Basic Guitar Setup with Groovetech Kit

Written by
Logan Tabor
Published on
January 21, 2021 4:05:07 PM PST January 21, 2021 4:05:07 PM PSTst, January 21, 2021 4:05:07 PM PST
Hey there everyone and welcome, once again, to another episode of Mojotone’s ‘Fix It Friday’ series.  Today we are going to be diving into a bit of a different project. This is something I have personally been putting off for many years: the infamous guitar setup.  That’s right, today we are going to adjust our truss rods, dial in our action, check our nut height, fine tune our pickup height, and set our intonation.  


The coolest part of all though, is that Mojotone just started offering this GrooveTech Guitar Player Tech Kit from Cruztools, which contains pretty much everything we’ll need to get the job done.  I’m excited to try out this kit package, and to finally get my Reverend Bob Balch Signature Guitar back in gigging shape…




Now that we know a little more about the GrooveTech kit, here is an extremely short list of things you’ll need to complete today’s project:

Groovetech Guitar Player Tech Kit
Electric Tuner
Guitar in Desperate Need of a Basic Setup
Guitar Strings


If you have not already done so, please go ahead and restring your guitar at this time, as it is always best to set up a guitar shortly after putting on new strings.  Apart from that, our GrooveTech kit comes with an Easy Setup Guide which will walk us through each of today’s processes.  Let’s grab our guides and follow along.


TRUSS ROD



Our first stop on this magical adventure is the truss rod.  The truss rod is essentially just a rod that runs through most of the neck of the guitar.  Its job is to allow the user to “counteract” the tension that is put on a guitar’s neck by the strings.  When you string a guitar, the strings pull the headstock up, causing the neck to bow slightly; tightening the truss rod will flatten the neck back out, if the player wishes it so. 

But before we go crazy tightening and loosening our truss rods, we need to check to see if we are already within a desirable range of relief (relief being the amount of bow in the neck).  To do this, we need to depress the low E string on both the first fret and the last fret of the guitar.  When we depress the fret, for this particular operation, we want to depress on TOP of the metal fret rather than behind the fret wire.  Once the low E string is depressed in both locations, we will insert our .01” thickness gauge between the 8th fret and the E string, as our easy setup guide indicates that .01” is the acceptable amount of relief.  Watch the video below for a demonstration…




In my case, I have almost no relief at this part of the neck, so I’ll need to LOOSEN my truss rod to give the neck more bow.  Your situation may be different but no matter which way you need to go...righty-tighty, lefty-loosey, as always!  Please note that we want to make very small incremental adjustments here.  After making each small adjustment, allow the guitar to sit for a few minutes before checking the relief again.  Continue this process until your .01” thickness gauge is a perfect fit.


ACTION



Step 1 is complete; how does it feel?  Next up is the action, or the string height.  This is going to be a bit more subjective because every guitar player prefers their guitar to play a certain way.  Some of us like our action so low to the fretboard that it buzzes; some of us want that crazy high SRV action for a nice hand workout every time we play.  I’m just going to use the easy setup guide as my standard for today’s purposes; the setup guide says to start at 2mm, or 5/64ths of an inch (2mm may be easier to see on the ruler).  The way this is measured is different than the truss rod.  This time we do NOT need to depress the string anywhere on the fretboard, instead we will just grab our ruler tool from the kit, and at the 17th fret, measure from the top of the metal fret to the bottom of the string.  Again, this distance needs to equal about 2mm if we are following our setup guide.  

If your low E string is not at 2mm, you will need to adjust your bridge/saddle to bring the string to the proper height.  In the video below, you can see how I will have to make these adjustments on my particular guitar, but if your guitar differs from mine you may need to refer to the guitar’s owner manual for instructions on how to adjust action…




Once you get the low E string adjusted to 2mm, move on to the next string, and the next string, etc.  Before too long, you will have a guitar whose truss rod is perfectly bowed and whose action is sitting pretty at a sizzling 2mm height!  

