How To Setup A Gibson Les Paul – Part 7

How To Setup A Gibson Les Paul Part 7

Part 7: How To Setup A Gibson Les Paul. Adjustments and Neck Relief.

What's Covered:

  • Maintaining String Height
  • Pickup Height Adjustments and Techniques
  • Assessing Neck Relief

In the previous segment, How To Setup A Gibson Les Paul Part 6, we began the rebuilding process with making preliminary adjustments that put the guitar's geometry in the ballpark. In this next section, we start to make the all-important fine adjustments starting with pickup height.


So the string height seems to be pretty good. Again, I haven't brought up the pitch yet so all the nasty business will start to happen once we get there.

But while I'm here, I'm going to make a pickup height adjustment. You can do this now or you can do this later.

We're in the finishing phase so the instrument's not going move around a lot from this point. The pressures induced on it is going to be minimal. If you're paying attention, make sure in to bring the tension up so the strings are not like slack okay?

Setting Pickup Height

We're tweaking all of the elements of the instrument systematically, one after the other coming up to the final result getting to the top of that perfect pyramid.

Remember that measurement of two dimes (.098" or 2mm) from the pickup to the bottom of the string. Same here. Notice I have my fingers pressing the strings down on the neck near the body. I'm not way up here. I'm just here where the body and the neck meet, kind of just a nice choke place, let's say.

Again, using that dimension of two dimes of width is common. It's something that can stick in your head very, very easily. I'm looking for that gap between the string and the pickup here, at the neck pickup, on the bridge pickup, and on the treble side for both pickups as well.

With any kind of pickup that has a shiny surface, if you can get a reflection off that, that's awesome because if you get that in the light just right you can use the reflection between the first string and the sixth string to really fine tune that. Because you are going to be able to use that reflection to get exactly the same height on both sides. It's a really cool little trick works like a charm. You can even tell immediately if it's goofy or something like that.

Bringing Strings to Pitch and Assessing Compression

Now I'm going to bring it up to pitch.

Using my A440 tuning fork I lock the frequency in my head. Now, we're up into the proper pitch range. The original pitch only dropped a couple cents after I brought it up.

When you bring the guitar up to pitch, the instrument starts to do this because you are inducing pressure from one end to the other, and it starts to come under tension. It compresses.

Compression on instruments has been known and dealt with for probably as many years as the instrument has been around which is hundreds, if not about 1300 years or more.

We are looking at where the neck relief is again. When it comes to relief, that is the amount of air or concave bow in the neck. There's a sweet spot again. There's always a sweet spot for every adjustment.

What I look for, quickly, is to take any one of these straight edges, the strings themselves, and at about second, third fret area. Again, where the body meets the neck. I want to begin assessing where the relief currently sits, then go about adjusting it. I'll be right back.

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