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TIPS

Just because its doesn't make it valuable.

Just because an item is old doesn't necessarily make it valuable. As an example is a mandolin I have. It is a bowl shaped mandolin, probably made in Italy and is at least 70 years old. It was probably worth more 25 years ago than it is today. At a guess I'd say I could probably $200.00 for it. 25 years ago it was probably worth at least 3 times that amount. What has changed in that time to make the instrument less valuable. Simply this, the internet.

Before the internet many objects had a higher value than they do today. It's matter of supply. In the 80's my mandolin may have seemed rare to most people but today the internet has changed that. We can now easily access any number of mandolins of the same era and place of manufacture. So it no longer seems rare and in fact never has been but just appeared to be.

The other aspect of this subject is the fact that just because something is old it age does not make it valuable. I find this often these days when people have guitars made in the late 40's or early 50's are often very disappointed when they find out the guitar they have loved and kept well for 60 years is not worth much at all. If it was cheap when it was bought it is probably still worth very little today. If you have a musical instrument that was expensive in when it was bought it is probably but not always be worth good money today.

I often get asked "what is my guitar worth." The only valid answer is "its worth what someone will pay for it."

Martin Retro Strings

Martin has released a new string for acoustic guitars called "Retro". What makes these strings different is they are made of steel with a nickel alloy winding one the 3rd to 6th Strings. The metal they are using is Monel metal which is an alloy of nickel and copper with small amounts of other elements. It is corrosion resistant and has better tension properties that pure nickel.

The strings themselves produce a subtle crispness and bass response without creating unwanted overtones that are sometimes evident if you use "electric guitar strings" on an acoustic guitar. These strings will also find a use for resophonic guitar players who want something other than bronze or phosphor bronze string but have tried nickel and just miss on the tone required.

Try them I'd like to know what other people think but I have them on two of my acoustics and I find them not only pleasant to listen two but also have their own feel which I also found to be easy on the fingers.

When a makers problems end up becoming

the repairer's problems

When you get an instrument in for repair you make certain assumptions especially on an  instrument that cost $1,000.00 plus. You should be able to assume that the bridge is in the right place, the rest of the geometry is near correct and that you should, when common problems do arise, find them no harder to remedy than experience would tell you.

Some people do make changes in the normal design of the guitar in an effort to make them sound better, play better or make the guitar easier to maintain and this is all fine if in doing the modifications you don't make the instrument near impossible to repair and maintain.

Some musical instruments are made in such a way or made with so many mistakes when a repairer come to repair some other aspect of the instrument that he/she has to fix all the mistakes made originally, fix the mistakes enough to carry out the repair (knowing that the instrument has other faults) or do what can be done to remedy the instrument with the faults still present which usually takes up a lot more time than it should. If the instrument still refuses to give of its best it is usually the repairer that is seen to be to blame.

There is one brand of instrument that I will not work on and advise the owners to return them to the maker because it doesn't matter how well you do the repair you're just putting lipstick on a pig and the fault is likely to show itself again and/or else where. 

Another case is where you can see what must be done to repair the faults but will take some hours to achieve. Some years ago I has a guitar from a major US manufacturer and the person had bought the guitar in the US. Because I know that these are mass produced instruments and the top was cut using a CNC machine I could not work out how this mistake had been made but it could be repaired but should not have had to been repaired. It took me about 4 hours but I because this guy deserved better I did for around $50.00. I know in this case I could have charged him the full amout but the maker's problem again became the repairer's problem.

 

Beware ultra-cheap strings.

There are what appear to be name brand strings at ridiculously low prices popping up all over the place. The fact is there is now a growing market in counterfeit strings. I source all my strings from the US or from local distributors but I have seen the counterfeit strings and the packaging is very close to the real thing. The strings are very often old or poorly made. Its a shame because if you can make cheap strings well why not have your own brand and sell them under that brand. There is very little in making good strings if you have the machinary to make any quantity of strings.

The other area of counterfeit is acoustic pickups. I recently bought six of what I thought were genuine Brand name pickups. They weren't particularly cheap but they did not work well so I contacted the US manufacturer (Brand Owner) and was told that if these were bought online they were fakes. Luckily I had bought them through PayPal. I sent a copy of the email to them and they simply took the money back and placed it in my account.

