The Thursday ThoughtCast is based on my experience as a musical instrument retailer, guitar teacher, player, and guitar technician.
It’s a sad fact that most new guitars are not well adjusted or set-up at the factory, with ratty fretwork, poor intonation, and crappy actions now the norm rather than the exception.
All that means that players – you and I – are spending good money on poorly set-up instruments, usually not knowing that our new toy is not as it should be.
Proper setting-up of a guitar takes time and skill, and that reduces the manufacturer’s profitability and competitiveness – and, as both manufacturers and shops know, buyers only look at the ticket price.
Not doing a fine adjustment or set-up is an easy cost to cut – especially on instruments for beginners. Ironically, beginners are the exact group who benefit most from a properly set-up instrument.
As an industry, selling products that deter repeat purchases is a poor strategy, don’t you think?
On the upside, there are still reputable shops that care enough to set-up their stock, properly.
Before we closed our music shop in Shrewsbury, I had to do set-up and finishing work on almost every guitar that ever came to our shop before I was happy to sell it.
You see, I always reasoned that one day I might have to teach someone to play the instrument I’d just unpacked, so it made sense (and felt morally right) to make it as easy and as fit for task as possible.
I didn’t get in to retail to sell junk, after all.
A special mention here to Freshman Guitars, who consistently delivered well set-up instruments and were a welcome exception to the tat being delivered by bigger brands.
I’m sure that manufacturers love retailers like us – after all, we were doing the final stage of the manufacturing process (unpaid) on behalf of the most famous manufacturers.
These days, shops have to have the correct brand-names on the wall to be considered credible - even though the merits that made the brand famous are no longer evident in today’s products. We have allowed our love affair with Big Brands to blind us to the decline in their quality.
Don’t but your guitar on the strength of its name – buy for sound, quality, ease of play and feel. You can’t hear a name on a headstock, can you?
And when you buy your next guitar, ask your retailer to set-up it up to your satisfaction, or else prepare to hand over your hard-earned for a professional set-up with your favourite guitar technician.
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