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Slide guitar

How To Play Slide Guitar

There are few things more satisfying for a guitarist than playing slide – you know, proper, blues slide guitar! And guess what? It’s not that hard… if you follow some simple tips!

Hound Dog Taylor

Hound Dog Taylor, a slide guitar legend, with his Kawai SD-40, now reissued by Eastwood.

Before we start, it’s important to make clear that the slide guitar technique wasn’t invented for blues, and is not for exclusive use for blues guitarists. The origins of slide can be traced to one-stringed African instruments, and anyone can use a slide in any musical style – from Hawaiian music to experimental, noisy bands such as Sonic Youth. George Harrison was also an adept of the slide, using it on Beatles tracks and in solo recordings. 

But of course, it’s in the blues format (and blues-inspired rock’n’roll) where the slide found its perfect home, and one of the earliest accounts of the blues, by W. C. Handy, mentions an unknown blues player at a Mississippi train station, playing slide guitar… with a knife!

“As he played, he pressed a knife on the strings of the guitar in a manner popularised by Hawaiian guitarists who used steel bars. The effect was unforgettable.”

So, it’s for those interested in playing blues slide that this blog is intended.

You don’t need a special guitar… but you will need a “slide set up”

Though lap-steel guitars and resonator guitars are used for playing slide, it doesn’t mean you need one. Any guitar will do, whether electric or acoustic. If you plan to play or practice slide regularly, it’s recommended that you get a new / spare guitar just for that, because it’ll need a few extra adjustments for this purpose, which may not feel great when going back to playing your normal style, without a slide!

Eastwood Custom SD-40

We’re partial of the Eastwood Custom SD-40 , inspired by the one used by Hound Dog Taylor, of course!

But don’t worry, those adjustments are fairly simple:

  • the action on your guitar needs to be setup higher than usual, otherwise it’ll rattle too much. 
  • it’s recommended to use slightly heavier gauge strings for a “thicker” tone, though that’s a matter of taste, mostly.
  • the guitar needs to be tuned to an “open” tuning, because you won’t be making any chord shape with your slide!

What are the best slide guitar tunings?

You’ll manage with any open tuning, but the most common are Open G and Open D, as used in many legendary blues recordings.

OPEN G: G B D G B E

OPEN D: D A D F# A D

Here’s a good example of how the open D tuning sounds like. The slide used was a heavy gauge Bronze one by Dunlop.

 

What’s the best kind of slide: glass or metal?

Again, this is a matter or taste. Generally speaking, glass / pyrex slides will give you a warmer tone, and metal slides (bronze, steel…) will give you a louder and brighter tone, besides the fact they won’t break! Of course, there’s a taste for everything and some players will say bronze is better than steel etc etc… the best thing is: go to a shop and try a few, or if in doubt – just go for any steel slide, because that’s the most common.

There are also ceramic slides, which are not as popular as glass or metal, but which many connoisseurs prefer, because they sit somewhere between the warmth of glass and the sharpness of metal.

This video of the new Eastwood The Continental by Jeff Senn features a glass slide – check the tone! 

 

 

On which finger should I  put the slide?

The most common choice is the ring finger, which makes it easier to use the slide wherever you play on the fretboard. Some players prefer to use the pinky, because this way you can more-or-less easily use the other fingers to play chords. 

For beginners – just go with the ring finger, we say! 

Two quick slide guitar lessons to get you started

Now that you are all set to go, here’s two of our favorite slide guitar lessons on Youtube, to get you started!

RJ RONQUILLO: 6 SLIDE GUITAR LICKS

The always excellent RJ shows how to play 6 side licks plus talks a bit about the guitar setup.

 

SLIDE GUITAR BLUES LESSON IN OPEN D

One of the best and most straight-forward guitar lessons we’ve ever seen on YouTube. WARNING: some profanity ahead… make sure no kids are around!

Vibrato

How to Improve Your Guitar Vibrato Technique, by Tom Boddison

Vibrato, eh? This is one of those well-known guitar techniques that more people know about than they actually know how to do it well. But Tom Boddison will give you a few, precious tips on how to improve your vibrato technique – plus we’ll have a look at the Top 5 best uses of vibrato by famous guitarists!

BB King... king of vibrato!

BB King… the king of vibrato!

Vibrato is one of the most important lead guitar skills you can develop. It adds attitude to any phrase, and works brilliantly to improve your sound.

In this lesson I’ll focus on showing you how to practice your guitar vibrato. There are hundreds of lessons on the web about the motions that you’re supposed to use, but if you don’t know how to practice and improve your vibrato then you won’t get anywhere!

Some players believe that vibrato develops on its own as you play, and although this is partly true, you’ll get much faster results if you devote practice time specifically to this one skill. If you want to make your solos sound really professional, this is absolutely vital.

The Key Elements of a Great Vibrato

In this lesson I’ll assume that you know what vibrato is and you know how to perform the motions. We’ll focus on how to improve it; what you can do to make it sound better and better every time you play.

