Why do some guitars have necks that angle back towards the player while some don’t? What’s the reason for this angled neck? Do we even need it?
In an electric guitar or bass, it's usually necessary to 'ground' the strings.
By this, I mean that all the strings should have a path to ground — a wire that connects them to a ground point inside the instrument. Usually that ground point will be the back of a pot or the sleeve of the output jack.
When it's properly grounded, you can touch the strings of your guitar and you'll usually hear the background hiss reduce. Yay.
There’s a common misconception that by touching the strings you are grounding the guitar.
Sketchy Setups Launches
I'm massively proud and excited to announce the new series of Sketchy Setups guides is now available. This series contains four guides, each focussed on a particular instrument type.
- #1: The Fender Stratocaster
- #2: The Fender Telecaster
- #3: The Gibson Les Paul, SG, 335, etc.
- #4: The Fender Precision and Jazz Bass
Imagine your best friend was a setup guru…
And wrote a book just for you…
Sketchy Setups are friendly and straightforward guides to getting your guitar or bass playing its best. No need to wade through massive books, trying to find the relevant parts for your guitar. No trying to make sense of the manufacturer's vague instructions. No searching for the pearls among millions of forum posts.
Perfect if you want a great playing instrument without having to take a degree in Advanced Guitary Stuff.
Just great guitar and bass setup. Easy-peasy.
Sketchy Setups is a bit different to other setup guides. For a start, you can just get the information you want — just the info for your instrument. Why read about Gibson tailpieces when you're setting up a Jazz Bass?
And Sketchy Setups is completely hand-drawn. Even though these are digital guides, each page began as paper, pencil, and ink. This makes it easier to illustrate things that would be difficult in photographs and keeps everything nice and easy-going. Setups don't have to be chores.
Sketchy Setups are available to buy right now. Each guide costs $5 or you can buy a bundle of all four for $15. There is a heap more information, some page-samples, and some frequently asked questions on the Sketchy Setups page. Check it out.
SPREAD THE WORD
I don't often ask for shares but it'd be massively fantastic and incredibly helpful if you could tell your friends about Sketchy Setups.
If you could click the Twitter or Facebook images below to share, I'd really appreciate it.
Or just give sketchysetups.com a shout-out wherever you hang out.
Thanks a lot.
Gather 'round for a story…
When I started my own setups, a looooong time ago, things weren’t always easy.
Information was thin on the ground. In the pre-internet age, you had to rely on gleaning snippets of advice from musicians you knew or met. Amazing results weren’t guaranteed.
Then the internet came along (yes, I’m that old, you damn kids). That was interesting. At first, you could read the whole thing in a day but gradually, you’d find sites with little nuggets of guitar information. Of course, many of these nuggets were from guys like the ones I’d met locally—now, they just happened to be guys from different places. Similar results.
The amount of information on the internet grew. Forum sites shared heaps of tips and tricks and you could often find massively usefully stuff there. As is often the way with public forums, though, a lot of their content was parroted myths and half-truths, personal opinion masquerading as fact, or just plain wrong…
“You should always do X. You should never do Y. If you touch the truss-rod, it will spell the end of existence.”
So what do you do if you want to get reliable, useful, simple information on guitar or bass setup?
Well (ahem), I may be able to help…
New Sketchy Setups Guides Launch Tomorrow
I can't wait.
I promised more Sketchy Setups and here they are. Available from Tuesday, 19th July you'll now be able to get the setup skinny on four instrument types.
- Sketchy Setups #1: The Fender Stratocaster
- Sketchy Setups #2: The Fender Telecaster
- Sketchy Setups #3: The Gibson Les Paul, SG, 335, etc.
- Sketchy Setups #4: The Fender Precision and Jazz Bass
Each of these setup guides is focussed on just one instrument or instrument 'type'. Why would you want to read about a Strat tremolo when you're setting up a Les Paul? Is it useful to learn about a Gibson tailpiece when you're working on your P-Bass? Just the right information for your guitar or bass.
Hand-drawn setup guides
Every one of these guides started out with paper, pencil, and ink. They are hand-drawn and hand-written. Even the setup information that's common to all instruments was re-drawn each time (so each guide is a unique snowflake).
Illustrating like this let me show things that would have been impossible or less clear in a photograph. And it has the added benefit of giving a laid-back and friendly feel to the guides.
More information will follow…
All new Sketchy Setups available from Tuesday, July 19th. More information will follow between now and then.
Upgrade from early versions
Anyone who bought a copy of Sketchy Setups #1: The Fender Stratocaster will get a free upgrade to the new version. If you haven't received an email from me already, you'll get one soon (check your spam folders and contact me if you haven't heard by launch-day on the 19th July). Thank you to all the buyers of version 1 — I really appreciate your trust.
With the exception of, maybe, a four-string Precision bass, setting intonation on most Strats is probably one of the easier jobs. Even more so if you’ve got a hard-tail, non-trem Strat.
HOW TO SET INTONATION ON A FENDER STRATOCASTER
Let’s recap the prerequisites.
The rest of your setup must be right for you before you start. Intonation is the last thing to set so get your action, relief, nut and pickups sorted out first. You should have fresh strings (of your usual gauge and brand) installed, properly stretched, and tuned up as normal.
On a Strat, you should have your tremolo bridge balanced/floating or set hard to the body as you normally would. Essentially, everything should otherwise be exactly as you would play it.
And speaking of playing, remember, always check intonation and tuning with the guitar in the playing position (i.e. not lying on a table or counter but upright as if you were playing it).
The basic theory is always this:
- Pick the open string and verify it’s in tune.
- Fret at the 12th fret and pick this note. Compare it to the open string—is it flat or sharp?
- If the 12th fret note is flat, move the saddle forward a little by turning the adjustment screw at the back of the bridge (counter-clockwise).
- If the 12th fret note is sharp, move the saddle back a little by turning the screw clockwise.
- Retune the open string, check tuning of the other strings (see below) and go back to 1.
KEEP CHECKING YOUR TREMOLO BALANCE
An important consideration on a Strat:
If your bridge is floating or raised off the body, keep an eye on how it’s behaving as you proceed. If your saddles travel a lot during intonation, the overall tuning of the instrument and balance of the bridge can be affected.
Keep checking the tuning of the other strings as you go and, if they sharpen or flatten by much, adjust the tremolo spring tension (around the back) to bring them back to their original balance point. Loosening the screws holding the tremolo-claw/springs will lower string tension and tuning. Tightening the screws will raise overall tuning. Don’t go nuts.
STRATOCASTER INTONATION QUIRKS
- Keep an eye on the trem-balance as mentioned above. That’s a biggie.
- Sometimes, the bottom string won’t travel back far enough to properly intonate. It’s not that common but it happens (the 6th string in the image above is pretty close to the back of the bridge). You can gain a little extra travel by completely removing the screw and using an end-nippers to shorten the spring. You can even leave the spring out completely—although that's a last resort.
- A lot of saddle movement, back or forwards, can also do odd things to the action of each string (geometry’s a bitch). Before you start, make a note of each string’s action and re-check if you have to move the saddles much.