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Alco Flower

Is there a need to "set up" my SG

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Hi Alco,

 

I guess I'll share my basics to get an electric guitar playable the way I like. This information pertains mainly to Gibson's. I know how to do LP's and Nighthawks real well, and I would be inclined to believe that SG's are very similar to LP's.

 

All things other items set aside, the first thing I look at is the neck. I try to get the relief in the manufacturer's spec range. I use a feeler gauge and capo for this FYI. First thing to do is capo the first fret nice and evenly as I can. The next thing I do is depress with my right hand index finger the 17th fret on the 6th string (low E). From there, I use the feeler gauge to see if I can slide a 0.010" blade over the 7th fret (making contact with this fret) and see if the string just BARELY makes contact with the string which tells me that there is just enough relief in the neck. If there is a gap, I need to tighten the truss rod. If there is too small a gap - i.e. the blade pushes the string upward - then the truss rod needs to add relief (loosen). Once you have a straight neck, you can move on to adjusting action.

 

NOTE: It is important you tune up your guitar to pitch before making these measurements! The tension on the strings you intend to have while in tune will affect the force that they exert on the neck causing it to bow in a certain direction.

 

Adjusting action is pretty easy. You simply have to check the 1st and 6th string as the SG's bridge is fixed and should be pre-radiused before you have this guitar in your possession. With nothing on the strings (remove capo), you will simply take out the blades on the feeler gauge that make 5/64". Again in the playing position, you will slide these blades over the 12th fret and these blades should just clear the string above. If you have too much gap, lower the bridge, and if you have no gap, you need to raise the bridge. NOTE that when you raise bridge, RELEASE STRING TENSION! You don't want to tax your hardware's screw threads doing this! And it is not easy to raise the bridge when the guitar is tuned up - full intended string tension. Once this side is adjusted, do the high E side where this is typically something like 3/64" to 4/64"... Repeat the procedure for the high E string side of the bridge.

 

The last thing to do is set intonation; once you have a straightened neck and action set up to spec, you are set to adjust intonation. Like Kid said, follow these instructions for setting this up.

 

When I mentioned all other things set aside, this doesn't get into nut slot adjustments and such which you need specialty tools most likely to do correctly, and you really need to know what you're doing here... I personally don't cut nuts or work on my frets. I give to a trusted luthier to follow through with these jobs. But what I have described is something you can do real easily with some common inexpensive tools. You may want to invest in a truss rod wrench as well for your SG, but again, not an expensive tool... Just remember that when you are doing truss rod adjustments, you typically cannot hurt the truss rod with loosening, but tightening you can damage if done without regard. And don't torque it when you are have not properly seated the wrench on the truss rod's nut. You DON'T want to strip this as you will probably need to slightly adjust here and there over the years.

 

This is what it takes to do basics... If you're comfortable with these things, give them a shot and perhaps see some videos online to watch others do these. If you're not comfortable, that's fine too, but you should then find someone that will do setups that you can trust with your SG. Trust me, there are "luthiers" who aren't worth anyone's time... All in all, guitars play their best when properly set up. Setups will eliminate the basic issues and grant the best playability of the instrument.

Alright I much appreciate the information given, I will probable give it a try myself. I just need to do a bit more reading/watching. Again thanks for your help.

 

Alco

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Alco Flower: Lots of great advice already given here. Please try it yourself; I equate "guitar techs" to "bicycle techs"; really easy stuff to do but people pay lots of money to both 'techs" because they don't take the time to learn simple techniques themselves. As you are a learner, I strongly recommend staying away from electronic tuners (said this already I know). They make your ears lazy and force you to only play along with songs on records/CDs/YouTube/whatever that are in "correct" pitch. Intonate using your ears! Don't get addicted to electronic tuners.

 

When I was a kid (14) I bought an acoustic Epiphone 12 string guitar. With so many strings, if you simply start from the bass E and work up, by the time you get to the top E, the lower ones are out of tune; you have to bounce around the board doing all 12 strings at the same time, getting it roughly in concert pitch then fine tuning. An electronic tuner is useless for this. That old 12 string really helped me quick tune by ear.

 

I noted that you dropped string gauges to Super Slinky but from what? I'm guessing the factory strings were 10-46 or Regular Slinky using EB nomenclature. Dropping to 9-42 from 10-46 should not have enough of an impact on your neck tension to warrant a truss rod move if the guitar was already set up OK but you may find that some of your buzzing comes from the strings being slinkier and simply moving more due to the lower tension, especially when you are rocking harder. Going light with strings does make things easier for beginners. I've been playing for a long time and still like light strings; I use Extra Slinky strings 08-038 on several of my guitars.

 

Good luck newbie. Enjoy your guitar!

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Alco: I suggest you do what I did, if you're not comfortable with the YouTube DIY route. Pay the $50 for a set-up, and have the guy or gal explain every step as they set it up.

 

It's really not necessary, but I know how nervous I was when I first started setting up guitars myself. So in that sense it can be worth it, if you can afford it.

 

Otherwise, small increments, read up before every step, take deep breaths, and you'll do just fine. Believe me, I'm the least handy guy on the planet (as in, literally), and I can do it.

 

Oh, when adjusting intonation or tightening the truss ord, slacken strings down a step or two. It's probably been mentioned in this thread already.