There are a number of things that make up a really good vibrato technique:

1. Staying relaxed
No matter how much you practice your vibrato, if your fingers are tense then you won’t get anywhere. Having a great vibrato is all about control, and control comes from staying relaxed. If you’re tensing up then slow down, and don’t use so much force!

2. Having an even rhythm
If you don’t have an even rhythm when you play vibrato then it’ll always sound out of control and messy. To make your vibrato sound better, you need to do it in an even rhythm – and preferably in time with the music. Focus on bending and releasing the note in time with the beat.

3. Having even pitch changes
The pitch change is also important when you play vibrato. Try to bend to the same pitch every time – this way, your vibrato will sound in tune and you’ll have much more control over the way it sounds.

4. Using the right vibrato for the job
This all comes down to context. If you’re playing a heavy rock song then your vibrato will most likely be wider and faster than if you’re playing a slower, softer song. Consider what kind of song you’re playing and then adjust your vibrato accordingly – will it suit a more aggressive sound, or a softer, mellower one? Some of this will obviously depend on personal preference.

Vibrato

Playing vibrato is a great lead-guitar skill

How to Practice Vibrato

Now that you’ve got a good idea of what makes up a good vibrato, we’ll go through how to practice it. Do this for five to ten minutes each day and within a couple of weeks you’ll definitely see an improvement in your technique.

1. First, play a note on any fret and bend it up in pitch slightly.
2. Then, release the bend back down to the normal pitch again. Make sure you completely release the bend – otherwise your vibrato will sound out of tune.
3. Now, try and bend back up to the exact pitch that you bent up to before. You can use a tuner if you like to make sure you bend up to the same pitch.
4. Then, fully release the bend again and repeat the process.

Once you’ve gotten used to bending to the same pitch every time, then start doing this exercise to a metronome. Gradually speed it up over time, and before you know it your vibrato will sound great!

After you’ve practised in this way for a days, you can start to apply this stuff to songs. Whenever you add vibrato to a note, pay attention to how it sounds – try to make it sound just a little bit better every single time you do it.

Final Thoughts

I hope this article has helped you to improve your vibrato technique. If you’d like to see more cool articles check out my website www.tomguitar.co.uk, which is filled with reviews, guitar secrets and free lessons!

– by Tom Boddison

Top 5 Best Songs with Vibrato by Famous Guitarists

What are the best songs to feature vibrato? Well, there are a few great examples, but here’s our top 5, picked by Tom, who explains:

“Each of those feature very different vibrato styles, from the subtlety of BB king to the raw, full expression of Stevie Ray Vaughan, to the fast, smooth vibrato of Gary Moore. There’s something to learn from every single one of those.”

1) BB King – The Thrill is Gone

2) Stevie Ray Vaughan – Ain’t Gone ‘n Give Up On Love

3) Rory Gallagher – Bad Penny

4) Gary Moore – Parisienne Walkways

5) Steve Vai – For The Love of God

More info:

 www.tomguitar.co.uk

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THE SMARTER GUITAR NUT #3: Strap Buttons – Part 1

Hey, fellow Guitar Nuts, consider your humble strap buttons. Where would we be without them? Well, for one thing, we’d probably all be playing our guitars and basses while sitting down rather than leaping about while wildly wind-milling power chords. In summary, while some incredible guitar playing can be performed while seated, to (almost) quote Dires Straits’ song The Sultans of Swing: “It ain’t what we call rock and roll!”  

As with so many other things, the best way to show the importance of strap buttons is to look at what happens if they simply aren’t there, or if they don’t work correctly, or when they aren’t where they should be. The consequences include dropped guitars and resulting damage to headstocks, necks, bodies and wallets.  Conclusion: strap buttons are pretty darned important.

In future articles, I’ll spend more time on guitar design theory and how to best position a strap button from the start to maximize playability, comfort and balance. Right now, although the issue of positioning or re-positioning a strap button will come up, I’m going to focus on strap button issues in the context of collectible guitars. This is important because strap button-related issues are among the most common concerns when it comes to what should or should not be done to a collectible instrument.

First and foremost, you have to know what to look for as to whether an instrument has its original strap buttons in their original places. If you’re not sure, my usual recommendation (for just about anything) is that you deal with a reputable and knowledgeable seller and keep your trusted guitar tech in the loop. In addition, because we want to make you a Smarter Guitar Nut, you can educate yourself on this subject pretty quickly since there is abundant information on-line including pictures of almost any instrument and numerous other resources such as scans of original ads and vintage manufacturers’ catalogues.

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The most common type of strap button, found on many brands including Gibson and Fender. These are easy to obtain including reliced versions like the one on the right.

 

You’ll notice there’s a pretty limited range of strap button types. Indeed, the most common type is used on the majority of electric guitars including Fenders and Gibsons. If these need to be replaced, they are readily available, including reasonably priced reliced versions. Just to keep life interesting, there are also, of course, a few very unusual types strap buttons and related hardware which, if missing, can be very hard to replace.

