wednesday, 10 November 2010 18:32 (nine years ago) link
it was useful!
though i ended up having to half-ass it a little. the bridge pieces are off-center (the string runs over the right side of each at about the 1/3rd mark, not directly through the middle) so each one is pulled a little at an angle which makes measuring harder. plus the height posts and length screws on my saddles are old and pretty rusty. and the hex-size was even smaller than the wrench you gave me. it must be 1mm? or something? anyway i had to stick an eyeglass screwdriver in there to turn them and probably stripped a couple irrevocably. but, it plays better now.
i need to think about a new bridge, and getting the electronics looked at (mad buzzy) and at that point it's probably worth thinking about a new guitar altogether.
― goole, Wednesday, 10 November 2010 19:29 (nine years ago) link
i know a guy
― BIG MUFFIN (gbx), Wednesday, 10 November 2010 19:30 (nine years ago) link
i have heard of that guy and that guy sucks
― O_o-O_0-o_O (jjjusten), Thursday, 11 November 2010 21:17 (nine years ago) link
i set my guitars up this way and it seems to work well enough but i get wonderin'. in the intonation portion above, why is there no need to compensate for the thickness of the first string when determining it's position? why would the distance on the first string of a 25.5" scale guitar, hypothetically, be exactly 25.5" regardless of whether my first string is .008, or .013, or a spider web, or a brake cable? or because we are talking about just a single fraction of a millimeter on most guitar strings, the effect is negligible? or is it all somehow just relative to whatever the hell the first string happens to be? this sorta thing i assume will be explained to me with some amount of rigor once i begin school but i need to know now. there's probably just some weird hole in my thinking/understanding as to theoretically why that is/how that works.
(i was bored today and going totally stir crazy and was trying to figure out, on that regvlvs bass i posted in that one thread one time, how deep into that metal coned bridge cover the bridge might approximately be by copy/pasting the string length up to the 12th fret, and, weirdly, it got ~nowhere near~ the bridge cover. and then the question dinged.)
― arby's, Wednesday, 2 March 2011 03:50 (nine years ago) link
nb i'm home sick and haven't left my bed in nearly 30 hours except to eat or piss. i think i'm losing grasp on reality already. @_@
― arby's, Wednesday, 2 March 2011 03:52 (nine years ago) link
I will totally attempt to respond to this tomorrow when I am not birthday shitfaced btw. But now is def not the time
― O_o-O_0-o_O (jjjusten), Wednesday, 2 March 2011 06:17 (nine years ago) link
Now, set your B string saddle so that the distance between the contact point of the first saddle and this saddle is the width of the second string.
I've used this thread as a reference for years - bought all the feeler gauges and everything - and I've had the stupidest problem when it came to the intonation section. When following the sentence above, I was trying to measure the string with a ruler and then try to set back the contact point on the bridge again using the ruler. It was so frustrating. I mean, it's a great ruler, but the difference between 0.014 inches and 0.018 inches is kinda tough to discern with the naked eye! So I just now realized that you should use a section of the string itself as a measurement device.
― how's life, Thursday, 11 December 2014 13:46 (five years ago) link
― a strawman stuffed with their collection of 12 cds (jjjusten), Thursday, 11 December 2014 20:20 (five years ago) link
I've got two g&l tribute models: an asat classic and a fallout. According to the guitars by Leo forum, the necks on these guitars should be swappable, as far as their specs go. If both of the guitars are currently well set-up, should I expect to set them up again after changing the necks out?
― how's life, Wednesday, 27 January 2016 01:32 (four years ago) link
Possibly/probably. But just minor tweaks in both cases I'm guessing.
― a strawman stuffed with their collection of 12 cds (jjjusten), Wednesday, 27 January 2016 04:36 (four years ago) link
hot damn. thread bookmarked for future use. thanks mr. justen!!
― lute bro (brimstead), Wednesday, 27 January 2016 04:42 (four years ago) link
I can sort of kind of follow the original instructions here but as someone who still knows dangerously little about his guitar, is there a video or webpage with some diagrams that illustrates the setup steps as jjjusten described them?
― its subtle brume (DJP), Wednesday, 27 January 2016 05:18 (four years ago) link
Correction (my bad) on the question from how's life re:the neck swap - the answer is absolutely yes and possibly quite a bit because the radius on the two necks is different. So mainly the saddle height thing, possibly some truss rod stuff, but probably nothing intonation wise.
