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325Jon

Setup on 2019 SG Special

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Hi,

I haven't owned that many brand-new guitars in my life, so I don't know how typical my situation is. I've been playing since the late 80's, most of the instruments I've owned have been used or vintage, most have had lowish action and rarely needed truss rod adjustments to stay nice and playable without significant issues. A couple of years ago I went absolutely stark raving mad and sold what had been my main guitar for decades -- a '72 Gibson ES 325, which sparked a flurry of buying, selling, and trading instruments to try and find a new main axe. At one point in the process I had a brand-new Fender, at one point a brand-new PRS, along the way plenty of used instruments including an '08 Les Paul Special with p-100's, which almost became the big winner but I didn't quite bond with it.

A few days ago I bought a 2019 Gibson SG Special, which I am loving in all regards except for trying to get it set up ideally. It seems pretty touchy in response to minor truss rod adjustments, and it's difficult to get the strings down to what I would consider "low enough" without something fretting out. When I initially played the instrument in the store I was bowled over by its resonance, the balanced and very pleasing tones from its two P-90's, and the feel of the neck and fingerboard. I became a little concerned when I started eyeballing things and saw how much relief the neck had, and noticed how easy it was to bend the neck (by hand a-la "iron man" or simply by unintentionally pulling or pushing on it while playing.) I asked the salesman at Guitar Center to examine the relief and he agreed that it was excessive and had his tech make a couple of quick adjustments both to the bridge and to the truss rod, to get things ballpark. This resulted immediately in very sweet lowish action (I'm not one of those people who measures things, but I think you have some idea what I mean when I say lowish -- where you would expect the strings to be on a quality electric guitar that's set up nicely). 

That was great, but by the next day after the guitar had had some time to get used to the adjustment, the neck was bent the wrong way (I forget the technical term for this) and fretting out at the low F on the high E string. I took the guitar back to Guitar Center and they re-tweaked the truss rod, resulting in proper relief but slightly higher action than I would like (not that it affects the playability of the guitar, which, by the way, is very enjoyable). 

So I am really quite happy with the guitar but I am curious how high-maintenance of an instrument I have just purchased. Like I said, including the brand-new Fender and brand-new PRS I have bought, I really haven't come across an instrument that needed frequent truss rod adjustments to remain playable. Have I just been lucky? Or is it possible that there is something wrong with this SG, and am I looking at a future nightmare of truss rod tweaks just to keep the thing playable. Factors I see to consider include newer woods possibly being more pliable than woods in vintage guitars, and SG's being more pliable in general than a lot of other guitars. 

One other observation: having been a frequent visitor to guitar stores over the last couple of years, it seems that new electric guitars are typically set up with higher action than they would have been decades ago, if I'm not mistaken. What's up with that?

OK, thanks for reading this far and I will stay tuned for your thoughts.

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18 hours ago, 325Jon said:

 the salesman at Guitar Center ... had his tech make a couple of quick adjustments

 

The techs employed by GC are notoriously bad. Now that the guitar has had some time to adjust, take it to a reputable tech to set it up.

SGs are very lightweight,  and have pretty slim necks. There is quite a bit of give to the neck also because of how far down the neck joins with the body.

I'm not sure where you live, but where I am, it has gotten quite cold and dry quite fast the past few weeks. That change in temp and humidity may be contributing to some of the issues too.

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If you bought it new from a reputable Dealer within the past 45 days most will do a refund or exchange with no hassle. 

Beyond that contact Gibson Customer Service & request to send it to them for Warranty Repair. In my experience they will fix it to perfection or replace it with a perfect Guitar..

Let us know the outcome..

Good luck..

Edited by Larsongs
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I don't think there is anything wrong with the SG you bought, and I don't think you will be in for endless tweaking of the truss rod.  After a truss rod adjustment is made it takes a few days for the guitar to settle in to the new set up and tension on the neck.  After that time, if it is not correct you must re-adjust it and again wait a couple days to see how it reacts.  Most guitars and Gibsons in particular will have different action and response to the slightest truss rod adjustment.  The used and vintage guitars that you owned probably all went through this process too, you just didn't own them at the time.  New guitars are subjected to temperature and humidity changes in shipping, warehouse storage, and display in a store that will alter it's set-up from the factory.

