When going to configure your Gibson Les Paul electric guitar, the first thing to consider is installing a new set of strings.
After your strings are installed, the first thing you are gonna want to take a look at is the bridge. There is a set of screws on the bridge post that, when turned, either lower or raise the bridge. Turn the screws clockwise to lower the bridge towards the body of the guitar, and turn them counter-clockwise to raise it. This is called setting the “action”. On top of the bridge are are individual string adjustment saddles that move back and forth. Moving them away from the neck will give them more string, and moving them closer to the neck will give them less string. This is called setting your “intonation”.
The next thing you want to do is check the neck to make sure it is straight. Stand up your guitar with the body of the guitar on the ground and look down the edge of the neck from top to bottom. If you notice that the neck is bowed toward the strings it will need to be adjusted. If the neck is bowed slightly away from the strings this should be ok. In order to adjust the neck you will need to first remove the cover that is over the truss rod. Then you will want to take a truss rod wrench and unscrew the truss rod until it wont turn anymore. You might want to loosen the G string and slide it over to the side to allow for easier access to the truss rod. To bring the neck up a little bit towards the strings, begin turning the wrench clockwise. Usually a small adjustment is all it takes to get the neck nice and straight. When you are finished adjusting the neck make sure to re-tune the g string, and then check the neck again because tension has been added back into the system.
After you have adjusted the neck, it is time to lower the bridge saddle a little bit. In order to do this you will want to loosen your strings to relieve the tension. Then grab a phillips head screwdriver and loosen the screws on the bridge. The Gibson factory reccommendation for string height at the 12th fret is 5/64″ at the bass side and 3/64″ at the treble side. Use a fine ruler to determine your measurements, and adjust accordingly at the site of the bridge.
The next step is to check the volume balance between the pickups. First, make sure that all the controls are up, then begin playing above the treble pickup near the bridge. Next, play above the rhythm pickup and see if the volume is the same for both. If the rhythm pickup is lower in volume, it is probably due to the fact that the treble pickup is closer to the guitar string. You will want to raise the rhythm pickup, using a phillips head screwdriver to turn the screws clockwise. Keep adjusting the pickups accordingly until you reach a balanced sound and volume when the guitar is strummed above each one.
Of course, not all Les Paul guitars come with humbucker pickups, and the procedure for setting the height on a single coil pickup is a little different. Since the magnets are more powerful in the single coil pickups, the height will typically be lower than the humbuckers. Due to the increased size of the bass strings, the effects of the magnet will be stronger on the base side of the pickup. This means that, as a general rule, you will need to keep the treble side a little higher and the bass side a little lower. When using a Les Paul with single coil pickups, it is also very important to make sure that the strings are not to close because this may cause interfering buzzing noises or intonation problems.
Now it is time to adjust the intonation as described at the beginning of the article. Perfect intonation is achieved when the open note of any string exactly matches the 12th fret. Use an electronic tuner to by playing an open note until it is in tune. Next play the 12th fret and check the tuner to see if the note is sharp or flat. If the tuner says that the note is sharp, simply move the saddle away from the neck. If it says the note is flat then move the saddle towards the neck. Repeat the process for every string, and remember that it usually only takes very minor adjustments to make both notes in tune.
If you find yourself running out of room to intonate a string on the Tune-O-Matic tail piece, you can angle the saddles in a certain direction to get more room. First remove the retainer that holds the string saddles in. Then take the piece that needs adjusting and put it back in the position that allows you to intonate the guitar correctly. A flat head screwdriver is probably the best tool for the job. Performing this task is a very delicate procedure when the strings are on the guitar, and some people opt to take the strings out first to avoid damaging any of the parts. Re-check the intonation once you have completed these steps.
After setting up your guitar, it is very important that you take the necessary steps to keep your Les Paul in tip top condition to ensure a lifetime of playability. One thing you can do to preserve the integrity of your Les Paul is to always check for loose frets and be sure to glue them back into place if you encounter them. In order to preserve a smooth feel while playing, it is important to polish the frets on a regular basis. Avoid keeping your Les Paul stored in a place where it is subject to extreme temperature changes, as this can cause the nitrocellulose finish on the body of the guitar to crack. As a final tip, remember that new guitar strings will keep your music sounding fresh and vibrant, and old strings tend to fall flat after time. High quality strings might cost a little more, but they will keep your setup sounding better for longer!