Q. What is a setup?
A. A setup is a series of adjustments which make an instrument easier to play, sound better, stay in tune, not break strings, etc. A properly adjusted instrument will be more touch sensitive, have better tone, and often seem more powerful than before.
Q. How often do I need to have my instrument setup?
A. For best performance most instruments need two or three setups per year, usually when the season's change. Sometimes smaller tweaks can pull an instrument back in to line making a previous setup last longer. It depends on the individual instrument. At the bare minimum have an experienced professional do a full setup & inspection each year. Having an annual checkup by a pro can help avoid major repairs/problems. Play it...don't fight it. Regular adjustments although important for everyone, have the most dramatic effects on beginner and intermediate players. Seasoned pro's have the skills to make just about any guitar sound good. It doesn't mean they enjoy arm wrestling.
Q. Can I do my own adjustments?
A. The internet is full of self proclaimed "Experts". There are lots of "how to" magazines, books, and videos...however there is a dramatic difference in feel, tone, stability, and touch sensitivity between an instrument setup by a novice or by someone who's done hundreds of jobs over a period of years. They just have "that feel" to them. If adjusting your own instrument gives you joy, then do it. But I highly recommend having your instrument set up first. Using this as your reference point can help when trying to re-adjust on your own.
Q. How often should I change my strings?
A. Generally speaking, Electric guitars every 2-3 weeks, 4 weeks max. Acoustic guitars generally 3-4 weeks, 6 weeks, max. Electric bass two months would be the high end four to six weeks is usually better.
After a few weeks of play most strings are no longer capable of creating accurate pitch, great tone, or feeling as they do in the first few days. You can feel the strings getting stiffer. It's nature's way of telling you to change them.
Dead strings put more stress on a neck, the top of an acoustic, or the balancing springs of a tremolo. Dead strings are also more abrasive to the frets accelerating fret wear. Dead strings are not as loud, so you have to hit the guitar harder. No matter which way you look at it, dead strings are rough on instruments. If you love your instrument, please change your strings!
Q. Can you adjust my instrument while I wait?
A. Generally, no. I want to return your instrument in as stable and reliable state as possible. To accomplish this, I test an instrument overnight to make sure it's staying where I put it.
However, if I've worked on your instrument recently, it's possible a small adjustment will do the trick and can be done while you wait. Or, if a small repair would only take five or ten minutes, and no preexisting deadline will be affected I will try to accommodate a player's emergency.
If this is the first time here, I recommend you consider letting me spend the extra time to fully evaluate an instrument's strengths and weaknesses. This involves doing a series of adjustments, inspections, and tests, it takes a little extra time, but you will end up with a far better understanding of where your guitar or bass is at. Better to discover a weakness now than at a gig.