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Learn to do Your Own Guitar Setups
As a guitar owner, one of the best skills you can learn is how to do your own guitar setups. A few reasons include:
- Doing your own setups allows you to dial-in the guitar exactly the way you like it.
- You’ll save money in the long run.
- You’ll no longer have to be without your guitar for days or weeks while it’s in the shop.
I could go on, but you get the idea.
So where can you learn to do setups? It’s a question I get a lot, so I thought I’d put my favorite guides here in writing… so there’s a single place I can refer folks when they ask.
Introducing: Sketchy Setups Guides by Gerry Hayes
Some years ago I discovered this series of very concise e-books on guitar and bass setup, as well as Floyd rose and locking tremolo setups. They’re written by luthier Gerry Hayes and and they’re called “Sketchy Setups”… a nod to the unique and fun way he’s written and hand-illustrated them (see the “Sneak Peek” section below).
These are, by far, the best and most concise guides I’ve found that cover just setups, with no extra fluff.
What do the Setup Guides Cover?
There are seven individual setup guides. Some are written specifically for a particular guitar or bass model–though most of the info will translate to other guitar models as well. Also, there’s a guide specifically for acoustic guitar setups, and a guide dedicated to Floyd Rose and other locking tremolo setups.
Each guide covers the steps you need to get a great setup, as well as the correct order to do things (very important, but often overlooked). Here are just a few of the things you’ll learn:
- The necessary tools
- How to take important starting measurements
- How to adjust the truss rod to set neck relief
- How to set up and balance a tremolo/vibrato/floating bridge
- How to deal with standard nuts and the quirks of locking nuts
- How to set pickups, action, and intonation
- How to adjust an acoustic guitar’s saddle and nut
… and much, much more.
A Sneak Peek Inside the Guides
To give you and idea of their style and tone, here are a few select screenshots from inside the various setup guides.
Buy Sketchy Setups
There are several different purchasing options to ensure you get exactly the help you need. So be sure to scroll all the way down below to see everything that’s on offer. Essentially, you have 3 options:
- Buy individual setup guides, as needed.
- Buy a “bundle” of guides, at a discount.
- Buy all 7 guides with the “Get Everything” bundle, at a discount.
Buy the Guides Individually
Sketchy Setups #1: The Fender Stratocaster
Vintage or modern, get your Fender Strat playing great with this step-by-step guide. Includes really helpful guidance on setting up your Strat’s tremolo bridge. Addresses the unique trem-troubles of 2-point or 6-screw bridges.
Sketchy Setups #2: The Fender Telecaster
The grandad of electric guitars–get that twang in tip-top shape. Includes advice on both modern and vintage-style Telecasters, as well as info on setting action and intonation on the tricky Tele 3-saddle bridge.
Sketchy Setups #3: Gibson Les Paul, SG, 335, etc.
Get your Gibson setup right.
After reading this guide, anything with a Tune-o-matic style bridge should be a piece-of-cake, since they are all fairly similar. You’ll also learn about a few Gibson quirks that might throw you a curve ball.
Sketchy Setups #4: The Fender Precision & Jazz Basses
Bassists, you haven’t been forgotten! Now you can get your P-bass and J-bass set up right. Packed with the how-to setup info you’ll need, this guide also includes pointers for setting up a 5-string bass.
Sketchy Setups #5: Fender Offset Guitars
The Jazzmaster, Jaguar, Mustang and Jag-Stang are awesome instruments that occasionally get a bad rap. But, it’s not the guitar’s fault. People just don’t set them up properly. In this setup guide, you’ll be stepped through the proper setup of these quirky axes.
Sketchy Setups #6: Locking Tremolo Guitars
End the frustration. Whether you have a Floyd Rose, Ibanez Edge, Khaler, or other brand, you’ll learn how to finally get your guitar’s locking tremolo set up and balanced properly.
Sketchy Setups #7: Acoustic Guitars
Though some setup principles and procedures are fairly universal, setting up an acoustic guitar is unique in a few ways. This guide will take you step-by-step through the process of getting your acoustic axe playing and sounding great.
The guide also covers how to get acoustic pickups to sound their best.
Bundle and Save!
Series 1 Bundle
“Series 1” includes the first four setup guides, bundled at the discounted price of $20 ($24 if bought separately). This includes:
- #1 – The Fender Stratocaster
- #2 – The Fender Telecaster
- #3 – Gibson Guitars
- #4 – Fender Precision & Jazz Basses
Series 2 Bundle
“Series 2” includes the last three setup guides, bundled at the discounted price of $20 ($24 if bought separately). This includes:
- #5 – Fender Offset Guitars
- #6 – Locking Tremolo Guitars
- #7 – Acoustic Guitars
“Get Everything” Bundle
In this mega-bundle, you get all seven setup guides–everything from Series 1 and Series 2–for immediate download at the discounted price of just $35 (that’s like getting 2 guides for free).
Frequently Asked Questions
If you have any questions about these guides that aren’t answered here, please don’t hesitate to ask. You can write to me using my contact form or you can post your questions down below in the “Leave a Reply” section.
These were written and drawn by hand?
Yes! With the exception of the copyright information and title text, the author hand-drew every image and word. The script used in the titles is actually a digitized version of the authors own handwriting.
Can I just buy one guide and use the information for a different guitar (or guitars)?
Well, maybe. It depends…
Many of the concepts will apply across a number of different guitars. However, how you perform the steps can be unique from guitar-to-guitar.
If you feel that you’re knowledgable enough to translate certain steps from one type of hardware to another, then you can probably get just one guide.
