Guitar Set Up London


What are they saying about Graham Parker Luthier?

Here’s a selection of the many thank you emails that arrive weekly.

Hi Graham, Just a quick thanks for the great job on the guitar it plays beautifully and I have written a couple of new songs because it plays so easy.


John (Neck Reset)

Hi Graham

Apologies for the random email – but I can’t remember actually contacting you after you had finished working on my Fender Precision.

Work was manic and as unbelievable as it might sound, I didn’t actually even get to take the bass out of the case for a few months.

I just wanted to send you a note to say that it is perfect – absolutely perfect. It feels better than ‘brand new’, and the action is literally the best I’ve experience in about 20 years – really good.

Great work. Thank you again and apologies for the delay in getting in touch.

Andrew  (refret – N. Ireland)

Hi Graham
I just wanted to drop you a quick line of thanks for the wonderful set-up that you did on my Gibson Byrdland. My hands were so cold when I came to pick it up from you, that I didn’t fully appreciate how good your work was. However, now that my hands have warmed up – and with a week of noodling under my belt – I have to say that the guitar feels and sounds fantastic. I was seriously thinking of selling it, but thanks to you it is an absolute ‘keeper’ now!
Thanks again


Thanks for all your first rate work on the guitar, certainly worth the journeys from St. Albans to Lewisham. You diagnosed the issues very easily from my description and it was an education to chat at your workbench. I would recommend your work to anyone.

All the best
Gibson ’75 J45

Hi Graham

Just to say again thank you for such excellent service repairing my Gretsch. From the initial contact to collection, your service was first class.

It was a pleasure meeting you.

Very best wishes
Stephen Crabb MP

Thanks again for setting up the telecaster and making the new nut.The guitar sounds amazing and is so much easier to play. I haven’t been able to put it down all day.

Great job as always,
Kind Regards,

Dear Graham,

Just wanted to say thank you again for the extraordinary job you did on my mandolin: I really didn’t think it would be possible to achieve such good action and playability given the limitations of the original construction. Your efforts have proven absolutely transformative!


In 1973 I bought a Martin D28S in San Francisco.

Now the embarrassing bit: 43 years later I still hadn’t learnt to play it.

What happens to an old, even unplayed, guitar is that eventually it needs the neck resetting. I was lucky enough to find Graham. Apparently lots of professional guitarists go to him; but I, who refer to guitar parts as “the thin end” and “the big end”, was treated by Graham as a human-being.

Don’t be afraid to get this guy’s expert advice. His prices are fair… In fact, fantastic value for the excellent quality of his work.

This man is honest.

Cheers Graham from Patrick.

Hi Graham,

So I’ve had time to play the guitar properly now and I just wanted to say thank you!

Great job and it plays perfectly – it’s just right!!

Many thanks

Alex 50’s Gibson J50

Hi Graham

Don’t know what you did to my Les Paul but you’ve transformed her into a real player! Absolutely superb I can see why people like these guitars now.

Many thanks, and hope you have a good weekend!

David W

Hi Graham,
Just want to say that the guitar sounds and feels amazing! Better than it has ever done.
I’ve been playing for almost 4 hours straight.
I know who to call whenever my guitars needs a professional hand.
Thanks for the great work you’ve done.

Jonathan.  Heritage 535

Just wanted to say thank you very much for an excellent service and a great job.
The J-45 with your new bridge has been un-puttadownable since I got it home, its strumming/ rhythm tone is exceptionally warm and resonant, thanks again,

James ’60s Gibson J45

Hi Graham. I just wanted to say thanks again for the wonderful job you’ve done in my guitar. It is dramatically improved!

Well done.

Guy ’60s Guild M20

Hi Graham
Thank you so much for fixing my bass!
I really should have spent more time with you testing out the extent of your work, probing the wood, strings and feel, but I appreciate that you must see hundreds of people pretending to ‘test’ their gear, when the reality is that they are simply trying to impress you with their ‘hot licks’ or whatever. Either way, and nerves aside, my bass plays better now than it ever has, and I’m thrilled!
Many thanks,
Paul Fender Fretless P.bass

Hi Graham

Another massive thank you for the work you did on the guitar.
Sounding awesome and playability is excellent.

All the best Sean ‘43 Martin 000-18

That’s great Graham, and thanks for doing such a top job on the guitar. I’ll certainly be using you again.

