A guitar needs to receive regular maintenance if it is to keep its intended levels of playability and sound quality. Caring for a guitar involves a process known as a setup. This describes a group of fine-tuning procedures that work together to bring the instrument to its highest potential. The cost of a guitar setup is often well worth the value of the service. New strings will be added, their height adjusted, intonation will be set, and the neck may be adjusted to allow for the proper amount of relief in the wood. Most guitars need to be setup at least once a year to account for swelling of wood and shifting of parts that are caused by changes in humidity. Guitar setup cost is usually around $50, but can fluctuate wildly depending on what adjustments are needed for your specific instrument.
The process of setting up an acoustic guitar is not exactly the same as it is for an electric. New strings are usually added, and the amount of relief in the neck is adjusted as required, but the bridge adjustments are very different from the setup of an electric guitar. At the bridge of an acoustic, the strings are raised by a piece of plastic or bone that is known as a saddle, and are then anchored by individual pegs that are made of a similar material. When the intonation needs adjustment it usually means that you need to replace the entire saddle. Luckily this is a cheap and easy endeavor that isn’t likely to add to acoustic guitar setup cost. The saddle can sometimes be shaved at the bottom in order to lower the strings’ height (or “action”). Only someone with experience should perform saddle shaving, as it is very important that the saddle bottom remains even and flat. The cost of guitar setup for an acoustic is similar to that of an electric setup, though it may be cheaper at times due to the less complicated bridge.
Setting up an electric guitar will bring out the true potential of that specific instrument. A poorly setup guitar will be harder to play due to high strings and neck bending, and will sound subpar with improper intonation. Electric guitar setup cost will cover all of these adjustments and more. For a price close to $50, your guitar will also have its neck adjusted so that the playability is as good as possible over the entire fret board. In the ideal setup scenario, the string height will be optimized so that playing is easy. The height of the strings should also provide for the best sound as they are able to ring free of the frets, allowing for the cleanest and strongest possible signal for the pickups to capture.
If you are inexperienced, it is only recommended that you attempt to setup a guitar that is of little value to you, both financially and sentimentally. If you don’t have one that fits these requirements, then it is best to pay the cost of a guitar setup as performed by a professional. The primary risk while setting up the instrument is over adjustment. Working any part of the bridge too much will cause wear and tear, and irreparable damage to the neck is often the result of improperly adjusting the truss rod. It is always hard to justify ruining a perfectly good instrument in order to avoid guitar setup cost.