Just be patient - you will find the sweet spot and once there very few if any adjustments will be needed.  As mentioned GC is perhaps not the best place to have a tech work on the guitar, if you can find a reputable independent luthier (guitar tech) you may have success sooner.  It not that difficult to set up the guitar yourself - there are many videos on the web showing what to do.  You may find it very rewarding to learn to do this yourself and you probably have all the tools you need around the house - straight edge, ruler that measures in 64ths inch etc.

Generally with a Les Paul or SG a good place to start is to adjust the truss rod so the neck is straight or flat - then back off the truss rod just a hair for slight relief in the neck 

Edited by Twang Gang
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Thank you, all! Great advice to get away from Guitar Center. I took the guitar to a veteran tech who had the thing playing like butter in no time. I'm in Seattle, where the weather has been going from cold and rainy to warm, clear sunny skies in three-day blocks since the beginning of September, more or less. I'm hoping that the first two adjustments at GC got the goonies out and that this setup has the guitar in good shape for a spell. It sounds as though I shouldn't be too surprised if there is a little more drama along the way what with being a brand-new and thinner instrument, and a volatile winter season looming. I am lucky that the atmosphere in my jam room is fairly stable. Again, I really appreciate all the advice and I had the BEST time rocking out on this guitar today!

Regards,

Jon

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I think you should buy an old guitar and practice setting it up. I do all my own basic repairs. There are loads of videos on YouTube and the tools are relatively cheap. Knowing how a guitar works and how the electrics work will make you understand the guitar better.  You can buy cheap SG copies or similar. I roll all the fretboard edges on my guitars. It makes them play far better. Who else does this?

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My understanding is that some new guitars tend to be more temperamental and sensitive to extreme changes in humidity and will require more frequent  adjustment. I have one now that plays better than all others, but in its first couple of years, I was making seasonal adjustments to the truss rod. After several years, the neck has stabilized, and I haven't made a truss rod adjustment in years.

That said, if your guitar requires more than a couple of adjustments within several weeks, I'd be concerned. One thing I've found about Guitar Center is that if the guitar has come off the wall of the store, there is a good chance that it has belonged to someone else and been returned for one reason or another. Make sure you are satisfied with your new guitar before the return period ends. The best thing about GC is their return policy.

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6 hours ago, LarryUK said:

I think you should buy an old guitar and practice setting it up. I do all my own basic repairs. There are loads of videos on YouTube and the tools are relatively cheap. Knowing how a guitar works and how the electrics work will make you understand the guitar better.  You can buy cheap SG copies or similar. I roll all the fretboard edges on my guitars. It makes them play far better. Who else does this?

 

i do certain adjustments on my guitars, just started doing last year with a hendrix strat hahah, but there are some cases where i know i should not mess more with them and i sometimes have to take them to a luthier, and it does make a difference

 

im glad you were able to get the SG set up! were i live the weather is just like you mentioned, its a pain in the neck for guitars, have to keep them in their case when i am not playing them and still they would need a little adjusment

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I've got quite a few Guitars.. After years of having someone else do them I finally decided a couple years ago to learn to do my own Setups. 

I bought a new cheap Squier J Mascis Jazzmaster to learn on .They all seem to come with Setups that are as bad as they get. Reminded me of cheap 60's Electric Guitars.

I spent hours on YouTube watching How To videos  & printed out Spec Sheets for Fenders & Gibsons.. I used basic Tools I had in my Garage & went to work. It took a lot of time to get a decent Setup on that Guitar. Now, it's a great Playing Guitar. It was worth it.. I started doing Setups &  Adjustments on my other Guitars. I'm slow but getting better. They turn out like I want them.. 

I've purchased some Luthier Tools to make it easier. Total less than $100.00. It's worth it to learn.. 

Edited by Larsongs
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All good points!   For only a small investment in tools, that will pay for themselves in one or two setups, it's worth it.  As stated earlier, you may even have the tools on hand.   I would recommend investing in a set of good files, especially nut files.  Trust me on this one.  

Once you do a couple setups, you'll wonder why you hadn't learned it earlier.  

 

 

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I have a 2019 SG-Special. I have made one truss rod adjustment since I purchased it back in September. I like medium action and it stayed that way since. Of all the guitars I’ve owned, I would say the SG is the most delicate by far. I treat it with kid gloves for sure. But it’s one of the best guitars I’ve ever owned. 

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