 

As for fret buzz, it's a trade-off. Low action, which most beginners prefer, will cause more fret buzz. Same thing with super straight necks. Usually, at least. I've found that with PLEKed frets, it's hardly ever an issue anymore. And also, listen to what comes out of your amp - I've played shred guitars with super low action and straight necks that had more buzz than a beehive in a bong acoustically, but no buzz coming out of the amp. So 'twas cool.

 

I also know how you can fret (rimshot) about a new guitar, particularly when you're new to guitars and set-ups. Hell, they're not exactly free, are they? But you'll find some buzz somewhere on pretty much every guitar - it is, as my OCD self tells me, just a matter of looking hard enough ;) But it's hardly ever an actual cause for concern.

 

Finally, as you've no doubt noticed, this is one helluva place if you need advice. I daresay the best online place for guitar advice. So anything you want to ask, just ask, and someone will answer, and usually in an hour, tops.

 

So, again, welcome, and please keep coming back :)

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Alco: I suggest you do what I did, if you're not comfortable with the YouTube DIY route. Pay the $50 for a set-up, and have the guy or gal explain every step as they set it up.

 

It's really not necessary, but I know how nervous I was when I first started setting up guitars myself. So in that sense it can be worth it, if you can afford it.

 

Otherwise, small increments, read up before every step, take deep breaths, and you'll do just fine. Believe me, I'm the least handy guy on the planet (as in, literally), and I can do it.

 

Oh, when adjusting intonation or tightening the truss ord, slacken strings down a step or two. It's probably been mentioned in this thread already.

 

As for fret buzz, it's a trade-off. Low action, which most beginners prefer, will cause more fret buzz. Same thing with super straight necks. Usually, at least. I've found that with PLEKed frets, it's hardly ever an issue anymore. And also, listen to what comes out of your amp - I've played shred guitars with super low action and straight necks that had more buzz than a beehive in a bong acoustically, but no buzz coming out of the amp. So 'twas cool.

 

I also know how you can fret (rimshot) about a new guitar, particularly when you're new to guitars and set-ups. Hell, they're not exactly free, are they? But you'll find some buzz somewhere on pretty much every guitar - it is, as my OCD self tells me, just a matter of looking hard enough ;) But it's hardly ever an actual cause for concern.

 

Finally, as you've no doubt noticed, this is one helluva place if you need advice. I daresay the best online place for guitar advice. So anything you want to ask, just ask, and someone will answer, and usually in an hour, tops.

 

So, again, welcome, and please keep coming back :)

Thanks for the information, I might go to a shop and have them do it but ask if the can give me some points on how to do it myself. Although I'm sure once I start doing it I'll be like "Now why the hell did I ever take this somewhere".

 

Thanks again, Keep Rocking,

 

AF

Edited by Alco Flower

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Alco Flower: Lots of great advice already given here. Please try it yourself; I equate "guitar techs" to "bicycle techs"; really easy stuff to do but people pay lots of money to both 'techs" because they don't take the time to learn simple techniques themselves. As you are a learner, I strongly recommend staying away from electronic tuners (said this already I know). They make your ears lazy and force you to only play along with songs on records/CDs/YouTube/whatever that are in "correct" pitch. Intonate using your ears! Don't get addicted to electronic tuners.

 

When I was a kid (14) I bought an acoustic Epiphone 12 string guitar. With so many strings, if you simply start from the bass E and work up, by the time you get to the top E, the lower ones are out of tune; you have to bounce around the board doing all 12 strings at the same time, getting it roughly in concert pitch then fine tuning. An electronic tuner is useless for this. That old 12 string really helped me quick tune by ear.

 

I noted that you dropped string gauges to Super Slinky but from what? I'm guessing the factory strings were 10-46 or Regular Slinky using EB nomenclature. Dropping to 9-42 from 10-46 should not have enough of an impact on your neck tension to warrant a truss rod move if the guitar was already set up OK but you may find that some of your buzzing comes from the strings being slinkier and simply moving more due to the lower tension, especially when you are rocking harder. Going light with strings does make things easier for beginners. I've been playing for a long time and still like light strings; I use Extra Slinky strings 08-038 on several of my guitars.

 

Good luck newbie. Enjoy your guitar!

Thanks for your info. Yeah as of now I use an electronic tuner but I would like to go by ear, I kinda already do...I'll start to tune the strings then play like an E power chord and if it sounds right I leave it etc. Also as far as I can tell I think the "buzz" was the way my hand was placed because I no longer notice it. As far as what strings were on it before I have no clue, I used them for a day or so then cut them off. Even though people keep telling me to do it myself I might have someone do it for me once and have them show me as much as the can, although at the same time I feel like it something I should just do myself.

 

 

Again thanks for the info, keep rocking,

 

 

AF

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Please try it yourself; I equate "guitar techs" to "bicycle techs";

 

what a great analogy, totally spot on for 99%

 

i allow 1% for things i don't WANT to do myself

 

i don't true wheels because it's a time consuming pita unless you do it enough to be good at it.

 

i don't do fret work or cut my own nuts because i don't want to buy tools i won't use much, and my eyes just aren't up to doing fine work anymore

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For a guitar that's new to you and if you've not been playing that long, take it to a professional and have them check it out. Then, watch videos on how to do it yourself and focus on playing and learning. You eventually might want to learn to do it yourself and that would be great.

 

If you can get someone to work with you and show you what they're doing or have you do it yourself with their guidance, that would be awesome. Changing strings, checking and setting intonation and neck relief is some basic stuff people should know.

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