How to Set Up a Gibson Les Paul Electric Guitar

Written by ehow arts & entertainment editor
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The Gibson Les Paul model revolutionized the guitar industry when it first appeared in the 1950s due to its distinctive sound, which made it a great fit whether you played country or rock and roll. The Gibson Les Paul is the guitar of choice for many guitarists. Before playing, you must set up your guitar.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Metal ruler or straight edge, 20 to 25 inches long
  • Truss rod nut driver, 1/4 or 5/16 inch
  • Small ruler with 1/64-inch increments

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  1. 1

    String your guitar under your actual playing conditions. If you typically use a different gauge string than the standard strings from the factory, you may have to adjust the specifications for string buzz and intonation.

  2. 2

    Adjust the truss rod for proper neck alignment, if needed. Using a metal ruler or straight edge, determine whether the neck is bowed by the amount of space between neck and the ruler. If there's too much bow, tighten the truss rod by turning the nut clockwise a quarter turn with a truss rod nut driver. Turn the truss rod counterclockwise for a back-bowed neck.

  3. 3

    Raise or lower the bridge to get the correct string height and intonation. Test fretted notes against the harmonic note. You'll want to increase the length of the string if the fretted note is too high, or shorten the string length if the fretted note is too low. If you've had pickups installed, you definitely need to adjust the bridge.

  4. 4

    Measure the string height at the twelfth fret. The recommended string heights for a Gibson electric guitar are: First fret, treble side: 1/64 inch First fret, bass side: 2/64 inch Twelfth fret, treble side: 3/64 inch Twelfth fret, bass side: 5/64 inch You may need to loosen the strings to move or flip the saddle bridge on a Les Paul.

  5. 5

    Set up nut-slot depths based on Gibson speculations for the first fret. You may need nut files to adjust the nut slots. For major adjustments, take your guitar to a professional.

  6. 6

    Gain a clearer tone by adjusting pickups. Guitarists often add pickups to their Les Pauls. Adjusting the height improves the tone, particularly in the higher volumes.

  7. 7

    Check the intonation at the twelfth fret, and make your final adjustments so that you're in tune.

Tips and warnings

  • You want a slight bow to your Gibson Les Paul for relief. Additionally, many playing styles benefit from a slightly bowed neck, which minimizes the buzz you get at the higher frets.

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