Instruments are a bit like cars at times. Some bits just wear out, others break and leave you high and dry.
Sometimes it's a car crash; lots of tears, and your pride and joy is in a mess.
Then there's the matter of tone and playability. Just because your guitar came with light strings and you move to a heavier gauge doesn't necessarily mean your tone will improve. Changing string gauges usually requires some adjustments to the nut in order to maintain or improve playability. Neck relief is also a factor to consider. Bridges and saddles are also part of the picture. And that's just for starters...
We fix them. We set them up the way you want them.
We carry out a wide range of structural repairs including neck breaks, body cracks, seam separation, bridge lifting or replacement. All hardware issues from tuner repair or replacement, bridge saddle and tremolo balancing to broken truss rods.
Establishing good tone and playability is the goal of any guitar set-up. It involves the interaction between ideal string height versus best intonation and tone. In a perfect world, all instruments would arrive ready to play, silky smooth. The reality is that instruments (especially those bought over the Internet) arrive as they left the factory, strings averagely high and probably not capable of remaining in tune once played in a different key. Even instruments costing several thousand euro can play and sound no better than one costing a few hundred euro, simply because the set-up is so poor.
I set up instruments the way you want them, whether it's a new or previously-owned instrument.
String height (action) is set for 1st and 12th fret. Top strings can be set lower as they have lower mass. Bass strings need a little more action as their greater mass means they need more room to vibrate. All mechanical items are cleaned and lubricated, and in the case of instruments fitted with tremolos these are checked for balance, or rebalanced for new gauge strings. Fingerboard cleaning and mirror finish polishing of the frets completes the process giving you a super slick fretboard.
Nuts and Saddles
Nuts and saddles are the fundamental tone points of all stringed instruments and the choice of material determines the character of the instrument. Nut choice is generally bone, and I fit either unbleached or bleached bone. Electric instruments may have some extra requirements with tremolo affecting the tension behind the nut. The wrap of the string across the nut is important for best tone for all instruments.
Saddle issues differ considerably as bridge construction varies. Belly bridges always have bone for best tone. Sometimes plastic and synthetic materials have been used for quick manufacture and tone or sustain suffers. I make bone saddles that are compensated for intonation and ramped to get maximum drive out of the top for volume. Remember if you change your string gauge, it will affect the intonation, particularly on the heavier-wound strings.
It is absolutely essential to have a perfectly flat base to the saddle slot in the bridge and that is one of the setup checks for tone. If an under-saddle pickup is sounding thin, and the overall volume is underwhelming then this is usually the cause.
Frets wear out sooner or later. Some get trenches from playing familiar chords. Others from frequent string bending, hammer-ons and pull-offs. Partial re-frets are the solution to most problems and whether it's skinny vintage frets for a pre-war banjo or jumbo frets for a Les Paul, I match the profile and bevel of the original. The new frets are pressed and glued back in depending on how the existing frets are fitted.
Fret dressing is only done if there are uneven heights between parts of adjacent frets and they can't be pressed in. Lifting frets are spot glued.
Fingerboards have divots repaired and special attention is paid to removing all grime and oil of years of previous playing. If natural oils are removed from rosewood fretboard in the cleaning these are sparingly re-applied. Many commercial so-called fingerboard oils only encourage more rapid dirt build up. Broken or missing inlay is repaired. Extra inlay or dots can be fitted.
Full re-frets are always glued in for best tone. Nickel and stainless steel are available ex stock in most common sizes. Custom end round bevelling is offered. Fingerboard radius can be increased/decreased or converted to compound though a bound fingerboard may restrict the range of conversion. Some necks have poor placement of the truss rod and the fingerboard relief is a compromise. Custom relief of the fingerboard is possible to correct this.
Most musicians have their favourite strings, and can often choose these over other considerations. Most string sets are sold for standard tuning on standard scale instruments, normally packaged and sold by their top string thickness (typically in inches, such as 0.012" for a top light E string, more commonly called simply a 12). Electric guitars are commonly sold as 9s or 10s; mandolins and banjos the same; 11s through to 13s for acoustic guitars. Dobro and slide guitars are 15 upwards. However, even the difference in scale length between the most popular Fender and Gibson electrics is enough to cause problems when non-standard tuning is used. Even just a simple drop D can cause intonation and tension problems making it hard for the instrument to stay in tune through all the chord positions.
We offer string selection and set-up for all regular and non-standard tunings. This covers drop tuning on electrics, open, DADGAD and others on acoustics, all types of slide playing, electric, dobro, resonator, lap and pedal steel. Banjos are a little different GDAE is non standard for an Irish tenor so different tension is required for all strings for good consistent tone. Old Time requires a compromise to cover possibly 5 or 6 different tunings.
Frequently hybrid (mixed) sets give the best tone and playability. Strings for bottleneck or slide playing are a best example. The top 2 strings may need to be of a heavier gauge not only for tone but for enough tension to prevent the bottleneck rattling off the fret ends. On an acoustic or resonator, the heavier string gauge for these two strings is important for volume as well as tone.
Some of the string manufacturers publish tension figures for their strings at standard and non-standard tuning. I use a tension gauge to check so as to avoid confusion and check string preferences of the player. I hold a stock of many of the lesser known strings for resonator instruments and always hold a variety of mandolin, bouzouki, banjo and ukulele strings. I also hold strings to allow for lap steel tuning such as C6.
I stock Newtone Strings which are wound in the old round core style. Vintage and aged tone acoustic instruments seem to benefit from these and they are fitted as standard on National Resophonics new instruments.
Remember coated strings will lose their intonation over the same time period as uncoated. The strings are still bright but they'll be out of tune up the neck. If you regularly bend your strings it'll kill the intonation faster.
I have deliberately avoided putting prices beside these services. Every instrument is different and its best to email a brief description of the problem with your phone number and I can give you an estimate quickly. Typically a set-up will range from about €60 upwards plus the cost of new strings. We look forward to taking care of your cherished instrument.