So you’ve got a brand new guitar, or are thinking about getting one – but you’re wondering whether it needs a setup, and if so, how much a guitar set up would cost. Well you’re at the right place! I know it can be confusing decide whether you need a set up, and how much one is really worth, so I’ve compiled everything I’ve learned about guitar setups into one place (this post). So, how much does a guitar set up cost?
The price of a guitar set up can range anywhere between $40-100 on average. The price range is due to a number of variables. How much work needs to be done on the guitar, and where you go to get your set up are the two biggest variables affecting the price of a guitar setup. Set ups can even surpass the $100 mark if the guitar really needs a lot of work done.
Let’s look a little more closely at the variables that can affect the cost of your guitar setup.
How Much Setup Work Does Your Guitar Need?
The first factor that will influence the cost of your guitar setup is how much work your guitar is actually going to need. If your guitar only needs a simple truss rod adjustment to improve the action, and maybe a new set of strings, then a setup will be relatively cheap, and priced toward the bottom of the estimated range provided above.
On the other hand, if setting up your new guitar is going to involve checking and leveling frets, adjusting the height of the saddle, or tweaking errant notes. This will be a bit more expensive. I’d expect to pay at least $45-80 or more for work like this. But again, it’s going to depend on the work and time needed for this to be completed, and also who you’re paying to do this kind of work (which we’ll discuss next).
To be safe, its best to bring your guitar in to a music shop, guitar tech shop, or luthier, and get an estimate on how much work needs to be done before you commit to a setup. After you find out what they think that work will cost, you’ll know whether you should invest and have a better idea if the work you’re paying for is worth it. This way you don’t get any sticker shock or crazy surprises.
Where Should You Get Your Guitar Setup?
Another factor that will influence setup price is where this guitar setup is being performed. In general, it’s never a bad idea to shop around a bit and do some bargain hunting. Use the advice outlined in the previous section to get an estimate on work-need and possible cost, and use those estimates to make your decision.
Generally, luthiers who work out of their own home or private shop may charge you a bit less than getting a setup at a premier/popular music store. It’s also worth considering that many luthiers specialize in acoustic guitars in particular, while at a music store your guitar tech is more likely to be a jack of all trades. But these are just general rules of thumb to keep in mind. Your mileage may vary.
If you haven’t bought your new guitar yet, here’s a little secret to get a free setup thrown in with your new purchase… Simply ask the tech at the shop to make sure your guitar is set up correctly before you purchase it, or as part of the purchase.
This will save you from the separate setup trip and cost later, and the tech likely won’t mind, especially if you’ve already committed to buying the guitar. Simply ask if the action and intonation look good. If so, you may not even need a guitar setup – which brings me to my next point.
Do You Need to Setup a New Guitar?
Not every new guitar absolutely needs a setup. One way to tell if it does is simply to ask the guitar tech at the store, as I detailed above. Another thing you can try is bringing a seasoned player along with you to check out the guitars you’re interested. He’ll likely be able to tell if the guitar is set up nicely and playing well.
If you’ve already bought the guitar, simply ask a skilled player, or maybe your guitar teacher, to check it out and see if all looks good. If the guitar is already playing nicely, and you and your fellow guitarists are satisfied with it, there’s no need to drop any more money on what would likely be very minor changes.
Is a Guitar Setup Worth It?
Whether a guitar setup is ultimately worth it will come down to some of the factors mentioned earlier. Perhaps most important is how much work your guitar really needs. If you and your fellow skilled guitarists play it and are satisfied with the quality, tone, action, intonation, etc, it’s likely not worth it to go running out for a setup.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the word “guitar setup” will mean different things at different places. To a luthier it may mean doing fret work or adjusting the saddle, while at a local guitar store it may mean a simple truss rod adjustment and a new set of strings. Find out what your money is getting you before you decide to throw down any cash on a setup.
Ready to Get Better at Guitar, Faster?
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