Monday, February 27, 2012

I can't stop breaking strings!

String breakage is an age old problem that companies and guitar techs have made a lot of money on. Here is the honest truth. Strings break for three reasons:

1) A defective string (rare)

2) Flaws on the hardware (bridge, saddles, etc)

3) You are hitting the strings too hard!

We can usually rule out the first cause. This really is a rare occurrence. Unless you do what I do for a living, or are a touring musician who maintains their own gear, you probably won't have a defective string.

The holes in the bridge plate on a Fender Stratocaster type guitar, where the string comes through and onto the saddle is one possible culprit. Another is the saddle itself.

Gibson Tune-o-matic style bridges can often have similar issues with their saddles. They may not be notched correctly. Also, the break angle going from the bridge to the stop tail piece may be too aggressive.

If your guitar hasn't been setup professionally, the nut may also be at fault. Slots that are too narrow or cut at an aggressive angle will cause strings to break.

I should also mention the tuning machines. If they have sharp edges where the string goes through, it'll cut the string as you tune to pitch. However, this is also a rare occurrence.

Finally there is playing technique and pick choice. Something to consider, but shouldn't you be able to play how you want? I think so... and I'm here to help you do that. However, a string can only take so much force, even under ideal conditions. Changing to a thicker string or a thinner pick helps a great deal. Besides breaking less strings, your tone and playing technique may improve.

Now onto the video...

Friday, May 6, 2011

A short video BLOG about Nitro and Poly

All over the internet, you'll find people debating about polyurethane paint and nitrocellulose lacquer. Here is some more fuel for the fire. You be the judge!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How to spot a fake Gibson guitar!

Here's a fun video I made that will show you how to spot a fake Gibson guitar. I'm using a fake Gibson acoustic as an example, highlighting some of the ways your can identify such an instrument and protect yourself from being ripped off by the people who sell these.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Guitar Store Etiquette

1) Avoid showing off - Can you really shred it down? Me too! Lets all agree not to do it in guitar stores OK? Think of the salesman and their tender ears... do you really want to force them to listen to Metallica's Enter Sandman one more time? Haven't they heard enough Creed for today? Also, you never know who is in the store with you. Perhaps the gentleman standing to the side, reading a guitar magazine is a graduate of the Musicians Institute? Chances are he can play everything you can... but faster, better, and in several different keys. So keep it simple when you try out new gear. Strum a few chords, then buy it or put it back while you think it over.

2) Do not brag - It all starts the same way, "what kind of guitar do you have?" and then it's a downward spiral into a war of words as each person name drops what cool gear they own. It's harmless banter right? No... first off, it makes you look like a horses rear end. Secondly, there may be a quiet fellow standing in the corner, listening and chuckling on inside because he owns more gear than both of you. Then again, perhaps that quiet fellow in the corner is listening to your conversation with the intent of following you home and robbing you blind? Modesty is the best policy when it comes to what gear you own, no matter how proud you may be of it.

3) Know when to barter - On the retail side, its expected. In fact, some stores often mark up their prices so they can appear to give an even bigger discount. The salesmen are usually paid an hourly wage plus a small commission based on the profit made from each sale. This is done to motivate them as salesmen, but also to keep food on the table when business is slow. On the repair side, don't even think about it. You're no longer asking for a discount done by a simple click of the mouse... your asking for time spent working for free. Would you agree not to be paid for an hour or more of work each day at your job?

4) Its sad to hear a grown man whine - I've got a gig tonight! This is my only guitar, I can't be without it! Enough already! I mean really, if you want to be treated as a profession musician, you've got to man up (or lady up) and act like one. First, get a backup guitar, amp, or whatever you rely on to make your sound. Second, maintain your gear whether you have a gig or not. If something is broken, fix it, or have it fixed by a qualified technician as soon as possible. The night before a gig is not the time to call and whine to your local guitar tech. Being a profession musician requires more than just skill. Being responsible and having a humble attitude will help others to take you seriously. To summarize: Professional + No backup guitar = Novice.

5) Emergencies - If you've got an emergency situation that requires a repair technician to work outside of their normal business hours or provide "same day" repair services... expect to pay extra! In fact, you should offer that up front if you really expect a call back. Think about it. Your asking someone to give up their free time for you. That's time normally spent with family and friends. Can you really put a price on that?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The myth of the FREE Setup.

Its time to expose a lie that retail musical instrument stores have been enjoying for far too long... the free setup! How many guitar stores offer a free setup with the purchase of a guitar? Exactly! Its quicker to try and think of a store that does not offer this service isn't it? This brings up many questions. Whats included in this so called free setup? How exactly do shops like Guitar Lab stay in business if every single guitar sold is setup and ready to go? The answer is simple. Most stores consider a fresh set of strings and turning two screws that raise or lower the bridge to be a setup. As someone who takes pride in their work, I find this pretty insulting. I don't have a name for what they're doing, but it's most certainly not a professional setup. For example, when I do a setup on an American Series Fender Stratocaster, I'll be adjusting the neck pitch, bridge tilt, bridge height, individual saddle height and radius, individual nut slot height and width, neck relief, pickup height, intonation, etc... I also go over the guitar and make sure all the hardware is installed correctly and that the electronics work properly. Now what are the chances someone is doing all that for free? How about for an hourly wage of $8.50 or so, like the guys at Guitar Center make? Not bloody likely! Now I'd like to end this blog on a positive note and mention that there are indeed some stores out there who hire skilled guitar techs to setup every new guitar sold. That price may then be added into the purchase price to appear as free. My hat goes off to those stores and I say, old chap, good show!