My "beginner" story: the incident that kicked my ass and forced me to learn how to solder/setup my own instruments.

Legion

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So since this is the Beginners section I thought I'd post this here. Probably something that happens a lot to people starting out so I thought I'd share.

So I got this really fucking nice guitar with actives in it, and I had already bought a set of passive pickups to put into it. So I was like "eh, setting up a floyd is way too much work, and active to passive conversion is even more, might as well pay a guy to do it right."

So I looked up highly rated repair shops in my area and found one. Found one rather quickly, and they seemed to be VERY well rated. Excellent. I drive it up there, drop it off, describe the pickup wiring I want, discuss payment. I was quoted 180 bucks for install, new pots, setup (which is kinda high but I figured they're a popular shop, might as well pay for the quality of work). So I make the payment, and leave. I get told that the turnaround time was 3 weeks. Okay cool. Highly regarded shop, probably high volume. I understand.


About 20 days later I get a phone call.

"Hey! The wiring you wanted needs a superswitch. Or we could do a push pull."

"Hey, I have a superswitch lying around somewhere. Let me drive it up to you."

"ok cool"


So I drive it up there.

Three days later.

I get an ANGRY phonecall.

"You're asking for the impossible. We cannot combine a push pull with a superswitch to do what you want. We spent 2 hours extra on this trying to figure it out."

"But...we decided to do either/or?"

"Ok. We'll do the superswitch and regular pot."

The implication was pretty clear. They were upset that they spent additional labour, which is fair. Perhaps I worded myself poorly (which I have the tendency to do sometimes...I have a fairly thick Indian accent and it makes me conscious, which sometimes leads to poor phrasing). I offered to pay for the extra labour. Some extra money spent is not of too much consequence to me. I'm time poor, not money poor. Whatever.

I come home. Plug it in. Something seems off. The setup was ok, a bit high for my taste. Quick fix. Intonation was excellent, so no issue there. But the tone...

Almost like the pickups were fucked. Weak, thin, REALLY low output, which is weird because these were pretty high output pickups per the website. Maybe the tone knob or volume knob were somehow rolled down? I tried fiddling with the knobs.


WAIT A FUCKIN MINUTE. WHAT IS THAT WOBBLE ON THE VOLUME POT. I REMEMBER THAT WOBBLE.


From BEFORE I turned in the instrument. I opened up the cavity. TWENTY. FIVE. K. POTS.

These people didnt change the pots when they changed the pickups. But they charged me for it, clearly. Is this shit for real?!

I just sat there. Jaw on the floor. I'm not mad, just...amused. I took a monetary hit, but I'm fortunate that I make enough money for it to not matter to me. I'm just thinking..."THESE guys are the pros I've heard such good things about?" They've been doing this for a decade, then they get mad at me because they couldnt figure out a wiring (I'm less sympathetic to them after the incident), charge me extra, get sloppy with wiring, so I'm left holding the bag 260 bucks down for an ok setup and unusable wiring.


At least the intonation was great....


LEARN TO DO YOUR INSTRUMENT MAINTAINANCE YOURSELVES, PEOPLE.
 
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I had a similar experience a year ago with a shop specialized in electronics in which I left my guitar to sort out what the problem was. I'm already acknowledged on wiring guitars, but that one in particular was behaving bad beyond my understanding, so I took the test on that shop... when arriving at home I discovered WD40 all over the cavity and POTs, the switch circuit was completely off for what I wanted it to be (and I did make it work previously). The work was so bad that I said to myself, I'll start over from scratch and I did and it worked well.

Yeah, learning how to solder is a must for guitarists, it opens so many doors and is so time and headache saving... I feel your pain. In my case it was 200€ flying out the window, literally, nothing they did on the guitar (only wiring work) was salvageable and the guy doing it was a supposed guitar player... needless to say I'll never ever go back to that shop...
 

High Plains Drifter

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$260, unusable wiring, and you're amused... You would be a great motivational speaker or meditative facilitator. I would've come unglued honestly.

