Basic Guitar Setup and Maintenance | Caleb Martel | Skillshare

Playback Speed

  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x

Basic Guitar Setup and Maintenance

teacher avatar Caleb Martel, Musician and Whipmaker

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

11 Lessons (40m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Removing the Strings

    • 3. The Saddle

    • 4. Filing the Saddle

    • 5. Types of Strings

    • 6. Cleaning the Fretboard

    • 7. Putting On the Strings

    • 8. Trimming the Strings

    • 9. String Action

    • 10. Polishing

    • 11. Final Test

  • --
  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced level
  • All levels
  • Beg/Int level
  • Int/Adv level

Community Generated

The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.





About This Class

As a guitarist,it is very helpful to know the basics of set-up,because this can save money,and give you the opportunity to make a guitar that couldn't be played playable again. Here, I will teach you how to set up your guitar,including changing your guitar strings,intonation,adjusting the action,and cleaning and polishing.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Caleb Martel

Musician and Whipmaker


Class Ratings

Expectations Met?
  • Exceeded!
  • Yes
  • Somewhat
  • Not really
Reviews Archive

In October 2018, we updated our review system to improve the way we collect feedback. Below are the reviews written before that update.

Why Join Skillshare?

Take award-winning Skillshare Original Classes

Each class has short lessons, hands-on projects

Your membership supports Skillshare teachers

Learn From Anywhere

Take classes on the go with the Skillshare app. Stream or download to watch on the plane, the subway, or wherever you learn best.


