Despite the abundance of tips and tricks that are currently available on the internet, when it comes to learning how to set up your own six-string along the lines of late electric guitar icon Eddie Van Halen, there really is no substitute for learning how to do it from the man who spent 13 years doing it as his job.
Now you can do just that, thanks to a newly released video from FiveStarGuitars that sees Van Halen’s longtime guitar tech Tom Weber teach you his tricks of the trade, and that runs you through how he approaches setting up an EVH Frankenstein Custom guitar.
Ever the philosopher of the instrument, Weber begins his deep-dive by musing, “A guitar is an instrument that is built and measured in thousands of inches. It’s a very accurate instrument, until you add the one inaccurate thing that they all end up with – us.
“The frets are placed in exactly the right place, the strings are tuned to exactly the right pitch, then we put our mitts on them and pull everything all out of whack.”
First up on the itinerary is a good-old-fashioned restring – a task that sounds easier than it is, says Weber, given the presence of the guitar’s Floyd Rose tremolo.
According to Weber, a Bondhus T-Handle wrench is his best friend when it comes to changing electric guitar strings – in fact, he won’t work on a Floyd Rose without one – and says utilizing the multi-functional tool was one of the main things he learned from his days working with Van Halen.
At the other end of the guitar, Weber reveals he isn’t a fan of tying the string round the peg post, going on to say that the practice poses a number of problems when rapid-fire, impromptu string changes are required.
Instead, a simple two tuner-length worth of slack, with one loop over the top and the rest underneath, is Weber’s preferred approach.
Some nifty housekeeping pointers are also dotted about the in-depth video, including how to maintain the longevity of your Floyd Rose, with Weber revealing that, before he and Van Halen switched over to titanium parts, they would have to replace the bridge clamping blocks, on average, every two shows.
A handful of noteworthy intonation-related tips, truss rod tricks and tuning-based advice are also addressed in the 43-minute video, with Weber discussing all kinds of issues that guitar techs trouble themselves over, including the impact of heavy-handed fretters.
To end, Weber offers up a final piece of wisdom: “It’s the little stuff that makes all the difference in the world, and I can’t stress that enough. Hopefully everybody’s learned a little something today – the day we stop learning is the day we start forgetting stuff.
“Open your mind, open your eyes, pay attention,” he continues. “Everything does make sense on a guitar sooner or later.”
Despite watching the video more times than we care to admit, we still have a funny feeling that it’s going to be easier said than done to conjure up Weber’s magic touch.
Recently, Weber put his own personal EVH-signed Kramer Paul Dean signature guitar up for sale, which was gifted to him by Van Halen himself following a chance encounter between the pair in 1998, almost 20 years prior to the start of their professional relationship.