Jun 25th, 2007
Here is a great article on getting your guitar set-up I received from one of my readers, Giles Dickerson. Thanks Giles for the great article! If you would like to submit content to be posted on this site please contact me.
Following the purchase of my used PRS electric guitar my friend told me he'd refer me to someone to get it "set up". Just beginning on guitar back then I wasn't really clear on what this meant. Let me tell you, it means the world. I suggested I save some time and get it set up at the local music shop (which incidentally is out of business now), his immediate reaction was "No way dude, I have a guy for you". So began the amazing experience I had with Richie's Guitar Shop in the East Village, only a stones throw over the Manhattan bridge.
My friend set me up with a referral with Richie (he's by referral only) and I headed over to the shop. We got there a little early so we ended up testing the deep fried hot dogs and beer up the street from him at Griff Dogs. Entering Richie's shop is amazing. Guitars everywhere! It's an apartment but it is clearly his workshop/labor of love. His custom 12 string electrics are on the wall, his custom Strats lined up on stands on the floors, custom Tele's on the other wall, and a wealth of pickups and tuners and any other possible mechanical item a guitar could require in fantastically organized rows only a space challenged New Yorker could dream up an organizational strategy for.
Richie gave me his printed "treatise" on relationship requirements (read "hilarious") which is clearly described in this great article about Richie's Guitar Shop. He asked what I have so I humbly pulled out my new purchase. He held the guitar like he was born with it in his lap, pulled some things, used some spark plug measurement tools to check the action, did something weird with a pick I'm still not sure what it was and said "I'll have it ready tomorrow". In a daze of guitar greatness I left with a smile on my face. Wow, there's a whole world I'm just tapping the surface of!
I came back to pick up the guitar the next day and Richie hands it to me plugged into an amp, I played a few chords. Amazing. The action was so perfect the guitar felt like a different instrument. He readjusted the bridge, my guitar has a tremolo system and that was all corrected, the tuners were adjusted, new strings on, and some other wiring stuff checked out. I brought the guitar home and it was simply an amazing difference.
When I bought my acoustic it went straight to Richie. He went through a similar process. Took some mysterious measurements with some tools I've never seen before, threw on a capo, popped off the strings, adjusted the truss rod on the neck, pulled saddle out of the bridge, leaned over to a belt sander and filed it down with effortless precision. Popped the saddle in, popped the strings back on and took off the capo handing it back to me. "Ten dollars", he said. Amazing, simply amazing.
The moral of the story from my perspective is this, the guitar as I see it is much like a car. Sure you can work on it yourself, but if you really want it done right, and you want to connect with some people who truly understand your instrument, and go get it set up professionally by someone who clearly knows what they're doing, you will love it more when you get it back. In addition, you're likely to meet someone as I have that makes a lasting impression on your feeling for your instrument.