Guitar Setup and Guidelines

I want you to have the best playing instrument on all levels. Every guitar that leaves scenic Red Bank, NJ, is in top playing and performance order. If I wouldn’t want to keep playing it all day, I wouldn’t let it leave the shop. You have spent good money and have waited for a killer guitar, so if that means I need to keep playing with it for another couple of days prior to shipping, so be it. You will thank me later! Now, please know that guitars can react not only to the stress of shipping, but also weather can greatly affect your guitar’s performance. It can be shipped from a 30-degree climate, and head to a 90 degree one. Just think about how you feel going from one extreme to another. Additionally, action, string gauges, and of course your personal playing style will need to be considered in your guitar’s overall performance. Please realize that your guitar may need some additional adjustment after you receive it to best suit your style of playing.


90% of all Black 35 guitars are strung with Ernie Balls 10-46 or 10-52 Slinky strings. Please realize that over time, old and/or dirty strings can greatly affect your playability, intonation, sustain, and overall clarity. If you play a lot (which you should!) change them often.


This is another area that many players don’t have a true understanding of. Please know that every neck should have slight “relief” in it. What this means is that it should have a slight bow to it. Also, know that all players require a little different adjustment to fit their own, individual playing style. A player that is very aggressive, may want a bit more relief as added string vibration can cause more fret rattle or buzz. One way of telling if the neck is correct for you, is to hold the guitar in the most common playing position, tuned normally, and in your playing position, press on the low E string at the first fret with your fretting hand, and with your picking hand, press the last fret on the same string. See if there is just a small amount clearance in the middle of the neck under that string (quite often the clearance of a credit card or business card). Use this same approach to test it on the high E string. If there is no relief, your truss rod more than likely needs to be loosened and if there is too much relief, the truss rod will need to be tightened.


Your guitar’s intonation is set up at the shop by a few professionals who have over 30 years in the industry, however, your particular hand pressure and where your fingers sit will have great impact on intonation. If you play “off center”, meaning your fingers naturally fall somewhere other than centered evenly between the frets, you will find a guitar plays slightly sharp or flat. Your feel and touch will have an impact on your overall intonation, in relationship to a chromatic tuner. The heavier your touch is, the sharper your fretted strings will sound. The guitars are shipped with 10-46 or 10-52 gauge strings. Bass guitars usually with 45-105 gauge. *Please note that if you change your string gauge, the need for setup and re intonating is highly recommended. Please keep that in mind. Don’t assume your guitar is all jacked up!


This is always a fine line for people to truly understand. Please know, that in most situations, your tuning issues stem from a nut not being cut properly or a neck relief shift. This is always the first place to check. I make sure that all nuts are slotted, lubricated and ready to go. Obviously over time and usage, you will need to do some maintainance on your guitar. If you are not comfortable with doing a proper set up, or even just changing strings for that matter, reach out to a reliable guitar repair shop. Side note about tuning: Many players think that locking ratio tuners are a cure all. This is highly inaccurate. There is no, “perfect fit” for one guitar or player with regards to tuning. The more you play, the more you will need to retune (watch any professional!). Locking tuners may, “help” in some ways, but personally I feel that the weight effects the overall tone of the guitar’s resonance. I would much rather have better tone and retune when I need to, even if more often. Just my two-cents for y’all. Take it or leave it!


Once again, action is truly a personal preference. My goal is to have it balanced for the style guitar, strings, and overall playability. Some players love a super low action, and other want an extremely high. It’s a personal preference. If you play aggressively, or through a really clean amp, this may need to be raised for your playing style. If you like to fly up and down the fretboard, you will more than likely want low action. Overall, we shoot to have a constant radius depending on the fretboard.


If you encounter scratchy pots or switches, the first step is to pick up some contact/electronic cleaner spray. Carefully open up the electronics cavity and spray into the small holes near the solder posts on the pots, as well as the contacts of the selectors. Turn the pot and move the controls back and forth. In most situations, this will easily clear up any “Cat Scratch Fever” (Terrible joke…I know!) If you continue to have problems, visit your local tech and you may need a pot or switch replaced. Between dirt, sweat, and just playing your hands off, grit can, and will get into the guitar and can cause some issues. Don’t fret (again with the bad jokes!), if you do need something replaced, in most cases it is very affordable and can be fixed in a timely fashion from a local tech.


Frets and Fretboard

It’s never a bad idea to oil your fret board when you change your strings (plus it smells AMAZING if you use lemon oil!) I like to mix up lemon oil, some of my secret ingredients, and rubbing alcohol to clean the frets of grunge and oil the board. It will keep it going for a long time, moisturized, and playing smoothly.

Neck Shims

With many of my guitars, I install a neck shim to produce the best angle for performance, tuning, and playability. So, if you remove your neck and find a variety of materials used as shims, please know that they were supposed to be there.

Pick Ups

Once again, you guessed it, this is personal preference of like and feel. You never want your pickups to close to the strings (the magnets will make some scary noises!) I make sure that the pickups are nice and balanced when the guitar leaves. Depending on your playing style, you may want to raise or lower to your liking.

Strap Buttons

When I install all standard strap buttons, I take an extra step which I find works really nicely of, “tooth picking” the holes and adding wood glue. Again, if you change your strap buttons and notice this, please know that I meant to put it there and it was not a “quick fix” or repair.