Nick Tucker ’50s Martin 00-17

Hi Graham,
Just a note to express my deep thanks for sorting out my Epiphone ES345.
You have done a wonderful job on making what I found an unplayable instrument into one of my favourites.
Thank you very much and I’ll be in touch soon enough re more work.

Hello Graham,
Hope you are keeping well.
Just wanted to say thank you for the work you carried out for me on my Gibson Acoustic SJ200.
I have had the guitar from new since 2010 and have been trying to find someone to make it the instrument it should have been, you have more than achieved that where others have failed.
You replaced the saddle and nut as I requested and carried out a full set up with a fret re-profile.
The guitar really plays and sounds as it should have now and the intonation is 100% accurate.
The bass notes are a joy to play.
One of my concerns that others could not rectify was the E string moving on the saddle, you have corrected that and increased the break angle.
I went from being very frustrated with the guitar and ready to carry out a Pete Townsend on it to never wanting to part with it !
Thanks again for all your hard work and advice.
Hope you have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Steve (Gibson Acoustic SJ200)

Hi Graham,
Just wanted to say a massive thank you for the awesome work you just completed on my guitar. It’s sounding wonderful….well especially when you played it!
All the best until next time…..
Sean Marsh (1955 Martin  00-17)

It sounds and plays lovely, I’m heading off for the tour tomorrow a very happy man.
Cheers and hope all is well with you

Ted Barnes (Birkett Acoustic)

Guitar is amazing, sounds better then ever, thanks. Alek
Alek Coroner (Les Paul)

Dear Graham, just played the old lady for an hour, she is in fantastic shape… Thanks a lot for brushing her up, I am very happy.  See you soon P

Philip Goeth (1964 Hofner President)

Hi Graham,
I want to thank you for the excellent work you did on my 1965 Levin. The intonation, which had never been right, is now absolutely perfect. It also sounds and plays better than ever. I think it will be the first guitar I pick up from now on – even before my Martin 00028ec. Great job!

I ran into big difficulties trying to fit new pickups to my Fender Eric Clapton Stratocaster. Graham took on the mess I had made and rewired the guitar and installed the pickups. He also set up the guitar involving truss rod adjustment, corrected intonation, resetting the action and got the tremelo to float perfectly. It has never played so beautifully. Graham’s work is of the highest standard and anybody seeking his help can have the confidence that their guitar is in very good hands. I think he offers great value for money.

Richard Chambers

Hi Graham

Thanks for the great job you did on what was an old standby guitar that I hardly ever played. Its a different guitar now and a pleasure to play

Colin Fielding (Takamine)

Hi Graham,
All I think I need to say is that my Gibson 60s J50 has been in the hands of a true master craftsman.
Many many thanks for a truly great job I am unbelievably pleased with all you have done and the guitar feels and plays beautifully.
Fondest regards,
Terry Windle

Hi Graham
Just like to say thanks for the lovely job you made of my Larrivee. Been playing it this weekend and it feels and sounds great.
Many thanks Ray

Hi Graham, Ive been playing the guitar alot since I picked it up from you, and it is sounding and playing beautifully. Thank you.

Bob (Ovation Viper)

Hi Graham,

A quick note to thank you very much for the excellent work you did on my Tokai. It plays beautifully!

Thanks again,


Hi Graham,

Just a quick note to thank you for the work you did on my 335 recently, the neck is now simply seamless all the way along and this means smoother solos and less strain which equals a great deal more playing pleasure and better music. Thanks again.


Hi Graham,

Just wanted to say thank you for the great setup on my les Paul. It feels easier to play, and sounds fantastic – chords in particular sound much cleaner now.

Thanks again.


saulashby Saul Ashby

Thanks @gparkerluthier for making my Gibson play like the hot shit. Can’t put it down.

Gibson J 160E

Hi Graham,
A quick note to thank you for your excellent work on the Squier: it has transformed it from a decent but rather ordinary guitar to one that feels, plays and sounds very good indeed.
Thanks, too, for making us so welcome.
Best wishes,
Derek S

Hi Graham,

Just a note to thank you for the transformation you have made to my guitar. It’s improved in pretty much every way and plays like a dream and I’m sure will keep opening up even more as I’m playing it even more now; in fact it’s hard to put down!

Kind regards

Luke F

Hi Graham,
A quick one to thank you for the work you did on my No.2 strat the other week. First class job as always.
Les has asked me to convey his gratitude for his bass set up – he’s very pleased and will be bringing you some other axes. (left hand ones of course)
Thank you once again for your high standard of work, hope all is well with you and yours,
kind regards,

Nick W.