 

Once you’re sure what to look for, you can recognize whether a strap button has been replaced, added or re-positioned. An appropriate, well-installed replacement should- I suggest – not be a concern in terms of collectability and value. The big problems are:

  • If a strap button has been added, it means there’s a hole in the guitar that wasn’t there originally. While the strap button is left in place, you can’t see that hole, but it means the button has to stay put regardless of where it is. Worse, if the installation wasn’t done neatly, there might be some additional cosmetic or even structural damage.
  • If a strap button has been repositioned, this is a bit more serious because it means there’s now an extra hole in the guitar that might or might not be able to be touched up.
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The strap loop on an old Kay Pro bass. If it’s missing, it will be tough to find a replacement.

Serious issues about added or repositioned strap buttons will be addressed in a future column. For now, you need to know two things:

  1. As a buyer, this is something you need to ask about and as an owner/potential seller it’s something you need to stop and consider before making any changes yourself; and,
  2. Strap button issues can affect the value of a collectible guitar, whether or not that alteration makes perfectly good sense in terms of improved balance and playability.

If changes or repairs have been or have to be made, you can decide if that’s a deal breaker.

Once you’ve got any issues resolved, if all that’s left is that a strap button is a bit loose, the fix is simple (that is: it’s simple if you’re dealing with a solid body guitar, hollow bodies will be dealt with in the next article):

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A small piece of dowel, marked to show to show the depth of the screw hole.

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Always wipe off any excess glue.

1) Remove the loose screw and the strap button;

2) Insert a piece of 1/8” dowel (or the traditional piece of match stick) into the hole and mark it to that depth;

3) Remove the dowel and cut it at the mark so it is the same length as the depth of the hole;

4) Coat the dowel with a thin, even layer of glue (white or, preferably yellow…not epoxy or super glue) and push it back into the hole;

5) Then, re-install the strap button.

6) If any excess glue squeezes out of the hole, remove the screw, wipe off the excess glue so none remains on the surface of the guitar and re-install.

An important note here about the term “tighten up”. This always means to turn something just until it stops. It does ­not mean turning it until it stops and then trying to turn it more with all your might. When tightening any component on a guitar with any tool, the rule is: Don’t force it! There are (almost) no guitar-repair situations where it is a good idea to try to force something to go more than it seems to want to go. If you ignore that warning, things can turn out very badly. How badly? Well, let’s just say there will be a future column dedicated to dealing with broken or stripped screws that remain stuck in places where you do not want them to be stuck.

If you manage to tighten up both strap buttons, congratulate yourself. You’ve just repaired one of the most common issues to be dealt with on almost any guitar. This fix should not affect the value of almost any instrument.

If, after going through the steps above two or three times, a screw still doesn’t tighten up, its hole has to be doweled and re-drilled.

Dowelling and re-drilling a hole is a much more complicated procedure and the typical Smarter Guitar Nut would be indeed smarter to pass it over to his trusted tech. The Smarter Guitar Nut who is a bit more experienced with basic repair work should practice dowelling and re-drilling only on very expendable guitars or on scrap wood. We’ll deal with this procedure in a subsequent instalment of the Smarter Guitar Nut.

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The Stomping Ground – Cascading Overdrive/Distortion

As guitar players, we are constantly searching for a unique sound: our player-unique tone that sets us apart from other guitarists. Even the most modest of gear heads is likely to have more than one overdrive, distortion, or both in their signal chain.

I’m going to discuss some dos and don’ts of using these pedals and give some input on my experiences using both simultaneously.

Firstly, when using these two, it’s important to understand in a practical sense what each pedal is doing to your signal. That doesn’t mean you need to be a physicist or audio engineer to understand what’s going on with your sound, but use your ears and experiment entirely with your pedal to see what it’s doing. The two biggest things to consider when using overdrive and distortion pedals are compression and gain.

It’s important to understand how compressed your signal is getting from your pedal because we have all been in a situation wherein we get on stage after spending months perfecting our tone, only to result in a vast difference between stage volume/tone and practice-room/bedroom volume/tone. Or, have you ever been at an open mic and heard someone performing, and even though their amp is seemingly loud and heavily distorted, you can’t make out a single note they are playing? Compression is almost always the culprit with an overly distorted tone.

Gain consideration is important because you need to make sure your pedals are all sending a balanced (equal-volumed) signal, OR at the signal balance that you want them at.

For example, I have a JHS Lowdrive (overdrive pedal), and a Wampler Plextortion (distortion pedal) that are my two main “gain/distortion” sounds I use on my pedal board. Without complicating my example, let’s just say for this conversation that my signal is: Guitar > JHS > Wampler > Amp (Figure A)

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I have my JHS set so with my volume cranked on my guitar and playing full pick-strength, my clean volume and JHS-on volume are balanced with the stage volume I use my amp at. My Wampler-on is also balanced with my clean channel, but what is important about my signal chain is how much the Wampler compresses my channel compared to my JHS. Because of the compression, I can turn on my JHS and Wampler at the same time to increase the distortion, but with an insignificant change in gain (volume, decibels, however you would like to refer to it).

IF I had set up my JHS and Wampler in the following order: Guitar > Wampler > JHS > Amp (Figure B), it would be a lot more difficult for me to run both pedals at the same time without increasing my overall volume significantly. The reason is because now the JHS is increasing the gain of Wampler without the same compression the Wampler provides for the JHS.