These are just two of the ways counterfeits are infiltrating our industry. It means we are not getting what we are paying for and the real manufacturers also miss out. You know when you can buy a "Martin D-35" for US$450.00 don't expect anything like a real Martin D-35.

Wiring Harnesses.

The latest craze for do it your self and rewire jobs are so called Wiring harnesses. These units often use good components but often are incorrectly wired which can often mean pulling the whole thing apart and rewiring it.

This not only means you pay premium prices for components but you can end up paying twice to have the unit installed.

If you want to rewire a guitar or want to get it rewired get your local luthier to make you a "wiring harness" or let the luthier do the job from scratch. Any good luthier should be using top quality components and it has been my experience it ends up being cheaper.


Tools at reasonable Prices.

As many of you know especially those who have bought tools from the US not only are the tools expensive but shipping can also add much to overall cost.

There is a solution at hand. A chinese tool manufacturer known as Elmer guitar are producing excellent quality tools at reasonable prices. If you are a reatailer you can buy wholesale from them and if you are a reapairer you can buy retail. The tools carry a 100% money back garantee and if you get a faulty tool all you do is take a picture to show the defect, email them with the photo(s) attached and you'll get your money back.

And now for the advertisement.

If you want to buy these tools wholesale or retail I have been able to secure an arrangement with Elmer guitar to be able to supply them in Australia.

The list of tools, at this stage, is fairly limited at this stage but check out the tools and compare the prices with the US suppliers and on some items I can do slightly better than their retail price. They will also be releasing some unique tools.

The website is www.elmerguitar.com so go take a look.

New Guitar Setups

It may come as some surprise that a full setup on a new guitar can make substancially improvements in playability and sound.

I recently had 4 new guitars in my workshop to carry out setups for the individual taste of the owners. 3 were acoustic and one was electric and none were purchased for less than $1200.

It should be remembered that anything made in a factory has not only specifications but also tolerances. The idea of a professional setup is to bring the guitar to the ideal specifications given the owner's preferences. Such aspects include nut action, bridge action, pickup height, and intonation are for the most not as good as they could be as they leave the factory. One major US manufacturer of electric and acoustic guitars deliberately leave nut action a little high making the guitar feel stiff. This is supposed to be corrected by the seller in a pre delivery setup but is rarely done.

Another acoustic guitar (brand new Australian made) had a saddle which was 4mm too high, nut action about .2mm too high and all the wires clumped in the middle of the body. This took just over an hour to correct and the owner commented it not only played much better but there was a definite impprovment in the sound. All four guitars benfitted form the 'custom' setups. 

It is worth the money after you have purchased a new guitar to have it setup by a professional luthier and if the person is honest they will only charge you for the work done.

Oxygen Free Copper

One of the greatest myths perpetuated on the population is oxygen free copper cables. In a domestic or stage situation "normal" copper cable the increased (very minor) conductivity of oxygen free copper would make no difference .

Making copper removes nearly all oxygen is is at very worst 99.5% pure (most commericial copper wire is 99.8% pure). The removal of oxygen does not in itself provide any additional conductivity but it is the removal of other impurities during the process such as iron (Fe) and sulphur (S) which occur naturally occur in the ore containing the copper. I won't go into where oxygen free copper is best used but there is no practical benefit for any audio device.

Further people buy oxygen free copper but don't rewire their speaker boxes or other connected components and this leads to the weakest link principal.

Directional speaker cable is the other mythical cousin. Fact is that audio signals are AC and even if they were DC copper is not a polarised element nor do I know of any way to make it so.

For long runs use the thickess cable (and shielded if possible) that is practically possible and don't worry about the oxygen and directional Voodoo.

Fun with TV ads

Like me you probably hate watching a show and have it interupted with Ads. Quick get the remote and do some channel surfing. Better still don't concentrate on the ad but listen to the music and try to work out what instruments are playing. I was drawn to this because dobro style guitars keep cropping up in ads and TV programs) and I was surprised to hear, apart from the expected instruments, banjos, autoharp, bagpipes, sitar and many other instruments out of place. That is the sitar was being used in an ad which had nothing to do with its origin.

You can also do this with TV programs. e.g. Anyone who has ever watched a BBC program called Monarch of the Glen (which is set in Scotland)  may be surprised to hear a dobro slide gitar playing the main theme. 