Again, a guitar’s action is all subjective.  If you make these adjustments according to the manual and then find that 2mm is too low, just raise the string height.  Get everything dialed in exactly how you want it -- we are simply using the manual’s recommendations for the sake of this tutorial.  


NUT HEIGHT

Next we will check the nut height.  And I say check because if any adjustments need to be made to the nut, it is best to leave this work to a professional luthier.  Adjusting the nut may requiring filing and/or shimming, which goes beyond the entry level DIY experiment we are conducting here today.  

Checking the nut is very simple.  We just want to use our .02” and .022” thickness gauges to determine if we have an acceptable amount of space between the top of the first fret and the bottom of the low E string.  This, once again, is done with the thickness gauge on TOP of the metal fret wire, and is done WITHOUT depressing the string.  For further demonstration, see the video below…




My guitar does not quite have .02” inches of space, which means my nut is a little low and could potentially use a shim.  However, I’m not extremely concerned at the moment because I have not yet noticed any buzzing in that part of the neck so the nut height isn’t bothering me.  Once you’ve checked your nut height, you can make the determination as to whether or not to take your guitar to a luthier for further adjustment.  


PICKUP HEIGHT

Let’s move on to pickup height.  Here again, this is going to be very subjective, as every player is different.  Our manual says a typical pickup height measurement is between 1/16” and 1/8”.  This measurement comes from depressing the string on the LAST or HIGHEST fret on the neck, and then using your ruler tool to measure from the top of the pickup to the bottom of the string.  

You could start by adjusting your pickups until they measure 1/8” from every string, and then you’ll likely want to continue adjusting from there.  The best way to ensure that you are adjusting your pickup height to your liking is to just plug the guitar into an amp and play it.  For example: You may notice that your neck pickup is too boomy and loud -- if this is the case, simply lower the pickup until it sounds balanced.  Most pickups come with a small Phillips head screw on either side for adjustment.  This allows the user to slant the pickup from left to right in case they want their lighter gauge strings to be louder or vice versa…




INTONATION


Lastly, but certainly not leastly, we must address intonation.  This is extremely important as it will determine whether or not our chords are harmonious, and whether or not our strings stay in tune as we move up the neck.  I’ll bet you were wondering when we were going to use that electric tuner...well, now is the time.  Go ahead and plug your guitar into your tuner and get ready for the ride of your life!...

To determine intonation, let us tune the low E string in accordance with its 12th fret.  So, depress the low E on the 12th fret, pluck, and tune accordingly.  Next, we need to compare this tuning to the 12th fret harmonic.  If you are setting up a guitar that has not been worked on in a while, it is highly likely that your tuner will show a discrepancy between the fretted 12th fret, and the harmonic at the 12th fret.  If that is the case, you will need to adjust your string’s saddle until the tuning discrepancy is gone.  

If your fretted tuning is more sharp than your harmonic tuning, this means you need to lengthen the string/move the saddle back on the bridge away from the headstock.  If need be, you may want to consult your guitar’s manual once again for information on how to make this adjustment.  In the video below, you can see where I need to tweak my string length (and this is a very common type of bridge)...




Once your low E is solid, keep moving on to the A, the D, the G, etc., until finally your intonation is set across the guitar.  This process is simple, but does require some patience to get it right.  And by the way, the Groovetech easy setup guide does mention that using an electric tuner with a needle is best practice...you may have noticed that I failed to do this.  I was still able to get my intonation fairly well set, but using a tuner with a needle would definitely be more accurate.  


JAM TIME


Now it’s time to plug your guitar into an amp and play for a while.  Stretch out those strings some more, make sure the action feels good, make sure the pickups are balanced, and definitely make sure your chords are in tune!  

These skills are important for every guitar player to at least be familiar with.  You can always take your guitar to a professional, but you never know when something will come up on the road, or at practice.  It is always good to be able to handle these basic setups on the fly; plus it just furthers one’s appreciation for their instrument.  Although I was hesitant at first, I’m glad I went through with this setup.  Now I just need to do 50 more, and I’ll really have the hang of it.  

Thanks for tuning in, and please send any questions/comments to logan@mojotone.com.  We’ll see you next time!