I do all my own setups, and here is what I do:

  • First take stock of what is already right with the guitar and what might need adjustment.

Truss Rod

The Truss Rod almost never needs adjustment. Look down your neck, is it straight? Press a string at the first fret while also pressing the same string at the 14th fret. Tap on the string at the 7th fret. It should move a little. You should just be able to slip a piece of paper between the string and the 7th fret. To do this, the neck requires an ever so slight bow. Loosen the strings and turn the truss rod no more than an 1/8 turn, re-tune and check again. If you turn more than a 1/4 turn, you may have to wait a couple days to see where it settles.

Here’s the video
Truss Rod Adjustment

*Note: The video has you use the 1st fret and the 22nd fret on an Electric guitar with a bolt on neck. If you’re working with an Acoustic guitar or an Electric guitar with a glued on neck, you want to pick the first fret OUTSIDE of the body, because there is usually a bump in the fretboard where the neck meets the body (often due to humidity of the wood). No adjustment of the truss rod will remove this bump, and straddling it will tell you nothing.

*Note: The video also says a 1mm to 2mm. That’s way too much bow for my taste.


Basically, you want the bridge as low as you can get it without strings buzzing. This can be different for different players, depending upon how hard they strum. Electric guitars typically have an adjustable bridge. With Acoustics, you have to sand the bottom of the saddle. Either way, you have to loosen the strings to take pressure off the bridge, make a small adjustment, and re-tune to check.

If a string buzzes and the strings still seem high, see if there’s a single fret that’s too high (use a known straight edge to confirm, and double check with another known straight edge). Is the neck warped, or what? Is it something you can live with? If it was bothering me badly enough, I’d take it in to a “qualified” luther, but some people feel comfortable doing their own fret leveling.

Here’s the video
Adjusting the string height/action on your guitar

Now, if the strings aren’t totally beat, you can check intonation. If the strings will not give a reliable reading from your electronic tuner, wait until you have a set of new strings that have settled in. Again, this is easier on Electric Guitars because they have adjustments for that. With Acoustics, it requires judicious sanding on one side of the saddle or the other to “shorten” or “lengthen” the string. With either Electric or Acoustic, you have to loosen the strings to take pressure off the bridge, make a small adjustment and re-tune to check.

The harmonic of the string above the 12th fret should match the note fretted at the 12th fret.

  • If the fretted note is sharper than the harmonic, move the saddle such that the string is longer.
  • If the fretted note is flatter than the harmonic, move the saddle such that the string is shorter.


Here’s the video
How to set your guitar’s Intonation

Install new strings

I did all my adjustments with my old strings because of the repeated loosening and retuning, and because of moving the bridge around.

For restringing, I like to follow the “Clean and Restring Your Taylor Guitar” videos, which basically, has you:

  1. Take off your strings
  2. Clean your guitar
  3. Cover the sound hole or pickups with painters tape
  4. Clean your fingerboard with .0000 gauge steel wool (that’s 4 zeros to the right of the decimal point!)
  5. Brush away all the steel wool dust (you don’t want them in your pickups!)
  6. Condition fretboard with a light coat of Boiled Linseed Oil (do not marinate)
  7. Buff off excess oil with a paper towel or disposable soft lint free rag (Get the rags out of the house immediately. They can spontaneously combust into flames as they dry out.)
  8. Use a nut driver to gently firm up tuner nuts on the head (do not crush headstock)
  9. Lock bridge pins and strings into proper place
  10. They have a great way to determine the length of the strings before you wind them. Measure to the far side of the next tuning post for the thick E, A, and D strings. Measure to the far side of the next tuning post plus another half for the thin G, B, and E strings. Strings should wrap smoothly toward the wood of the headstock and not cross themselves.
  11. Tighten the screws in your tuning knobs to increase turning resistance (a little firm, but you should not struggle to turn the tuning knob when done)
  12. Gently stretch the strings and re-tune.

Here’s the video

Clean and Restring Your Taylor Guitar (Part 1)

Clean and Restring Your Taylor Guitar (Part 2)

Join the discussion and let us know your setup tips.

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