Posts tagged ‘how-tos’

06/10/2016

Buying an electric guitar, part 3 – Assessing a guitar’s condition

How do you assess the condition of an instrument?

In my view, the condition of any guitar can be gauged by dividing up any possible issues into three groups:

Group 1 – Things that can be changed/corrected easily:

++ truss rod settings

++ dead strings/”wrong” string gauge

++ intonation

++ string height (action)

++ pickup height

++ pickup model (if no woodwork/modification is required)

++ worn-out tuners (if no woodwork is required)

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Group 2 – Small and slightly bigger issues that a qualified repairperson can solve:

++ a cracked top nut

++ string slots in nut too deep or not deep enough

++ a faulty vibrato system

++ worn frets or high/low frets

++ crackling controls

++ faulty switches

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• Group 3 – Issues that are difficult and/or expensive to repair:

++ a badly warped neck (so-called corkscrew)

++ a set neck that is out of alignment

++ a broken truss rod

++ unrepaired (or badly fixed) cracks in the wood (for example a broken-off headstock)

++ a botched DIY ”customisation”

Would you buy a guitar from Pete?

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Here’s one way of assessing the condition of a guitar systematically:

• Tune the instrument and play it for a minute or two. You’ll get an idea of the current set-up, as well as of the general condition and sound of the instrument.

• Is the neck correctly aligned to the body (especially important in set-neck instruments)?

Look at the distance of the e-strings to the fingerboard edges at the 14th fret. If both e-strings are approximately the same distance from the edge of the fingerboard, you’re good to go.

• The truss rod setting (aka relief):

Press the bottom E-string down simultaneously at the 1st and 14th frets (you can use a capo at the first fret), and use it as a straightedge. Take a look at the string at the 8th fret; there should be a small gap between the top of this fret and the E-string – that’s what we call the relief. If the gap is around 0.5 mm, the truss rod is set as it should be. Check the treble e-string in the same way. If there’s a substantial difference between the relief at the low E and the treble e, you’re most likely looking at a warped neck.

If the truss rod setting is not ideal (too tight = no relief; too loose = relief greater than 0.5 mm) you should ask the seller to adjust the truss rod for you.

• Check the nut slots:

Each string is pressed down in turn at the 3rd fret. The string should now be resting on the second fret. Look for a small gap between the 1st fret and the string you’re pressing down. Using a regular 009- or 010-gauge set, there should be a tiny gap beneath the treble e-string and the first fret (when fretting the string at the third fret), just about large enough to fit a sheet of printer paper in there. Because the bass strings need more clearance to vibrate freely, the gap between the first fret and the bottom of each string increases slightly going from the top e-string to the bass E-string.

If the nut slots aren’t cut deep enough, the guitar will be hard to play, and sound badly out of tune in the lowest (open) positions, regardless of action settings and intonation. A luthier will be able to correct the matter for a small charge using a set of special nut files.

If the string slots are too deep (= the strings rest on the first fret, when pressed down at the third), a nut replacement will be in order (except with locking nuts that can be shimmed). Nut slots that are too deep will result in rattling open strings, even if the action and the truss rod have been adjusted correctly. Note: You should check for string rattling using clean amp settings. Playing the guitar unamplified might make you whack the strings harder than necessary.

In most cases replacing a nut is an easy procedure for a repairperson.

• The condition of the frets:

On a used guitar, slight wear marks on the frets are the result of normal use, and this light wear won’t cause any problems.

If the frets are very worn (like the ones in the picture below), you should take the cost of a fret dress (or even a complete refret) into consideration, and maybe try to get the seller to lower his/her asking price.

Refretting bound fingerboards is more complicated and time-consuming than dealing with unbound ’boards, which is usually reflected in the cost. Ask you luthier.

• Check the bridge:

Are all the screws and bridge saddles in working order? Is there ample scope for intonation adjustment?

If the guitar’s set-up is unsatisfactory – the action may be too high or too low; the intonation may be off – ask the seller to adjust the guitar for you before making a buying decision!

• Check the electronics:

Play around with all controls and switches – is everything working as it should? Do all the pickups work?

Scratchy, crackling pots and faulty switches are quite easy for a luthier to exchange. If we’re talking about a new guitar, the shop should take care of this before you buy. With a pre-owned instrument, you will have to take care of the repairs. Note: Replacing electrical components and pickups in semi-acoustic and archtop guitars is generally much more complicated, which will be reflected in the luthier’s quote.

