Guitar: Basic Starter's Guide

The beginner's guide to keep your axe in shape.

Ultimate Guitar
Ok, so it is great to know one's way around the guitar and sure, hit and try is a good way to gain experience. But before we go any further, I urge you to give serious thought to getting all this stuff done by a professional. Now, let's get this straight. All my info is derived from my tinkering around with my Ibanez GRG270 and a really crappy Gibson fake. So, even though I am trying to make this a general guitar article, you are bound to see some model-specific parts, which I just can't help. My Ibanez GRG270 was made in China in 2002. It is a six-stringer with a Floyd Rose tremolo system, 22 frets, H-S-H pickup setup, basswood body, mother of pearl inlays and Enrnie Ball Extra slinky strings. You need to keep the following stuff handy before you start:
  • Philips head screwdriver
  • An extensive L-Key set
  • Sand paper.
  • Cotton Rags
  • Ruler (plastic preferably)
  • Electric tuner

    Dismantling And Cleaning

    Push down your tremolo arm (tilt bridge towards headstock) and slide the ruler behind the bridge to provide support. This is basically to prevent the floating bridge from bending over with spring pressure and snapping your strings. Remove locking nuts. Remove all the strings. Flip guitar over and use the screwdriver to remove the backplate (the one containing the spring system, not the one housing the circuitry). In mine there are three springs. The springs all have one end attached to a screw plate (which can be adjusted) and the other hooks onto the bottom part of the bridge. Now remove the ruler and let the bridge sink in. Remove all the springs and you can detach the tremolo system completely. CAUTION - the screw plate (to which the springs are attached) is electrically grounded. Make sure you do not by any chance tear of the wire which is soldered on. If you do, keep a soldering kit handy. Now if all went well, you would be holding the Floyd Rose bridge in your hands. Dismantle it further by removing the sliding ends with the L-key these screw off from the tubes at the back side. (The tubes are where you insert your strings into) CAUTION - keep screws safely and separate. You will end up with loads of these pretty soon. It can't hurt to be meticulous. Now that you have this much out, start cleaning. Clean everything with the cotton rags. The sliders of the tremolo system may need some oiling if rust has accumulated. For the strings, I suggest this home remedy if they are really out of shape. Scrub down each with the sand paper lightly (careful not to take too much off, you might very easily go from an extra slinky gauge to extremely slinky!) then in a large utensil, fill some water and add a few drops of mild utensil cleansing liquid. Now put your strings in and boil for about 15 minutes. Cool and dry completely with a cotton cloth. Clean your frets (make sure the cloth is not wet) and the inlays. EVERYTHING! If you were paying any attention, then reassembling should be no problem!

    Setting Up And Tuning

    Put the strings and use an electric tuner to get your Floyd Rose bridge parallel and in-tune. Actually the article in UG by Metal_Mad_Dog in the For-Beginners section is exhaustive enough, so I won't bother.

    Neck Relief

    Now is the time to check your neck relief. Rule of the thumb - if you SEE it curved, you are in big trouble, otherwise faulty neck relief would lead to some fret buzz (around the middle, perhaps) now this involves adjusting the truss rod. Get the appropriate L-Key handy and make your way to the headstock. I there was fret buss around the middle, then most probably your truss rod is wound too tight. Loosen it be turning the L-Key clockwise (if viewed from the bridge side) about a quarter turn. This should sort out the problem. Retune and re-check for buzz. Be careful not to adjust the truss rod too much. If the initial problem was that you can actually see the whole neck bent, then I suggest you do go to a repair shop. Ideally the neck relief is perfect if you have 0.3 - 0.5 m clearance at the eight fret. But since you probably won't have the tools to measure that, it is sufficient to just eliminate the fret buzz and be happy. Also, the string action can be controlled by two screws on both ends of the bridge. Use them to set whatever level gives you most playing comfort.


