Archives

A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing

Photo by Mike Bitzenhofer

Many a great guitar has been ruined by well-meaning but bad advice. And many a great guitar is also ruined by people who overestimate their experience and abilities with a screwdriver or a file. These are obvious lessons but so easy to forget that I think it’s time I reminded you with some real world examples (yes, the names have been changed to protect the innocent)…

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Capos and Tuning Problems

A recent forum post asked the following question: My guitar goes out of tune when I put on a capo. Is this normal? What can I do about it? Can this problem be worse on the lower frets? Does string diameter matter? The answer to all these questions is “yes”. Let’s look at why.

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How Babies Can Help Us Practice Better

Baby and Guitar

Music and language are frequently compared. The similarities are quite obvious with a little thought but our first spoken language we mastered as young children without any formal tuition. We had to pick it up as we went along. Mastering an instrument is very difficult to achieve in the same manner but there is a lot we can take from babies learning to talk that can help us to learn faster and play music better.

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PolyTune – A Practical Review

TC Electronic’s “PolyTune” first hit the stores back in 2010 and caused quite a stir. Its ability to ‘tune’ all guitar six strings at once is indeed a neat trick. While there were many magazine and web reviews, most just copied-and-pasted the same marketing blurb and didn’t tell us how well the PolyTune really performs in every day use. I’ve been using one for 18 months, for stage, studio, and tech work. Oddly enough, I think PolyTune’s best feature is the one most people don’t use…

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Tuning Stability Checklist

Tuning stability with tremolo bridges can be problematic and very frustrating, especially when recording. Solving these problem is not rocket science but with such a complicated mechanical system it can certainly can seem like a black art.  But there is a simple way of thinking through tuning problems which might help…

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Your Own Personal Fret Buzz

It is a myth that buzz-free low action is always possible. People frequently read manufacturers’ specifications and assume those numbers are a goal rather than a guideline. They assume such a setup will suit their personal playing technique without any string/fret buzz. In my experience, that is just not the case. I’ll explain why.

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Lost in the dark?

What to do when playing in the dark and you can’t see the frets? Or, even worse, temporarily blinded by stage spotlights? Nothing worse than a screaming bum-note or wrong chord ’cause you can’t see what you’re doing, right? I’m sure we’ve all had a moment like that at some point in time. But what can we do to avoid it?

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Game Changer, the Giggle Maker

The-Game-Changer blue logoIt’s not often that I read something that makes me giggle and laugh with excitement but Music Man have managed to do exactly that with the new Game Changer. It was first announced last year as a system for re-wiring your guitar’s pickup selector any way you want it, in real time, right from your computer screen and yet maintaining an all-analogue signal path. On a guitar with 5 coils (e.g. HSH) and piezo, all the various combinations of series/parallel and in/out-of-phase leads to, quite literally (and I’m not kidding you) millions of tonal possibilities.

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Tuning – the Guild of American Luthiers Data Sheet #45

"American Lutherie" Journal Cover
"American Lutherie" Journal Cover

“American Lutherie”, the journal of the Guild of American Luthiers

The following is a reprint of data sheet #45 from the Guild of American Luthiers. They don’t know who wrote it and it never made it into publication. But it’s so incredibly useful that it’s one of their most requested articles (you can download a PDF version from them here). To anyone who ever gets frustrated when tuning their guitar, this article explains why and I strongly advise you to read it. I promise you that accepting the information presenting here will make your guitar and your music sound better and your life much easier.

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To Shim, or not to Shim?

People often wonder why two seemingly identical electric guitars sometimes require noticeably different bridge or saddle heights to achieve a similar string action and feel. The answer has to do with manufacturing tolerances when making the neck and body. Let’s take a look at the issue and explain why shims are often used in guitar construction.

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Choosing a Mandolin

A few months back on one of the guitar forums I frequent, a guitarist asked for advice, wanting to buy a cheap mandolin for a country/rock band. Here is my reply, which I’ve expanded on for this blog.

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