 

Computer Scam

This has nothing to do with guitars but with all the concern about illegal scams what about the big companies. I have a Presario notebook which is having trouble with its screen. I took it into be repaired and was informed that it was a small cable from the motherboard to the LCD screen that was the culprit. Can I buy a new one in Australia - yes but only if I buy it as part of a new full screen unit costing over $600. That's more than I paid for the computer and considering I can buy a full high definition 32" LCD television for less there can be no justification for this except a big company ripping off its customers. Also this cable is available as a separate unit in Asia, Europe and the US.

As I headed this little indulgence this is a real computer scam.

Cones

I often get asked to explain the differences in cone brands and whilst I don't want to criticise any cone the general rule is you pay for what you get. I will stand corrected but all cones these days are spun. I have yet to see a pressed cone  in any new guitar. Cones supplied in Asian guitars are generally thicker than their more expensive counterparts thus they tend not to be as loud or as tuneful. Obviously a cone can't be made too thin or it will collapse not only under the pressure created by the break angle of the strings but also the vibrations as it produces sound.

Expensive cones are very delicate things and should be treated with due care. A small dent or fold can ruin the structural integrity of the cone which can cause it to collapse. Cones are a consumable similar to strings, nuts and saddles although just like nuts and saddles they usually last a long time. It is not unusual to find original cones in vintage guitars and they can be in good order. Conversely cones can collapse without warning especially where big break angles are used. It should be remembered that Aluminium both age hardens and work hardens and the higher the hardness the more brittle the metal.

Many forums and websites say not to glue cones in. This is nonsense if a heat sensitive glue is used. (I use Tazan's Grip as it can be softened with low heat.) There are a couple of considerations here, the first is that troublesome cones were often nailed into place in wood bodied guitars or glued to gaskets in metal bodied guitars and not only do you stop the cone from rattling but bass will also be increased as the cone cannot move around and all the energy presented to the cone vibrates the cone face. (The object of resophonic guitars)

So a couple of general observations - The lighter the cone the better

Resophonic Rattles

I have had a few requests to write something here about rattles in resophonic guitars. First because of the way a resophonic guitar works, amplification of the vibrating string frequency with a metal cone, you are far more likely to hear rattles in the upper frequency which may not make themselves audible in a normal acoustic guitar.

What to look for before seeking help.

There are two basic causes of rattles- frequency based rattles, rattles that only occur when a specific frequency or note is played and volume related rattles.

Many rattles which appear to come from the cone do not. Most come from something being loose and not always the obvious.

The first thing that people go for is the coverplate so make sure all the screws are nipped up and give the coverplate a tap. (If you have a tricone tapping on coverplate is bound to cause a rattle but this rarely translates into a playing rattle. If you suspect it is the coverplate on a tricone seek professional advice.) If you do get a rattle after all the screws this will usually be a frequency based rattle and will occur at a specific place on the perimeter of the coverplate.

Next check the tailpiece screw and also the ball ends of the strings. Its not the ball ends that are touching the coverplate but those that are just missing that can cause problems. If you suspect the ball ends loosen the strings and place a thin piece of felt, leather or even cardboard under the ball ends. This buffer can be mounted with contact cement to either the tailpiece or the coverplate.

If your guitar has a pickup fitted make sure the output jack is tight.

Now we move to the neck. Hold the guitar up but wrapping your hand around the neck and strings. With the ball of   your other hand give the back of the neck a not to hard hit just behind the nut. If you get a positive rattle or knock check the following- all screws at the top of the neck e.g. truss rod cover screws, tuner screws and the most likely culprit the small 10mm nuts that form part of the machine head (just under the string.) The machine head nuts often come loose letting the washer rattle around and believe me it can be difficult to trace. If all else fails check the truss rod. Make sure it is not loose in the neck.

Remember you can only really check for elimination of rattles once you have the guitar fully strung and in pitch.

Lastly if you have checked all the above and you still think you have a rattle seek competent, profession help. Opening up a resophonic is not a job to be taken lightly but in truth if you are careful with the cone there very little you can damage.

 

Bad Manners, Arrogance and doing Business.

Over the last couple of weeks I've had my fill of bad mannered customers showing their arrogance by placing orders only to back out once the goods were ready.

