There’s no one answer to this question, as guitar setup costs can vary significantly depending on the type of guitar.
Also, the level of customization required, and the technician doing the work, affects your guitar setup cost. However, I’ll be giving you a general idea of what to expect.
In this article, I will look at the factors that affect guitar setup costs. I will provide some ballpark estimates to help you budget for this important step in your guitar setup.
What Is a Guitar Setup?
When you get a new guitar, the first thing you’ll want to do is set it up. But what does that mean?
A guitar setup is basically when you take your new or used guitar and adjust the strings, truss rod, action, and pickups to make sure it’s playing its best.
It’s a great way to start off your relationship with your new instrument, and it can also help prolong the life of your guitar.
Depending on the type of guitar you have, be it acoustic or electric, the parts you adjust during setup are different.
Electric guitars come with a bridge while acoustic guitars have a saddle. Both the bridge for electric guitars and the saddle for acoustic ones make these musical instruments easier to adjust.
Why Do You Need a Professional Guitar Setup?
You may be asking yourself, do I really need to spend the money on a professional guitar setup? And the answer is yes, you do. Here’s why:
1. Your Guitar Action Sounds Too Low Or High
The distance between strings and fretboard is referred to as the guitar action and professional technicians have various ways of achieving this.
In most cases, you will want to lower your guitar action if it’s too high. You will want a professional technician to apply more pressure on your frets to achieve a perfect sound.
When your actions are not properly set, it can lower or slow down your engagement with your musical instrument and make it less comfortable.
On the contrary, your action might at times be too low and when you try playing one or more strings, you hit metal frets which produce an annoying buzzing sound.
The fret buzz (as it’s commonly known) is one of the easiest and quick ways of ruining your sound.
It’s sometimes tempting to take things into your own hands and attempt to repair it yourself. My advice is to leave it to a professional. I have in the past made the same mistake when I was learning how to play the guitar. Avoiding challenges such as spring tension or uneven bridge can be avoided.
2. Intonation and Tuning Issues
Another reason you will definitely need a professional to set up your guitar is that it cannot tune. Based on my experience, it’s practically impossible to achieve quality sound with a guitar with intonation issues.
Continuously re-tuning your guitar is annoying and most people usually measure the quality of musical instruments on their ability to maintain an accurate pitch.
Your guitar’s intonation and tuning issues usually have nothing to do with its quality. They’re more like to be caused by other reasons, such as loose tuning pegs.
Or your entire fretboard might be the issue and this will be corrected by professionally adjusting the sandals or even a loose nut.
Temperature and humidity change is another big contributor to distorted intonation. Tuning and paying close attention to your instrument will help arrest such situations early.
One of the advantages of involving a professional guitar tech is that they are in a better position to identify tuning and intonation issues with your instrument and accurately make adjustments to correct the issue.
3. Nut and the Bridge Requires Adjustments
A loose nut or a bridge that requires some adjustments can lead to a number of issues with your musical instrument.
One of these issues is having an imbalance or inaccurate tune from a section of your guitar. Consequently, some bridges require a professional technician in that area to set them up.
For instance, my Floyd Rose bridge got fixed by my technician by adjusting the springs that restored the accurate tension balance and my guitar was up again. In most cases, if your guitar has intonation and action issues, it’s advisable to have your technician check out your bridge.
Fret buzz and other issues around tuning can as well be a result of a lousy nut in your guitar. One of the dangers associated with having a poor nut is that it can break your guitar string at any moment. Like when you’re 30 seconds into your first song at a gig. Yep, it’s the worst.
Lubricating it will usually solve the issue. If the situation worsens, have the nut removed and replaced.
4. Bowed or Wrapped Guitar Neck
Your guitar’s neck can bend or wrap due to a whole number of reasons. Just like most parts of your musical instrument, your guitar neck is primarily made of wood.
This makes it malleable, and it’s not surprising when it gets affected by things like changes in temperature, pressure, and humidity.
