Warford here, Editorial Manager for Guitar Tips.
to this edition of our Guitar Tips Newsletter. Join us as we answer
a few of the more mysterious questions regarding guitar maintenance.
do you keep your guitar sounding sweet? What could be the solution
to that buzz? What kind of yearly maintenance should I be giving
my guitar? All these questions and more will be answered as we enter
the world of luthiery.
addition to the above, we also have a great site review for you
this week. Check out frets.com and learn other great methods to
guitar repair. It's the perfect launching point for any novice guitar
always, you can check out what your fellow subscribers have to say
in our Feedback Booth. We will answer some of the more common questions
that we see in our inboxes on a weekly basis.
further a due, let's get started!
It's Important To Maintain Your Guitar.
your guitar a favor.
remember when I received my first guitar. It looked great, and it
didn't sound too bad despite being made from lower grade materials.
Upon receiving my guitar I was young and inexperienced, I had no
idea about properly maintaining my guitar.
me, maintenance consisted of constantly polishing off the finger
prints and occasionally changing the strings. While polishing your
guitar may be aesthetically pleasing, the fact of the matter is
that it really can't be considered as maintenance.
involves physically altering/adjusting your guitar in various ways
to insure that you get the maximum performance out of your guitar.
It is similar to maintaining your car. Every now and then you need
to get a grease and oil change, check the battery, and insure the
tires are balanced and in safe driving condition. Why wouldn't we
do the same for our guitars?
sad thing about all of this is that as many of you read this, you
are the person I'm describing who doesn't properly maintain your
guitar. This isn't something to beat yourself up over as you can't
do something about the problem unless you know a solution to it.
subtle adjustments can be done at home eliminating the need to drag
your guitar into your local shop everytime something doesn't sound
quite right. You would be amazed at how easy this maintenance is.
start off with some of the most easy yet major adjustments you can
do by yourself.
is a fancy word to describe the proper creation of a tone that is
perfectly in tune. In other words, how well your guitar's notes
are in tune with each other. There's nothing worse than playing
a beautiful chord and then changing to a different progression only
to find that it sounds out of tune.
becomes extremely frustrating and can often deter players from going
to their instrument to practice. When I had my first guitar, it
had horrible intonation and it got to a point where I wasn't motivated
to play because I thought I sounded horrible. It wasn't me that
was the problem, rather, the guitar.
you haven't experienced this with chords, you may have when playing
lead. You'll find that you will produce a tone that "Quakes"
and "Shifts." It will not sound crystal clear, just wobbly.
This is a symptom of bad intonation.
how can you fix this problem? It's actually quite simple. Here are
some tools that you may need:
tuner. It is very important that the tuner be chromatic for
the ease of use and accuracy.
phillips head screwdriver.
reason your chords sound bad is because the individual strings are
not at their proper length for the frequency to vibrate at the correct
period (some physics for all of you science people). This requires
a very slight adjustment to the length, often just millimeters.
may have noticed that there are six screws located at the back of
your bridge. These screws are connected to the little piece of metal
that holds the base of your string in place. They can also move
the string when those screws are turned.
is a diagram from a Les Paul illustrating the location of these
screws on the saddle:
order to know how much to turn the screw, you need to know how in
tune your guitar is with itself. To do this, place your finger on
the 12th fret of any given string. Let's use E (1st string). Press
down on the string to make sure the string is in tune. If it isn't,
simply tune the string as per usual.
second step is the most important. Play a natural harmonic on the
12th fret of the same string you just tuned. Does your tuner say
that the harmonic is in tune?
so, your intonation is perfect! If it turns up being flat or sharp,
then you have to make an adjustment to the string length by using
the screws located at the bridge.
the note is sharp, turn the screw so the saddle moves towards the
end of the guitar. If the note is flat, turn the screw so that the
saddle moves towards the neck. Screw in or out (depending on whether
the string is sharp or flat) until the harmonic on the 12th fret
of the string is in tune.
for every string. Yes, it may be tedious but it is relatively simple
once you get into it. Try not to strip your screws because you will
need them again.
is important to remember to tune your string before you play the
harmonic or you will make your problem far more complicated and
actually make matters worse.