Those of you who deal with me on a regular basis or have just phoned, emailed, etc know that I'm usually pretty easy going and will offer all the advice I can. I'm only too happy to try to help people and also often carry out small repairs in my workshop at no cost. however I have my limits.

One involved a father and son coming to my place to buy a guitar. They selected a guitar they liked, one of my hand made guitars, and asked if I could fit a pickup. Because it was for the son's birthday I said OK and quoted below cost for the pickup and offered to fit it free of charge. As I judge people by my own standards I didn't ask for a deposit and told them I would let them know when it was ready. Two days later I rang the father and he informed me his son had decided to "do a bit more looking around". What they were getting was a hand made acoustic guitar, a $300.00 retail pickup and a hard case for $1800.00 with 2 years warrantee.

The second case was much the same. A person spent more than an hour here playing and testing resophonic guitars. He finally settled on one which had been hand set up but decided he wanted to upgrade it and have a pickup fitted. I was waiting on pickups but said I would have the pickups soon. In the mean time someone had wanted the guitar as it was but I told them it was sold.

I rang to let the customer know the pickup had arrived and he informed me that he wanted to "look at some other guitars".

Both of these situations would have been OK if they they had made it clear they were both just looking but in both cases they entered into an agreement only to back out and had I not contacted them I probably would have never been told.

Yes you can say I should have taken a deposit and you're right but because of my nature (or poor judgement) two agreements were broken.

My answer to this. I will not deal with either of these people again. I don't need customers with attitudes like this. They are the arrogant and just make it more difficult for genuine buyers.  

Don't believe everything you read.

It's an old saying but true even more so when you don't know who is actually doing the writing.

One online forum dedicated to letting people rate their guitars and equipment is a really great idea. However it is obvious that the comments are written by three groups:

The people who really don't think the equipment is poor,

people who like the equipment or who don't want to admit to making a wrong choice,

and the actual manufacturers of the equipment.

It is obvious that a lot of the positive ratings are not what they seem. When you can read similar styles in a majority of the ratings chances are they were either written by the same person or the same person directed the writing. These types of forums and sites like My Space, Facebook, etc are not intended for people to covertly advertise their products. This is just dishonest and devalues the forum's value.

Endorsements by famous or not so famous artists are similar. Most are either paid for their endorsement or have guitars thrown at them. This is OK  as long as you know. One large US company prides itself on the fact that it has never given away a guitar for endorsement purposes. This is almost a lie by omission because they do actually pay for artist endorsements.

Honestly, I have given instruments away that I have built or sold them at cost but the reason for this is to encourage young and potential talent. You will not find their names on my website or elsewhere endorsing my instruments. This doesn't make me a shining light in this business but I don't go out of my way to devalue what are valuable services especially to the person who wants to read what actual people have to say about instruments and equipment.

Online Guitar Lessons

Around at this time are sites offering online guitar lessons. I viewed a few of these and generally they are very poor both in their content and value for money. Most have major errors of playing technique, music theory and misguided "teaching methods". Also if you don't understand you can't ask questions. sure you can email most of them but who wants to wait days or weeks for explanations.

Most of these programs show you what to do rather than teach you what to do. The difference lies in the ability of the instructor to explain a technique and how it works rather than just repeated just demonstrating it.

Demonstrating a pentatonic scale and calling it a blues scale is also confusing to the beginner as the two are similar but the blues scale has a extra note.

Poor understanding or guitar style in one of the lessons was demonstrated when the instructor played a D major scale in the first position using the second and fourth fingers. As you don't normally use the first fret in the D scale you just move your hand down one fret and and use your first finger on the second fret etc.

My view - don't waste your money, there are many great guitarists but few teach well.

Innovations

In the last couple of years we have seen "innovations" in materials and construction of acoustic guitars. Whilst I'm for all and applaud innovation and improvements in technology many of these "innovations" have been a backward step in the structure and sound of the instruments.  If "innovations" don't work give them up.

New materials have been a source of many problems. Keeping the guitar together is just one major problem and sound is another.

I am not a traditionalist but believe in using what works. I have tried many innovations in Resophonic guitars some work well and I keep them other have a negative effect and I abandon them and go back to what works.

Think about this the top three selling guitars around the world are Fender Telecaster, Stratocaster and Gibson's Les Paul. Yes they can be improved but they were all designed in the fifties and all stand up well and most people want their Tele,etc to sound like an original. They got it pretty right.

