For the vast majority of guitarists, there instrument is their pride and joy (sneaky Stevie Ray Vaughn reference there too). So, you’re naturally going to want to ensure your guitar stays in top condition.
Having said that, a full guitar setup can become costly if done too often, especially if the people you’re taking your guitar spot any faults that then require further payments and adjustments to be done. So, when it comes to your guitar MOT, just how often should you be getting it looked at?
How often do most guitarists take their guitar for a setup?
Most players who practice an hour or so a day, or at least semi-regularly, with a mid/top-end guitar, will take theirs for a setup every 6-8 months. Some players even stated they go once per year, as they are what the committed guitarists may consider to be ‘casual’ players.
This data is based on a poll I conducted across the various social channels related to this site, and is still not a rule of thumb as it depends on a variety of factors including:
- How often you actually spend playing per day
- The intensity of playing e.g. are you practicing in your bedroom or taking your guitar to gigs/on the road
- The cost of your guitar and the amount of care you choose to take with it in general
How much should a full guitar setup cost?
Again, we’ve enlisted the help of our international audiences and spoke to several independent music store owners about the average cost of a full setup. The emphasis here is on a full setup, as that will be what most guitarists are going for. The three countries have also been chosen as that is where our largest audience samples are from:
- USA – Average Cost $60
- Canada – Average Cost $56
- UK – Average Cost £45
How to know when your guitar is due for a setup
If you’re still confused, I totally get it. Rather than sticking to a timeframe just to provide you with an answer, let’s look at some of the more common issues that should warrant you getting a setup for your guitar in the near future, rather than you wasting money and taking it in for a setup when it simply isn’t needed.
1. Tuning keeps slipping
This is a very very common issue, and one that a guitarist cannot ignore. Plus, if you’re having to stop and tune your guitar every 30 seconds or so, then why would you want to ignore it anyway!
Tuning issues could be down to something simple such as the way you’ve changed your strings or a simply nut filing, or could be a more serious issue such as the warping of the neck caused by poor storage. Either way, it’s best to get a setup to ensure that there are no internal issues.
2. Fret Buzz
Another problem that many guitarists experience, which again can be related to a whole host of problems. Personally, I’ve had my guitar setup twice in 6 months, by two different people, because of an initial issue with fret buzz!
A buzzing fret can be caused by an issue with action, neck alignment, poor quality strings, and even general wear and tear.
3. Electrical Issues
The last thing you want to happen is to ignore any electrical faults, only for your guitar to set ablaze when plugged into an amp. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but you get my point here.
When I first started to play the guitar I took my Strat for a setup because of an electrical issue, only to find that the guitar lead was broken… So to save yourself some money and a ton of embarrassment, be sure to check your equipment over before making the call for a costly setup!
If you’re buying a guitar for a beginner then this isn’t really something you need to be concerned about, just be sure that you’re testing the guitar either upon arrival or in the store for any buzzing or electrical faults, as this may be indicative of a bigger issue that you don’t want the recipient to be plagued with later in their playing career.
Either way, whether it’s your guitar or someone else’s, be sure to take good care of it and you can save a whole load of money on recurring setup costs!