Some Things You Should NEVER Do To Your Guitar or Bass Without Training
Once we have our new guitar in our hands, the urge to adjust it, perfect it, and care for it like a newborn is irresistible to most of us. There are many things that you can do without training. Here’s a few things that I recommend that you DON’T do unless you’ve gotten some training.
- Don’t mess around with the truss rod. There are plenty of things you can mess around with and the worst you’ll do is create a minor problem for a tech to unmess the mess. Adjust the bridge, string height and screw ups aren’t that serious. Play with the truss rod without knowing what you’re doing and you risk damaging or destroying the neck of the guitar or worse. There are many books and DVD programs out there to instruct you. One is from Gibson’s Learn & Master series (you’ll see the banner on our page) and they have a DVD program to learn how to professionally setup your guitar or bass. I think learning how to adjust and fine tune you own instrument is important, but so is avoiding destroying it. One thing you may consider in order to learn guitar or bass setup, purchase a beat up, cheap guitar and learn and experiment on that.
- . Don’t use super-glue on a guitar or bass. Luthiers and experienced do-it-yourselfers will use super-glue to do things like mend cracks, fill in dings. They use it sparingly and specifically for certain projects. Guitars are designed to be able to come apart and most guitar parts are affixed by using hide glue and cement / model glue. These hold firm but can be melted or cracked if needed.
- Don’t use car wax on your axe. There’s an old expression: if it works on a car, it works on a guitar. That’s true, especially for solid body electric guitars. In fact, there are some high end guitar makers who do the labor intensive project of using a French Polish and then as a final step use Meguires car wax. The results are spectacular, incredible gloss, long lasting and exceptional protection. The key point is they really know what they are doing. Finishes can look great, but expecially on an acoustic guitar can suppress and dull the sound. Unless I’m going to run my guitar through a car wash in order to clean it, I don’t need that strong of a finish. And I tend to like to keep all finishes on my guitars, especially acoustic guitars to bare minimum. I do it that for the sound. Use a regular guitar cleaner and polish, they’re safe and work fine.
- Don’t file the slots in the nut with a file. Use a “nut file” that’s specifically designed for the job. Also, keep in mind that if you do file the nut that which has been filed can’t be “unfiled.” Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Suppose you decide to use heavier gauge strings to give you more volume and bottom. You may find that you need to file the slots in the nut to accommodate the larger strings, but if you go back to lighter gauge strings, they’ll sit to deep in the slot and you’ll either go back to heavy strings or replace the nut.
- Don’t paint your guitar. I know, you had a totally unique color scheme in mind so you take the new guitar and won’t hurt anything by scraping, grinding, sanding and spray painting the guitar. Beyond color, guitar finishes are a science unto themselves. Secondly, with very rare exception, you’ll drain the value right out of the new guitar. You need to know how to protect other parts of the guitar from damage from the pain, you need to know how to prepare the surface and you need to know how to spray and finish. That’s a lot that you need to know.
- Don’t buy a “build-it-yourself” guitar kit. There are a number of kits out there where you can get all you need to build your own guitar. All the parts, cut pieces of wood, accessories, all of the parts including the bridge, tuning machines, nut and even strings. Martin makes an excellent acoustic guitar kit as does the guitar parts headquarters at Stewart MacDonald. Warmouth has excellent guitar bodies, necks and parts to make your own masterpiece and a number of other sources on the internet offer electric guitar kits with a wide range of price and quality. The kits are fine, but don’t underestimate the job of assembly, fitting, finishing and setup. It’s not easy and if you don’t have good woodworking skills or experience in doing major guitar projects, you’re likely in for a lot of frustration and wasted money. If you want to try your hand at this, I recommend you start with a simple ukulele kit from Stewart Macdonald (www.stewmac.com) for about $50. It’s relatively simple, inexpensive and if you find it easy, you might consider moving up to a guitar.
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So what’s your opinion? Do you have an acoustic-electric favorite? Let me hear about it. Write to me ator reply on this blog. Be Heard. Prof. Dave