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This may seem a little wordy and complicated, but try it for yourself and make these mistakes at home! Even if you’re not interested in using both pedals at the same time, knowing this and setting your pedals up accordingly can help avoid embarrassing feedback squeals, or destroying a sound-guy’s ears/equipment by accidentally mis-pressing a pedal.

First, set up your pedals so when they are turned on, the volume is balanced with the clean channel. I would recommend that you do this with the amp set to a medium volume (if the amp is too quiet, it is essentially compressing the signal so you could have the pedal cranked and you wouldn’t even know the difference until you had to bring everything up to stage volume).

Try plugging in both pedals and turning everything on with one configuration, then the other. You’ll immediately notice that by putting the distortion pedal as the second pedal in the chain (or simply AFTER the overdrive pedal) that the tone created is much more manageable and without a significant volume boost. And trust me, if your volume is all over the place in an unmusical fashion, sound-guys don’t consider that to be “dynamic”. It’s just annoying.

 

Jordan Welbourne

www.jordanwelbourne.com

facebook.com/JordanWelbourne\

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Your Band as a Business: Booking Shows

 

 

Booking is an integral facet to your business. Your product is your music and there are only 2 real ways to consume music; listening to recorded material and going to a show to listen to a band. In a lot of ways, booking shows can be very easy.  Often times band members / managers make it harder on themselves than they should. Like anything in the business world, there are do’s and don’t’s that will either help propel you forward or keep you stagnant. 

picture3First and foremost, you need recorded music.  A talent buyer at any venue will require that you send over a physical press kit or an EPK (electronic press kit). Your press kit must have audio files of your music (preferably .mp3 or .wav), band photos, a band biography, a list of venues you have played, a stage plot and input list, a rider (specific needs for the show: i.e. hospitality, lodging, etc.), and bands you have played with.  Additives that help your press kit stand out include a cover page, any accolades or awards, and / or live videos or music videos (more applicable for an EPK).  There are platforms online that can assist you in making a press kit. Reverb Nation and Sonic Bids are both helpful in creating EPK’s within their specific network. If you aren’t interested in connecting with either of those platforms, you can always customize your own via your website. If you don’t have a website, you should consider making one. Websites are a one-stop-shop for talent buyers and promoters to find the information the need from bands. Website building sites like squarespace, wix, or weebly are great for musicians that aren’t familiar with coding.

 
Next, you need to understand your market. If you are a folk group, you probably won’t have great shows playing night clubs (given that the night clubs agree to take you). I say probably because every situation is different. This goes back to really understanding your market.  If the night club specializes in folk music then my example is null and void. The best rule of thumb is booking shows in the places where your colleagues (those playing similar sounding tunes) have previously booked shows.  Understanding your market also derives from understanding who the talent buyer is in each club / venue.  Make a list of names / emails and provide a fun fact about each talent buyer (if possible).  It’s good practice to keep track of who you’re dealing with professionally, but also who they are as people (life skill ALERT). 

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“Music and music business are two different things” – Erykah Badu

With thousands of venues that exist in any one region, it can be difficult to get a grasp for each club’s genre preference.  If you aren’t familiar with your local scene, investigate by going to shows and seeing what clubs are doing. Look for handbills / posters for other shows and investigate the sound of the bands on the line up. If you are looking to book outside of your local scene, you can lean on websites like Indie On The Move or Do DIY.  These sites have concise lists of existing venues and genres of music they have performing. Fair warning, I have run into issues where their websites were out of date and the venue has changed or no longer exists.  Make sure you double check your work by following up with a phone call or email.

A big part of the booking process deals with the onsite behavior of the band you are in/manage. It’s good practice to establish a courteous culture among your group while at your shows.  Often, bands confuse being an artist with being an asshole. If you sell out your show, but are still a pain to work with, the venue has reason not to ask you back. Many artists are plagued by this due to the classic example of musicians demanding only blue m&m’s. Most often these bands ask for blue m&m’s to see if the venue is paying attention to detail. If the m&m’s are different than requested in the rider, that translates to other, potential more damaging mishaps with the rider (i.e. bad sound, no hospitality, etc.).  Simply clean up after yourself, mind your p’s and q’s, and be thankful for the opportunity to play a show.  By and large, you can always conduct your business professionally and courteously.

Lastly, once the show is over and you are moving on to your next venue, be sure to stay in touch with the venues you played previously.  “Thank You” notes are a great way to follow up with the buyer.  It may seem frivolous, but as I mentioned before, we are all human and like being appreciated. At very least, send a follow up email to say thank you. Now go book some shows.

Once again, if you have any questions relating to booking a show, or have any suggestions for me to write specifically on any particular topic, feel free to email me at bcspencer2013@gmail.com

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THE SMARTER GUITAR NUT #2: Good Questions = Good Answers

 

In my first article, I told you about my background and what I hope to accomplish with this series of articles. Like the title says: I want to help make you a Smarter Guitar Nut. The first thing to know about being a Smarter Guitar Nut is: how to ask the right questions about the guitar you might be buying. I won’t get into the potential issues around a guitar’s cosmetic condition in this article. For now, here’s what you need to ask: Is the guitar in good cosmetic condition and is the finish original or is it a “re-fin”.

