Matt Ryan Guitars

Set-ups, repairs & modifications



Working in a high profile guitar store for 14 years taught me that all guitars whether they be relatively cheap or highly expensive all needed some adjustment to perform to the potential they have.

Obviously as you would expect the cheaper guitars will generally require more attention than the more expensive ones, and with the increasing numbers of guitars bought without at first playing them from internet companies, or via mail-order the benefit of a good setup is very important.

Don’t believe the hype when many internet companies promise a fully setup guitar, rarely will they get the attention they need and rarely will they be setup by a trained professional.

Think of a guitar setup much the way you would a vehicle service, as any vehicle not serviced properly will perform badly when driven, just as a poorly setup guitar would play badly and cause unnecessary problems for the guitarist, thus making it harder to learn and more frustrating to play.

While a guitar setup may seem a simple task the problems you can come up against can be baffling and frustrating. Bad tuning, buzzing and rattling, intonation problems and electrical nightmares are all too common and could easily be remedied by a trip to myself.

On closing I would recommend getting your guitar fully setup at least once a year, and probably more if you are a full time musician, and if you are seriously considering changing your gauge of strings permanently then a setup is essential.

  • All guitars can benefit from a set-up
  • Can improve playability
  • Can reduce buzzing and rattling
  • Can improve tuning reliability
  • Can resolve intonation issues
  • Essential when changing string guage


Re-fretting is a skill in its own and is best done by an experienced professional. The difference it can make to the playability of your guitar should not be underestimated.

The process involves carefully removing the fret with a soldering iron with gentle heat and using the correct fret-pullers, so there is no chipping. On maple necks if this is not done correctly it can chip the lacquer.

On fenders up to 1982 the fret often needs taking out sideways as this was how they were put in.

If you are curious as to what a really good fret finish is like - have a look at a Tom Anderson or Suhr guitar. This is the sort of finished job that you would ideally want - but never get from a factory set up guitar.


Once the guitar has settled down after being built they often benefit from a light skim. Unless it has been setup correctly, there may be some dead spots.

Gibson tend to leave a flat area on the top of the fret. Some customers complain that as they slide up the string it feels like a 'railway sleeper' and not smooth at all.

When I do a fret skim I re-profile the fret. This means I round it up fully and it always feels better than a factory finished job.

Generally, on all makes a fret skim can make a big difference. Even cheaper guitars can be made to play as good as a £1000 guitar with a skim and setup.

  • Best done by a professional
  • Can improve tone
  • Can improve playability
  • Factory set-up guitars rarely have a great fret finish


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Most headstock breaks can be repaired. There is a certain glue that I use which is a trade secret - many repairers don’t know about it!

I have seen guitars that customers have tried to glue back with PVA glue - or even super glue - and this just makes it a longer job to clean out the wood grain.

I repaired a cheap 1/2 size guitar of my own in the past, the headstock had come off completely. I left it for 1 week after applying the glue, then purposely broke it again. It made a fresh break 2 inches below the glued area. This shows how strong it is when done correctly.

I always refinish the area as this helps to seal the repair for a lifelong repair.

Some repairers route out slots to glue in wood splints. I prefer not to use extra wood as I don't feel it's necessary.

  • Most headstocks can be repaired
  • I use a specialist trade-secret glue
  • My fixed breaks are re-finished 

Matt Ryan Guitars

Set-ups, repairs & modifications

Set-up | Refret | Refinish | Fret skim | Headstock | Restoration | Customisation 

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