However, the whole point of these guides is to make this stuff easy, and that might not happen if you try to apply what you learn about your Gibson’s fixed bridge to your Fender’s tremolo bridge.
Is there any information overlap between the 4 guides?
Some, yes. Like I mentioned above, the concepts for certain steps are similar across many guitars. So, if you buy all the guides, you’ll see some similarities between them.
However, each guide has specific information relevant to its subject-guitar that’ll really help you get a handle on it more easily than broad, generic information could.
Buying & Downloading FAQ’s
What’s the difference between Series 1 and Series 2?
Series 1 consists of the original four guides that Gerry Hayes created, but they’ve been recently updated a bit.
Due to their popularity, he (and I) have received numerous requests for additional guides, and that’s where Series 2 comes in.
Series 2 covers a broader range of instruments and topics (Fender offset guitars, acoustic guitars, and locking tremolos), and are about 50% longer than the Series 1 guides.
Can I mix and match the guides to create my own "bundles"?
No. Unfortunately the platform used for listing and selling these guides just doesn’t allow that kind of flexibility.
The only bundles available are what’s listed on this page.
What’s the file size of the downloads?
The size of the each downloadable e-book is between 22–30MB.
The Series 1 and Series 2 bundles come as compressed ZIP files, each around 130MB.
The “Get Everything” bundle is a compressed ZIP file that’s around 260MB.
Is it safe and secure to buy these?
Absolutely. The sale is actually handled by a service called Gumroad–which does all of the geeky security and encryption to keep things safe. You can learn more about Gumroad’s security measures in this article.
What payment methods can I use?
Gumroad is the payment processor and accepts most major credit cards and PayPal. You can read more about what payment methods Gumroad accepts in this article.
Where’s my download?
After you purchased your guide or bundle, you should’ve received two emails:
- A receipt from “Gumroad” that also contains the download link (click the link to get your guide or bundle)
- A “thank you” note from the author
If you don’t see those emails, check your Spam or Junk folder.
I bought a bundle. What do I do with this ZIP file?
A ZIP file is simply a collection of files that have been bundled and compressed into a single folder, which makes everything a little smaller for downloading. Unpacking a ZIP file is pretty easy…
On a Mac: Save the file wherever you’d like and then just double-click it. That’s it! After you double-click, you’ll see a regular folder appear with the same name as the ZIP file, but now you can click and open it normally to reveal the 4 guides inside.
On a PC: Right-click the ZIP file, then choose “Extract All.” Use the “browse” button to choose where you’d like the extracted (unzipped) folder to end up, then click the “Extract” button. The unzipped file will be waiting for you in the location you chose.
On Mobile Devices: There are apps that will unzip files on mobile devices, but to be honest it’s probably safer and easier to do it on a desktop computer. That’s what I’d do.
How do I read the guides?
The guides are PDF’s that you can read on any computer, tablet, or smartphone that can display PDFs (which is basically all of them).
Apple iPhones and iPads should have support built in. If your Android device can’t open Sketchy Setups, Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader (Play Store Link) is essentially the default app (but search and you’ll find others too).
When it comes to desktop computers, Apple computers will open these natively. Windows 10 should also open PDF files without extra apps and you can get the free Adobe Acrobat Reader for older versions of Windows.
Final note: There are alternatives to Adobe Acrobat Reader for most operating systems. So, if Adobe isn’t working for you, use Google to search the web for alternatives.
Can I read these on my phone?
You sure can, as long as you have something on your phone that can open PDF’s. Just know that these PDF’s were created with larger screens in mind (like tablets and desktop computers), so the smaller screen size of a phone might make it challenging to read if you have less-than-perfect eyesight.
Can I read these on my Kindle?
The Sketchy Setups guides haven’t been tested on a dedicated e-reader/e-ink device. I’d recommend against buying if an e-ink reader is your only method of viewing. Amazon claims that PDFs are supported by newer devices, I believe e-ink Kindles don’t do well with fixed-layout, image-heavy, PDF files like these.
Kindle reader apps running on iOS, Android, or Windows should do just fine though. The guides have been tested on the Kindle app on an iOS device and they worked.
Leave a ReplyWant to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!
Love the stratocaster guide. I have 13 guitars, an American strat, Mexi-strat a few parts-casters, an Ibanez RG, a Charvel, and a few Gibsons….plenty of guitars to practice on. I’ve been doing my own setups lately but the sketchy guides are so helpful because they are concise and straight to the point saving you time. I’m gonna buy the Gibson guide as well.
Awesome, I’ll pass that feedback on to Gerry (the author). I totally agree with you about their concise-ness, and they’re always what I recommend for people looking for “just setups.”
Please disregard my previous message. I was able to download the pdf version from the email
Great! I know how frustrating internet issues can be, but glad it finally worked for you.
If you have any questions about any of the steps in the guide, let me know.
How to do setups on acoustic guitar??
Is there a book for doing an acoustic guitar
Hi Doug. Gerry hasn’t created a Sketchy Setups guide specifically for acoustic guitars, but I’ll definitely pass this feedback along to him.
Could you please let me know if Setups #4 explains the proper way to replace strings? Thank you.
Hi Rick. No, the bass setup guide doesn’t cover how to change strings. Changing strings a foundational skill you’ll want to know before attempting a full setup, and there are a number of good videos out there on how to change strings.
Here’s one from Fender themselves which should get you well on your way: How to Change Your Fender Bass Strings
Thanks so much for the prompt reply. Thanks also for the link! Rick
Excellent guides. Thanks for sharing these stuff !
You’re welcome Charles! I’m glad I found them and can offer them to my readers.