What we’ll focus on in this article is the guitar’s functionality; its mechanical and electronic components and, if those are not fully functional, what you then need to consider. Here we go…

Hey, I know the feeling. That first sight of a really cool guitar and that moment when you know (and sometimes even say out loud) “I must have it!” To that, I say: Slow down…let’s have a look…and let’s ask some questions. Asking the right questions can save you hundreds, or even thousands of dollars…and a lot of heartache. Here are some questions to ask, whether you are inspecting the guitar in person or on line:

 

1 – Questions about the structural condition of the instrument

  • Does the guitar have any cracks, broken or missing pieces or other damage?
  • Has anything structural been damaged or modified such as extra routing for pickups or a broken or reshaped body, head-stock or neck?

NOTES:

  • As you might expect, this is a biggie. A bad crack can mean an instrument is potentially un-fixable. On the upside, sometimes even an awful looking crack can be fixed so it is completely structurally sound.

 

2 – Questions about the truss rod

  • Does the truss rod work properly?
  • Is the truss rod nut in good shape, or is it worn or stripped?

NOTES:

  • This is another big one. The truss rod must be working properly for the guitar to play correctly and truss rod repairs can be extremely expensive. Basically, a guitar that needs work on its truss rod has either got to be an incredible bargain or something you really, really want almost regardless of the added cost to fix it. The only silver lining on truss rods is that sometimes what seems to be a very serious problem can be fixed by a good repairman.
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The cost of truss rod repairs can turn a bargain into a problem …and a broken truss rod can turn a guitar into a “GSO” (see my first article in this series about GSOs). This photo shows the truss rod adjustment nut is in good shape.

 

3 – Questions about the trueness of the neck.

  • Does the neck take its proper shape under string tension once the truss rod is adjusted?
  • If not, is the neck still over-bowed even with the truss rod tightened? Or, is it still back-bowed even with the truss rod loosened off?
  • Is the neck twisted? (i.e. does one side of the neck – either treble or bass – have significantly more or less bow than the other)

NOTES:

  • The “trueness” of a neck refers to whether it can be adjusted into proper shape by adjusting the truss rod with the strings up to tension. As will be fully explained in a future article about truss rods, the “proper shape” of a neck is actually very slightly bowed rather than perfectly straight. A problem with the neck’s trueness can be fixed, sometimes with a heat press to give the neck a new starting point, sometimes – if the situation is more serious or the neck is twisted – by removing the frets, planing the fingerboard, topped off by a re-fret. That’s very expensive!

 

4 – Questions about the frets

  • Are the frets original or replaced? If replaced, what size are they?
  • How much fret wear is there? Are there gouges in the frets?
  • Have the frets been dressed and re-crowned recently? Is there enough fret left to dress now?

NOTES:

  • Everything about frets can be measured to determine what size they are and precisely how much fret life is left. Most cellphone cameras are now good enough to take pictures of fret wear and gouges. A good repairman can (almost) always tell whether frets have been replaced.

 

5 – Questions about the electronics

  • Do all the electronics work and work as they should?
  • Are the electronics (pickups, switches, controls, capacitors etc.) original or have any been replaced?
  • Have any components been obviously repaired?

NOTES:

  • This can be a huge issue, especially if you want the guitar specifically for its pickups. Any serious purchase should be made only after an inspection or photo of the guitar’s inner workings. Rewiring a guitar can be expensive and rewiring a hollow or semi-hollow instrument can be very expensive.
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A good photo of the electronics can help determine whether components are original.

6 – Questions about the hardware

  • Is all the hardware original or have some parts been replaced?
  • If replaced, is the new part the same or different than the original?
  • Have any modifications been done to the guitar to accept replacement hardware or for any other reason? Are those modifications reversible?

NOTES:

  • This is the area where you can often catch a break because of all the excellent replacement parts available these days. Be careful, though, if the missing or broken part is unique to the instrument, a replacement can be either hard to find, expensive or both.
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All kinds of hard-to-find vintage parts have now been reproduced and are reasonably priced.

Once you’ve determined whether an instrument is fixable and how much it will cost to fix, just remember to add that amount to your actual total cost to obtain the guitar and re-do the math. Now, is it still a good deal?

There are two ways to deal with the cost of bringing a guitar up to good playing condition. One way is to simply say: “I’ll pass”, the other is to see if you can get the price of the instrument reduced enough to cover that additional cost, or at least a portion of it. With all these smart questions to ask, now all you need is a trustworthy seller who answers all your questions knowledgeably and honestly, and your trusted guitar tech to back you up the next time a “must have it” guitar comes along. So, get ready ‘cause you know there’s always gonna be a next time!

 

 

 

 

 

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Re-Gluing A Nut: An Easy and Essential Skill

Nothing stops your jamming in its tracks than a nut that has come loose. Nuts can loosen for a variety of reasons- the glue could have dried out, in transit the neck and strings could have shifted pulling the nut off, or a whole host of other reasons.

