Why Are Guitars Set Up So Badly From the Factory?

I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about guitars, and why they come from the factory with such BAD setups. I seem to discuss it all the time with clients, especially when I’ve just set up their brand new guitar and the difference is massive.

Seriously. The action is always too high at the bridge. The action is always too high at the nut. The neck usually has far too much relief (bend) in it.

These factors add up to make a guitar that is nowhere CLOSE to being as nice to play as it possibly could be. Given that guitar manufacturers are in the business of selling guitars, and given that guitar buyers usually play guitars before they buy them, why don’t the manufacturers set them up really well to make sure THEIR guitars are the best in the shop?

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Why the Nut is Important

One thing I’ve always thought was MASSIVELY important for the “feel” of a guitar is a correctly cut nut. This has also been borne out during my guitar tech classes. Once the student has watched me cut the nut, and given them the guitar back twenty minutes later, they often can’t believe how much of a positive difference it makes.

Typically, guitars come out of the factory with the nut slots not being deep enough. Far too much clearance over the first fret, when in reality the string JUST needs to clear the first fret by enough so that it doesn’t rattle when playing the open string.

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AVOID Ian Elson Guitars!

A few years back I noticed a guitar maker on Facebook called Ian Elson. He made simple mahogany guitars for very reasonable prices. PRS style (ish) with clean looks a quality hardware. I followed him on social media and liked the way he did things.

Fast forward a few years and a client of mine is having poor luck buying guitars so I said “why not try an Ian Elson guitar?” Well, we looked at some pics together and he liked what he saw, so he contacted Ian and the deal was done. A few months went by and the guitar was delivered to my client. He brought it round that evening for me to have a look at. He was NOT happy.

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Washburn N4 Padauk For Sale

NOW SOLD

For sale is my Washburn N4 Padauk Nuno Bettencourt model guitar. I purchased this from FunkyMunkyMusic in Kansas, USA, new in 2009. They had commissioned the Washburn custom shop in Chicago to make a run of 12 N4’s with the original Floyd Rose trem instead of the Schaller unit. The guitar was originally fitted with chrome hardware but I asked FunkyMunky to change it to black, thus making it one of a kind I guess. Before they shipped it, Nuno himself did a store signing in Kansas, so the guitar bears his signature on the back of the headstock. I have also fitted a tremstopper device, but this can be removed if you like.

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