Covid 19 Isolation Guitar Tips Part 2

Written by: James Krueger On: May 7th, 2020

Everyone here at Solo Guitars is hoping you are all safe and healthy…still taking all the steps to prevent the spread of this virus.  We are doing our best, and although some of our products are getting thin on the shelves (because we can’t always re-order during this crisis), our goal is to supply you with everything guitar related, to get you through the pandemic.

Last blog, we did an entry-level guitar cleaning and check on your acoustic guitars.  Hopefully, everyone got some satisfaction out of spending a few hours and enjoying the cleaning process.  We hope even more, that the cleaning process got your instruments sounding as good as they can. and that you are feeling much more comfortable with how they work and how they can be improved!  I have a feeling that there will be some busy techs out there after we get through all this, just due to you finding little things or wanting your acoustics to sound and play even better!

So let’s take a look at our electric guitars.  The physics are all the same….your acoustic guitar has a sound hole that projects the sound of the strings from a hollow body.  Your electric has a set of pickups that take those string vibrations, turn them into an electronic signature and then project the sound of those strings through an amplifier.  Your electric will have a few different parts to get this done, but they also need some care on occasion!

Let’s take a look at your guitar….is it a solid body or a semi-hollow electric…or even a hollow bodied electric?  Do you have regular or locking tuners, a regular, adjustable or even a locking nut?  What about the bridge?  Is it a hard tail bridge, a trem bridge or a floating bridge like a Floyd Rose?  What about pickups and controls….one two three or more pickups?  Are there one or two volumes, one or two tone controls….what about switching?  For the most part, those are all the parts that can be changed or adjusted.  The body itself is what it is….and the neck…..well the neck.  Is it a maple neck with finish?  Maple without finish?  Is it a rosewood or derivative neck which isn’t finished…..or maybe it is an ebony neck (of course by neck I mean fretboard).  The more familiar you are with your guitar(s), the more comfort you will have in working on them.

Essentially we are doing the same to the electric as we did to the acoustic.  Remove the strings, and carefully set aside any part that may be loose on the guitar, and will fall off when you turn the guitar over.  (On a Tele style guitar there will be nothing to fall off, but on a Les Paul style guitar, the bridge will be loose and the tailpiece….possible even the top of the locking nut).  Open the control cavity and blow out any dust or debris that may be in there.  Check your wires and make sure there are none loose, and that the solder joints all look solid.  If you had scratchy pots, now would be the time to use a contact cleaner and spray out the volume and tone pots.  Some contact cleaners have a lubricant in them as well that will aid in the function of the pot, as well as clean it up.  If you are not sure how to do this, there are ample videos on the net that will show you the correct technique.  Close up the control cavity and turn the guitar back over.  If you have a finished neck, you can clean it with the same product as the body, but if it’s rosewood or ebony, you can use a light oil (like lemon oil or a suitable product) and clean the fretboard…again paying close attention to each side of the frets and beside the nut.  Once you are done, clean up the body with a decent cleaner/polisher to help hide small blemishes and keep the guitar looking great.  Check your tuners to make sure they are tight and when you are satisfied with everything, go ahead and put any loose parts back on the guitar, crack a new set of strings and get stringing!  (Make sure you are using the correct gauge of string before you begin!)  Once again, now is a good time to take a close look at the nut.  If it is bone or some man made product, do the strings fit in the grooves properly?  We said on the acoustic that 1/2 the diameter of the string should be in the slot, but there are some techs that will go slightly deeper on electrics just because of how these instruments are played.  With some music and players, the playing style is much more aggressive than what it would be on an acoustic, and the threat of strings becoming dislodged from the nut slot increases.  Of course; if that is your style, someone by now should have suggested a locking nut lol.  Once you have finished stringing the guitar, bringing the strings to pitch and stretching the strings, it is time to take note of a couple details.  There are tools to complete these checks, but for now, take a look by eye, and see what you can tell.

Unless you are playing a classical guitar, all fretboards have a radius…a gentle curve across the fretboard that allows for easier playing.  The strings on your guitar should mirror the curve of the fretboard as they pass over the end of the neck (of course the bass strings should be slightly higher to account for the larger vibration).  If your strings are flat or follow a significantly different curve, the bridge saddles need attention.  Unless you have some experience in this, leave this for your tech….  The next thing to look at is the height of the strings over the neck….if they are high enough to cause the guitar to be difficult to play, or low enough that the strings buzz when you fret higher up the neck….the bridge saddles will need attention.  The third detail is neck relief. Without going into a lot of detail, fret a string at the first fret (or it’s even easier to install a capo at the first fret on all the strings) and then fret the same string at the 12-14th fret….you should be able to pluck that string between the capo and your fretting finger and get a sound.  If you don’t get a sound and the string is bottomed out, there is no relief….consequently if the string is noticeably high above the frets, you may have too much relief (relief is defined as the curve over the length of the neck which is controlled by the truss rod).  If you have just a tiny amount of space between the string and the 5th-8-th ftret, you are probably ok.  These three details are the same details we use in intonating your guitar, but we will leave that for another blog.

If you have managed to complete all the steps above, you have a nice clean guitar in your hands, with fresh strings and a freshly oiled or cleaned fretboard….in other words, it is ready to rock out ….or um jazz out….or chicken pick…whatever you want to do, it is now ready (even if you are just learning and consider yourself a strummer).  Your guitar should feel better and of course you will have the satisfaction of having spent this personal time with your instruments, which is very satisfying to me, even after 40 years of playing and tech-ing.

Stay healthy everyone, maintain your covid protocols and keep on playing!  If you have questions, send them in, if you have ideas for subjects you’d like to see, send those in too….even if you just want to say hi, send us a note…..but go and play for a while first, it’s good for you!!!

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