• Check the vibrato:

Does the vibrato (aka the tremolo or the whammy bar) work as it should? Are all the parts in working condition, or are you faced with rusty screws or even broken parts? Is there ample scope for action and intonation adjustment?

If the vibrato bridge looks very worn, or if there are structural problems, like a broken off (or loose) bridge post, you might be facing a complete replacement or a costly repair.

• And finally: Plug the guitar into an amp, and play it some more. Listen to the sound of the instrument. Check its playing feel, its ergonomics, and make a final assessment of its overall condition.

• Based on this checklist (and any possible issues you might have found) you should ask yourself two questions:

  1. Do I like this instrument?
  2. Do I think this guitar is worth its asking price?

Gretsch Streamliner G2420T – full front

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04/10/2016

Buying an electric guitar, part 2 – New or used?

What are the advantages of buying a new guitar vis-à-vis a pre-owned instrument?

ESP Eclipse II Distressed – toggle switch

• Buying a guitar in a reputable shop has the following advantages:

++ Your new guitar will be just that – brand-new and untarnished (unless you go for a relic’ed axe).

++ The shop assistant can help you finding the right guitar for your playing style.

++ Many shops also offer to set up your new guitar to your own specifications.

++ Should there be any problem due to faulty workmanship, you’re covered by a warranty.

• Why can it make sense to buy a used guitar?

++ In many cases, you will be able to afford a slightly more expensive instrument. Depending on the age and condition of the guitar, a used guitar usually goes for about 60-80 % of its price when new.

Please note: This kind of price reduction tends not to apply to collectable (vintage) guitars, as well as many special run and/or custom shop instruments from sought-after brands. The value of some of these instruments may even rise considerably with the passing of time.

++ A pre-owned guitar is also pre-aged, so the possibility of nasty surprises due to wood shrinkage/expansion is also considerably lower. If a three- or five-year old guitar’s neck is still straight and its fingerboard hasn’t shrunk, chances are that things will remain stable in the future, too.

Shopping for a used instrument does require some experience from the buyer, though, because he/she will have to be able to correctly gauge the condition and market value of the instrument on offer. If you feel unsure take a more experienced guitarist along with you.

Hagström Pat Smear – body beauty 1

• If you want to buy a used guitar via the internet, you should make sure to apply the same amount of care, as with other shopping on the net. Don’t hand over any credit card details to a private seller, and direct payment in advance is also generally a no-no. The safest way to do business is by using well-known platforms, such as Ebay or Reverb.com, which provide for relatively secure payment options, such as Pay Pal.

Remember there are also pirate copies of popular guitar models sold on the internet. Again, if you feel unsure, as a friend for additional advice. And remember the old adage: ”If it’s too good to be true, it probably is!

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29/09/2016

Buying an electric guitar, part 1 – Make a plan, make a budget

So, you want to buy an electric guitar? Let Kitarablogi.com help you find the guitar that’s ”the right one” for you.

There are a few things you should think through in advance, before setting out to your local guitar shop.

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What guitar do I really want/need?

• The way you feel about a guitar’s looks and design can be an important factor in making a buying decision, and the same goes for the guitar your favourite artist plays. There’s nothing ridiculous in choosing an instrument for its looks, as there’s always a psychological component to how you approach a guitar. If you really dig the way an instrument looks, you will want to play it, and play it more often. This goes the other way, too – if you feel your guitar is ugly, playing it won’t be as much fun.

• Nevertheless, the most important criterion for buying your guitar should be the style of music you plan to use it for. Yes, theoretically you can play any guitar in any style – as Ted Nugent proves by playing loud Rock on an all-hollow archtop (a Jazz guitar) – but if you choose the ”right” instrument for a musical style, it will make things much easier.

Here are some examples of musical genres:

++ Modern Metal: As you’re dealing with large amounts of volume and gain, the best choice would be a solidbody guitar, equipped with humbuckers. Some prefer active pickups, while others like traditional passive designs more. Lead guitarists often go for a model equipped with a locking vibrato system, like a Floyd Rose.

LTD AJ-1 – body angle 1

Halla Custom SG – Floyd Rose

As many bands in this genre use lower than standard tunings, you could consider opting for a seven-string model (which offers an additional lower string), or even go full-out for a baritone electric.

