Guitar Sound | Adjusting your guitar

Welcome back for another post on creating a good sound on your instrument.  If you would like to review the post on adjusting your amp click HERE.

One of the first things every guitarist learns is the parts of the guitar and what their function is. These parts are not always just for holdings your instrument together, but their function dictates what your instrument sounds like. We should discuss a few simple guidelines for getting the most out of your guitar.

  1. Learn how to control your tone knobs. These knobs will drastically change the way your guitar sounds. It can suck the life out of your instrument, or it can give your instrument the life that it needs. The best place to start is by turning your tone knobs completely open. This means as bright as it can be. This is the default starting point. Depending on your style, you might decide to turn your tone knobs back just a hair to take the edge off of your tone. This will give you a softer tone, darker, and less spunk. This is usually preferred for jazz. There is really no practical reason to turn your tone knob completely dark. This will sound muddy and suck the life out of your instrument.
  2. Proper use of your volume knob can really improve your sound. Once again a default starting point is to turn your volume knob completely open. This means as loud as it gets. Some exceptions to this include trying to match the volume of the band you are playing with quickly. Also you may be in a situation where you want to turn off the gain slightly, lowering your volume knob will slightly clean your sound.
  3. Experiment with Picking location. If you pick your guitar close to the bridge it will sound bright. If you pick your guitar close to the neck it will sound full and dark. Experiment with your guitar so that you can adjust your sound according to your needs. It may shock you to find out how much difference it makes.
  4. String brand and strength can make a huge difference. Usually the higher the string, the darker it sounds. The lighter the string, the brighter it sounds. The company you buy also makes a difference. This may take some experimentation to find out which sound works best for you. A general guide line with strings is that you get what you pay for. This doesn’t mean you need to buy the most expensive, but the more expensive strings usually last longer and sound better.

The goal is to have a well rounded, good sound. If you have never heard this advice before, you might just need to follow some of this advice blindly. It takes some time to build your ear so that you can hear what sounds good and what doesn’t sound good. If you follow these guidelines you will have a decent sound to work with.

 

Guitar Sound | Adjusting your amp

Hello fellow guitarists,

Recently I have been doing a lot of masterclasses for schools and I have come across a general weakness for beginning and intermediate level guitarists. Within literally one second I can tell how good someone is based on their sound. Every time a guitarist plugs in their instrument, they should adjust their sound. First I will present to you the problem I run into most often, and then I will give you three pieces of advice on adjusting your amp before you play. There will be multiple posts about adjusting your  guitar sound so I suggest you read those as well.

The Problem:

I walk into a band rehearsal and I hear the guitar sound tingy, unfull, not inspired, barely heard, and just a weak sound.

The Fix:

  1. Adjust all your EQ to 5, then adjust as needed. Once you plug in all your equipment, you should take a look at your guitar amp. Look for the knobs that say EQ or Equalization and turn then all to the half way point. This will probably not be the perfect mix, but it will give you a good place to start. From here you can adjust your EQ as needed to perfect your sound. It is way too common for guitarists to either neglect EQ, or to turn the highs up more than needed and the bass down more than needed.
  2. Pay Attention to gain levels and effects on your amp. A guitarist’s sound should be meaningful and intentional, however this is often neglected among newer musicians. While you do your sound check you should check your gain to make sure it is not overly distorted or overly clean depending on the situation you are playing in. A lot of guitar amps come with built in effects, DO NOT let this slip your attention. You don’t want to be in a situation where your guitar sounds all funky and you don’t know how to fix it. It is better to turn off all effects until you know exactly what you want and how much of it to use.
  3. Fix your volume. It is always better to be told to turn up than to turn down, but you shouldn’t want to be told either. Pay attention to your volume. Each situation you play in will require a different amount of volume from you, knowing how much will come with experience. However the rule of thumb is be heard, but not too loud. If you are playing with a band, you can try to blend in with them.

If you look at the picture above you will see someone playing a trumpet. We can learn about our sound by observing other instruments. Trumpet doesn’t have the ability to adjust EQ, It doesn’t have the ability to turn a knob and be softer. The musician that plays the trumpet has a fairly even EQ, and has to pay attention to how loud and soft he is. We should be like him. We should pay attention to having a balanced EQ and paying attention to our volume. A trumpet performer cannot ignore his sound, and we should not either.

 

BASIC GUITAR MAINTENANCE: FIXING A SCRATCHY POTENTIOMETER

A guitar potentiometer is the volume and tone controls on a guitar. These are commonly shortened to just “guitar pot”. Over time these little mechanisms get scratchy and create fuzzy noises when you use them. This is an extremely easy fix and something that you can save yourself a lot of money doing yourself rather than hiring a guitar repair man to do it.