Yeah... Learning to wire, solder, set-up, etc... Leaves me feeling satisfied and accomplished. Plus if I make a mistake, then I get to learn from that mistake and gain additional experience... more valuable than even all the money saved. Hope you get this resolved, OP.
 

KnightBrolaire

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oof. It sucks when techs don't get shit right. I once had an amp tech fuck up my Mesa F30, and when I told him it was still broken, he took over a year to actually get the thing working. Dude was very highly rated on google, he'd done tech work for some big name stars and such, so I was even more angry that it happened with a "reputable" tech.

I started doing my own pickup installation/setups largely out of necessity (zero money or access to a tech when I was younger), and I still do all my own installs/setups. I'm a huge advocate of people learning to do that stuff on their own. It doesn't hurt that there are gazillions of yt videos out there to walk you through damn near anything guitar related.
 

budda

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Im not set up for it and I get my stuff back in 3 days or so. Until we reno this place and I can have a setup I’ll use friends or my tech lol.

Im also not mechanically inclined. At all.
 

Legion

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$260, unusable wiring, and you're amused... You would be a great motivational speaker or meditative facilitator. I would've come unglued honestly.

Yeah... Learning to wire, solder, set-up, etc... Leaves me feeling satisfied and accomplished. Plus if I make a mistake, then I get to learn from that mistake and gain additional experience... more valuable than even all the money saved. Hope you get this resolved, OP.
oh yeah this is an old story, fixed it haha.
 

wheresthefbomb

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It's also worth learning just because nobody can set your guitar up better than you, for you. I paid for a couple pro setups three years ago, the guy did a great job and all but I got the guitars home and realized he didn't do anything different than I'd already been doing myself. It was worth the money just to gain some outside validation of my abilities.

On the other side of these experiences, my poor MM HD130 is mothballed because it went to the same tech six fucking times and he still didn't fix the issue. It's beyond my abilities to fix, and unless I move somewhere with more/more reputable techs it's basically a heavy piece of trash. I'm slowly teaching myself about amplifiers but it's a lot harder.
 

TheWarAgainstTime

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I've been doing my own setups and wiring for basically the entire time I've been playing guitar for similar reasons.

The one "tech" at my local shop was really unhelpful when I brought in my first guitar since he "couldn't stand" locking trems and kept as if I was suuuure I wanted to be tuned to drop C. I may have done some pretty bad setup work at the beginning, but at least I learned from my mistakes and didn't have to give that guy my money.

I started doing my own wiring stuff after a Guitar Center quoted me one number for a pickup swap and ended up charging me more than double when I came back to get the guitar because they had also done a *pretty bad* Floyd setup at the same time.

I have a decent collection of guitar-specific tools and gadgets for a hobbyist, but I think they've more than paid for themselves with the money I've saved by doing my own work :yesway: I've even started to dip my toes into fretwork and finish/chip repair too :D
 

Gmork

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Anytime if had a "pro" guitar tech do work/setups i hated how it played and eventually learned to do full setups myself and imo do a 90% better job then any of them have done.

I can solder (at least back in highschool i could lol) and have been meaning to get a proper soldering iron/set so i can do pickups but also start building my own pedals!!
 

prlgmnr

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To get the setup you want from a tech you've got to have concrete, measurable specifications.

If you're doing it yourself you can just keep adjusting by feel till it's how you like.

If you go and say "action as low as possible, no buzz" a good tech should just say that's not a thing, but plenty just nod their head and give you their standard setup.
 

Emperoff

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I'd love to say that I can set up my guitars better than the luthier I take them to, but sadly for my wallet I can't :lol:
 

technomancer

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Bottom line is I have not been satisfied with anyplace local I have taken a guitar to, so I just learned to do the stuff myself. I'd rather patiently learn how to do something and get it right than pay $100+ for somebody to do a job I'm not happy with.
 

elkoki

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Let's be grateful it wasn't worse, techs can be total fuck ups.