++ Jazz: Most Jazz guitarists like to stay in the traditional sonic space offered by all-hollow archtops or semi-solid ES-335-type guitars. The preferred pickup choices are humbuckers and P-90s.

hs-hj50001-ca

++ Blues: Blues musicians use a wide variety of different guitars, depending on their personal taste. Here the most important thing is that you feel comfortable with your chosen instrument, in order to express your feelings without being hindered by your guitar. Locking vibratos and active pickups are very rarely seen in Blues music.

Tokai ES-138 – body beauty

++ Country: Traditional Country guitarists tend to drift towards guitar models with a lot of chime and bite in their tone. Very often this means Fender-style single coils or a Gretsch guitar. Over the past couple of decades there’s been quite a lot of crossover from Rock into Country music, though, which has lead to more variety in the choice of instruments in this genre.

++ Classic Rock: Traditional 1970s Classic Rock is built upon humbucker-equipped solidbody guitars, which offer enough grit and output for this genre. Think Les Paul, SG or Telecaster Deluxe.

ESP USA Eclipse – body beauty

Tokai SG-75 – body angle

++ If this is going to be your first electric guitar: If you’re a beginner, we would suggest choosing a model that won’t confuse you with a large array of pickup- and switching-options. A non-vibrato bridge would also be a welcome feature, as vibrato bridges are generally harder to set up and keep in tune.

schecter_pt-gblk-0934ufjosdnkd

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Set yourself a budget and stick to it!

• It is important that you set yourself a budget for your guitar shopping. If you have a good idea of your target price range, you will be able to sift through all the different guitars on offer much more quickly, by leaving out any models that are too expensive (or too cheap). This will make choosing your instrument a bit easier.

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09/03/2015

Kielten vaihtaminen teräskielisessä kitarassa

String change steel string – start

Kielten vaihtamiseen tarvitaan teräskielisessä kitarassa kielisatsin lisäksi terävän leikkurin, sekä viritysmittarin. Halpa muovikampi nopeuttaa virittimien kääntämistä.

Metalliviivoittimella taas mitataan ennen kuin aloitetaan kielten korkeus 12:n nauhan kohdalla. Mittaamisen ansiosta kaularaudan säätäminen helpottuu huomattavasti, jos uusi kielisatsi on ohuempi tai paksumpi kuin vanha. Parasta olisi kuitenkin aina vaihtaa samanpaksuiset kielet päälle – näin soittotuntuma pysyy muuttamattomana, eikä kaularautaa tarvitse silloin tavallisesti säätää.

String change steel string – loosening string

Mielestäni on helpointa ottaa ensin kaikki kielet pois.

Jotkut väittävät, että akustisissa kitaroissa kaikkien kielten yhtäaikainen poistaminen olisi jotenkin soittimelle vahingollista, mutta itse olen aina (vuodesta 1977 lähtien) vaihtanut kielet näin, enkä ole tähän mennessä vielä rikkonut yhtäkään kitaraa. Myös Martin Guitarsin omassa videossa poistetaan heti koko kielisatsi.

String change steel string – cutting old string

Kun kielet ovat täysin löysiä, leikkaan ne keskeltä poikki.

Tämä ei ole välttämättömyys, mutta minusta lyhyet pätkät ovat helpompia käsitellä kuin täyspitkät kitaran kielet.

String change steel string – winder pin puller

Teräskielisissä kitaroissa kielet on kiinnitetty tallaan ns. tallanastoilla (engl. bridge pin), jotka voivat olla muovista, luusta, puusta tai metallista.

Tallanastojen nostamiseen on lähes kaikissa viritinvivuissa pieni syvennys. Tavallisesti tallanasta ja kielen ball-end-rengas ovat näin jumissa, että vipua ei kannata käyttää nastan nostamiseksi, ainakaan heti.

String change steel string – push end in

Useimmissa tapauksissa kielen saa pois käsipelillä:

Työnnä ensin kielen hieman tallan läpi runkoon.

String change steel string – pull pin out 1

Tämä vapauttaa yleensä tallanastan ball-end-renkaan lukituksesta, ja nastan voi nostaa helposti ulos.

String change steel string – pull pin out 2

Jos tallanastaa ei saa – yrityksistä huolimatta – pois käsipelillä, suosittelisin talouspaperin (tai ohuen kangaspalan) käyttämistä tallan ja tallanastan suojaksi.

tak-n20-bridge

Joissakin kitaroissa – etenkin tietyissä Ovation- ja Takamine-malleissa – löytyy myös nastattomia tallaratkaisuja. Näissä talloissa kielet pujotetaan yksinkertaisesti tallan takaosan läpi.