The first thing you need to do is buy an electronic contact cleaner. One isn’t better than any other, just buy one and it will be fine. The second thing you will need to do this job is a screw driver. The type and size of the screw driver will vary depending on the type of guitar. The third thing you may need is a new set of strings. This is because some types of guitars will require you to remove the pick guard to clean them.

Now that you have all the tools you need let’s jump in. Find the part of the guitar that contains the guitar pot. It may be under your pick guard or it may be under a separate plate. Take this off so that you can access the electronics in your guitar. On the electronic that is scratchy, look for a little hole that goes into the electronic. Squirt a little of your electronic contact cleaner into the hole and then use the pot to all extremes. You need to turn the knob to fully on and fully off several times. This allows the cleaner to be spread within the pot.

Replace all the screws on your guitar and put the strings back on. Your guitar should now be free of scratchy noises. This will take away that awful noise it was making before. I would suggest doing this to all the pots on your guitar at one time. If one pot is dirty, surely the other pot is not far behind. Repeat this procedure every time you get a noisy guitar pot.

Basic guitar Maintenance: Tighten the screws on your guitar

When most people first learn guitar, they learn how to play. Very few people learn the basic maintenance skills for guitar until a later time. However, most people in the beginning use cheaper guitars that are not made by world class crafts men. This simple little thing will hold your guitar together and keep it in top notch condition. Even expensive model guitars sometimes need this maintenance.

When you sit down some time to change strings or there is nothing else to do, bring out one of your screw drivers and check all the screws on your guitar. Check the screws in the back of the guitar neck, the ones that hold the neck to the body. Check the screws on the pick guard. One of the most common places to find loose screws is the strap lock, especially if you play a lot with a strap. This will ensure your guitar is solid and firmly together.

It is also a good idea to check the screws on your tuners. These should not be tight, because that will prevent you from tuning your guitar, however they should not be loose either. It is best to adjust these with strings on the guitar and test them as you adjust. This will help your guitar stay in tune and it will make it easier to tune your guitar.

You do not need to do this a lot. A good time to check the screws on your guitar would be when you notice a screw looking or acting loose, and if this doesn’t happen check it once every year to 2 years.

Just one warning, make sure the screws are snug, but not too tight. Your guitar is made of wood and if the screw is too tight it can cause damage.

How often should you change your guitar strings?

The life span of guitar strings will vary a lot. There are many factors to this. We will discuss these factors in this post as well as how you can make your strings last longer. This post will cover a little bit on how to assess guitar strings to see what kind of shape they are in. We will finally discuss when you should change your strings.

 

Guitar strings have many variables that cause decay at different speeds. Here are some of the more common factors involved.

 

Company:

The Brand that makes the strings does make a big difference. They sound different, and they are made different.  There isn’t one company that has “bad strings”, but keep in mind that each company makes their strings differently.

 

String Coating:

Strings can come with different coatings. Some have anti rust coats on them, others don’t.

 

Price:

Have you ever heard “You get what you pay for”? This is true with guitar strings. More expensive strings are made better, made of better material with better machines. A set of strings worth 4 dollars will not sound the same as strings that cost $15. Better strings will also last much longer.

 

Amount of use:

This is the greatest factor in the life span of strings. If you use your guitar a lot, they will weaken faster.

 

You may be wondering what shape your guitar strings are in right now. Here are some ways you can tell.

  1. Do your strings have any rust on them?
  2. Do your strings have dirt on them?
  3. Do your strings have any dents or bumps on them?
  4. Do your strings sound flat and dull?
  5. Do you have a broken string?

 

If you said yes to any of these, then your strings are not in good condition.

 

How do you know when it is time to replace your strings? Well the answer will come down to personal preference. Because of money, you may not be able to afford strings.   You may decide that even though there is dirt on your strings you won’t replace them yet. Some people like the sound of dull strings. This is something that you need to find out for yourself.

 

If you have a broken String, it is recommended that you replace all your strings. If one string is broken, they are all likely to be old and worn. It is just a couple extra bucks and your guitar will sing for you in return.

 

How do you make your strings last longer? It boils down to one word, Care. If you care for your strings they will last longer. If you clean them after you use them, you are less likely to get rust or dirt on them. Having clean strings will also keep them sounding vibrant for longer. Keep your hands clean. This will prevent dirt from rubbing off of your hands onto the strings. A nice scrub will not prevent you from rockin out.

Guitar Picks – Should you use small or big picks?

There are many different companies that make guitar picks, and within these companies there are many styles of picks they make.  Some guitar picks are large and some are small. Which are better to use and why? How do you know what the best choice is for your own playing? These questions will be answered shortly.