Martin Set Up : Martin D 41 1972 Neck Reset

This Martin D 41 is in the workshop because the action needs lowering. The action is making it difficult to play above the 5th fret. It’s a vintage guitar made in 1972 and is in very good condition, it has a few bumps and knocks that you would expect from a guitar of this age. Its finish is lacquer checked and cracked in that desirable old vintage way (hasn’t shown up too well in the photos).

During a Workbench Assessment it is concluded that there is no adjustment left in the Bridge Saddle height. It has probably been adjusted over the years until there is no more height available to removed.

To understand how the action on an acoustic guitar can become higher over time we need to go back and look at its design and manufacture.

The Design

Flat-top acoustic guitars such as this Martin D41 are designed as a straight-line in the horizontal plane. To explain that a little more clearly; it’s a straight-line from the line of the neck onto the soundboard, as seen from the player’s view of the guitar. The fingerboard and bridge are then added to the design.

Ideally with the truss-rod set correctly the string line will start at the nut and show an approximate gap of .011″ between the first fret and the underside of the string (bass E) and then gently slope upward to show an approximate gap of .075″ above the 12th fret and then on to strike the saddle at a good height. These measurements are approximations and will differ from guitar to guitar.

In this photo of a 1977 Gibson Hummingbird, it shows a saddle that is at a good height. The string angle leaving the saddle onto the bridge-pins is steep. This gives a good string tension and good volume and should culminate to give a comfortable and buzz-free playing action. (click photo to enlarge)

However, after some time things change. Due to constant string tension, humidity and temperature changes this straight-line ideal between neck and soundboard starts to distort. This could happen 1 year or 50 years after manufacture. Over time the bridge area of the soundboard begins to rise up and the area of soundboard at the upper bout begins to sink. Our theoretical straight-line acquires a shallow indentation. The end result is a high playing action.

An Easy Solution

The quick-fix remedy is to lower the action at the saddle to allow the string action to be playable again. This adjustment has only a limited availability. After several adjustments the saddle becomes too low, as this photo of the D 41 on the right indicates.

Any further adjustment here will result in virtually no saddle height. Therefore, very little string break-angle into the pin-holes, less tension to the strings culminating in less overall volume. (click photo to enlarge)

What can be done to solve this?

On some budget acoustic guitars, the top of the bridge can be skimmed and lowered to allow for more saddle to be exposed. This will permit further adjustments to the saddle height to be made. This method is not ideal but can be the only solution.

On more valuable or vintage guitars a neck re-set is the only option.

How do I know when a neck re-set is needed?

A simple test:

  • Sight down the fingerboard of the guitar from the headstock end.
  • Look at the line of the fingerboard.
  • Follow that line through to the bridge beyond. (click photo to enlarge)

If your sight-line strikes a point under the bridge saddle your guitar could need a neck re-set.

How is a neck re-set?

This short video clip shows the neck reset of this D 41.

Soundtrack : Mountain Spring by Jeremy Sherman

One other job

All that remains to be done on this D 41 is to replace the first 4 frets. They look a little worse for wear and would probably impede the set up of the guitar.

The guitar is strung up with 12 – 53 gauge string, it sounds and plays fantastic.

One happy owner; meet Tony Werneke the proprietor of Replay Acoustics. Tony has a multitude of hand-picked classic vintage guitars; check them out here…

as seen from the player’s view of the guitar

Guitar Set Up in London

Fizzing and buzzing

Fizzing and buzzing is an expression I like to use to describe annoying fret rattle.
It can be caused by several factors and will compromise the playability and sound of the guitar.

Acoustic Guitars

Fret rattle is usually the result of the following:
An action that is too low. This would be remedied by raising the action at either the nut or the bridge-saddle.
The internal truss rod is over tightened. By slackening the truss rod it would allow the string to vibrate without contact with the frets. How to adjust

Uneven fret wear along the fingerboard. This is a general wear and tear problem and is solved by honing the fret tops to a uniform height and then reprofiling the frets to recreate the correct shape. This process can be repeated several times before the frets have to be replaced.

Electric Guitars

Does your guitar have annoying fret rattle?

Fret buzz or fret rattle is annoying and can be caused by several factors. It will compromise the playability and sound of your guitar if left unchecked.

Fret rattle is usually the result of the following:
An action that is too low. This would be remedied by raising the action at either the nut or the bridge-saddle.

