It’s kind of a funny feeling; that “Eureka!” moment we all get when we discover something we had no idea existed, yet turns out to be blatantly obvious. Something that works like a charm, and solves problems we’ve been having for years. For the briefest of moments, we feel like a real-life MacGyver; nothing can get in our way! Unfortunately, these moments couldn’t exist without the moments that come before these: the brick wall moments. The times where we feel like there must be a way around something, but can’t figure it out to save our lives.
For guitar players, there’s a ton of little annoyances that we all sort of “put up with”, or don’t bother trying to fix because we aren’t aware of an easy solution. Maybe they aren’t all stopping you in your tracks, but there are ways around them to help make your life much easier. Here’s my list of eight things to consider:
1. Cut Picks from Old Credit Cards / Plastic Containers
We’re all victim to losing ridiculous quantities of guitar picks. By now I’m sure we’ve all accepted this as a norm, and while this first tip won’t exactly stop this from happening – it could save you if you find yourself without a pick in a pinch. Old credit cards or margarine containers that you’re going to cut up and throw out anyways can be cut into pick shapes and used, and if you lose them then it’s not the end of the world. Another thing to consider is keeping your favourite picks in your wallet. Get into a habit of putting them away in it whenever you finish playing – your wallet is something you’ve hopefully already trained yourself not to lose, so in this way you won’t lose your picks by default.
2. Use Noise to Tune
If you don’t have a tuner but do have a loud amp, you can actually use the 60 cycle frequenecy it hums to tune. Try this: plug your patch cable in but not your guitar. You should hear a loud “humming” noise, and within it you can actually pick out a particular tone. When plugged directly into a tuner, it looks like this frequency kind of bounces back and forth between a B and Bb note. Tune your B string to this note, and then the rest of the strings to the B string. You won’t be perfectly in standard, but you’ll be close enough to play by yourself and have things sound good.
3. Use a Pencil to help Stay in Tune
One of the leading causes of your guitar slipping out of tune is the condition of the nut slots. Strings can catch and be pulled, and not return to proper pitch especially after string bending. The nut slot shouldn’t be clutching the string with an iron grasp, but rather cup it and allow it to move freely. If your guitar goes out of tune a lot during play, try taking a pencil and “drawing” into the nut slots with some force. The idea is to get some graphite in there to act as a string lubricant, and hopefully help your strings stay in tune much better.
4. Toohpicks for Loose Screws
Screws and components that are loose can cause rattling sounds when you play, or can just be plain dangerous. You don’t want to have a strap button fall out on you while you play! An easy fix for this is to take out the loose screw, and use a toothpick (or pieces of toothpick, dependent on the screwhole size) to fill it. Put the screw back in, and voila! The screw is biting firmly into wood again.
5. Use a Shop Towel / Cloth when Stretching Strings
Here’s one for tuning again. The most frequent time your guitar is going to fall out of tune is after a fresh restring; especially if the strings weren’t stretched properly. The best way to ensure they’re nice and stretched is to apply a little heat to them while you’re pulling on them. Put a cloth or shop towel in your hand, and glide your hand up and down the length of each string while pulling it to stretch. This will add friction, which consequently heats up the string while you stretch it. It’s a more efficient way to get your strings used to their new tension faster.
6. Velcro for Pedals
If you’ve ever gone to band practice (or worse, hit the stage) and noticed one of your pedals is out of juice, it can spell trouble if you didn’t think to bring a screwdriver to open up the battery casing. To avoid this scenario altogether, remove all the screws when you get the pedal and line the sides of the casing with Velcro instead. This way you can easily open and shut the box much faster, whether or not you have immediate access to the tools it would normally require.
7. Shoelace for Knobs
Whether it be to fix or clean your electronics, or just to replace your guitar’s volume and tone knobs, there may be a point that you need to take off the existing knobs. Sometimes this is easy, and other times it’s near impossible. Top hat knobs are notorious for this, especially when placed so close to the guitar body. An easy way around this is to use a flat shoelace. Simply slide the shoelace under the knob, wrap it around, and pull up!
8. String for Hollowbody Volume and Tone pot Repairs
Here’s another to go along with electronics repairs. Some guitars are not built to be easily accessible. For example, many hollow or semi hollow guitar electronics can only be accessed through their pickup cavity or F-holes. This makes it tricky to get to the parts you need to work on, and even trickier to get them back to where they belong. The fix? Loosen off the knob, then tie a piece of string or fishing line to the top of the pot. Then you can let the pot fall and pull it out wherever you need to so you can work on it, and simply pull the string to bring the pot back through when you’re done.
So there’s my eight cheap and easy tricks for all you guitar players out there! Have you got any “life hacks for guitar players” you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below!