1. Introduction: Okay, So in this class, I'm gonna take you through step by step, how I change strings on a guitar as well as how to adjust the trust rod, which would be adjusting the gnat kite or the string height. And I'm also gonna go over a little bit about the bridge and the saddle and intimating a guitar. So first thing we're gonna do is I'm gonna tune the guitar to show you about intonation, because it will be easier to show that first. So, uh, before we do that, some things you'll need you'll need a tuner string whiner. It's not 100% necessary, but it doesn't make the job easier. You'll need an Allen wrench to fit the trust rod of your guitar. We'll talk about that later. Then, of course, strings and, uh also go over quickly how I polished a guitar. So you are investing some guitar polish, and it also helps if you have something to put under the neck to keep it up to height. And whilst file is optional. If you're going to intimate your guitar, so let's go ahead and move on to that 2. Removing the Strings: Okay. So first you're gonna wanna tune your guitar before you change the strings or make any other changes to it. And, uh, what you're gonna do next is we're gonna play natural harmonics and what that is. If you know a story, just place your finger directly over the 12 threat, the actual metal front of it. Just lightly touch it, plucks the string and you'll get bell like sound. So if you have your guitar in tune, then the harmonic should be the exact same note as that. But it's actually a knocked of higher, so I'll move my tuner over where you can see it. We'll see if we can. It can pick it up there. Okay, so you can see there that it's in, too, when we play the harmonic. So then what you're gonna do is you're actually gonna fret 12 threat, push it all the way down and then pluck it. Now you can see that years way too high. Okay, so this if you're unfamiliar with any of these terms, this is what intonation is. If a guitar is well intimated, that means that when you have it tuned when you play at the 12th fret. It's still the no is still in tune in octave higher, and that's what you want it to be. So we'll test all the other strings. Further intonation. Okay, so that's too high. Okay, so all these strings are intimated too high. So whenever you actually front, the 12th fret and the no is higher than the harmonic. And that means that the total length, the scale length of a string, the distance from the bridge to the sat, the bridge for the saddle to the night. Uh, that means it needs to be longer. Okay, so the scale length is that distance. And because thes note, the 12 threat notes are higher than the harmonics, then we need to go to the over to the saddle, and we need to file it this way so that the point of contact were the string actually meets that saddle so that it will be farther back. So I don't know. It's best to do this. If you're gonna do a string change, test the intonation before you do it, because you have to take the saddle off every time that you do it, so we'll go ahead and take the strings off. - Okay ? And once you've unwound the strings, um, some people like to just cut the strings. That's OK to dio. Uh, I don't because, uh, sometimes when you're changing strings, especially if it's your first time, you want to save the whole string because I can usually break a string when you're putting one's on and tuning them up pitch. So I've had several times, once or twice a night accidentally broken your strength. So I had five new strings, one old string. But at least I had all six strings. So go ahead a little looser. So go ahead and remove all your strings and then we'll go on to the next step. 3. The Saddle: Okay, so I've taken this saddle out. No. Your saddle probably looks just like this piece of plastic or bone here. Whatever it's made of, um, this is actually, uh, rare type of saddle. This is the first time I've seen on a guitar. You usually find these on mandolins. Um, you can see here. Normally, it will just be the stand part here is you're unfamiliar with this. Just a saddle that can just come right out. Whereas this has screws and you can see them nuts in here. And this allows you to adjust your action with the saddle the height of the saddle, and that could be very useful. But, um, go ahead and just, you know, take your saddle out. So and make sure remember which way was faced. You don't twisted around the wrong way. So I have mine this way. And if you remember, when we intimated it, it was the pitch was too high. So we need to make the scaling for longer, which means we need to file it back. You can see where the this is angled up a little bit. So when it's on this way, this point of contact with the strings is closer on this side. So we're gonna file it this way where each string is. But he if you look close enough it years, you can see the grooves on this where the strings were trying to get this to focus right now. But, um so let me zoom out so we can see exactly what I'm doing. Okay, so goes on this way. So I'm gonna start with any of the groups where the string waas and file. That way, if you can get a set an actual set of files with small files that would even better, makes it a lot easier than just this. But you only want to do just a little out of time. Okay, Free string. So now when you internet it, if the pitch when you actually Friday the 12 threat was lower than the harmonic, then you need to be doing it this way too short in the scale, length. And there are different types of saddles. You know, This one is flat across. Some of them curved more than others. This has a slight curve. Other ones there's actual like it's broken in the middle and all centered and different things like that. Uh, you know, you can I take it your guitar to professional, find out what the best kind is? Um, so yeah, I just I'm just gonna go ahead and go to each slot where the string waas and file just like that. Just a little bit. So I'll get back to you when I'm done with that. 4. Filing the Saddle: Alright, so I've filed down on the saddle. You can see there now with some saddles you can only file so far. So I wasn't able to do it very much. So this guitar won't be intimated perfectly, but it's as close is that can get. Um, Now, at this point, uh, a lot of saddles come in plastic as well as the bridge pins. And I would suggest investing in saddle on bridge pins and a nut that's made out of, uh, better material that will give you a much better sound in your guitar. Um, a task, Uh, t you ask you that's a very good material. Or if you want to get just a bone, um, you can experiment with different kinds, but they'll give you a much better tone quality in plastic. So I'm gonna go ahead and put your saddle back in. Okay? So once you have that back in, um, gonna move down to the night And if you have a small set of or a set of small files, this wants to big, but you'll notice the grooves for the strings. You want those grooves toe angle down, and that again will give you a better sound. And, uh, like I said before years is plastic. It's a good idea to get a bone one or a tusk one, and that'll give you better sound. But so just, you know, file You have a small in a file file downward a little bit, so the string angles down like that. But before you