is probably the worse problem to have of them all because you know
it's there, you just don't know how to fix it. While string buzz
rarely comes from the same place on every guitar, there are a few
things you can check out to see if you can stop the problem. You
should note that some of them require a trip to the shop because
they are more complex.
parts of your guitar. Most of these problems are located in
the neck area. You may notice that there is a washer around
the tuning peg on your neck. This is used to attach the tuner
to your neck but they can come loose with age as they settle
in the wood. This slight vibration can make a huge impact on
your playing. To fix the problem, simply take a wrench of the
appropriate size and tighten them back up.
strings. If you don't cut your strings, the loose ends can rattle
against each other.
frets. After time your frets become very worn. It takes many
years but it is bound to happen to well played guitars after
a period of time. The normal guy can't repair this, so it will
require a trip to the shop.
action. If the height of your strings above the fretboard is
too low they will hit the frets as they vibrate, making them
buzz. On the other hand, if the action is too high, the string
will vibrate out of control and hit the frets again. This requires
an experienced eye to handle this and I recommend going to the
shop to get it done. It's extremely inexpensive.
string gauge. If the strings are too light, they won't respond
well. The heavier the better in my opinion.
require a truss rod adjustment. Your neck doesn't have enough
strength to hold all of the strings in place by itself without
bowing (meaning to bend in the middle). It relies on a metal
rod that is inserted through the middle of the neck to counteract
these forces. This rod also has the power to bring your strings
closer and further away from the frets, which is called relief.
This usually should be done by a professional because you could
ruin your neck.
is one aspect of guitar maintenance that is often overlooked. Wood
is a very unique material in that it shrinks and expands on a daily
basis. For us, this means retuning regularly, to the guitar it's
like constantly running a marathon.
acoustic guitar should have a humidifier. They look like a little
box and are placed between the string into the sound hole. You fill
them up with water and the guitar takes in the moister it needs.
In winter time, this is especially critical. Why? Because the air
is naturally dry.
dry air sucks the moister out of your guitar and can cause it to
crack and/or lose tone! To keep the wood stable and happy, you need
to give it some water.
important thing to remember is to keep your guitar acclimatized.
What does this mean? When you see your favorite guitarists playing
in the middle of winter on a live stage, their guitar has been set
up to meet the very cold conditions. If you simply took your guitar
in its case out of a room and opened it in these frigid conditions,
you would crack your finish or wood. This is because of the rapid
the other hand, if you leave your guitar in your car for a long
period of time during the Summer, the same effect can happen for
the opposite reasons. So insuring that your guitar is at the proper
temperature is essential for playing success.
is one of the most popular issues regarding proper guitar maintenance
that we receive here at Guitar Tips. It is important to know how
to travel with your guitar because it's something that you'll be
forced to do at some point in your life.
you're traveling in your car, it's pretty easy going. You should
have your guitar in a position where it won't move around a lot
and is out of the sun. I like to tune down a half step if I'm travelling
longer distances as a preventative measure. This isn't necessary
for day trips.
you're flying, you enter a whole new world of protection. If your
guitar is small enough (like a classical for example) many airliners
will allow you to carry your guitar on the plane as a carry on.
If this is the case, you have no need to worry and there isn't any
prep work necessary.
many will force you to put your baby in the cargo hold. Unfortunately,
this has been the final resting place for many guitars over the
years. Nothing bothers me more than to see someone let their prized
guitar go to the cargo hold in a normal hard shell case. This should
be your first measure of protection.
are cases on the market designed specifically to protect your guitar
while flying. Creatively enough, they are called "Flight Cases."
They are made of metal and range from $200-700. While they aren't
cheap, there will protect your investment from any damage.
of case, you should always make sure to reinforce the neck with
bubble rap and various other packing materials. It's extremely easy
for your guitar to fall over and snap its own neck under the forces
of its weight. Another good idea would be to detune your strings
and relieve some pressure on the neck.
may have heard the words "Set up job" echo through your
local music store numerous times. What a proper setup job does is
put your guitar in perfect working order. A guitar tech will correct
your intonation, adjust pickup height if you wish, straighten your
neck via the truss rod, and adjust the action to your liking.
all of these things are completely doable from home, many guitarists
simply don't have the time or interest in learning these skills.