    Fret buzz, neck relief, parallel Floyd Rose bridge all dealt with, your almost all done. To check you intonation, play each of the strings open and then fretted at the 12th fret. Ideally both notes should be same. But you probably won be getting off that easy. Scenario 1. if the fretted note is flat: Loosen the string first. With the L-key remove the screw on the slider (on the bridge). Move the slider towards the headstock. Relock the screw and retune the string. Check intonation again. Scenario 2. if the fretted note is sharp: Loosen the string first. With the L-key remove the screw on the slider (on the bridge). Move the slider away from the headstock. Relock the screw and retune the string. Check intonation again. Now that you are all done, set your fine tuners to about halfway, retune the guitar. Lock the strings. Check tuning again and use fine tuners to make any adjustments. If you followed all the steps with some patience and diligence, then you should end up with a nice clean, shiny, perfectly in tune guitar and also a wealth of experience.
  • 42 comments sorted by best / new / date

      MAN THIS ARTICLE SUCKS. DONT YOU REALIZE WHEN YOU ARE WRITING THIS CRAP THAT SOME OF US ARE PERFECT IN EVERY WAY AND DONT NEED TO HEAR IT. haha kidding. helpful article man. another good tool to use when looking for the perfect intonation and all that is a good and well trained ear.
      TYPING IN CAPS ISNT FUNNY. EVEN IF I'M NOT BEING SERIOUS. I didn't like this article, not so much because of the content, but because of confusing and horrible grammar, and LACK of content. You didn't put certain words places and got me all ***ed up. 3/10
      Nice article, but no way in ***ing hell would I trust myself to dismantle my Les Paul.....NOT going to happen, ever
      yeah I just thought Id say this - messing about with ur axe is half the pleasure of owning one (the other half is playing). Well ok, less than half but still... I got an Ibanez RG321 with floating Floyd Rose and at first when I couldn't play shit, I just took it apart all the time, cleaning and shining it even though it was already sparkling clean. And unlike those people who don't know any uses for their hand apart from wanking and picking their noses, who run to their nearest guitar shop and pay like 50$ to have it tuned, it now takes me about 5 mins to replace strings, etc. The article was ok, but from my own experience beginners learn more by doing it themselves and learning from their own mistakes than reading articles.
      What, you wouldn't dismantle your les paul? Give me a break, it's the easiest guitar to clean and dismantle. Fu*k u suck...
      I've never tried to take apart my axe, but this article's got me thinking about it. Thanks iced faith, but hey, who the hell taught you all that stuff?
      that is way too much ***ing effort, if i ever tried id probably break the damn thing or throw it out of a window from frustration, pay some $$$ and get it done properly by a pro, lol,
      well i dunno how many people start off playing and just say hey what the *** ive had this expensive insterment in my possetion for long enuff time to take it apart and shine the hell outta the shit that doesnt exactly matter. im not saying its a bad article but the fact the subject is guitar starter guide is missleading it should say something like home guitar repair ect. well what yeah gonna do? thanks for ur time and article chew -
      I have also heard what turinbrakes and gabaj have said about not adjusting the truss rod unless you have an experienced pro doing it for you. Nevertheless, I have the problem you described, static buzz and pops around the area of the middle pickup. I have narrowed it down to my habit of letting my little fingers rest on the pickup guard while I flat pick. Will turning the truss rod a quarter turn (to the right if you looking directly at it from the top of the neck?) eliminate this?
      awsome, but not for beginners. i had no clue what you were talkin bout most of the time
      "ala eh di ko maintin di han pwede na rin cool"-Tuds_Dustin ---.. i didnt know the got internet on mars.l i knew there was life on other planets but i was hoping it would be intelagent
      IS the GRG270 a good guitar? I'm thinkin about buying 1, and on this site is see GREAT reviews, but on other pages people say it SUCKS ASS l8er
      Chris inman
      pointless, i'm wasting apart of my life reading articles like this, i stopped here: "getting all this stuff done by a professional." ^thats enough^
      i agree with turinbrakes ... MESSEGE TO ALL NOOBIES: PLS NEVER ADJUST THE TRUSS ROD YOURSELF (it can be devastating to your axe)
      That was so ***ing wierd...what's the point really? It's a guitar, you play it. If it gets all moldy and stuff (which it shouldn't if you cared for the damn thing in the first place), take it to a pro.
      some us arnt rich *******s like you and smoe of us also dont like having our guitar in the shop half of the time: some of us like to play our guitar. Thanks great article unfourtunally you need to do one on cleaning a model with a string-thru design (eg:Schecter Omen 6) great article anyways.
      for some people, taking apart their guitar and cleaning/customizing it is a hoppy for them. This is great for people interested in starting that because it teaches you how to basically dismantle a floyd rose style guitar. Nice work
      Not all that much of a basic starter's guide dude...but hell alright i guess
      all of this is basic stuff which is great, but I'd never adjust the truss rod myself, and certainly not if I was a beginner
      ruberducky wrote: "ala eh di ko maintin di han pwede na rin cool"-Tuds_Dustin ---.. i didnt know the got internet on mars.l i knew there was life on other planets but i was hoping it would be intelagent