I had a tech who was in the business something like 30 years, completely ruin my guitar during a fret level. He essentially carved out the edges of the fretboard by mistake and tried blaming it on me.. He said my fretboard was dirty and he was trying to remove all the crud off it lol, he was such an a-hole and did not want to own up to anything. The guitar was practically brand new and only a few months old with hardly any play time , it was definitely not dirty. Not only that but he setup my bridge so poorly it was laughable. it had a hipshot bridge, and he said it was "wonky" setting it up.. instead of tightening the intonation screws he pulled them out from the back of the bridge and adjusted the intonation that way.

Techs are not an infinite source of guitar knowledge.. They fuck up even basic stuff sometimes.
 

nickgray

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Yeah, my luck with techs is pretty shitty too. Went to a highly rated tech for a glue job and a setup, and he absolutely botched it - glue all over the fretboard, tons of scratches, not all of the frets were even glued properly, the leveling was shit, the setup absolutely pathetic. Got my money back at least.

Another good one - ordered a second hand Ibby from a respectable shop (supposedly good techs too, plus they explicitly advertise the tech services), talked with the tech regarding the state of the guitar, he assured me everything is in top shape, they even gave me a free setup to my specs. What do I get? The guitar was steaming hot in the case because their dumbass delivery guy didn't bother with the AC is his car. The action was like 2mm on the 1st string. The guitar had a massive hump at the end of the neck, and needed a shim too. Immediately sent it back, and the fuckers charged for shipping both ways, and never admitted there was anything wrong with it either.

And another gem - went to another very highly rated tech with that guitar with a botched glue job. The fucker had the audacity to quote me around $800 for a refret. Didn't even bother discussing something slightly more sane like leveling the frets and then individually leveling the ones weren't sitting right (I know it's not the best option, but it's a sane budget option).
 

gunch

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I wish there was a dave's world of fun stuff but for metal guitars
He's funny as fuck though
 

youngthrasher9

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I’ve been to 2 very bad techs, and 2 insanely good techs. I can set up most guitars now to the point that I do my own work, and I always wire everything myself. Two of those techs did not know how to intonate a Floyd Rose. #3 set up one of my FR guitars so well that it exceeded my expectations that were already naively high. #4 was the number one tech at a shop I frequented, and he kept a wall of like 30+ rotating guitars set up beauty including fretwork. In a perfect world (unrealistically fast turn around + a fat wallet on my end) I would have turned to #4 for any and all tech work.
 

Grindspine

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I spent several years as a bench tech for a very busy music retailer. I got my practice in on thousands of guitars and trained another generation of guitar techs before I left to go into the medical industry. The only thing I turn a guitar over for now is major fret work since I have a friend with access to a Plek machine.

Before 2014 though, I took my guitars to a shop that had great reviews. After seeing what "great" guitar tech was (not great in my opinion) I set out to do a better job of it, so I did, and ended up doing it as a full-time career for a few years. One thing off my bucket list. I miss that type of work, even though the pay was crap. At least I worked with mostly cool people through that though!
 

LiveOVErdrive

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oof. It sucks when techs don't get shit right. I once had an amp tech fuck up my Mesa F30, and when I told him it was still broken, he took over a year to actually get the thing working. Dude was very highly rated on google, he'd done tech work for some big name stars and such, so I was even more angry that it happened with a "reputable" tech.

I started doing my own pickup installation/setups largely out of necessity (zero money or access to a tech when I was younger), and I still do all my own installs/setups. I'm a huge advocate of people learning to do that stuff on their own. It doesn't hurt that there are gazillions of yt videos out there to walk you through damn near anything guitar related.
I didn't read your name on this post when I started reading but as soon as I saw "Mesa f30" I knew exactly who it was lol.
 

Giest

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A friend of a friend once had a tech screw up their PRS dragon guitar. Dude just took it to the local music store like, "yea I know they pretty much just rent classical guitars to middle schoolers, but they said they can do it" lol.
 


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