Tips And Recommendations

Humidity Control!

Many repairs to acoustic guitars in the winter are due to dry heat. Guitars need to have a certain amount of moisture in the air to keep them happy. If they don't have enough, they can quickly develop warps and cracks. If there's too much humidity, glue can start to give causing bindings and braces to pop off or the finish can be damaged.

Controlling the humidity is, fortunately, fairly easy and inexpensive. While you could purchase a humidistat and monitor the humidity closely, the average guitar humidifier will work wonders. Just remember to fill it every 4-10 days in the winter. There's no need to use it in the summer. You could end up over-humidfying the guitar.

Cleaning The Fingerboard

It's easy to extend the life of your strings AND your fretboard by giving it a good cleaning when you change strings. Take three pieces of paper towel. Keep one dry, dampen one slightly, and wet the third with a little diluted liquid dish soap. Rub the fingerboard thoroughly with the soapy towel, being sure to get at the edges of the frets. Then go over everything with the damp (unsoapy) towel to pick up excess soap and debris. Then dry the fingerboard with the third towel.

Easy Upgrades:

    There's no better time to spiff out your axe than when it's already on the bench. Consider:

Tuners
Tuners keep your guitar in tune. Good ones keep your guitar in tune well. Unfortunately, even many expensive guitars have tuners with a mediocre 14:1 ratio.

For electric guitars without a locking nut, Brant strongly recommends the Steinberger gearless tuners. Their amazing 40:1 ratio and the fact that the string doesn't wind around a post keeps your guitar in VERY good tune. You can typically expect an unwound 3rd string to go over a 1/4 tone flat when you bend it a whole step. These tuners reduce the play to a few cents. Wail away!

For acoustic guitars and other electrics, he suggests the Grover 18:1 tuners which are available in a variety of sizes and finishes.

Series/Parallel Switch
Electric guitar players usually want to get the sound of a single-coil from a humbucker at some point. The usual approach is a coil tap. This produces a true single-coil (with all of the noise).

Alternatively, a series/parallel switch gets VERY close to the sound of a single-coil, but still uses both coils to eliminate hum. A virtual single-coil with no extra noise! A three-way switch (double-pole, triple-throw or DPTT) can be wired to give you all three possibilities.

Compensated Saddle
Acoustic guitars lack the intonation adjustment that's possible on an electric guitar. Consequently, the saddles and often the bridge (sometimes even the nut) need to be "compensated" in order to have accurate intonation all the way up the neck. This involves reshaping and repositioning the saddles to change the effective scale of each string. You CAN play in tune above the 7th fret!

To check your intonation, play a harmonic at the 12th fret and then fret the same note. Is the pitch the same (taking into account the difference in tibre)? It should be.

Pickups
Stock pickups sound like stock pickups. They might be right for your sound, they might not. LIke tuners, this is one place where several great guitars fall short. Brant likes Seymour Duncan for electric guitars and Fishman for acoustics. His personal preferences for electric guitars are:

  • Pearly Gates bridge & neck for rock or blues
  • Distortion bridge and Jazz neck for fusion or metal
  • JB bridge and Jazz neck for jazz
  • Duckbucker in any position for single-coils

Brant has been very impressed with the Fishman Ellipse Blend in acoustic guitars - both classical and steel-string The under-saddle pickup sounds better than most and adds warmth to the mic when mixed in. The mic is very clean sounding and accurately reproduces the acoustics of your instrument. It can be wired to an existing preamp for onboard tone control and requires little to no modification to the body.