― a strawman stuffed with their collection of 12 cds (jjjusten), Tuesday, 23 February 2016 15:03 (four years ago) link
Yeah, I still haven't done that yet, but good catch. At the moment, I'm trying to sell the ASAT, so I may never find out.
― how's life, Tuesday, 23 February 2016 16:07 (four years ago) link
OK, so I decided to keep the ASAT and give this a try, but I've run into a couple issues with the neck swap. I should probably be asking this over at the G&L forums, but I figured I'd check in with you first.
Initial pic of both guitars:
1. I moved the Fallout neck over to the ASAT, but there is a pretty prominent gap at the bottom of the neck. That can't be good, right?
2. The ASAT neck doesn't fit into the Fallout neck pocket. I've seen some talk online about giving the neck pocket a couple passes with sandpaper. Obviously, it's gonna be tough to tell from pictures, but any idea if this is pertinent in my situation?
I'm doing this because I really like the ASAT's maple fretboard and satin finish, but prefer the pickups on the Fallout as my main guitar. Planned on using the ASAT for alternate tunings or something idk. I just got the idea to cobble this together out of Tribute models because my budget isn't ready to get my own choice of USA yet. Should I just reattach the necks to their original bodies and enjoy what I have?
― how's life, Saturday, 5 March 2016 14:06 (four years ago) link
oh shit. sorry if those are displaying as huge as they are for me.
― how's life, Saturday, 5 March 2016 14:07 (four years ago) link
Update: Managed to patiently and gently wiggle the ASAT neck onto the Fallout, but the damn screw holes didn't line up (which makes sense considering how the Fallout neck fits on the ASAT.
― how's life, Sunday, 6 March 2016 01:16 (four years ago) link
Had a revelation and realized that the Fallout neck does in fact fit onto the ASAT without a gap, but then the screw holes don't line up. So what I'm looking at here is maybe plugging and redrilling the screw holes on the necks. Going to dive into how-tos I guess. Dicey business, but after seeing both necks on their opposite bodies I'm even more determined to do this.
― how's life, Sunday, 6 March 2016 17:41 (four years ago) link
Have reached out to a local luthier as well, because it seems like so much could go wrong if I attempted drilling on my own.
― how's life, Sunday, 6 March 2016 18:25 (four years ago) link
do i need to get one of those special made files for fret ends or can i use something similar from hardware/art supply store
― am0n, Tuesday, 6 February 2018 19:01 (two years ago) link
hey, semi-related question: anybody know if this stuff actually makes any difference, or is it snake oil?
― Totally different head. Totally. (Austin), Monday, 17 August 2020 00:18 (two months ago) link
Years ago, I knew a shredder/floyd rose-dive bomber who would put graphite on the nut, but I don't know anyone who does this.
― Elvis Telecom, Monday, 17 August 2020 04:42 (two months ago) link
i've heard of the graphite thing, too. it was from an employee at sam ash, so y'know, grain of salt i suppose.
― Totally different head. Totally. (Austin), Monday, 17 August 2020 15:58 (two months ago) link
only reason i ask is not because i'm shreddy bendy guy, but i capo up and down the neck pretty frequently, so i find myself tuning up a lot.
― Totally different head. Totally. (Austin), Monday, 17 August 2020 15:59 (two months ago) link
Out of longstanding habit, I usually do twirl a recently sharpened pencil in the grooves when changing strings. No idea if it makes a difference or not, but I also figure it can't hurt.
I would probably not ever buy a product called "nut sauce," though, just as on general principles.
― all we are is durst in the wind (Ye Mad Puffin), Monday, 17 August 2020 16:03 (two months ago) link
i have found that my telecaster is having a hard time staying in tune. i have checked, rechecked, and readjusted the intonation and that seems fine — but when i try to play bar chords, everything just falls apart. like everything will seem fine but i'll hit a c major bar chord at the fifth fret and half the strings will be off, usually sharp. like i said before, i do play with a capo up and down the neck a lot; does that affect it?
― Totally different head. Totally. (Austin), Friday, 23 October 2020 16:30 (five days ago) link
Are you retuning every time you put the capo on? It will bend each string on the fretboard in a slightly different way and put some of them out of tune.
