By James Tanguay, Bookmans Musical Instrument Coordinator and Luthier

Q: I’ve heard that the guitars at Bookmans are “setup” before they go up for sale. What is a guitar setup?

guitar setup

A: You heard right. When an instrument comes into a Bookmans store, it is sent to the Bookmans Musical Instrument Workshop where our luthiers and technicians adjust it or repair it so that it sounds and plays its very best. We call the process a “guitar setup”. For example, when a customer trades in an electric guitar, we put it through its paces before it hits the sales floor. We thoroughly test the electronics are and clean or replace as necessary. We level and crown the frets if needed and dress their rough edges. We clean and oil the fingerboard and check the tuners and other hardware for full functionality. Following this the instrument is cleaned, de-scuffed and polished. We restring the guitar and adjust the neck for the proper relief and angle. The height of the strings at the top of the guitar and at the bridge are adjusted for ease of playability and to fit the style of music the for which the instrument is designed. We adjust the bridge saddles for accurate intonation. Finally the guitar gets a test drive by our resident jammer so that fine adjustments can be made before the guitar goes back in its case and to the Bookmans sales floor to make someone the next rock legend.

New guitars get a set up at Bookmans too. Manufactures of low priced instruments often skip the set up process all together to keep costs low. Many new, inexpensive guitars have been made into little gems in our workshop. Nicer guitars need set ups also. Makers of mid-range and high end guitars like the Recording Kings, Nationals and Eastmans do very fine set ups, but they change when these instruments arrive in our extreme Arizona climate. We let them acclimate and then readjust them so they are at their best in our local conditions.

All guitars change over time. Often, once well-adjusted good guitars become buzzy and uncomfortable to play. That is why Bookmans offers a full service shop that includes guitar setups. We are available anytime to our customers whether or not they purchased their instrument from us. For more information on Bookmans repair shop, including contact information, visit our Musical Instrument Repair page.

** Every musical instrument we sell in Flagstaff, Mesa, Phoenix and in Tucson goes through expert and thorough conditioning. However the repair service is currently only available through our Tucson stores.