How To Setup A Fender Telecaster – Part 6

Guitar Niche - How To Setup A Fender Telecaster - Part 6

Part 6 of How To Setup A Fender Telecaster

The home stretch in setting up our Telecaster and getting it playing tip top.

Final Adjustments and Test Drive

One of THE most important elements of keeping your (or a client's) guitar in tune is simply stretching the strings. When they're rock solid on a well setup instrument, all the headaches associated with pitches drifting simply evaporate - leaving more room for the joy of playing and self expression.

With a few turns of the screwdriver to get the pickups at their ideal height, and a final check, this beautiful Fender Telecaster is ready for the twang test.

What's covered:

  • Final string stretch
  • Setting the pickup height
  • Final tuning tweaks

Brilliance in Understated Design

The economical approach to the Telecaster's design lends itself very well to tuning stability. The bridge is solidly built (with the exception of some models with far too many small parts). The strings installed through the body act as excellent anchors, and the headstock design is linear to the string's travel reducing friction points.

As long as the tuners are reasonably good and the strings have been installed properly, the one major influence on tuning stability will be the nut. It's good practice to make sure the nut is cut properly to allow the strings to move freely. It's also good practice to apply a little lubricant in freshly cut nut slots to help reduce friction and expedite the process of settling in.

You can find a complete set of recommended setup tools on our Guitar Setup Tools Guide page.

Setting Pickup Height

This particular version of Reissue Telecaster in our video series had no external neck pickup height adjustment screws. Not a problem at all. The pickup is easily adjusted with the pickguard removed to expose the mounting screws. The pickguard is then easily re-installed afterwards.

Here's some quick tips to setting your pickups to their ideal height:

Start by holding the neck with your fret hand high up on the neck close to the body. Keep your hand flat across all the strings to simulate being fretted in the upper registers. This will give you your maximum low point as the strings leave the neck to reach their contact point at the bridge. Now you can set your neck and bridge pickups to equal heights.

Note: many modern neck pickups have a slightly reduced output to accommodate the exaggerated influence of the stings in their magnetic field. This technique is a great way account for the difference.

Tele bridge pickup height shadow


Look at one of the pickups from about a 45 degree angle from the side of the instrument. If you tilt the guitar forward or back accordingly, you should see a neat shadow for each string on the face of the pickup. You can use that shadow to gauge how far the strings are from the face of the pickup.

Concentrate on only the first and sixth string shadows, the middle strings are of course unnecessary. Combined with a side-long visual inspection, you should be able to set the pickup bang-on to your ideal height, equally from side to side, which should be about 3/32" or 2.5mm depending on your tastes.

Once you have the pickup height set visually, give the guitar a listen to make sure the output is as you would expect. If there's a noticeable difference, it's easy enough to adjust one or the other pickup accordingly.

For a complete reference guide to eliminating guitar problems and maximizing your own guitar's playability, check out our How To Set Up A Guitar page.

The Final Step

A good last stretch of the strings helps to seat them permanently in their new home. With the guitar finally dialled in, there's only one thing left to do - PLAY!

Thanks for Watching!

I certainly hope you gained some insight into the guitar setup process. Although this series deals with a particular type of guitar, the principles can be applied across most other guitars as well. If you watch some of the other guitar setup videos, you'll definitely get a sense of how the underlying techniques work the same across a huge array of instruments. The difference of course is not so much in watching how to do it, but gaining the basic knowledge to do it yourself.

Next time you think your guitar needs an adjustment and you're not quite sure if it's within your wheelhouse, give yourself credit and give it a go. Experience builds confidence!

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