A good acoustic guitar should sound like a good acoustic guitar. You shouldn't have to pay the price of a good acoustic guitar and really only pay for some persons ego.

THE MAGIC STRING

One of the major US acoustic guitar manufacturers and string suppliers is claiming to have strings of the same gauge that use the same tension and are the same thickness to get to the same frequency (note) but are easier to bend. They say they have done this by using a thinner core and thick winding.

In a wire or string frequency is dependant upon three factors; tension, mass (or more correctly linear mass density) and length.

If you change the materials, in this case bronze for steel, that do not have the same linear mass density then something has to change to maintain the frequency. We can't change the scale length so tension MUST change. If you argue that the thinner steel core has been compressed and has the same linear mass as the old core then the amount of bronze to maintain the gauge must change thus  the overall linear mass density has still changed.  Below is one formula to determine frequency where T is tension, m is mass and L is length.

frequency.bmp (21382 bytes)(1)

Without even understanding this it is easy to see change mass, length, and/or tension and the frequency is changed. Simply change one and you have to change at least one more to give the same frequency.

Just as a sideline (excuse the pun) this principle is used to string tennis rackets. Pro racket strings actually have a frequency of between 500Hz and 700Hz.

Alright now what about the claim that the strings will bend more easily.

Once two strings of the same mass are tensioned to give the same frequency by definition they must bend an equal distance with the same force.  Why? The resistance to deformation of a wire under tension is the practical way we measure tension. Tension is non-direction and uniform.

Below is a picture of a tensiometer measuring tension in a wire. It can either deform the wire with a given force and measure the deformation or it can deform the wire a given amount and measure the force needed.

tensiometer.jpg










    (8172 bytes)

I'm not saying these are not excellent strings and changing the core won't help sound but as I told the company don't mix science and advertising terms and don't give as Voodoo "science".

If you want a more detailed explanation look up  - Young's Modulus along with Hook's Law (tension and elasticity).

(1) String Tension   Cross, Rod 2006


 

BEWARE OF SOME TRADERS ON ONLINE AUCTIONS.

There are some traders on online auctions charging $350 plus for shipment of guitars, etc from China. They sell the guitars for as little as $5.00 but make up for it by the huge and misleading shipping charges. Worse still some don't deliver the products at all and there is very little that can be economically done. Shipping a guitar from China should cost, at most, AUD$120.00. This overcharging scam is the second biggest problem with online auctions and despite knowing this the proprietors of the online auctions don't care. And if you think you might sue them when the goods don't arrive most are not based in Australia despite there names. The largest "Australian"online auction is registered and based in Holland. If you don't believe me go to their section on paying GST and you'll see they don't pay GST because they are based overseas.


Tips on this page are for everyone from the beginner to the advanced player. Some may seem basic to advanced players and other may seem out of the reach of beginning players. If you want more information or you what like to contribute a tip please e-mail me at the address below. Many are the results of my most asked questions. If you want a question answered e-mail me and I'll include the answer in my tips.

All tips Barron Clarke 1999/2008. Tips may only be reproduced with permission. If you wish to reproduce these tips for noncommercial use please e-mail me.


The guitar making is going well and I'll report with photos soon. As I said below Making an acoustic guitar is not for the faint hearted and specialist tools are needed.


I'm at present buying and putting together 3 Acoustic guitar kits, one from each of the major US suppiers - Stewart MacDonald, Martin and Luthiers Mercantile. I intended to write a full article on all aspects of the kits but if the one I'm making at the moment is anything to go by it could be a long hard road. This one has split timbers, badly machined parts, full sized plans that aren't full size, etc. Without a lot of skill and specialist tools this kit would have been impossible to make. I also had another luthier friend of mine look at the kit and he's surprised that I've got as far as I have. He has also been a great source of advice.

Simple fact is that a Au$550 kit is going to cost you at least that in specialist tools and then you've got to spray it. A full report and comparison will appear on its own page later in the year or if you want to know more you can e-mail or phone me. Meanwhile stick to electric kits for your first project!!