While gluing a nut is very easy, care must be taken as this small piece is one of the most essential pieces of your instrument. Here’s our step-by-step guide to re-gluing a nut. A simple and easy-to-learn, but often neglected skill.

How To Re-Glue Guitar Nut, Step 1: loosening the strings

The first thing to do is loosen the strings slightly and see if the nut is completely unglued. If it is not unglued you must take care to remove it. To remove a nut that is still attached, remove the strings and hold a block of wood against the nut from the fretboard side. Tap the wood very gently with a hammer. This applies even pressure against the nut and prevents it from chipping. If there is finish around the nut, score around the nut with a sharp blade, which will minimize chipping the surrounding finish.

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How To Re-Glue Guitar Nut, Step 2: examine the slot

Once the nut is free, examine the slot- in most cases, the glue joint broke from hard movement of the case- the movement of the guitar in the case and the tension of the strings will shear the nut at the glue joint. Since very little glue is used (on purpose) the slot should only have a tiny bit of glue residue. If you have large hunks of glue in the slot, you should very gently chip these away with a small tool like a dental pick. You absolutely do not want to gouge away any wood in the slot- its levelness and straightness are important for the nut to seat back properly and the guitar to play well again.

How To Re-Glue Guitar Nut, Step 3: examine the nut

Now examine the nut- it should ideally only have just a minor amount of glue residue. Again, if there are large pieces of glue, you can remove them carefully, again making sure that you do not chip or crack the nut. I find it helpful to gently use a metal ruler to scrape away any glue, but not remove any material from the nut. These steps are important, as the two surfaces must be clean to ensure a good, strong glue joint.

How To Re-Glue Guitar Nut, Step 4: protect the guitar

Once you are sure both gluing surfaces are clean, the most important step is next, protecting the guitar before gluing the nut back on. Some use drafting tape, which is extremely low tack, and won’t damage finishes. I think that this is not needed when gluing at nut, so I just place a paper towel over the peg-head and fingerboard, under the slackened strings. This will make sure you don’t have any unfortunate drips. Also- VERY IMPORTANT- place paper in the truss-rod cavity, completely covering it. Glue and your truss-rod should never meet.

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How To Re-Glue Guitar Nut, Step 5: grab your supplies

Now it’s time to grab your supplies: a paper plate, glue, a damp rag, and toothpicks. These are really the only tools you’ll need. For glue, a non-super glue that is water soluble is the best thing to use. Even white glue from your elementary school days is fine. The pressure of the strings keeps the nut down, the glue keep it from moving side-to-side. Also remember- nuts are made to be replaced, as they wear down over time. Using too strong a glue will make replacement difficult and potentially harmful to the instrument. I use a simple wood glue, easy to get, and handy to have around the house. Water soluble is also important, as you can use warm water to clean any of the glue from finish, and also use warm water to break the glue joint if necessary.

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How To Re-Glue Guitar Nut, Step 6: set up space & dry-runs

Now the next step is to set up your space and do several dry-runs. Make sure the path from the glue to the nut slot is covered and that if there are drips it will not be a problem. Optimize your path of travel, as every second the glue will be hardening. Once you are happy with your arrangement, pour some glue out of the bottle on to the plate. I pour out more than I need, so that I can choose the small amount I need. Really, the only glue you will need will be a dab on the end of the toothpick for each end of the nut. I put a dab in the middle of the slot, in between the end of the slot and the truss-rod channel. Now place the nut in the slut and gently move it from side to side- this will spread the glue evenly. Now place the “E” strings in the slot and tighten them just a bit- be careful to not over tighten, as the low “E” will pull the nut off center, just even the tension with the high “E”. Now quickly check the fit- I look at the pickup pole pieces to see my alignment, as well as the edge spacing on the overall fretboard. Once you are happy with the position, put the string back in the slots and give them a few turns, making sure they don’t shift the nut.

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How To Re-Glue Guitar Nut, Step 7: …and you’re done!

Now take the damp rag and look for any glue squeeze-out, it will be much easier to remove at this point. Let the re-glued nut dry for several hours, ideally overnight. Once the glue is dry, tune to pitch, and you are good to play again! If you found the nut moved and dried off center, repeat the steps and try again.

This is an easy repair that can really be done anywhere, most likely with things you have around the house. Having the right glue is most important, and doing a few preparatory dry-runs will make this easy and worry free.

THE SMARTER GUITAR NUT #1: So, You Want to be a Smarter Guitar Nut

Hi there, my name is Mike Zimmerman and welcome to my series of articles about guitars and guitar collecting from the techie’s point of view. I’ve been collecting guitars for many years and have accumulated quite an interesting collection. I also have the usual, accompanying collection of sad tales of “the one that got away” or “the one I sold when I needed the money” etc.

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Strange but true, reissues can become collectables too (on the left an early ‘60s Danelectro Longhorn, on the right its late ‘90s reissue).

Sound familiar?