String change steel string – take string off machine head

Tämän jälkeen poistetaan vanhat kielet myös virittimien tapeista.

Kun kaikki vanhat kielet on poistettu, voi tarvittaessa öljytä otelaudan ja tallan sopivalla otelautaöljyllä.

String change steel string – put pin in

Uudet kielet kiinnitetään aina ensin soittimen tallaan, laittamalla ball-endin ja tallanastan paikoilleen.

String change steel string – pull on string

Seuraavaksi kieli vedetään kevyesti ulospäin, samalla kun pidetään tallanastaa paikalla. Näin kiilataan se tallanasta ball-endin avulla kiinni tallaan.

String change steel string – stringing 1

Lavalla kieli työnnetään virittimen läpi…

String change steel string – stringing 2

…vedetään viritintapin ympäri…

String change steel string – stringing 3

…ja lukitaan paikoilleen vetämällä sitä rungosta poispäin.

String change steel string – stringing 4

Yksi käsi painaa kielen alas, kun toinen kiertää sen kireäksi. Kielen pitää kiertää tapin ympäri ylhäältä yhä alemmas.

String change steel string – keep pin in place

Kun viritin alkaa kiristää kieltä yhä enemmän, otan toisen käteni pois lavalta, jotta voin tarvittaessa estää tallanastan nousemista ulos tallasta.

String change steel string – cut off end

Suosittelen ylijäävän palan poistamista – kun kieli on viritetty – katkaisemalla sen läheltä viritintappia. Sen jälkeen taivutan varovaisesti kielityngän hieman kohti lapaa. Ole varovainen, katkaistu kieli on hyvin terävä!

Laitan uudet kielet kitaralle tavallisesti pareittain – ensin E-e, sitten A-h ja viimeiseksi D-g.

String change steel string – strings on machine heads

Onnistunut lopputulos näyttää tällaiselta.

String change steel string – pin height

Tallanastat istuvat tasaisesti tallassa.

String change steel string – string stretching

Kielet pitävät vireen nopeammin, jos niitä venytetään ensimmäisten viritysten yhteydessä: ensin viritetään, sitten venytetään… neljän-viiden kerran jälkeen virityksen pitäisi alkaa asettua.

Otekäsi pitää kielen alhaalla venymisen yhteydessä, jottei satulaan kohdistuisi liikkaa rasitusta.

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Kun kitara on viritetty, voidaan tarkistaa vielä uusien kielten korkeus 12:n nauhan yllä.

Jos kielten korkeus on selvästi suurempi kuin ennen kielten vaihtamista, uusi kielisatsi oli luultavasti paksumpi kuin vanha. Silloin kannattaa kiristää kaularautaa (sopivalla avaimella) noin neljänneskierrosta (korkeintaan puolen kierroksen).

Jos kielten korkeus on selvästi pienempi kuin ennen kielten vaihtamista, uusi kielisatsi oli luultavasti ohuempi kuin vanha. Silloin kannattaa löysätä kaularautaa (sopivalla avaimella) noin neljänneskierrosta (korkeintaan puolen kierroksen).

Kaularaudan tarkoitus on säätää kaulan loivaa kaarevuutta (ns. neck relief). Vaikka kaulan reliefilla on suora vaikutus kielten korkeuteen, kaularauta ei ole varsinaisesti tarkoitettu säätämään kielten korkeutta. Kielten korkeuden oikeaoppinen muuttaminen on soitinrakentajan homma, ja sitä hoidetaan hiomalla (tai vaihtamalla) soittimen tallaluu.

09/03/2015

Changing strings on a steel-string guitar

String change steel string – start

Here’s what you need:

In addition to a fresh set of strings, you should have a wire cutter and a tuner at the ready. An inexpensive string winder makes the process much faster.

A steel rule will come in handy, should you want to double-check your ”before” and ”after” setups. Measure your string height at the 12th fret (top of fret to bottom of string) before taking the old strings off. That way you will be able to use the steel rule to ascertain that your setup has stayed unchanged. Alternatively, you could also measure the neck relief at the seventh fret directly, by using a capo at the first fret, while pressing down the low E-string at the 14th fret.

