Setup work is the single most common thing going on here at the shop. Getting your axe playing just the way you like is our priority. Most players want their guitar’s action as low as possible without buzzing. We can deliver just that by insuring your frets are perfectly level and dressed, your neck relief is just right and the action is low at the nut and bridge. Need this to happen with a floating tremolo? Not a problem.
Sure, there are tons of techs out there that can do basic setup work, but we have tens of thousands of setups under our belt, we are not doing “basic” setups here.
How often do you need a guitar setup? This really depends on the environment and the amount of play time. Large touring acts take guitar techs on tour and it is a full time job keeping the instruments in top playing condition.
Those of us that most play at home may not need frequent setup/repair wok. Local pros that perform regularly, may not be far off from those on major tours.
It really comes down to climate and climate shock (quick changes in temperature). Temperature is a big factor, but more important is the humidity levels. Wooden instruments change as the humidity changes. Too much humidity is never a good thing, though the real damage is usually done from the instrument being to dry. If you are a Reno, NV local, there is a good chance you are dealing with with this issue.
If you are careful with your instrument, playing it is actually good for it. There are still a couple of wear areas that need to be checked from time to time. Number one is the frets. Fret wear will eventually need to be addressed through a fret dressing or re-fretting. If you have isolated fret wear on just a few frets, a partial re-fret may be the best option. Many times a dressing will be the best route. While a fret dress does fall under setup work, it is often not included in the standard setup price.
Mechanical parts such as a tremolo do wear and need maintenance. This may be a simple adjustment or at times may call for replacement parts.
The nut is also a wear item. String slots may need minor adjustments. The strings can slowly cut into the nut over time eventually requiring a replacement nut. Shimming is an option in curtain circumstances. A good example would be a guitar they may not justify the cost of making a new nut from scratch.
Now once we throw climate into the mix, all sorts of things can start happening. Woods can warp, frets move, cracks develop, etc… Climate related changes are the number one reason instruments need setups. In this case, the frequency is entirely based upon how stable your guitar’s climate is kept. The common things we regularly see, are changes in the string height due to the wood shrinks, humps at the fingerboard, necks back-bowing, etc. Next we see fret movement. Your perfectly level frets may start to move as the wood changes, resulting in uneven frets or frets that are just loose enough to allow minor movement. If you notice your guitar not playing as well as it did, or slight buzzing, it is time for a setup. Additionally, as the woods begin to dry, the fingerboard will shrink. Since metal frets do not shrink, you will begin to feel your fret ends protruding. If the guitar is not re-humidified quickly, the change can be permanent and the fret ends will need to be file flush and dressed.