I'm often asked the advantages of bone nuts, bone saddles and non-plastic bridge pins. Bone nuts and saddles are simply harder and denser than plastic and transmit mid and high frequency sound better. This can make a big difference to the quality of the sound of a guitar. (Ivory was once the choice of top luthiers) There are also many fine synthetic (notice a didn't say plastic) materials on the market that are very suitable for nuts and saddles. Good quality Corian and Micarta to name just two.

Bridge pins are a different story. I have always been amazed that even top guitar manufacturers persist with plastic bridge pins. The very least that they should supply are bridge pins made out of the same timber as the bridge. These are readily available and don't cost the earth especially if you are talking about $4,000 plus for a guitar. Many smaller makers use timber, bone or even brass bridge pins. Each of these materials has its own special tonal characteristics. changing all three (nut, saddle and bridge pins) will make a noticeable difference to the sound of your guitar.

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There are at least three major string manufacturers making coated strings of one sort or another. Don't rush in and buy these. They are usually three times the price of a standard set of strings. They do live up to the promise that "they will sound as good in 3 months as when you put them on." Unfortunately what they fail to say is that they sound like 4 week old strings when you first put them on

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Sometimes favorite guitar straps keep slipping off the strap buttons. Rather than replacing the strap or buttons save the plastic pieces off the bread bags and slip one of these over the button on the outside of the strap. This should stop it coming off and is cheap. If you don't like white try colouring it with a felt tipped pen.

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I've lately seen a lot of string problems at the ball ends especially on plain strings. They can untwist or break through contact with they tailpiece. The simple solution is to tin, apply a small amount of solder, the length of the twist using the smallest soldering iron possible. This not only reinforces the twist but also provides a lubricant (the lead in the solder) for any part of the twist that contacts the tailpiece.

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A couple of guitars I've seen over in the last three weeks have had warped necks. Some people seem to think that all neck problems can be resolved with the use of the neck adjustment rod. This is just what it says its for, adjustment, not for taking out warps. Any more than about 2mm and the guitar needs a luthier. Even though warps bigger than this may be able to be 'fixed' with the adjustment rod there is a reason that the neck is this far out and over tightening the adjustment rod can cause more problems than it will fix.

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A handy scale to know is the basic E scale. This can then be moved up and down the fretboard (like E formation barre chords) to play notes of different scales easily and quickly. The E scale from the 6th string is as follows:

(E6)0, 2, 4. (A5) 0, 2, 4. (D4) 1, 2, 4. (G3) 1, 2. (B2) 0, 2, 4. (E1)

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If you are having problems playing a piece of music from tab check the music. If you only read tab ask somebody who can read both to check it for you. The last 3 lots of sheets music I have purchased have all had problems with the tab. One, published in a magazine, was both wrong in the musical notation and the tab and the errors didn't even match.

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So you want to be able to get big string bends on your steel string acoustic....Well try this....Tune the guitar down a full tone and play away. If you want to play in 'standard' tune use a capo on the second fret. This method is becoming very popular especially with all the 'unplugged' concerts and albums around these days. Happy bending.

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Fretboards get a lot of use (or abuse). Most fretboard that I see that are well worn are usually worn next to the strings not under the strings. Keep your nails short on the fretting hand and this will go some way to keeping the fretboard in good condition.

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Many people find Barre chords the hardest of all the chord types to master. There are several reasons for this; first don't use the flat of the first finger roll it so you are using the side. This can be naturally achieved by making the second finger lean back onto the first finger. Next practice using the first finger only to find out what strings are giving you problems. Once you have that try playing your first Barre chords at the 5th fret (A in the E formation) as the distance between the frets at this position is less of a stretch than at the first fret and the fingers are less 'crowded' than they would be further down the neck, work back up the neck.

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Why polish frets? Less expensive guitars often come with rough or poorly polished frets. Polishing the frets will help sustain, tone, intonation and string life. They also look great.

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Pickup heights can cause much confusion. This height should be measured between the string and the top of the pickup with the string depressed at the last fret. If the pickup is too close it will overdrive, if it is too far away it will lack volume and tone. With single coil pickups a good place to start is about 3.5mm on the bass side and about 3mm on the treble side. With humbuckers 2.7mm on both sides is a good starting point and many dual coil pickups are also adjustable from front to rear. (e.g. De Armond).Factory specs should come with the pickup or be able to be found on the manufacturer's website.