put new strings on, take a pencil or, um, sharpen it enough, you're gonna run the let it off into the grooves for the strings. Okay? And what that's going to do is when you tune the strings, the sax, like a lubricant, so the strings won't stick as much. And you get much smoother tuning, okay? And at this point, um, before you put the strings on, this is when you're if you're going to clean your head stock, it's a good idea to do it now, before you have all the strings blocking that. So get a cleaning cloth and spider to a polish on there. Clean that up. Okay, so now we're ready to put the strings on 5. Types of Strings: Okay, so when you get your strings, you want to make sure you get the right kind. Uh, if you can look up if you bought your guitar new, find out what strings were put on it. Originally, it's best to go with those unless they're really uncomfortable for you. Um, you can experiment with different gauges. You don't want to go too far from what originally was on, because that puts a lot of stress on the neck. If it's too light, then it's not enough tension. Or if it's two strings are too heavy, then it's too much tension. But, um, I like to use light. Thes ones are 10 48. Usually you hear two numbers, uh, for strings, and that's the gauge of the thinnest in the thickest. So for this one, the Venice the high E string is 10 and Lowy is 48 so you can get these would be considered light. Um, but there's also besides light, medium and heavy. Others, uh, what you can get, like custom lights were some of them differ a little bit to your preference, and I'd also recommend getting a set that are coded thes air Dragon skin. It has a special coating similar to elixir. Look, there's a good one too. The coating on them on these strings, uh, makes it the string life last two times longer. And, uh, it also is not much smoother to play. So now that a little bit more expensive. But again, they last twice as long. So you can experiment with different brands of strings. So and unless you're doing a set up on a guitar and intonation stuff like this, don't take all the strings off at once. If you're just doing this drink change by itself, then you only need to take one string off at a time, put one on and take off the next. 6. Cleaning the Fretboard : okay, before we actually change, put the strings on. Um, we're gonna I'm gonna show you real quick how to clean your fretboard, because that does get pretty dirty. Sometimes you don't notice until you take the strings off, but, um, it's best to use steel wool. I don't happening right now, so I'm just going to use this old shining cloth. But what you're gonna do, just go to each fret and, like, up and down and again the steel wall does a lot better job. If you don't have that, then a known cloth will work for now. So you're just gonna do each Friday just like that? Okay. And then after you do the actual frets, you can do the fretboard. But this time you want go perpendicular, are in line with the grain and get all that grime off. Probably can't see everyone on the camera, but I can see already it's making a considerable difference. Okay, so once you've done that, now we can go ahead and put the strings on 7. Putting On the Strings : Okay, so I always like to start with the low e string of a six string. Now, these wait a pact of the strings. They put the third in the 60 in the same package, so I'll just go ahead and put the third and it's whole. For now. Drop the penman just to hold it in place for now. So go ahead and put it down in. Can you make sure you push down, pull the string up? I'm not gonna go anywhere. And common question is how many times you should wrap the string around the peg. How loose you should leave it. Um, I like to go to about the third fret and just stick my hands straight under on running down like that. And that gives me just the right amount to wrap around. So go ahead and turn your tuning post when you're on the string, it goes straight through just like that. Okay, so then stick your hand under about the third fret, keep it kind of loose, and then we're gonna kink the string here around the tuning post. Okay, That and then we're gonna go under bringing around and then you're going to come back overtop itself. Okay, so let's zoom in on that a little more. Okay, so we kicked it when under and in a put it back over itself, just like that. Okay, so now we just keep your finger here to keep it in place, Andi, and you can go ahead and wind it on and make sure whenever for the three lowest strings on this side, make sure you feed it through and you turn so that the string wind and points towards the outside. Okay, so when I'm turning it here, it's the post IDs going counterclockwise. And then as you wind it, make sure that the string raps under itself. So by the time you're done, it actually spirals up the post, so you'll see what I mean. Here in a second, the string is always going. The string is always going under itself. Okay, so you're gonna want it from here to slowly spiral up. You don't want it to double over on itself after besides the first trap. Okay, So as soon as it gets up to a small amount of tension, you hear, know about like that and go ahead to stop there and make sure you check your bridge pin because want to get up to tensions. Gonna want to pop up, so just push that back down. Okay, so that's the sex one Now will do the 5th 1 and put them in pegs. Okay? And it's the same as last time. Make sure the tuning post you have the holes so the string can run straight through it. Do about there through can get. Okay, make sure it goes straight through, and then the stream comes to the outside running back under itself, and they can't get back over itself just like that. And keep your finger pushed down on the string. So that way it spirals. That way, the string raps under itself to get that spiral that we want. Get to push that bridge pen back down. Okay, so we'll just do the same thing with the next drink, and then I'll come back when we do these strings. Okay, so we have the 1st 3 strings, or actually, it's the last three strings. Uh, now get the third string and bring it up to here. Get the height I want. So it wraps around and bring it back and for this side. I actually like to bring it back this way because of the direction it wraps in so straight , the room still bring the string to the left. This time would be to the inside of the head. Stock can't get bring it under and do that. There's a lot of different ways to change strings, and it really is no wrong way to do it, just as long as you get the string on and stays. I've experimented a lot of different ways changing strings, and they all hold on fine. So you can experiment different peoples methods. So we'll go ahead and do that for the last two strings, just like we did with this one. Make sure again when you're doing on this side that you're still turning this pegs so that the string winds this time it'll be clockwise. So if you have tuners that come out the side on your guitar on this side, I would be going counterclockwise. If you're looking at it from this side, be careful that bridge plans don't just fly out. I'll try to do that very common question. Uh, I hear a lot is How often should you change your guitar strings And that that