Instruments /Accessories / Ordering / Tips


Strings, Setups, and Squeaks: Optimizing Your Guitar For Comfort and Tone

When beginning the guitar, or starting again after a break, it's normal to experience a little discomfort at the fingertips for a few weeks, as you build the small amount of callus necessary for easy playing. However, if you are experiencing unusual problems in pressing the strings to the fingerboard, or finding particular difficulty in playing chords up the neck, the clearance of the strings over the fretboard (or "action") of your guitar may be higher than it needs to be.

A proper setup strikes a balance between a string adjustment that is low enough to play comfortably all the way up the neck, and one that is high enough to avoid string buzz when the instrument is strummed vigorously. As individuals vary widely in their playing technique, there is no single setup suitable for all players or styles. Fingerstyle or electric players can usually play clearly with a fairly low action, while swing or gypsy players may need more string height to avoid fret buzz. However, there's no need to struggle with any guitar whose setup is outside a normal range. Whether you're checking your present guitar, or evaluating a new one for purchase, you can perform a quick check of a guitar's action as follows.

For optimum tone and volume, we recommend playing as stiff a string as you can play comfortably. Again, no single string is best for all players or instruments. Fingerstyle players may prefer slightly lighter strings, while rhythm or big band players typically use heavier gauges. For a properly adjusted acoustic guitar, we recommend medium gauge strings (High E string = .013 or .012). Extra light strings of .011 or under are suitable for electric guitars, but won't produce optimum tone, volume or dynamic range on an acoustic instrument. When strings sound dull, show corrosion or breaks in the winding, or are hard to tune, replace them: you'll be glad you did.

Adjustments to your guitar's action should be done by an experienced technician. It's not a terribly costly or time-consuming process, and is essential to optimizing the full acoustic potential and playability of your instrument. A routine setup can usually be completed within a short period of time. If there's no repair person in your area with expertise in archtop guitars, please feel free to contact us for information for a precision setup, specifically tailored to the requirements of your archtop guitar. Our premium 12 point inspection and setup includes the following procedures:

For more information, or to arrange for a setup, repair or restoration with, please email [email protected] or call 206.325.3737.

Instruments /Accessories / Ordering / Tips