We are asked to do our custom set-up on well over half of all Yamaha NTX and NCX guitars we sell as well as on about a quarter of all the Yamaha standard classical guitars.
The reason for the set-up is to fit the guitar as close as we can to the needs of the player: typically we aim for a brighter tone and lower action than they come with out of the box. This involves re-stringing, making and fitting a new saddle, and setting the neck relief.
Here are some of the issues – questions and answers – that come up frequently when we are discussing set-up with customers.
Q: Does custom set-up improve the tone?
A: Yes. The saddle is the piece of the guitar which is responsible for picking up the tone from the strings and transmitting this, via the bridge, to the soundboard. Bone (and artificial bone) saddles transmit the tone of the nylon string better than do simple plastic saddles. As for the strings, higher tension composite strings give a brighter, fuller tone than do medium tension plain nylon.
Q: Does custom set-up improve playability?
A: In 90%+ cases, yes it does. Guitars come from the factory set up within certain parameters. However these parameters are wide apart and the vast majority of players need a guitar to be set up, relatively precisely within these extremes in order to match their playing style to the playing characteristics of the particular guitar. We are as precise as you can get when it comes to setting up – neck relief and action are both given very careful attention using tools ranging from micrometers to the human ear.
Q: Can I have the guitar customised to my particular needs?
A: Yes. We always talk to customers before doing a custom set-up to make sure the action and the particular strings to be fitted are going to suit them best. The experience we get fitting different sets of strings that customers ask us for allows us to better advise on the pros and cons of different string choices.
Q: What about intonation?
A: If you measure/listen carefully enough you will find that no nylon string guitar has “perfect” intonation. Yamaha fit saddles compensated on the g3 string as standard; however, we listen to each guitar after new strings have been fitted and compensate the saddle if we are sure it is needed and going to help. Judgment needs to be used we think because string action and string type both influence intonation and one saddle with standard compensation does not necessarily suit all conditions.
Q: Can the guitar be put back to its original condition afterwards?
A: Yes. We always provide the original saddle and strings along with the guitar and it is a very simple matter to replace these. The truss rod is designed to be adjustable.
Q: Does the custom set-up invalidate the Yamaha warranty?
A: No. Adjusting the truss rod is something Yamaha expects to be done – it provides an allen key and instructions with the guitar – and also something all good guitar shops would want to do before any guitar left their hands. Fitting new strings is also something expected. As for changing the saddle – the original saddle is a loose fit in the bridge and after custom set-up we give the old saddle (along with the old strings) to the customer so that they can simply return the guitar to its original condition if that is what they want to do.
- Only some Yamaha nylon string guitars are fitted with truss rods, specifically the NCX and NTX ranges. Typically the classical guitars are not.
“thanks for your time and advice on saturday, the guitar [Yamaha NCX900FM] sounds fantastic … it sings! plugged in it has the best natural sound i’ve ever heard. My long and frustrating search for a top quality high volume nylon string sound is finally over! the tap-plate went on great as well, thanks again for your friendly service. all the best,” Stephen Woodman, November 2009