Such changes usually cause your guitar parts to shift from their original positions. A perfect example that I have grumbled with is the truss rod.
I’m a big fan of Floyd Rose style bridges ,and when it comes to changing its string gauges, its truss rod gets adjusted slightly to perfectly accommodate its switch. By doing so, my guitar neck will straighten.
Your guitar setup professional will advise on a number of ways to protect your guitar from excesses around the environment that causes your guitar wood to swell and shrink.
One of the methods I use in controlling climate effects on my guitars is finding a guitar humidifier.
Following your professional guitar setup technician and all precautions provided will avoid most of the neck and intonation problems.
5. You Have Bought a New Guitar or a Used One
Some highly priced guitars usually come already set up for you when you buy them. In most cases, a new guitar will definitely require a setup. This is usually the case with almost all beginner models. In such a situation, you’ll need a professional guitar technician to set it up for you.
In the same breath, if you happen to buy a previously owned guitar, you’ll also require a guitar setup.
The reason why I advocate for a guitar setup immediately after you buy a used guitar is that you might not be sure when it actually received a proper setup.
If you are having doubts about when the musical instrument you’re about to buy got a proper guitar setup, then I advise that you play it safe and book an appointment with your technician.
6. Its Been Quite a While Since You Last Had Your Guitar Setup
Most of the issues around your guitar such as bending neck can be avoided by ensuring you regularly check in with a professional guitar technician.
Being mindful and purposeful in maintaining and taking care of our instrument prevents issues that would have otherwise cost you more money to fix or even end the lifespan of your favorite guitar. I advise to have your guitar set up at least twice a year.
How Much Does a Guitar Setup Cost at Guitar Center?
Guitar setup costs at Guitar Center usually start from $50, but this price fluctuates depending on the kind of setup and the type and the bridge style of your guitar.
Some of the instrument setups offered at Guitar Center and their costs include the following:
1. Signature Setup
Depending on the setup, configuration, and overall state of your equipment, this kind of setup will cost approximately $60 – 70.
Your guitar will get a thorough cleaning, polish, restringing, and overall inspection.
2. Standard Restring
This setup starts from around $25 and it’s the most basic service offered at any Guitar Center. This package involves replacing old strings with new ones, instrument cleaning, and restringing.
3. Platinum Setup
As the name suggests, Platinum Setup is the most expensive service you can get at Guitar Center.
This service cost approximately $100, but this cost fluctuates depending on the condition of the guitar and the amount of detailed work involved.
The platinum package incorporates all the services offered to Signature clients in addition to thorough equipment detailing, and maintenance.
If you subscribe to this package, you’ll get your guitar hardware repaired, your guitar waxed, your guitar neck cleaned and its entire body polished.
Is a Professional Guitar Setup Worth It?
Yes. It’s definitelys worth it to have your guitar set up by a professional.
To summarize, here are just a few advantages::
- Ensuring your guitar feels and even sounds better when played
- Early diagnoses of issues and challenges associated with humidity and temperature change
- Improving your guitar reliability and lifespan
- A professional will offer you sound advice and precautions on how to maintain and take care of your guitar
When it comes to guitar setup, it’s important to find the right person for the job. A professional will be able to set your guitar up correctly, making sure it plays perfectly and sounds great.
The cost of a guitar setup can vary depending on the person you go to and the work that needs to be done, but it’s a small price to pay for a perfectly tuned and sounding guitar.
Don’t try to do it yourself unless you’re experienced. Guitar setup is a complex process and can easily be botched if you’re not careful.
How much does a guitar setup cost?
It depends on the person doing the work, but typically, the cost of a guitar setup ranges from $60 to $100.
What does a guitar setup involve?
A guitar setup usually includes a general tune-up, cleaning and adjustment of the strings and action, and truss rod adjustment.
Why do I need a guitar setup?
A guitar that isn’t properly set up can be difficult to play and can cause physical pain in your hands and fingers. A guitar that’s been properly set up will sound better and be easier to play.