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Are UK Guitar Stores and Technicians not as Professional as their American counterparts?

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As reported in a previous post, I recently got back into guitar after several years’ absence. I will do a separate later post about the decision making process which led me to my new guitar. When I received it however and in my dealings since, I have become acutely aware that the UK does not seem to adhere to the same quality standards / standards of professionalism as the USA.


There was some mystery as to the state of my guitar when I first received it - it was supposed to be brand new, but it had a small chip near the output jack, and the manufacturer’s tag which is normally affixed to the neck on new guitars was in the pocket of the gig bag. The vendor concerned was very responsive, and offered a discount because of the chip, but in truth, this scenario should never have occurred.


In the USA, most of the dealers and stores do their own checkups and setups - before they despatch each guitar - particularly for the more expensive models. They invariably include a checklist which confirms that the guitar is properly set up and intonated, and what the string action is set to etc.. This is quite important when shipping guitars from abroad, as they will have travelled through different environments which vary in temperature and humidity - meaning that if sent directly onto the customer, it will unlikely be in a fully playable condition when it arrives. The vast majority of electric guitars sold in this country (UK) are manufactured abroad - particularly in USA, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Mexico and China - all some distance away.


When I inquired with the vendor as to whether they could carry out the repairs or suggest someone within their network - they were only latterly able to offer up a single option - but not in the slightest connected to their business. Surely for a major guitar vendor, they should have existing relationships with repair shops that can carry out such relatively minor works - if they can’t handle them by themselves. In any case it was on me to select the appropriate party to carry out the repairs and setup. I also decided to upgrade a couple of the components, and since customisation is such a big part of guitar ownership it seems strange that vendors are not more attuned to this reality and providing related services.


Living fairly near the centre of London I was surprised that there are so few guitar techs remaining - there are only two listed for Denmark Street, the home of musical instruments in London. I selected one of them, got a quote and took the guitar along to be sorted out - bringing with me all necessary parts, including new strings. I relayed to the guitar tech the official line of what the guitar’s gloss and satin finishes consisted of, and for the repair suggested an acrylic glue (superglue) could be used for the drop-fill for the chip - to match the Acrylic Urethane finish of the guitar.


When I came to pick up the guitar there was no checklist or form detailing the work done, the guitar tech informed me that he had used Nitrocellulose for the fix - which seemed odd to me - I’ve no idea how that will impact long-term or how it will sit with the different composition of the rest of the lacquer. It played OK on the premises though but sounded a little out of tune.


Once I arrived home I gave it a more thorough review, and the replacement bridge fitted seems to offer little uplift on the tremolo, the guitar was quite out of tune, and I’m not 100% certain the intonation is entirely correct either. When at the repair shop - I enquired what action had been set, I was told ’the standard’ with no further details offered.



One of the delights of guitar ownership in this day an age is the vast variety of tools, resources and services available which did not exist in my pre-Internet teenage years. I follow a number of guitar gurus on YouTube for instance - and am particularly fond of the advice handed out by a certain Phillip McKnight - whose setup checklist is exemplary. I also see how other stores function and what standards of service they adhere to.


I feel that anyone doing a setup to a professional standard should include a checklist sheet detailing all the steps carried out, alongside notes and observations and key measurements / metrics - as they are so important to the playability and tonality of the guitar. The stores should do this service as standard before delivery, I would quite happily pay for it - to ensure the instrument was in the best condition when it reaches me. This to me seems really quite fundamental, and I am somewhat perplexed why such obvious best-practice standards are not being followed.


Have any of you had similar experiences - or do you know companies and individuals who are working to a higher standard in the UK?

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
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