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Many people complain that their guitar goes 'out of tune' when they use a capo and the most common and unjust thought is that the scale length or saddle is incorrect. Almost in every case the capo is on to hard especially on the bass strings. With today's jumbo frets pushing a bass string all the way to the fingerboard can send it 'out of tune'. Capos should be adjusted so that they hold the strings on the desired fret without rattle and this may be well off the fingerboard!

A question I get asked a lot is should the strings on a guitar that is going to be shipped or stored for some time be slackened off. The simple answer is no. If the guitar is adjusted correctly loosening the strings may actually cause the neck to bow. There are exceptions to this but if in doubt check with your friendly luthier.

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When using an automatic electronic tuner it can seem to jump from the string being tuned to another string. This is especially true of E-1. You will often get a reading of E-1, A-5 and back to E-1. This is not a fault of the tuner but shows how strings react with each other. When one string is played other strings will start what is called sympathetic vibration. The solution is to damp the strings not being tuned.

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Want to get those big bends on your steel string acoustic. Tune the guitar down a whole tone and use a capo on the second fret to bring it up to tune. The lower string tension will allow bigger and easier the bends.

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When using a slide the position of the slide is the same as when playing harmonics. The slide should touch the string directly over the fret. It can be moved quickly back and forth to provide vibrato but it should not be stopped in the 'normal' finger position

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If you want to stop two metal parts rattling in a resophonic guitar coat each with a small amount of olive oil and apply some silicon to one surface. Place the surfaces together, press gently and allow the silicon to dry. The oil stops the silicon from sticking but allows a buffer between the parts. This can be used on problem cones and seats but not on spider bridges !

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One of the most important aspects of guitar playing is to keep the wrist as straight as possible. This allows better finger movement and flexibility. If you don't think this sounds right try making a fist with your wrist fully bent.

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Loose frets can not only be distracting but, if you are playing a gig, a real disaster. A simple and quick fix is to use a very small amount of super glue to hold the fret until it can be fixed professionally. Make sure you mask off the fret board and only use the smallest amount on the tang of the fret. Its always a good idea to carry low tack masking tape and a good brand super glue in your tool kit.

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Drone strings can be very effective especially on the bass strings. Try using the E (6th) string with the A (5th) string played on the following frets 2,3,5,7,9,10 and 12. If you're playing through and amp with overdrive try using random runs using the above frets and you'll find some interesting sounds.

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If you have to change strings change them one at a time. This causes the least disruption to the neck setup. Usually if you remove them all the neck will resettle after about 2 days. Every three months it is a good idea to remove all the strings and polish the frets. Mask off the fret board leaving only the frets clear. Use 'Brasso' or similar to polish the frets then clean the fretboard with lemon oil.

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Playing most styles of guitar requires bending of strings, but what if the note is on an open string. There are 2 solutions - use the fret of the next lower string that is equivalent to the note or bend the open string by pushing on the part of the string between the nut and the tuner. The second method is hard on the fingers but produces nice results.

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If you are required to do a pull off of several notes in a row this can be achieved by pulling the finger to be lifted across the string rather than just lifting it up. What you are actually doing is plucking the string with that finger then do the same with the next. With this system you can easily pull off four notes without loss of volume even on a classical guitar.

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When changing strings on an open tail guitar, such as an archtop or resophonic guitar, it is often difficult to keep the strings in the tail. A simple solution to this is to place the string in the tail and use a piece of masking tape to hold it there. If you are changing one string at a time the same piece of tape can be use for all strings.

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People are often surprised what difference a new set of strings makes to the sound of their guitars. Even if a guitar is not being played strings on any steel string guitar should be changed every 6 to 8 weeks. This is particularly so if it is an acoustic guitar. There are many reasons for this but the most important is corrosion. Whilst attempts have been made to address this by various means none seem entirely satisfactory.

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Most quick riffs which do not use hammering on use chord or chord like formations. If you have the riff in tab try stacking the notes and copying the stack to a chord graph. Even if it doesn't make a recognisable chord very often it will help with finger positions for the riff. Remember to consider where you fingers will have to go after the riff especially if it is a quick move as this will often affect what fingers are placed on each string.

