We got a brand-new Squier Classic Vibe Strat, in for a a setup and a “Super-Squier” mod yesterday. It still had the protective paper wrapped around the strings!

So, whaddya think? Does it need a setup, or not? If so, does it need a “Complete” setup (every fret checked, etc.) or a “Basic” setup?

Follow along as we go through the setup process on this brand-new guitar. I’ll show you my actual worksheet as we move along.

Not on that checklist is “Tune the guitar”! I tuned this one to Standard-E.


First item on our checklist is “Jack”. Very often, even on new guitars, the jack is loose or at least insufficiently tight so that it’s bound to get loose shortly. This one was good though.


I plugged it in and everything worked as it should. It even had tone control for the bridge pickup – something our SS mod would have provided if it hadn’t been already implemented.


As for “Hardware”, neck screws were tight but some of the the tuner 10mm nuts were not. Both strap buttons needed torquing also.


Neck relief measured just over 0.005″, which is fine. Most techs end their relief check there, but I’ve learned to check the high-e string also. Why? Because it’s not uncommon for guitar necks to have a slight twist which can cause a back-bow situation on treble strings even though you have five to ten thousandths of an inch relief on the bass E-string.

And that’s what I found on this guitar! So, I increased the relief to just over 0.010″ on low-E to allow some clearance on the high-e.


Checking nut slot heights, I found b & e to be a bit high, which can cause intonation issues, but filing nut slots is covered and no extra acharge in our setup, so no big deal…except that the slots got progressively lower until E & A were buzzing on the first fret when played open!

I texted the customer and gave them the option of having us fill & file the two slots ($10 per slot) or replace with a new bone nut (the guitar had come with a plastic nut). They opted for the bone nut.

Upon removing the old nut, I discovered that the nut shelf had been routed at an angle, causing the bass slots to be lower than the treble slots. The bass side was lower than even a new nut could accomodate, so I custom made a shim to raise the nut just enough that I could file the slots down a bit.

Why is that important? I mean, why not just shim it so the slot is at the right height? New nuts have their slot bottoms cut flat, causing binding at the back edge as the string exits the nut toward the tuners. That’s why good guitar techs file the slots at a downward angle and round that back edge. So, it’s good to have a bit of “room” to file the slot lower.


Setup new guitar
Ridiculously high saddle height screws!

We actually measure saddle heights (“action”) before adjusting relief to give us an idea of the difference in action that the player will experience. I measured 0.085″ at bass side and 0.090″ on treble side. That’s high and backward to what we usually find since you generally want your treble strings a bit lower than bass strings. In this case, it could at least partially be due to that bad nut slot.

Even after sorting the nut slots, neck relief, and floating the bridge parallel to the body, the action was a bit high, but the saddle height adjustment screws were atmospheric even after lowering to get the proper string height!

The pickups would have to extend way up out of the body to be at the proper height if something wasn’t done about the neck angle.

This called for a neck shim. A proper, tapered hardwood neck shim was installed and the saddle screws were properly tamed and pickup heights could be set without them sticking way out.

I skipped over the part about balancing the tremolo springs with the tuned strings to get the bridge to sit properly parallel to the body. I also put a dab of special machine oil on each bridge screw where they meet the sharp forward edges of the bridge.


As if we hadn’t had enough problems with this beautiful guitar, I found two high frets at #18 and #20. Often high frets on new guitars will tap back down, but not these two. I had to file them down, being careful to retain their crowns, then polish with progressively higher grit cloth until it was time to polish the frets with a Dremel, polishing wheel and compound.


After filing those two frets, once I got up to #600 grit, I used a special tool I developed to clean the fretboard and frets and polished them all.

Then it was time to clean the fretboard with Naptha, then condition it with a beeswax and lemon oil compound used by cabinet makers. After thirty minutes, it was time to buff out the fretboard.

Polish Guitar

While I waited those thirty minutes, I polished the guitar with a high-quality polish, then buffed it.


I installed the D’Addario #9 strings the customer had chosen, gave them five rounds of stretching and re-tuning, then set intonation. Surprisingly, very little adjustment was needed to set the intonation.

Super-Squier Mod

Our Super-Squier mod gives any Strat-style guitar the features of a modern US Fender Strat – tone control for the bridge pickup, two extra pickup positions for a total of seven pickup positions, treble bleed circuitry to prevent tone from getting muddy when turning volume down and roller string guides to replace the string trees.


Now that you see how much work goes into making a brand-new guitar play correctly, how would your axe do? Is it time for a (no charge) check-up? Bring it in and let’s look it over together. I’ll point out any problems I find and you decide if you want anything done about them.

Learn to Do Your Own Setups!

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