Gibson Set Up Tips

Servicing your car. Getting your house gutters cleaned. Getting your guitars properly setup. None are exactly glamorous jobs but, well, they sometimes need to be done.

When it comes to guitars, you can be leave it all to the professionals. And you, quite rightly, pay accordingly. But there are many things you can do on your own to keep your guitars ready to rumble.

Adjust The Truss Rod?

Virtually every modern guitar has an adjustable truss rod: a length of (varying) metal that runs inside your guitars' necks. It will keep the neck straight for a better playing feel. But there are nuances, often because of the way wood simply “works”.

On Gibson electrics, you'll find the adjustable end of the truss rod under the (duh!) truss rod cover on the headstock. Usually, all you need is a screwdriver and hex key/wrench.

Gibson Set Up Tips

Loosen your truss rod and the strings pull the neck into a “concave bow”, resulting in higher action. Slide players often like this – it gives more distance between the strings and the fretboard. Tighten it, and the neck bends backward, a “back-bow”, moving the strings closer to the fretboard. If you're a shredding soloist, this may be better.

But there's no “right” or “wrong” way. It's all down to how you play. But it's worth experimenting.

Adjust Your Guitar's Bridge

This goes hand-in-hand with any neck truss rod adjustment. Again, you only need basic tools. Gibson's Tune-o-matic bridge is (probably) one of the best designs ever. Thank you, Mr Les Paul! And it's designed to be totally flexible. Higher, lower, micro-tuning... It's easy to forget what it can do for your guitar.

Hear buzzing or fuzzy notes? It maybe means you’ve either dropped the bridge too low or excessively back-bowed the neck. The two go hand-in-hand.

Check Yo' Nuts!

Gibson ZFAN Zero Fret Adjustable Nut Gibson's 2016 titanium nuts and zero frets are top notch, and you should never have problems. But on an older guitar with a bone or nylon nut, you may occasionally get problems beyond the bridge and neck. Usually, because the nut is too low (on some strings) and all your other intonation work still won't resolve irritating fretbuzz.

You can correct this yourself, but only if you know your way around various files, shim stock filler and even taking the guitar's nut off. Don't do anything hastily. To be honest, I'd say this sort of work – if rarely needed – is best left to a professional guitar repairer.

Another thing? Make sure you know your preferred string gauges before any adjustment to your guitars' nuts.

Get Electric

Most guitarists will have an axe when your pots/switches snap, crackle or pop. It can be a simple fix. All the nuts and screws that anchor your guitar's controls should be tight. I'm a regular fiddler with tone pots – that's why they're there, right? - but they can also be worked loose. As I've found out.

Like a door that's repeatedly opened and closed, you'll sometimes need some basic maintenance. Ensure everything is tight, and get some electronic contact cleaner (available at any electronics store), various screwdrivers and wrenches and you can often solve your own problems. It's easier on a Gibson Les Paul (with backplate access to the controls) than on a Gibson ES-335, but it can be done.

Gibson Set Up Tips

Contact cleaner should come with a flexible nozzle to get to those hard-to-reach places.

Go Pro?

We're not suggesting you become your own handyman 24/7. If your house roof tiles are falling to bits, you'd call a pro, right? But basic setup can be done, and if you eventually need help from a guitar pro, it's good to be able to explain what your bugbear is. Guitar players and guitars are all different, and it's simply good practice to think about what you do and don't like about your treasured instrument.

Be careful. Don't be rash. With the quality of Gibson's 2016 guitars, you should never have too many problems but... if in doubt with an older guitar, take it to a guitar repair pro. You won't need to do it often at all. And it's best to book-in your guitar with an explanation of what you think is wrong. Basic premise: T.L.C. for your guitar, and you'll feel the love back. Oh, and keep your guitar clean!