all depends on how often you play? Uh, you know, some people like to change their strings every week. I only do mine every couple months. Um, if you have a string lubricant, then you don't have to change. Your strings is often That makes it a lot nicer. Um, and like I said, if you have coded streams like elixir, these dragon skin they won't have to change is often. Uh, definitely one of changed the strings before they get all black. And I feel like barbed wire. You can find something like this. This is the finger ease lubricant. Um, now, since I'm putting on new strings, I won't need it now. But after a few weeks of playing, you'll just sweep this across the length of the strings once or twice, and you can even sprayed on the back of the neck to make it smoother. And that makes the strings feel like they have an elixir coding or something. They last a lot longer. Okay, so now we have all of the strings on so we can go ahead and trim these off and then tune it up 8. Trimming the Strings: Okay, So once you strings are close to your attention, Uh, then we'll go ahead and start cutting these off. You can cut as close to the tuning pegs. You need to. I have just barely a millimetre sticking out, and you don't need to worry about the string slipping. It's not going to slip. Just be very careful, especially when you come over to the thinner strings that you don't actually cut a string that you need on there. So I'm still needs to be tighter before that. Now, these tuners on here, the tuning pegs and the tuners themselves are pretty old, so they're pretty slow a lot of. So if yours are like that, it's a good idea toe by some new ones. Um, if you can get some better quality ones that keep your guitar to longer. But one thing you can definitely check is on the back. These air closed back tuners. But even if you have an open back week and see all the gears, check the screws and make sure they're in tight. These air tight enough. Checked him. So we're good on that. Okay, So going, Keep double checking your bridge pains make sure that pushed all the way down. So now we can go ahead and start tuning the guitar on . You'll find easy to knit strings. We're gonna keep slipping back down to a lower pitch. But that's normal. Uh, because as the strings, your tuning Titan, that takes more attention off of these strings. So then they're gonna get even lower. So you'll have to go through this a couple of times. We owe first time you go through turning it. Don't worry about getting it perfectly on pitch. Just get close as long as you don't go much, as long as you don't go higher than what it actually needs to be, so you don't break it. So this string is back down to D sharp. So I'm gonna have to go through this several times before it actually gets tuned by, Uh, go ahead and do that and after each time, just kind of wiggle the strings a little bit. It's gonna take a little bit of time for them to stretch out. So now it's all re strong, and then we'll go ahead and adjust the truss rod 9. String Action: Okay, So if you're not sure what the string action is, um, when you look at a guitar and you want to consider this when buying a new one to But, uh, you want to look at the string height from the bottom of the string to the fretboard, that's what the action is. Okay, so, um, typically, you want a nice low action as low as possible without you want the strings to be as close to the fretboard as possible without buzzing. Okay, so I play at the fifth fret that notes clear, but the actions pretty high. So we're gonna need to bend the neck back with the trust rod to lower the action and some guitars. There will be a little cover plate here. If you unscrew that, you'll see a trust rod there than others. Like this one. It's inside of the guitar. See if I can get that on camera here. You can kind of see it there. That little metal peace in there. It's right there. So that's what we're going to use the island wrench for. And by turning that trust rod there as you turn it, uh, clockwise and saying either and it doesn't matter. You, uh, turn it clockwise or tighten it. That's gonna bend the neck down or back, so that will lower the action, which is what we want. But if your action is too low, if you play a string, you know, open or fried it and it keeps buzzing because it's heading the fretboard, then you need to raise the action by turning it left. So stick this in there, this needs to be lowered. So I'm gonna turn it clockwise, and you don't need to turn it very much. Just do maybe 1/4 of a turn at a time and then test it on and just leave your guitar and standard tuning as you do this on. Then you can finish tuning it later because you don't want the strings to be loose. When you're trying this, you want to see, uh, what action is going to be like? Okay, so typically, this will be your lowest point of action. So you want to keep an eye on that, making sure to not too low there, But then usually, um, when you measure the action, you might sometimes see when you buy a new guitar. They'll have a measurement for the action. That's usually at the 12th. Fret. Okay, so this needs to be lowered some more. Sometimes it could be turkey with the strings getting in the way. But, you know, just keep moving the strings out of way. Try sliding it down between mental strings or sometimes even on the sides. So okay, so after you have adjusted the action, you'll need to tune it back up. So go ahead and do that. And then all go over real quick. How toe I polished the guitar. 10. Polishing : Okay, So, as I said before, uh, it's a good idea to get a good polishing cloth and some guitar polish. I used Dunlop Formula 65. So let's go ahead and do about two sprays and just swipe over the guitar. You get on the sides and back on sometimes need to given extra spray for the back. Some formulas don't go quite as far as other as far as other ones do. But okay, And then once you've done that, you the other side of the cloth with dry side and that all over, then Okay, so that's about it. One thing I wanted to mention real quick, Um, when you check a guitar, you want to check the whole bridge here. A very common problem is that over, especially on older guitars that weren't cared for, that weren't humidified. It will start to lift up here, and that's what causes a lot of tuning action problems and different things like that. So that happens. That's more advanced, so we won't go into that. But, um, you know, take it someone who can fix it. But if you want to avoid that problem, get some sort of humidifier for your guitar, you can get just a simple It's just a plastic case with a sponge. You get what and just slip it down between your strings and then put it in the case. Um, and you'll also notice on some guitars, as you feel on the fretboard. The frets stick out a little bit, and it feels pointy. That's from the guitar being too dry because it wasn't humidified. Still, um, it makes sure you get some sort of humidifier for your guitar and that old avoid a lot of problems, as well as keep the tuning more stable. You won't have to tune, it is often. 11. Final Test: All right, So that's it for the guitar set up and maintenance. I hope you enjoy this class. So now that you have your guitar set up now you can enjoy playing it, okay?