While I’ve been a long-time happy member of the Guitar Nut fraternity, I’ve also had a little advantage: I’m also a trained and accomplished guitar tech, and that means I can buy an instrument that needs work and do the work myself, whether I intend to keep it or re-sell it. Often, that’s not just a cost saving, it can also mean the difference between snapping up a bargain on a decent guitar (for fun or profit!) or getting stuck with an unplayable and unsellable pile of wood and metal.

About that “pile of wood and metal”, I’ll mention here that a repair client of mine who is a piano technician once referred to any piano that needs more work than it’s worth as a Piano-Shaped Object or PSO for short. I liked that and have since referred to any guitar as a Guitar-Shaped Object (or GSO) if it is so far gone that its restoration would take much more time, effort and money than it’s worth. GSO…remember that term. It will come up from time to time.

Anyway, that’s the angle I’d like to take in this series of articles for Eastwood: the happy marriage between technical knowledge and smart guitar collecting. For me, it’s a marriage that has worked for more than forty years.  For you, I want it to be an introduction to what you need to know to become a Smarter Guitar Nut too, with a special focus on oddball and unusual instruments. This is, after all, written for Eastwood!

The subjects I’ll cover include:

  • Generally, what to look for (and look out for) in a guitar
  • How to recognize whether the instrument is in original condition
  • What parts can be replaced to improve playability without hurting its collectable value
  • What types of repair work or improvements are usually required in most guitars and how to do those repairs without affecting a guitar’s collectable value
  • Originals vs. reissues: which is better for you and how a re-issue can become a collectable itself
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Probably the most common modification to vintage instruments: New tuners. When should this be done? How should it be done ? And, when should it not be done?

For each of these subjects, I’ll be getting into how you can do these things yourself and when to know that a pro should become involved. Ultimately, the goal is to make you a more knowledgeable guitar owner and collector.

First, here’s a little relevant personal history. I started repairing instruments when I was a teenager. I’d brought my prized Rickenbacker bass to a local shop to have it set up. I don’t think I even knew what “set up” meant…all I knew was it ought to get done. I must have read it somewhere.

When the bass was ready, the shop charged me only $6 rather than the expected $8 (remember, this was a long time ago!) because, as they explained, they couldn’t intonate the E string; the bridge saddle had been pulled back as far as it would go and the string was still slightly sharp when played up the neck. I was happy enough to save $2 (like I said, this was a long time ago) but, as well, my interest was tweaked. I asked what “intonation” meant and the explanation I got inspired me to pursue the issue.

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The modern solution for Riks with intonation problems: The Hipshot Bridge. There are many modern parts that can improve vintage instruments without modiufication.

I went home and filed the E string saddle slot to enable a bit more backwards adjustment and the operation was a complete success. From that moment on, I was both able to set up my own instruments and do favours for my musical friends. Most important, I’d learned two important basic principles about guitar repair that I’d like to impart to you now:

  • If you understand why and how something is supposed to work on a guitar, you will more likely be able to figure out what needs to be done when it isn’t working as it should; and,
  • If you inspect the situation, plan and carry out the work carefully, you can be successful.
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Should you install side position dots on a vintage neck that doesn’t have them? We’ll discuss.

All that, of course, has to be considered in the context of your skill level with basic repair techniques and tools. At the very least, applying the principles above will help you recognize when you need professional help. It will also make you a much more knowledgeable repair customer. That’s a real head start for you and, again, a potential cost savings.

So, to conclude my own story, I eventually got a job with Fender’s Canadian distributor doing warranty repairs, set-ups and even some custom work on new instruments. I went on to become one of the early partners in The Twelfth Fret, Toronto’s premier guitarists’ pro shop that’s still going strong almost 40 years later. I then formed the Amazing Musical Instrument Company, which manufactured innovative acoustic-electric instruments, primarily violins. For the past 30 years I’ve maintained a shop in my basement to do various repairs for a number of local guitarists and on the guitars that I buy, sell and keep.

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In the foreground, this Longhorn has had a metal strap button installed on the horn rather than the heel to improve balance and stability. Ideally, a modification to a vintage instrument should be reversible, like this one.

At each phase of my work I acquired new skills, experience and knowledge that I think will be useful to you and anyone interested in guitars and guitar collecting.

In my next article, we’ll start that process by looking at what you should look for in any guitar to make sure you don’t end up with – as you now know it’s called – a GSO.

Your Band as a Business: The Big Three

Written by: Brian Spencer

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First and foremost, congratulations for taking the time to better curate musical success. Seeking out articles of this nature will take you, as well as those involved in your music, to the next level.

Do yourself a favor and continue to research periodicals that will help advance your knowledge of this ever changing industry. I’ll attach some of my favorites at the end.

You did it. You formed a band, or a band has approached you to help them get to the next level. Now what? There are 3 things that will get you far in the industry. Those 3 things can be incredible assets on their own, but in unity, they will continue to open doors throughout your career.

Talent: Let’s be completely honest. In any business your product needs to reflect what people desire.  You will be hard pressed to sell your work to anyone that isn’t close friends or family (not to discount those folks, but they are your ‘ride or dies’. They are in it for the long haul). Put in the hours in the practice room or put emphasis on the creative process for the band you manage. The better the music, the more people that will gravitate to you. That means more money to put into your pocket or, IDEALLY, to put back into the band (I’ll get into fiscal responsibility later).