The internal truss rod is over tightened. By slackening the truss rod it would allow the string to vibrate without contact with the frets. How to adjust

Uneven fret wear along the fingerboard. This is a general wear and tear problem and is solved by honing the fret tops to a uniform height and then reprofiling the frets to recreate the correct fret shape. This process can be repeated several times before the frets have to be replaced.

Set Ups

The term set up refers to how well a stringed instrument is adjusted and how well it plays.

Many factors come together to determine how well a guitar is set up. These would be:

Here I have mentioned just the essentials. A guitar that is set up correctly will be a pleasure to play. It will play in tune in all positions on the neck. The general feel of the instrument under the player’s fingers would be first rate and the overall sound of the instrument of high-quality.

Testimonials from happy customers here…

Posted in . Comments Off on Set Ups

Bass Guitar Setups London: Sadowsky Bass

I had a visit from Jean-Louis Locas.

Jean-Louis is the bass player with Cirque Du Soleil who are performing their show “Kooza” at the Royal Albert Hall.

Jean-Louis has in his arsenal of instruments a beautiful 5 string bass by Sadowsky. The bass was in need of a quick set-up and a little fret attention mid shows.


Sadowsky are a reputed workshop based in New York who make a fine array of 4 and 5 string basses

More about Shadowsky guitars here

Cirque du Soleil tour with a 5 piece band where the musicians double-up on instruments . It’s made up of bass, guitar, keyboards, drums, percussion and a horn section.

More about Cirque de Soleil here

Catch Jean-Louis in action at the Royal Albert Hall here


Circus of the Sun is in town!

KOOZA | Royal Albert Hall

Acoustic Guitar Setup: Gibson Hummingbird Custom Shop


This Beautiful brand new Gibson Hummingbird Custom Shop is in the workshop for a quick set-up.

Its new owner has only just taken delivery of it and wants to get it checked over.

It’s in fine fettle and is just given a truss-rod and action adjustment.

It’s given a clean bill of health

Enlarged photos here…



Soundboard          ~     Sitka Spruce
Back and Sides     ~     AAA” Figured Koa
Binding                   ~     Multi-ply Top w/ Abalone, Multi-ply back
Bracing                   ~     X-Bracing
Rosette                   ~     Double Ring w/Abalone
Bridge                      ~    Ebony Belly Up
Scratchplate         ~    Tortoise Hummingbird Inlay
Tuners                     ~    Gold Grovers Engraved Knobs


Guitar setup: Gibson 335

This brand new Gibson 335 was in the workshop for a set-up and adjustments to the truss-rod necessary for heavier gauge strings.

Purchased on the Wednesday, on the workbench on the Thursday, gigging on the Friday.
Power to the plectrum!

Guitar setup: Acoustic Guitar Repair: Fret Dressing a Martin D 28

This Martin HD 28 is in the workshop for a full set up and fret dress. It dates back to 1987 and this is its first serious set up.

The frets are showing signs of wear and tear. Also the fingerboard has started to show signs of wear and has a few grooves worn into it around the lower end on the treble side.
The fingerboard wear is tackled first. It is skimmed between the frets and the worst of the grooves filled and smoothed.

Next comes the fret dress.

The truss rod is released to ensure that the fingerboard is flat and level. The neck is supported along its length. The body work is protected and masked off.

The fret tops are skimmed with a fine honing stone to remove all fret wear and grooves. Also to ensure all frets are a uniform height.

The fingerboard is masked off. Each fret is re-profiled.

Each fret is polished up to 2500 grade Silicon Carbide paper and then finely polished with burnishing cream.

The guitar is strung up and the truss-rod reset for Martin medium gauge strings.

And it plays like a dream.

Meet Colin the happy owner.

Guitar Set-up: Vintage Gretsch Chet Atkins Nashville Guitar Repair

This week I have had on the workbench a 1970’s Gretsch Chet Atkins Nashville.

This guitar was being used on a major recording session, but when it came to laying the track down the guitar sounded out of tune.

First impressions are of a well maintained and great looking vintage guitar. Delving a little closer reveals some dark and sinister goings on.

Trials and Tribulations

It would not play in tune; it would not stay in tune, and we all know how frustrating that can be. There were also several other minor issues including an electrical fault.

Tuning Problems

On closer inspection, I was able to establish that the fingerboard had been re-fretted.

The fret wire used was very high and wide. Uneven flats spots had been worn into most of them. This created an intonation problem because the strings were taking the leading edge of the fret as its note reference and not the centre of the fret.

