Do you know your local craftsmen?
One of the most important factors in developing as a guitarist is building an understanding of how your instrument works and gaining an insight into how playability maybe enhanced or hindered through the way your guitar is set up.
As much as the guitar may seem like a mysterious, metaphysical instrument of musical divination it is in fact still a mechanical device that needs a little bit of T.L.C.!
In general try to avoid:
1. dropping or knocking your guitar
2.extreme temperature and/or humidity conditions and fluctuations:
Rest assured that a decent luthier will be able to make highly significant improvements in the playability of your guitar; YOU WILL notice the difference between a guitar that hasn’t been set up correctly and one that has had the hands of a master grace it’s mechanics.
There is no excuse for POOR quality service. When you buy a guitar it should be PROPERLY set up before it leaves the shop. A guitar does not necessarily travel from the manufacturer to your retailer and remain impeccably set up. Neither will the set up from the factory, or from your shop necessarily be optimum. Futhermore as time passes your guitar will age, settle and mature – hopefully like a fine claret, or a good bottle of Chateaux Neuf de Pape!
SO when and why should you take your guitar for a bit of a check up?
Over time general wear and tear, vigorous playing, temperature and humidity can all affect the playability of your guitar. The action and the intonation are crucial contributing factors, and you can set these yourself, but if you don’t have the necessary experience it’s probably best to take your guitar to your local luthier. Because your guitar is a living, breathing, and evolving organism then change IS inevitable but just how can you tell if your guitar needs a little medicine?
Well, the key signs to look for are string buzz, general playability difficulties, tuning anomalies up and down the neck, and action problems. Although fret buzz can also be caused by significant problems, in many cases, simple adjustments like raising string action can make these problems go away. You should not be hearing any rattles, shaking, movement or other unwanted sounds.
When it comes the the action, ideally your strings/action should be set at a height that allows you to fret easily and comfortably at any position on the neck but without ANY buzzing. Buzzing can be caused by a combination of factors such as the saddle heights, uneven and heavily worn frets, the setting of the guitars nut, the string action and the situation of the neck. You should not be struggling hard to fret or voice chords up and down the neck. If you are finding that chords become progressively more difficult to voice the further up the neck you play then your action may need a little tweaking.
If the neck has become bowed then the truss rod will need adjusting (do not do this yourself). The truss rod is an adjustable metal rod that runs down the center of the neck. Problems with cheap guitar nuts or poor quality bridges and saddles can ruin your playing experience too.
Uneven frets can contribute to buzzing and your expert luthier will be able to locate any inconsistencies and redress them through grinding, replacing or adjusting your frets.
As a guitarist it’s very important to develop a healthy and positive relationship with your local guitar specialist. Take the time to find out which luthiers in your area have a solid reputation for quality and excellence. Preferably your luthier should have a long history of building and repairing instruments. Take your guitar and ask them to have a look at the current set up and show you how, where and why any adjustments can be made.
Choose your luthier wisely because your luthier can contribute so much to the quality of your guitar playing experience.