How to Set Up a Gibson Les Paul Special

Written by max cooper
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How to Set Up a Gibson Les Paul Special
A few simple tweaks can make your Les Paul play as if you just brought it home from the store. (new electric guitar image by .shock from

Is your Les Paul Special losing its easy playability? Even the highest quality instruments need regular set-ups to maintain their top-notch feel. Most problems can be solved by adjusting the guitar's neck curvature (also called "relief"), string height (or "action") and intonation. A few simple tweaks can make your Les Paul play as if you just brought it home from the store.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Guitar tuner
  • Capo
  • Feeler gauge
  • Phillips and flat screwdrivers
  • Hex wrench set

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  1. 1

    Tune the guitar up to pitch and place a capo on the first fret. Fret the sixth (low E) string at the last fret.

  2. 2

    Check the gap between the seventh fret and the bottom of the sixth string with a feeler gauge. The recommended amount of relief is 0.010 inches. If there is more or less relief, a truss rod adjustment is necessary.

  3. 3

    Remove the truss rod cover from the headstock with a Phillips screwdriver and insert the appropriate hex wrench into the truss rod nut. Tightening the truss rod by turning it to the right will straighten the guitar's neck, lessening the relief. Loosening the rod by turning it to the left will add relief.

  4. 4

    Adjust the truss rod slowly, one-eighth of a turn at a time, checking the neck relief after each adjustment. Repeat as necessary and remove the capo when done.

  1. 1

    Tune the guitar back up to pitch and play it for a moment to determine whether an action adjustment is needed. A stiff, hard playing guitar can be made more comfortable by lowering the action, but lowering it too far will result in fret buzz, deadening your notes.

  2. 2

    Adjust the action by raising or lowering the bridge, using a flat screwdriver on the bridge height adjustment screws. Turning the screws clockwise will raise the bridge, and turning them counterclockwise will lower it.

  3. 3

    Use one-quarter turns of the screws, making sure to keep equal adjustments on both sides. After each adjustment, tune the guitar and check the action again. The proper action will vary from player to player and guitar to guitar, but Gibson recommends 3/64 of an inch on the treble side of the neck and 5/64 of an inch on the bass side.

  1. 1

    Tune the guitar, taking care to be very precise. Adjusting the intonation involves changing the scale length of each string so that each fret plays in tune over the entire length of the neck. Because a small error can be quite audible while playing, exact tuning is a must.

  2. 2

    Using your flat screwdriver, adjust the intonation screw in the first string's saddle. The intonation screw is on the side of the bridge facing the pickups.

  3. 3

    If the note at the 12th fret is sharp, turn the screw counter-clockwise, moving the saddle away from the guitar's neck. If the 12th fret note is flat, move the saddle toward the guitar's neck by turning the screw clockwise. Make small adjustments, moving the saddle no more than 1/32 of an inch at a time.

  4. 4

    Tune the first string and check the 12th fret note after each adjustment. Keep going until the open string note and the 12th fret note match exactly.

  5. 5

    Repeat the process for each string.

Tips and warnings

  • If the truss rod will not turn, don't force it! Take the guitar to a luthier for repair.

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