The Zero fret was also too high: This caused string-stretch when fretting the lower frets (1 – 5) causing the guitar to play out of tune. String-stretch can be a major cause of intonation problems.

The Bigsby tremolo was unstable, which made tuning the guitar an epic event!

The Electrics

One of the 3-way toggle switches was intermittent. This guitar has 3 x 3-way toggle switches and naturally it was the one that was the hardest to get to!

On removing the pickups and gaining access to all the electrics, I soon realised that the whole electrical system had been rewired. It looked a pretty poor attempt as the wire that was used looked like domestic household wire insulated with masking tape!

When removing the electrics to any semi acoustic guitar care should be taken when feeding the wiring loom up and out through the pickup or F hole cavities. If the electrics have been wired correctly there should be an earth wire that is attached (internally) to the bridge or in this case the Bigsby.

In this instance the earth wire was cut so short that I was forced to remove the complete tremolo system to release this earth wire, only to find that the strap button screw that was holding the wire had had its head removed!

Happy Outcome

On all guitar repairs, once the problem has been identified it can be put right. This vintage guitar has had numerous maintenance jobs carried out on it over the decades. I did get the feeling that I was putting right other repairer’s work. However, I am happy to report that the outcome of this repair ended very well, much to the delight of its owner.

Acoustic Guitar Repair: Vintage Epiphone Texan Neck Re-set

This lovely old Epiphone Texan was made in 1951.

The Guitar was taken into the workshop for some major repair work. It has many problems: a split in the soundboard, loose soundboard , loose bindings, fret wear, high action and intonation problems.


History in Brief

The Texan was produced by the Epiphone Company starting in 1942. After Epiphone folded, the Gibson Company produced the Texan in Kalamazoo Michigan until 1970. There have been numerous reissues of the Texan since their primary production period in the 1960’s. More here…

The Players

The Texan was made popular by Sir Paul McCartney for the recording and the live performances of the hit song from 1965 “Yesterday”. It is also famous for being the acoustic guitar on which McCartney performed the signature “McCartney Picking” in some album pieces such as “Blackbird”, “Mother Nature’s Son” (The Beatles “White Album”), “Calico Skies”( Flaming Pie), and more recently “Jenny Wren” (Chaos and Creation in the Backyard). Kurt Cobain of Nirvana used an Epiphone Texan on the 1994 In Utero tour. Also, Graham Nash used an early customized black (originally “cherryburst”) Epiphone Texan while in The Hollies and during the beginnings of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Other artists with which the Texan is identified are Tom Rush, Al Stewart, Noel Gallagher and Peter Frampton. More here…

This straight-edge reveals where the string height should be


On a budget guitar the financially viable option would be to plane down the top of the bridge and set the saddle groove and saddle lower. However, on this valuable vintage instrument such an invasive repair is not an option. The only course of action is to remove the neck and reset at the appropriate angle.

It was also noted, in the initial work-bench examination, that the neck was positioned incorrectly for accurate intonation, another reason to remove the neck.



To reset a neck on any acoustic guitar is a complicated and difficult procedure.

Firstly the 15th fret is removed

Two small holes are drilled into the slot of the 15th fret (at a slight angle). These holes will allow steam to be forced into the neck’s dove-tail join. The 15th fret is approximately situated over the space between the female part of the dove-tail on the body and the male part on the neck.

The lacquer around the heel is scored with a sharp blade, to stop lacquer break-out when the neck is removed.

The fingerboard extension is heated. This softens the glue and allows it to be separated from the top of the guitar.

With the help of this neck removal jig the neck is safely removed.

A calculation is made using the “Neck Re-set Formula”. This allows the exact amount to be removed from the heel (for the correct neck angle) to be accurately determined.

A further adjustment is made to the tenon, heel and shoulder to shorten the string length and allow for correct intonation.

Two Rosewood dowels are made up to fill the two small holes drilled into the fingerboard.

The 15th fret is replaced and a hone and re-profile to all frets carried out to remove all fret wear.

With the neck angle adjusted the neck is firstly checked for proper string alignment relative to the horizontal plane and centre line.

The neck is glued in place using reversible Hide glue.

The soundboard split is cured and loose binding reattached.

The Texan is strung up with D’Addario 12 – 54 strings.

It plays and sounds fantastic and would be a treasured addition to anyone’s collection

Follow this link for enlarged photos on flickr…



With the help of this neck removal jig the neck is safely removed.