Why is setup the second most important part of your tone? The first is practice... your hands.
No matter what guitar, effects, or amp you have.... No matter how much money you spend on boutique gear, if your setup is bad, it can ruin the entire experience.
You may always fight to get the ideas in your head to come out through your amp.
Conversely, even low priced "budget" guitars can sound and play great in the right hands.... if they are set up well. We will spend a few days on the basics of setup.
Truss Rod Adjustment...
It is commonly said that the truss rod is the first place to start when setting up your guitar. Most of the other measurements are based on adjusting the truss rod first.
Because the motion of the strings is not linear, they need some room to move toward the fret board. This is why most of the time, your neck will have about .010" relief in it. This number is an average baseline for most players, but there is no absolute. If you play hard, you may need more. If you are a very precise player, you may get away with less. The video below will show what the neck is actually doing when you move it.
When to adjust the truss rod?
The truss rod is really the only adjustment on the guitar that moves without your help. This is because of humidity and other weather conditions as well as the age and stability of the wood. Since the guitar is expanding and contracting with these changes, you may pick your guitar up one morning in the spring and find that it feels differently.
Check your truss rod adjustment FIRST!! Many players make the mistake of adjusting their bridge or tremolo first. Those things are right where you left them. The wood in the neck has moved. Adjust it first.
Patience.... Because the wood is always moving, some guitars in certain conditions can be slow to respond and move. If you have traveled, the weather has drastically changed, or you have changed string gauges let the guitar settle for a bit before making any adjustments at all. Make small adjustments and give it time to settle after adjustment.
Usually the amount of adjustment is very small. Sometimes it's only 1/8 to 1/4 turn. We are only moving things in .001s of an inch. The video below will give you some more pointers, and in the next few days we will discuss the other adjustments in your setup and talk about how they all work together.