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Rick Andrews and other experts answers guitar repair questions
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Guitar repair Question
To: Rick Andrews
Subject: Guitar repair Question...
Sorry to bother you again with my trivial questions, and the books I have by Dan Erlwine and
another by Ritchie (something), neither of them cover my questions. Here they are.
1) I bought a guitar new (Epiphone Les Paul Style very inexpensive and I hoping that's not the problem
... LOL) and the guitar will not play in tune. You can tune it by harmonics, a tuner, fifth fret to
the the next string open, but when you play bar chords, power chords anywhere and when I play fourths
... on the middle two strings, they are not in tune, what's the deal, it's driving me crazy?
Could it be Intonation?
Also the string height and the nut looks OK (height wise, etc...) but I have one (almost two)
strings that in the first for sure and possibly second fret, it buzzes? Could it still be the
string height in the nut or something else?
I really appreciate your input and I am still asking around for anyone interested in your
From: Rick Andrews
Subject: Re: Guitar repair Question...
No problem, ask any time you need me. These are typical problems for cheap made guitars.
They just can't afford the time to put into them on the front end to insure proper playing.
Some brands are better while others are worse but the time it takes to do it right does
require some personal hands on time.
Every guitar ever made will have its own set of peculiarities due to a different piece of wood.
Custom hand made guitars are always much better or at least they should be. Even those will
sometimes need adjustments. Sometimes a cheap guitar can be adjusted and end up in fairly good shape.
You really can't expect the best though because the wood is not as good and the workmanship is
done on a mass production set-up.
A custom luthier as he is building the guitar sees these things
as it goes along and can carefully make his allowances in the way he builds it.
That of course takes lots of time. Most people hold on to their hand made custom guitars because
they usually play so well and are hard to find. Most custom builders can't make much money doing
that anymore. It takes so much time to build it right the players can't aford to put that much money
into them. I build them too cheap according to what I have been told.
I don't mean to sound like I am trying to give you a sales pitch. Some players have learned this over
the years and if they want the best they end up having them built to the specs they want, not
some hit or miss specs from mass production and assembly lines. Custom builders will stand behind
their work much more so than big name boys will. I can get the best out of a cheap guitar if anybody
can but again only so much can be done with them. Some of the pros still won't play anything but a
strat for example but they could have a similar body style and neck yet have it made of the top
quality woods and top quality workmanship and they play like a dream compared to the original Fender.
Sometimes even the pros will someday learn and see what they are missing. A truly wonderful
playing guitar can make them play almost twice as good as before. They don't believe that until
they finally break down and one day get their hands on one then they are glad they paid that
high end price once they see what it can do for them. If I were playing as a hobby then I would
stay with cheap guitars but if I was going to play professionally and depended on my imstrument
to make money I would pay the high end price and have exactly what I wanted that would help me
play my best in this competitive business. The better the tools the better the results of any kind
of work. I can tell you have an intonation problem and your fretboard is not entirely level.
It may have been close when it left the factory but not after it has had the time to settle in
and the wood moves somewhat as it ages. The high end guitars should be made with woods of the
absolute best available in the world and this is very important . . . the wood should be within
a 4% moisture content. That is very dry and stable. To give you an idea, furniture grade wood for
expensive furniture will usually be made of wood around the 15% to 20% moisture content range.
That is dry enough for custom high end furniture to sit on but not dry and stable enough to
play musical notes as on a freted instrument. There are many things a custom hand builder
can and will do while building a guitar along the way but they just can't do it in the factory
production line. The custom builder will ask lots of questions, at least a good one will, about
the playing style, string guage, fret size in height and width, playing action height, and
other points of concern. He will build it according to what he learns from the player whereas
the factory people have no idea who will be playing which guitar or any of the above mentioned
things that can make a huge difference in how it will perform. I have written a lot of info on
my web site regarding the guitar having a built in personality matching that of the player himself.
The level of unity between the player and instrument depends entirely upon how serious
the player is about his playing. How good does he want to play and sound. From the players hands and
fingertips, to the amplification, to the studio recording quality, to the final mix, to the CD
quality manufacturing, to the sound system it is played on when the customer takes it home and pops
it into the stereo . . . all can make a big difference in that end results. American music is
probably the world's most critical in sound quality. You would be surprised how many CD's were put
on the market where they were very careful all the way down the line front to finish to get the best
possible highest sound quality. They even split hairs between studio boards whether they are digital
or analogue, guitar amps whether they are solid state or tube type, even down to the jack cords
they use, guitar strings, even the guitar pick they use, but they don't apply that thinking
to the guitar irself. I can make any electric guitar sound like a strat regardless of shape or
style but it is the quality in how it is made that can make the difference in how well it holds
its playability. Most people have never played a really great high end hand made guitar.
There are not that many around to get your hands on to play. A good example is you can build a
strat copy all hand made with high end loving care and it looks just identical to a factory strat.
Now play them both and the difference is overwhelming. "Man. I didn't know a strat could play that
smooth or that well!" It looks like a strat but it is carefully hand made with the finest attention
to every little detail and you feel it right away. The next thousand strats won't even come close.
You will notice it was a different wood and much dryer and stable, different frets, different fret
board wood, different type body wood, etc. Looks like a strat but it ain't. I have known of people
paying $20,000 for older strat collector guitars that sold new for maybe $200 bucks and they could
have paid only $3,000 for one that would play rings around that strat. Not putting down a strat at
all, I love the strats and teles and Les Pauls, but the proof of playing is in the puddin'.
One more really good example for yo . . . your guitar is an Epiphone version of a Les Paul. That
means it was built in a foreign country, cheaper woods, labor, etc. The Gibson version of the Les
Paul is built only in America not with the best woods, labor, etc., but considerably better than
that of the foreign country. The Gibson Les Paul is a much better guitar. A custom builder however,
can build a hand made Les Paul using the very best of everything and his careful hand craftsmanship
fit to your playing also and it will be much better than the Les Paul. At one time many years ago
the Epiphone style was built by Gibson here in America and the Epiphone was just as good as the
Les Paul. Same guitar only the peghead shaped out a little different and the name. Some pros will
occassionally pay several thousand dollars for the best guitar they can get their hands on. Carlos
Santana has used Les Pauls and Paul Reed Smith for a long time but they are not the store bought
guitars off the shelf. He had them special built far better than the others. The companies were
willing to do that to get them to play their guitars and advertise for them but they are special
and carefully made to suit that pro player and better higher grade woods for such endorsements
with the star players. Of course the star players did not pay for them either. If they build them
that good for you or for me we would have to pay a high price for it.
Someone who really knows
his stuff can make your guitar much better than it is in intonation and stop the buzzing but it
can still later come back again if the woods are not stable enough. Hard maple necks will be the
most stable wood for a guitar neck. I personally prefer maple that comes from as far north as I
can possibly find. It will be the best and much more stable than the same hard maple from anywhere
in the U.S. How can that be? What would be different? Most people don't know this. The maple from
the far northern climates grows in a much colder temperature range right? The wood grows with much
more density having a tighter grain making it even harder and less flexible. When carved into a
guitar neck it will remain more stable. The weight of the maple is even heavier.
I will wear out carbide router bits much faster than with American grown maple. Northern Canada
is the best area of maple I have found and that is what I use most of the time in the high end
guitars. Factory produced guitars are made of maple or mahogany from wherever they get the best
price per board foot all governed by what will deliver the best cost and most profit to the company.
They will pick the creme of the crop for the custom endorsement guitar bodies, necks, and fret boards.
Ain't nothing like the best!!!
Rick Andrews, Andrews Guitars
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