― Halfway there but for you, Friday, 23 October 2020 22:42 (five days ago) link
I agree that you should tune post-capo.
But there may be something else going on, Austin, if you're experiencing this even without capoing.
― fretless porpentine (Ye Mad Puffin), Friday, 23 October 2020 23:11 (five days ago) link
Multiple strings seems like a nut issue - is it old / cheap /binding / slots too small?
― joygoat, Saturday, 24 October 2020 02:45 (four days ago) link
yes, always retune after moving the capo.
i didn't even consider the nut being an issue until you said too small. i have flatwounds on it, so they are naturally heavier gauge: https://www.daddario.com/products/guitar/electric-guitar/xl-chromes/ecg25-chromes-flat-wound-light-12-52
― Totally different head. Totally. (Austin), Saturday, 24 October 2020 03:00 (four days ago) link
so i'm still fighting with this and it's becoming extremely frustrating because it just sounds like everything i play is out of tune, even though it isn't (according to my tuner). it feels like the longer i let notes ring out, the more out of tune they fall, so playing chords or anything with delay is an exercise in frustration.
how does saddle adjustment work if i have these kinds of saddles?
also, my telecaster doesn't seem to have a place to adjust the truss rod. it looks like this.
please help, playing guitar is the only thing that keeps me from running through the streets naked and screaming at the sky.
― Totally different head. Totally. (Austin), Tuesday, 27 October 2020 15:52 (yesterday) link
I don't love the three-saddle arrangement but lots of Teles work fine. Sorry bro but I really think a professional should look at. Do you have another guitar you can use for a week while yours gets looked at?
― Fjord Explorer (Ye Mad Puffin), Tuesday, 27 October 2020 16:47 (yesterday) link
Forgive me if you know any of this already and correct me if I'm talking out of my ass here -
Those saddles can adjust the string height with the small allen screws, and can adjust intonation with the spring loaded phillips one. Tune up, fret at the 12th and if it's sharp you need back the screw out a bit and if its flat you need to screw it in a bit as this effectively changes the string length between the 12th fret and the point where the string hits the saddle.
The limiting factor with those is that two strings hit the saddle at the same spot, which means it's hard to get them both to be in tune at the same time at the 12th fret. You can get "compensated" saddles that have little ramps to tweak where each string hits and imo it's much easier to get everything intonated correctly:
As for the truss rod, you'll need to take off the pickguard at least and possibly the neck to access the adjustment which is at the other end of the neck. I have to do this with my p bass and it's a pain (IN THE NECK) because I live in a place with dramatic changes in humidity.
I still think it's most likely the nut; most fenders come with .10s so putting .12s means the strings are more likely to not fit exactly into the slots and will bind (though I don't know how flatwounds factor into this).
You can get someone to reslot the nut where they will use special tiny precisely sized files to make the slots large enough for the thicker strings. Or you can buy expensive luthier quality or cheaper possibly terrible quality nut files and do it yourself, or you can do what I did and file teeth into the sides of six feeler gauges and and now you have two tools in one even if one of them is kind of shitty.
― joygoat, Tuesday, 27 October 2020 17:13 (yesterday) link
The limiting factor with those is that two strings hit the saddle at the same spot, which means it's hard to get them both to be in tune at the same time at the 12th fret.
...which is why I am leery of them, vis-a-vis the individually adjustable Strat-style.
I also think that there's a more pressing issue, which is that Austin needs to play guitar to stay sane, and tuning issues are making that difficult. A pro would almost certainly want to keep it for a week.
Hence: Austin, could you rent or borrow a different guitar locally for a few days? If it made any logistical sense whatsoever I would (totally serious here) offer to FedEx you one of my spare guitars.
― Fjord Explorer (Ye Mad Puffin), Tuesday, 27 October 2020 18:01 (yesterday) link
ahh man, you guys are the solidest!
after work, i'm going to tinker with it a bit more specifically and see if i can make any headway. i still have my acoustic and i can run that through all of my pedals and make my weird noises that way for now. it's not quite the same, but it'll do. i'm just not sure where to take it. i mean, there's guitar center, but idk. . .??? are they usually any good at this sort of stuff? guess it depends on who they have on staff.
― Totally different head. Totally. (Austin), Tuesday, 27 October 2020 19:02 (yesterday) link