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Difficulty: Beginner

Solidbody Setup I - Introduction and headstock area

Adjusting and maintaining your tuning and string retention hardware will keep your instrument playing in a stable tuning for far longer with a few simple checks.

The steps in this tutorial are meant to be followed in the order they are presented, failure to do so can cause frustration, a waste of time and a poor setup. If you are confident that you can skip a section by all means do so to save yourself some time.

In many of these tutorials measurements are used as a guideline and not a solid fact, you may need to change or adjust these measurements for your own personal playing comfort.

For this particular tutorial there are many pictures of different types of guitars in each step to help you better understand your own.


Step 1 Headstock Area

First start out by making sure all of the screws holding your tuners on the head stock are tightened down correctly. For your reference I have photographed most of the common styles of tuners found on modern day solidbody electric guitars and under each one you will see a description and also a pointer in the picture where the screw is located.

Common sealed tuners - 1 screw per tuner


In-line open tuning machines - 7 screws per strip


Kluson Deluxe tuning machines - 7 screws per group


Generic closed box tuners - 2 screws per tuner


Sperzel locking tuners - no tie down screws


Generic sealed tuners - no tie down screws


Try not to over tighten these screws as the threads will strip out the wood easily. If you should run across a screw that is in this condition pull it out completely and dab a little wood glue on the end. Insert it back into it's original hole and wipe off any excess; this will help the screw retain itself. Alternatively, insert a matchstick into the hole with a drop of thin cyanoacrylate (CA, crazy glue) or wood glue. Once dry, carefully redrill a pilot hole for the screw and replace.


If the screw itself needs replacing (stripped head, etc) you can generally order one through your local music store or hardware outlet. The most common size is a 7/16" #2 Phillips head.


Now move on up to the top of your tuners and make sure the individual buttons are screwed down tightly. Believe me it is an embarrassment if you go to tune up and suddenly you're lost because the button keeps spinning and the spindle goes nowhere leaving you tuned exactly where you were to begin with. Or even worse yet it falls off leaving you searching the ground like somebody dropped a contact lens....these screws are machined small and it can be difficult to get a replacement. The turning action of many tuners are loosened or stiffened by adjustment of the button retention screws. "Finger tight" is preferable to locking them with force or flapping in the wind.



Now make sure the front of the tuner is firmly mounted. For press-fit bushings (left) they simply need to "not be loose". If a push-fit bushing does become loose, the tiniest amount of yellow/white wood glue adds sufficient (but non-permanent) retention in the wood.


Tuners with screw-down ferrules require either a socket wrench or a spanner for tightening. Tuner bodies and ferrules are often made with softer metals, so torquing these down tight is not advisable since it is easy to break components or strip out the threads. Just beyond finger tight is sufficient.



If your guitar is strung up loosen each string individually and check for spindle movement by grabbing the top and wiggling it. It is fine to have a small amount of play but generally little to no play is the accepted rule. If you have open back tuners you can adjust this by tightening the screw located on the back of the gear as pictured below. Otherwise, if you are experiencing too much movement you should consider replacing your tuners. Tune your string back up to pitch and move on to the next tuner.



The last thing to check on the headstock are the string trees to make sure they are snugly fastened down. Not all guitars have these and there is a wide variety available on today's market. Below you will see pictures of the most common ones.

Standard 2 string tree


Full neck string tree


2 string roller tree


Step 1: Introduction and headstock area

Step 2: Trussrod and neck bow adjustment

Step 3: Nut height check and adjustment

Step 4: String height and bridge adjustment

Step 5: Adjusting the intonation of a guitar

Step 6: Adjusting pickup height

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Solidbody Setup I - Introduction and headstock area by Brian Calvert is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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