A setup job costs around $40 and is worth the money. Aside from
your intonation which should be continually checked after every
string change, a complete setup is only required once a year.
it comes to do it yourself maintenance, there are a lot of questions
to be asked such as how do you know if your doing something properly
and what safety precautions should you take with electricity?
of the many guitar maintenance sites on the web took these questions
and transformed them into a step by step guide to fixing your guitar.
They are known quite simply as Frets.com and they have transformed
how guitarists approach maintenance.
has developed an amazing arsenal of lessons that cover everything
from cracks, truss rod adjustments, and re-stringing to stuck pins.
This is the perfect resource for anyone who is wondering how to
spruce up their guitar and the best way to modify it.
packed with pictures, advice, and warnings, it services everyone
from the novice to the expert. This is where I learned how to take
care of my guitar and I think it's only proper that you get the
chance to learn from them as well.
you have questions, this site has answers. Check them out by clicking
week brings new questions and this week has been no exception. Today
we'll answer some of the more popular questions that we have been
receiving. If you have a question you would like to see answered
in our Feedback Booth, please send it along.
first email comes to us from Stan:
All. I wish to learn guitar, and have taken a couple of lessons.
I find it very hard to correctly play many chords, especially bar
cords on the guitar that I have. One of the problems is that my
fingers are stubby and short and the strings are hard to press..
I am thinking about purchasing another guitar, I am hoping that
there are smaller guitars with a wider string displacement. Any
advice would be appreciated. Stan "
I have good news for you. You are not alone. I don't think it's
necessary for you to buy a new guitar, although new instruments
are always nice to have. I think it's all in your technique.
strongly suggest purchasing a gripmaster to strengthen your hand.
Your local guitar shop should have them available. I've seen many
people with stubby finger do extremely well with guitar. In fact,
some of my favorite artists all have stubby fingers. Insure that
you are playing on the tips of your fingers and check out some artists
who have stubby fingers to see how they play.
might enjoy playing a classical guitar as it has a wider string
placement. Good luck and don't give up!
sends along this great question on 12 strings:
you please advise on what strings to use for a 12 string and how
to tune them? Many thanks, Sam Harper"
can buy packs of string for 12 string guitars. Inside you will find
6 thicker strings and six thinner strings. As far as the gauge goes,
I suggest light at first, which is rated at .10.
tune the 12 strings, you will need a chromatic tuner. Start with
low E and tune like you normally would. The second string below
it is actually a low E as well, just tuned an octave higher. You
will end up with a tuning that follows this order from the 1st string
to the 6th:
E B B G G D D A A E E
hope this answers your question. A quick Google search will reveal
quite a few sites that will offer step by step instruction on how
to restring the guitar.
sends along this very popular request:
Jordan, I must say I have enjoyed your articles so far but dare
I say, I still have problems getting a real down to earth article
on how to master the art of playing bass guitar. Any ideas Jordan?
we do not currently have a site on bass guitar and we only cator
to guitar. However, don't lose hope yet. There are some really great
bass sites out there. I suggest you check out this
site. It's one of the best free sites on the web for bass guitar.
awesome words of encouragment come to us from Christie.
word of thanks for your informative newsletters. I am a guitar teacher
and have shared information many times with my students. Keep up
the good work. Christie Meier"
this marks the end of yet another newsletter. We hope that you have
enjoyed learning about some of the more basic aspects of guitar
maintenance. Taking care of your guitar doesn't have to be a chore.
Learning how things work will only help you on your road to success.
a guitar that is in great playing condition makes it easier to learn
and turns what used to be a frustration into a passion. While some
parts of maintenance are still best left to a professional, everyone
can do the little things like intonation.
put, as you learn more, you will be able to do more. Speaking of
doing more with your guitar, join us next time as we learn about
connecting the spaces on your fretboard to create wicked solos.
It's an issue that you won't want to miss.
next time, keep on picking!
BY GUITAR TIPS
If you've always wanted to learn to play the guitar but
never had the chance, give me 17 minutes a day for 90 days
and I'll show you how to play virtually any song you want!