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I'm sure you've all received emails like this one I got yesterday:

"I have a Les Paul (copy) that I would like to be set up for the lowest possible action with no fret buzz"

How do you guys hit a prospective customer with a dose of reality without discouraging them?

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I'd probably tell him to "bring it in and let's take a look".  Who knows, it may be (depending on the individual guitar) a candidate for just what the customer has in mind. 

It could also be a teaching moment if the two of you can examine the guitar together while it's on the bench.  You can point-out why (or why not) the guitar would realistically be able to meet his expectations.

In any event, we're in this to get business and serve the customer's need.... so whether you need to give him the dread dose of reality ...or you're able to get the guitar closer to his expectations, you've helped the customer. 

I think they appreciate the honesty and that goes a long ways toward bringing him back for the next job.  Just my two-cents.

First, explain that the optimal setup for him depends on his technique- one player may be able to get away with a much lower action than another. He would have to be involved in the process, which might take some time.
Second, what's his budget? Getting the action really low but clean everywhere depends on perfect fretwork, which a modest guitar probably lacks. So, there's more to it than just cranking the truss rod...

What these guys said, but he did say the lowest possible action without buzzing. He did not give a measurement for that action.

Yes, we all know what he meant..

Matt Umanov had a sign in his old store that read:

"Will everyone who wants their action as low as it can be without buzzing please leave"

There was also one that read "No major 7th chords without a note from your mother"..

It was a simpler time...

First I get them to play for me then I know how low to set it,

I level the frets and do all the guitar tells me it needs then the customer comes and that is just what he wants he takes it home

then the next day he is back and tells me the frets buzz si have to adjust it AGAIN,  So I have learned to back off the tress rod and give the neck a little more bow and away he goes a happy customer

Ron 

Hi Keith,

Talking Electrics here:

yr not being paid to be a social worker, the solution is contained in your job instruction from the customer:

So, adjust the action to play as low as it can without fret buzz. 

However, to do this you need to have the customer bring in the guitar and play it so you can note any fundamental guitar problems, the nut condition, the string gauge, pick attack and technique and amp that this thing is going through.   I do not set-up electric guitars to play as an acoustic instrument: what comes through the amp when it is at operational levels is the only thing that matters. 

Those who sit in their bedroom pounding away at an unplugged instrument are a menace to society and guitar techs worldwide.

I work on an an educative approach but also discuss the effects that the players technique and sting and pick choices have on the set-up.   Most all the players we do this with get interested quickly and like the feeling of understanding why some instruments feel different and play different even if they are the same model etc etc.  We use a strobe (Peterson clip on strobes are brilliant for this) to show players how their left hand technique ( or right if you are left hand peep), particularly the death grip, veins popped on the forehead guys, can affect tuning and intonation and the amount of buzz etc.  

When that is done we then move onto dissecting the instrument geometry and limitations - for example:  if the neck is kinked at the 14th like a lot of Fenders and similar we show the customer and then talk to the solutions, similarly if the instrument is choking on a 7.5" radius I show the customer how that happens using a ruler and a straight sided cylinder and then suggest some fixes.   There is a ton of this stuff that the customer is not aware of, but once shown will invariably ask you to fix it or alleviate it. -  Happy customers with a better playing guitar and we make some money on top of the setup - everybody wins. 

All our electric setups are active: the player is invited to test the setup in our sound lounge and adjustments are made under playing conditions.  This gives the player ownership of his setup parameters and ensures that he is satisfied at that place at that point of time.   

I also make the customer aware that any subsequent minor adjustments and tweaks are complimentary.  Better we lose a little bit of time touching up an instrument that has settled than to have a frustrated customer (with a web forum connection) and also it builds trust and assurance that we stand by our quality. 

That's a bit of a rambling grab-bag of how an educative approach can (mostly) overwhelm unrealistic expectations while at the same time getting us paid and ensuring a returning customer who will also do the word of mouth advertising for you.

Rusty.  

Rusty 

That is what I do but when they  go to their friends jamb they whale on it and then it is not right so I can fix it verry easy, 

All the new guitars I sell in my store I garente  my self if no one has messed with the truss rod or such,

 Ron

Some great responses, fellas.

Side-note about the importance of having the customer sit down and play the instrument. A few years back now, a lady dropped off a guitar for her son. She didn't know anything about guitars, but I spoke to him (a typical mumbly teenager) on the phone. His mother came back and picked up the guitar when I'd finished the work. A few hours later she called up, "Sorry, my son isn't happy at all. Can I come back? I'll bring him with me." They come over and I ask him what's wrong and he says the guitar's buzzing all over, he can't get a clean note, even on an open string. So I sit him down with the guitar. First thing he does is lay it flat on his thighs. And to pick a note he pinches the string between thumb and finger, pulls it out about 1/2" an inch and then lets it slap back. "There. I told you. It sounds awful."

It took a little while to unpick that dilemma.

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