Ideally, though, you should stick to the exact same string gauge (and even string brand) to avoid inadvertently changing the playability of your acoustic guitar.

String change steel string – loosening string

I find it most convenient to take off all strings at once.

There are some people who claim that taking all six strings off at the same time may cause damage to your instrument. Let me tell you, I have been changing strings on steel-string guitars since 1977, always removing the whole set at once, and have never had any problems at all. Even Martin Guitars suggest you do it this way in their own video, and they should know!

String change steel string – cutting old string

Once the strings are completely loose and flabby, I cut them in half.

This isn’t something you must do, but I find the shorter lengths easier to handle, than having to deal with the whole string.

String change steel string – winder pin puller

For the largest part, steel-string acoustics come with pin bridges. The bridge pins – made out of plastic, bone, wood or even metal – keep the ball-ends locked into place.

Most string winders sport a small cut-out for lifting the bridge pins. I’d suggest, though, that you first try extracting the pins by hand, because, very often, the ball-ends have jammed the pins in place fairly tightly. Trying to pull them out directly might damage your string winder or the bridge pins, or, even worse, the bridge itself.

String change steel string – push end in

Most of the time you will be able to extract the bridge pins by hand:

Start by pushing the ball-end down (into the body) by a centimetre, or so.

String change steel string – pull pin out 1

Usually, this is all that’s needed to unjam the bridge pin.

String change steel string – pull pin out 2

If a pin really is stuck, and can’t be lifted out with your fingers, I’d strongly suggest using a piece of tissue paper (or a piece of cloth) as a cushion to protect the pin and the bridge’s surface.

tak-n20-bridge

Some acoustic guitars come equipped with a pinless bridge – most notable Ovation and some Takamines. With these bridges, all you have to do is pull the ball-ends out of the back of the bridge.

String change steel string – take string off machine head

At the headstock end you have to untie the strings and take them off the tuner posts.

If your guitar’s fretboard and/or bridge feel (or look) a little dry, now would be the perfect time for applying a little fretboard oil.

String change steel string – put pin in

You start putting on a new string by feeding the ball-end into the appropriate bridge hole, while inserting the bridge pin.

String change steel string – pull on string

By pulling the string up a little, while holding the pin down, you will conveniently get the ball-end to jam the bridge pin in place.

String change steel string – stringing 1

Next you feed the string through the tuner’s post…

String change steel string – stringing 2

…pull the string away from the body, and around the post…

String change steel string – stringing 3

…and, finally, lock the string end in place.

String change steel string – stringing 4

Keep the string pressed downwards, while you’re turning the crank. Each new winding should pass under the one before it.

String change steel string – keep pin in place

When the string starts getting taut, I move my hand from the headstock to the bridge, to make sure the bridge pin stays firmly in place.

String change steel string – cut off end

I’d recommend cutting off the surplus string in close proximity to the tuning post. Then I bend the stub down towards the headstock face. Be careful, a cut-off string is very sharp!

I put on the fresh strings in pairs, working my way away from the nut – first the two e-strings, then the pair of A and b, and lastly the D- and g-strings.

String change steel string – strings on machine heads

This is what the result should look like at the headstock end.

String change steel string – pin height

The bridge pins should sit at a uniform height above the surface of the bridge.

String change steel string – string stretching

Getting new strings to stay in tune is a much faster process, if you stretch each string carefully. It works like this: First you tune to pitch, then you stretch each string, and retune again. Once you’ve repeated this process four to five times, you should be ready to go.

Your fretting hand should hold down the string you’re stretching at the first or second fret to avoid damage to the top nut.

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Once the guitar is in tune you could check the string action at the 12th fret and compare it with the values measured with the old string set.

If the action is noticeably higher, chances are you’ve put on a heavier gauge set of strings. You need to compensate for the stronger string pull by tightening the truss rod (with the correct tool) by a quarter of a turn (or half a turn, at the most).

If the action is noticeably lower, chances are you’ve put on a lighter gauge set of strings. You need to compensate for the weaker string pull by loosening the truss rod (with the correct tool) by a quarter of a turn (or half a turn, at the most).

The truss rod is meant solely for neck relief adjustment. Even though adjusting the neck relief does have an impact on the action, string height adjustment isn’t really what the truss rod is meant for. Adjusting the action on a steel-string acoustic is usually a job for a luthier, and is achieved by changing the height of the bridge saddle.