Guitar repair – Another initial set-up. The awareness grows!

This came in recently for an initial set-up. I asked the owner how he got the idea of getting a new guitar set-up and he told me that he had been reading my blogs regularly!

Yes, I have talked about the need to have a new guitar set-up umpteen times. And for the sake of the new reader, I will repeat myself.

Guitars are ‘manufactured’ in factories to general specifications. For them to play the way YOU want them to play, suited to YOUR style of playing, a specialised set-up is required. Think of the set-up as a fine-tuning of your car where simple things like if you are a clutch-rider, are compensated for.

Also think of the entire process as buying a ready-made shirt from the market and getting one stitched purely to your dimensions. Wouldn’t the one stitched sit better on you? Likewise the initial guitar set-up.

It is most beneficial for the learner for he/she starts off with a comfort level raised many times due to the personalised set-up. For the intermediate player (who has bought a new guitar), the initial set-up will immediately strike him, for he is used to how his old guitar plays and sounds.

Getting back to the guitar, this was a Yamaha FS800. Solid spruce top (look carefully at the characteristic longitudinal fibers) 

Nato back and sides

I am sorry, that’s not a very good photograph but when I took this, there was no electricity in the house and so the wood grain did not come out at all. Now, I am no expert on wood but to my eyes, the wood grain looked much like mahogany. I could be wrong (and the specifications on the Yamaha site say I am).

But the photograph of the label is a good one, for it shows the wood fibers clearly, proving that the back is solid wood.

(And Wikipedia says) Nato wood is a collective name for wood from Mora trees (the best-known species are Mora excelsa (Mora) and Mora gonggrijpii (Morabukea). Mora may vary in appearance, with reddish brown being the dominant color, but with varying shades and often with darker or lighter streaks. It has a similar appearance to mahogany, and as such it is often referred to as ‘eastern mahogany’. 

The nut and saddle material was made out of ‘urea’ (that’s a new one for me), so said the specifications. To my eyes, it was just plain plastic.

The fretboard and bridge material was walnut and the die-cast chrome tuners felt good to turn.

There was a slight dulling of the fretwires all along the neck, so these were quickly polished to lend them a sheen.

Most importantly, the braces were scalloped but in a fashion other than what I know scalloping to be. Yes, the height of the braces had been planed out in places but the tops of the braces were flat. Usually, with guitars of a certain pedigree and the braces are cone-shaped with the broadest part stuck to the top. The other end of the braces would have been pointed but that point is rounded over. With scalloping then, the braces would look something like this, though not so extreme.

However, the bracing was very different

The bridgeplate – my main concern – was some insignificant/unrecognisable (to me) piece of white wood (see above). How long it will resist the pull of the strings and stop the guitar from bellying, I truly cannot say.

Anyway, the guitar got a new bone nut and saddle, with dimensions to sport a good action at the 12th fret (.090″ – .080″), and at the first fret too (.019″ – .017″)

I showed love to an otherwise dry fretboard with instructions to the owner to return in six months for me to give the fretboard and bridge some more TLC. Both were terribly dry, sucking in the love potion, almost immediately. 

The choice of strings of the owner were these

The neck of the guitar was straighter than what I would have liked to see, and so, a wee bit of relief was dialled in. Intonation was checked and found to be spot on (a couple of cents never hurt anyone).

Also advised was a shoulder strap button, regularly missing in most guitars.

And even though the guitar was relatively new, the owner had already spent time on it, for when I handed it over to him and he played it, he appreciated the lower action and the quality of sound of the instrument.

I was happy that he was happy.  

A note to you all: It’s never too late to get an ‘initial set-up’. Come and get one today at the Lucknow Guitar Garage, and see for yourself the difference it makes to the sound, your comfort level and the overall playability.


Amit Newton

An experienced guitar tech with over 10 years of experience working on acoustic Gibsons and Martins in the Gulf region. There is nothing that cannot be repaired; the only consideration is the price at which it comes. And yet, if there is sentiment attached, no price is too high! WhatsApp/Call me: 7080475556 email me:

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