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One of the great myths about playing the guitar is that you need lots of strength in your fingers and some books even tell students to squeeze a tennis ball to build up strength. In fact it takes very little effort to put enough pressure on the strings to 'stop' them on the frets. In many cases the string and finger do not even have to touch the fretboard to stop the string. What is required is flexibility and the ability to move the fingers independently. Think of the hand as a ballet dancer not a weightlifter.

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If you play a 'classical' guitar and it needs restringing try replacing the 6th, 5th and 4th strings only. Many guitarists who play this type of guitar like to leave the nylon strings until they are really worn or break as these strings get a more crisp sound with age. It also helps overcome the problem of always tuning the nylon strings. Hannabach do produce a bass only set of three strings - 7287 HT - to deal with the problem left over strings.

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Playing fast chord runs, especially if the chords are new to you, can be like a game of chess. What I do is draw out the fingering positions of the chords on blank chord chart paper and work out what fingers to use so that the next chord is as easy as possible to move to. You may have to do this several times to make a run with work but it is worthwhile. Try this also with music written only in tab and you'll probably be surprised how many chords you already know.

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One of the most common problems with acoustic guitars (especially 'classical' guitars) is the bridge lifting off the soundboard. You can check the bridge by visually inspecting the edge of the bridge closest to the bottom of the guitar. If you can slide a piece of paper under the joint between the soundboard and the bridge then have it checked professionally. It is a simple matter for a luthier to remove and re-glue the bridge. If the bridge is lifting and you have it repaired you will be surprised at the difference in sound and action. Don't confuse this problem with the top of the guitar 'arching' this is a normal process but once it is high enough to cause action problems it will usually be more expensive to fix.

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Many people have difficulty with bending a string where they have to bend up 3 or 4 semitones from the fretted note. The solution is fairly easy but takes some practice. Use your third finger on the string and when you start to bend introduce the first and second finger to help 'push' on the string to the desired pitch. You should be able to bend strings 1, 2 and 3 at least 3 semitones in this way, especially if you are at or above the 5th fret.

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Sliding is a technique guitar players often have trouble with either ending up short or overshooting the wanted position. This is how to do it: Let's say you want to slide from the fifth fret to the twelfth. Place your finger on the fifth fret and keep your eyes on the twelfth fret, keep good pressure on the string and slide your finger. It should stop at the fret you were watching. Don't watch your finger nothing is going to get in the way so concentrate on the desired fret.

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One technique beginners often find hard to master is the hammer on. Many people will tell you to hammer as soon as you pluck the string (or strings). Whilst this does produce the loudest results your finger can move a little after the string has been plucked, however when it does move it must move quickly and accurately. If it is moved slowly it will simply 'kill' the original vibration and the only sound you will hear will be caused by the string hitting the fret. Hammering can be used to great effect with a full chord as well as single notes.

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Beginners (and others) often can't tell if a string is sharp or flat when tuning a guitar using relative tuning. A method I teach all beginners is to pluck both strings at the same time. If you can only hear one clear sound then the strings are in tune but if you hear a 'dirty' note then the strings are different. The problem come when the strings almost sound the same. Try bending the string you are holding down and if the strings sound further apart then the open string is flat. If the strings sound closer together then the open string is sharp.

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When trying to play tunes, licks or bass runs it is best to remember there are only 5 semitones on the guitar that can only be played in one position. To put it another way most notes can be played in at least 2 positions and up to 5. For example: A bass run from B back to E can be played using only the bass E string or the A and E strings. The way it is played will depend on many factors not the least of which is speed. The run can be played more quickly and easily using the A string than just running back down the E string.

Just as chords can be played in different ways most notes on the guitar can be played in positions.

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Many people only use bar chords when moving up the fretboard these days but it was common for some of the blind guitarists from the 20's and 30's to only know 4 or 5 chords. They would move them up and down the fretboard to play in different keys.

Try moving C7, D or D7(with thumb hooked on the second fret), A7 or just a plain E.

Another variation of the Barre chord is as follows.

F#

The 1st and 5th strings are not usually played and the 6th string is fretted with the thumb.

This chord is often used where the player wants to leave a finger free for melody.

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When restringing a guitar always leave enough string to finish with about 2 to 3 winds around the post.

A good guide is to set the string to allow enough slack so that its about 100mm (4") above the fingerboard at the 12th fret .

This should give adequate turns of string on the post to ensure about 2 to 3 winds, depending on string guage.

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