Imagine you're on vacation and you've decided to rent a bicycle. You hop on and start pedaling, then quickly realize that something isn't quite right. You notice your front wheel is just a little wobbly, making steering and keeping your balance much harder than it should be. You immediately head back to the bike rental and inform them of the problem. Their repair tech is able to make some adjustments and you are on your way.
Now, imagine you have never been on a bike before and you are given that same faulty bicycle to ride. You start off and quickly lose your balance. "That's OK", you think. You were expecting that. After all, you're brand new to bike riding. So, you keep trying. And trying. And trying. And falling. And falling. And falling. You're now frustrated, not having any fun, and you saw that it wasn't this hard for others to learn so eventually you give up. "I guess bike riding isn't my thing", you think to yourself. Or, "I guess I'm not that coordinated". You never knew that the bike had that wobbly wheel.
Bicycles and musical instruments have something in common: without a proper set-up they can be much harder to use and enjoy than they have to be.
So What Exactly Is A Set Up?
A Set Up is when an instrument is adjusted for ease of play and optimal tone. When an instrument is properly set up it will be much easier to play and it will sound better too.
So Why Is Proper Set-Up Important?
* Easier to play (You won't struggle as much)
* Enjoyable to play (If it's easier to play, you'll actually look forward to playing)
* Learn faster (If it isn't so challenging you'll learn more quickly)
* Sounds Better (Instruments have better tone when properly set up)
* Full Potential (An instrument can only sound and play at its absolute best when it's been correctly set up. Why pay for an instrument but only utilize some of what it can - and should - do?)
Experienced Player vs. Beginner: Can You Tell If Your Instrument Needs A Set Up?
Novice players, like the new bike rider, have no prior experience and almost always have no idea their instrument would be much easier to play and would sound better if it were properly set up. They just assume that this is supposed to be how it feels and will either persevere, with a lot of difficulty or they will give up altogether, wrongly believing the failure is all on them.
The more experienced player can sometimes tell when an instrument is in need of adjustments and regulation. However, it is quite common for the more experienced player to suffer from "creeping normality". Meaning, the player who has had their instrument for a while may not notice that instrument has become much more difficult to play because the changes have been happening in small increments over time.
So both novice and experienced players can be unaware that their instrument is in need of a set up.
New vs. Used Instruments: Which One Needs A Set Up?
About 85% of the NEW instruments we receive each year need a set up. That is surprising to many folks who believe a new instrument will be ready to go out of the box from the factory. But, more often than not, new instruments come from their place of origin much harder to play than they should and sounding worse than they should.
Used instruments often need set ups too. However used instruments may have more challenging issues that have developed over time that require more time, tools, and skill to correct.
How to Ensure a Proper Set Up On A New or Used Instrument:
- Buy from a store with a solid reputation for setting up their instruments - new and used. If you're not sure - ask.
- Many stores will handle basic set ups for guitars, but not as many know how to set up banjos, mandolins, violins, and ukuleles. Ask them how many set ups they perform each year on the type of instrument you're thinking of buying.
- Keep in mind that some stores charge extra for a set up on an instrument they are selling.
- If the store doesn't do set ups or only handles a few here and there then look elsewhere, or set aside extra money ($50-$60 for a new instrument, more for used) to pay someone else to evaluate the instrument and perform any needed adjustments.
- If you're buying online and can't try the instrument out before you buy it, make sure you can return it. After you receive it, take it to a qualified repair technician for an evaluation to see if it needs to be adjusted. After the evaluation, if you decide to return the instrument, remember that you'll likely be responsible for shipping and insurance.
Here at Bucks County Folk Music we want your instrument to be set up to give you the best playability and the best sound and the most enjoyment. That's why we professionally set up every new and used instrument BEFORE we put it up for sale, AT NO ADDITIONAL COST. We've been doing it that way for over 50 years.
And, if you're buying from us without getting to play the instrument first, we offer a 5 Day Trial for any instrument we ship.
Lastly, if you already own an instrument, whether it's 1 Day Old or 100 Years Old, we encourage you to stop in for a FREE EVALUATION. We want you and your instrument making beautiful music together.