These 2 Epiphone guitars came in for set-ups from a customer who has been playing for a little over a year now.
He has been struggling to play bar chords on the Epi Hummingbird acoustic guitar and with the general playability of the Epi Les Paul.
I checked over the Hummingbird and it was set ok according to the spec for a guitar like this. However, since the owner was finding it difficult to play and, since I don’t necessary feel bound by the confines of a guitar manual, I was happy to see if I could improve the guitar for the customer.
Although I don’t find this difficult, please don’t be fooled into messing with your guitar unless you have the experience. I’ve been playing for over 50 years and working on guitars for over 30 years so I think I have a bit of a feel for these things by now!
Fortunately the Hummingbird had a good set of level frets so I was able to tweak the neck relief (truss rod adjustment) to lower the action without having to skim the saddle.
This brought the action on the 6th string, 12th fret down from 2.75mm to 1.75mm – very low for an acoustic but there isn’t any sign of fret buzz so why not? Also, if the neck moves, it is easily reversed without having to shim the saddle etc.
The Les Paul also had a good body and neck with level frets but was terribly set up. The owner bought this guitar from a well known chain of music shops and it is shameful of them to give a guitar out to a customer in such a state, particularly a novice player.
The Les Paul intonation was out, the action at the 12th fret, 6 string was over 3mm, the neck relief had too much of a bow in the neck, the pickups weren’t balanced. An absolute disgrace and no wonder why young players give up soon after starting when they are handed instruments like this!
Soap boxing over, I adjusted the neck relief, lowered the action (i was able to get the action on this particular guitar down to 1.75mm on the 6th string and 1.5mm at the 1st string), set the intonation, set the pickups and now the owner has a guitar he can play much more easily.
As I said earlier, I’m happy to set up a guitar outside the bounds of the manual sepc. but this isn’t always possible.
In the case of these 2 guitars, the level frets and the neck/body angles made it easy enough to get the action lower than you would normal set them but this isn’t always the case.
I can struggle to get the action on some acoustics down to 3mm.
I get the reverse requests also from time to time, mainly from guys who play heavy metal. They tend to use the thickest strings possible ( i even have a couple of customers who use 1 or 2 bass guitar strings on their 6 string) and really club them when they’re playing. Therefore, they like/need their action to be a bit higher than normal and I also have to do a bit more trickery to get the intonation set on those guitars.
Anyway, in the case of these 2 Epi’s, the customer is away happy and hopefully with renewed drive to keep learning.