 

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“The man at the top of the mountain didn’t fall there.” – Vince Lombardi JR.

Knowledge: Not knowing how to plan ahead is one of the biggest mistakes made by band operators. You need to constantly check where the best music is being heard, where that music is being played, and what opportunities are best for exposure.  These are the fun questions.  You need to get to know the PRO’s that exist (Performing Rights Organizations) so that your music is protected and you can hopefully start collecting royalties. Learn how to best route your band when putting together a tour.  Learn how to balance your profit / loss with every penny that comes in and out. Watch your favorite bands and see how they put together marketing campaigns for releasing music. Basically, the learning never ends, but this shouldn’t come as a shock. If you want to do something to your best ability then you have to eat, drink, sleep, dream (day / night) whatever it is that you are involved in.

Drive: In my subjective opinion, this is quite possibly the most important asset of the 3.  Without drive, the other two assets can be hampered exponentially.  If you ONLY have drive, you will be better off than someone with talent, knowledge, or potentially even a combination of those two.  You have the ability to work incredibly hard, and nobody should convince you otherwise. If you have the magic combination of all 3 assets, then doors will continually open for you.

 There is a plethora of roads that we’ll go down in the coming articles that will introduce you to specifics within the industry.  Throughout your career, managing your “Big 3” will be incredibly important to the success of your band. Continue to seek out periodicals and learn more about the industry. Ask lots of questions and continue to work at your craft.

Here are some books that have helped my business grow.  Keep in mind that some of this information is out of date, but the themes are still incredibly important.

http://amzn.to/2d8abBV

http://bit.ly/2e29jff

http://bit.ly/2e6vxB6

If you have any questions for me, or want me to write about any specific topic within developing your band as a business, don’t hesitate to email me at bcspencer2013@gmail.com

How to Fix a Warped Pickguard

By: Chris McMahon

There’s a lot of bad information on the internet, as I was reminded while trying to resuscitate a recent score: a Silver Sparkle 20th Anniversary Squier Jagmaster.

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Don’t laugh, it’s paid for!

It’s not a guitar for everyone, but I bought my first about five years ago when I started playing guitar again as an adult. It was fun and cheap, and with a little bit of elbow grease it cleaned up nicely and, after a pro setup, played great. Then I set my sights on more “appropriate” guitars and got myself a Fender Highway One Stratocaster, you know, a proper “dad” guitar.

 Selling the Jagmaster was a mistake (as my daughter frequently reminded me), and when I had some “mad money” recently, I started searching for a replacement. A couple weeks later, I picked one up through Reverb.com. It was a little more expensive than I would have hoped and rougher than I expected. The strings were crusty, every tuner and bolt was loose, and the pickguard was warped. But the electronics worked, the neck was straight, and there was almost no fret wear, though they were dull and a little rough.

All that stuff is easy enough to fix as part of a regular cleanup and restring. This one needed a little more, and in addition to my new and regularly applied Dremel and Nu Finish fret polish routine, which I’ll show next, I decided to fix the damn pickguard. I reckon if a third of a guitar’s face looks off, it’s going to show. And at the very least, it’s going to gnaw at me. Forever. Or until I’m done losing sleep over it and fix it, so why not do it now?

A quick Google search brought up no shortage of bad ideas, all suggesting that you essentially bake the pickguard and, before it melts, burns, discolors or sets off the smoke alarms, pull it out of the oven — careful not to stretch it — and stack books on it till it cools and lays flat.

If you’re inclined to follow that advice, I’m going to guess you don’t have enough books around to pull off that stunt. That said, follow the steps below at your own peril, as I did, and don’t do this to a vintage instrument.

 

            Here’s how I fixed a warped pickguard:

1. Remove the pickguard from the guitar, and electronics from the pickguard.

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Here you can see the bowing of the pickguard

2. Clear some space and wash the dishes in the kitchen sink. You’ll want the room to work, and you’ll score some points with the wife or roommate.

3. Find a cookie sheet or cutting board that’s bigger than your pickguard, but that fits in your sink.

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4. Boil some water – enough to fill the sink and cover the cutting board and pickguard with another inch or so. I used a kettle and the biggest pot we have to boil some more.

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5. Put the cookie sheet/cutting board in the sink, and place the pickguard in face down, so you don’t scratch it up like I did.

 

6. Pour the boiling water over it, then put the pot, with the hot water in it, on top.

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7. Wait 2 minutes.

8. Remove the pot, then the cutting board with pickguard, and re-stack them to cool.

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I let the whole thing cool for about 10 minutes after 2 minutes in the sink.

9. Enjoy a victory beer.

10. Buff it out with car wax, I use Nu Finish.

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That’s flat!

 

11. Reinstall, etc.

 

There are more than a couple benefits to using hot water rather than an oven. It’s a lot more controllable, as you can see the pickguard throughout the entire process, and the timing is flexible without introducing the possibility of smoke, fire or nasty fumes.