How Do You Know if Your Guitar Needs a Service?
Published on 05 May 2023
How do you know if your guitar needs a service? That’s something that experienced players may take for granted, but for people new to the lifestyle, it could be less obvious.
Today, we’ll identify five tell-tale signs that suggest it may be time to seek some professional help, and what to expect from a service!
5 Signs Your Guitar Needs a Service
So, you’ve just obtained an electric guitar and are having a great time learning to play it! Great, we love that! We are here for you, okay? Now, since it’s all new to you, you may be wondering if the guitar itself is in need of a tweak or two in order to have it playing at its best. Let us first say that ALL guitars need maintenance, no matter the brand or cost, so getting it serviced now and then is a standard thing. The trouble here is: how do you know if it needs it?
These five factors could be indicators:
- Strings are buzzing: It’s important to know that a little bit of string buzz is an inevitable byproduct of the metal string touching the metal frets of your guitar, but if you can hear audible buzzing through your amplifier when you’re playing, then that there is a sure sign that something’s up!
- Strings are too high: Is there a lot of space between the fingerboard and the strings? How much? Whilst the issue of ‘action’ (which refers to a few things but is generally assessed by the string height) is subjective to each player’s preference, it’s likely that you’d prefer the strings to be nice and low, close to the fingerboard. Too close causes buzzing and other problems, but if your guitar strings look like telegraph wires raised high over the frets, it’s time to call in the pros.
- Guitar won’t stay in tune: If you keep tuning your guitar using a tuner and it’s constantly slipping out of tune, then something’s gone amiss. This one isn’t so obvious to diagnose because in reality, every point of contact that a string has with anything else on the guitar (bridge, nut, tuning keys etc) could be a factor. On top of that, it could be something else entirely, so bringing it to some experienced eyes is a great idea.
- Guitar sounds out of tune but the tuner says it’s fine: this is another slightly prickly situation to deal with, and a frustrating one! If you keep tuning up, and everything reads as ‘in tune’ on your tuner, but still sounds off when you play something, then it is definitely time to get the once-over with a guitar tech. This could be an intonation issue, a fret problem, or something else entirely. Why put up with it? A pro can sort this and get you back to doing what you want to do with your guitar, which is playing it!
- Electrical problems: Does your sound cut in and out? Are the volume or tone knobs ‘scratchy’ and noisy when you adjust them? Do some pickups sound louder than others? All of these hint loudly at the fact that the electrical components need a going over.
In short, if you encounter any issues whilst operating the instrument in any normal sort of way, there could well be a niggle that needs ironed out.
If these (or other) issues raise their heads, we recommend bringing the guitar in to a qualified guitar tech for a service. Each of our guitarguitar stores has either an on-site tech who can talk to you directly and take the guitar in for a service, or the store will know of a trusted repair person whom they’ll direct you towards.
When your guitar goes in for a service, you can expect the tech to make a thorough assessment of the neck for straightness and relief (essential to get that ‘action’ right), intonation of each string, string height, tuning stability and electrical integrity. If they encounter problems, they are able to take the correct steps to sort out each niggle so that the guitar is returned to you in its best performance condition.
You’ll often be asked if you want a restring with your service, and we’d say that it’s never a bad idea to have a fresh set of strings, not only for tone reasons but for tuning integrity too. The tech will ask you which gauge and brand you prefer, and talk to you about your preferred string height and so on. If you are unsure about anything, the tech can recommend what they believe to be the best steps and choices. After all, they do this for a living and have worked on hundreds of instruments, so they know what works!
The process is normally like this: you bring in the guitar, in its case or gig bag. You chat to the tech, who’ll advise you of the process, listen to your preferences and tell you the cost. Then, they’ll book the guitar in, hand you a receipt and add it to the queue of guitars awaiting service. You’ll be told a rough time to expect the work to be done and then you’re free to go and look at the fancy Gibsons/PRS/Fender Custom Shop guitars that will be close by! You’ll normally be contacted when it’s time to pick up your guitar. Feel free to try it out at the store, to make sure you are happy with the work. Then, settle up at the till and you are sorted!
If you fancy having a go at fixing things yourself, you can read through our three part DIY maintenance blogs and see if the work seems doable to you. You’ll need some specific tools, but if you are of the adventurous spirit, by all means go ahead on your own and give it a go! Just take our advice to never over-adjust things: small increments is the way to go, and if you get lost or just plain fail, you can always go to a tech afterwards. Be honest about what you’ve tried to do yourself when talking to the repairperson: they’ll respect that and it’ll help speed up the process of assessing what needs done to properly adjust the guitar.
Good luck with all of the areas of guitar life! It’s a fun subject (even the repairing part!) and we are always here to help, guide and consult. Click below to find your nearest guitarguitar store, and we’ll see you soon!