Large picks are by far the most common style guitar pick. You find them everywhere; they are even turned into necklaces. These are the typical guitar picks that most people think of when they think of guitar pick. The large guitar picks have an advantage that you can find them lying around, which can cut back on buying new packages as often. The other advantage is that large guitar picks have a lot to hold on to. This could possibly make it less likely to slip as much, but not necessarily. The benefit of having more to grab on to can also be seen as a disadvantage because it is slower because the extra material to hold on to.

Small picks are used very rarely, these are mostly known as jazz picks except not only jazz players can use them. They are compact and make playing simpler because there isn’t so much loose material. The downside to these picks is that they can be dropped easily because they are smaller.  You won’t find these lying around at gigs and any place in stage or around other guitar players, but they have their benefits.

Choosing something like a guitar pick is extremely personal. No guitar teacher, guitar book or guitar blog could ever tell you what is best for you when it comes to guitar picks. I suggest you buy a couple different packages of guitar picks to find out what you like. If you do this, don’t just try them for 30 seconds and say you don’t like it. Stick with each style for a week then reevaluate what you thought of the guitar pick. You may find you like the small pick because of the extra control you have, or you may find that the extra material from the bigger picks works better with your fingers.

There are many benefits to both kinds of guitar picks be it small or large picks. Picking out a guitar pick you like is extremely personal and you should experiment with different sizes and styles to find what works best for you. Give everything a fair chance, you will be use to one thing and changing is hard, but you may find the change is a valuable part of your progress as a guitarist

Learn the Parts of the Guitar Starting With the Guitar Body

guitar body

A picture of the parts of the guitar body

Knowing the parts of the guitar will help you chat with other guitarists and help you know how to communicate about certain things. Learning about the parts on the body of the guitar will allow you to understand more about the guitar. In this lesson we will discuss the parts of the guitar’s body and I suggest you memorize the names of these parts and a little about their function.

The guitar is held on to the player by guitar straps. Guitar straps are held onto the guitar by using Strap Buttons. Strap Buttons are on the ends of the guitar and that is where the guitar strap connects.  The guitar cable connects to the output jack. This is where the sound is transferred from the guitar to the amp. Output jacks are sometimes in different locations depending on the guitar, but on a typical strat model it will be in the location on the picture.

Pickups are the thing responsible for picking up the strings vibrations. Because of this, they are always found under the strings between the bridge and the neck. Pickups give their signal to the output jack. The bridge is responsible for holding the strings on the guitar. It can also do cool things like whammy bar stuff. The Bridge is always found at the end of the guitar body right above the output jack.

Most guitars have volume knobs and tone knobs. The volume knob controls how loud your guitar is. Wild guess how it got its title? The tone knobs control the darkness of the guitar. Another similar switch on the guitar is the pickup selector. This is what determines which pickup is being used. Pickup selectors vary with different types of guitars.

The cutaways are where your hands fit. Some acoustic guitars do not have cutaways. All electric guitars do. When both sides have cutaways they are called double cutaways. Picks ups are there to protect the guitar from picks, but they also have a second purpose. They hold wires inside the guitar. Not all guitars have pickgaurds.

Learning the names and purpose of the parts on the guitar you will be able to communicate with other guitarists about the guitar. You will use this terminology almost every day as a guitarist. Spend the time to learn about the guitar and its parts and you will be glad you did.  You can now understand what other guitar players are talking about when they use these terms.

Learn The Parts Of The Guitar Starting With The Guitar Neck

A diagram of a guitar neck that shows the parts of a guitar.

A diagram of a guitar neck that shows the parts of a guitar.

The guitar can be separated in to 2 main parts. In this lesson we are going to discuss the parts of the guitar that are on the guitar neck. There are more parts of the guitar neck than those that are mentioned here, but this is all you need to know to get started. I suggest you memorize the names of the parts and try to remember some of the facts about them. You will be using this terminology the rest of your guitar career.

The guitar neck is the longer skinny part of the guitar. This is the section of the guitar that is responsible for the notes you play. On the guitar neck section the top part where the strings are is called the fret board. The fret board is where the frets are. Give a wild guess how it got its name? These guitar frets are what give the guitar its pitch. Every time you hit that note (if your guitar is in tune) it will play the same note.  If you are interested in learning about how to guitar changes pitch then click here. (To come soon) When you look at a guitar you will notice either dots or designs on the fret board. This is called inlays. These are sometimes used to help the guitarist locate their position on the fret board, or just to look fancy. Sometimes they glow in the dark and some even come with lights!

The very lowest part of the neck is a little plastic piece. This is kind of like a fancy fret that ends the neck. This piece is called the nut. After the nut you have the head of the guitar which holds a lot of mechanisms to make the guitar work. The guitar head is responsible for holding tuning knobs. Tuning knobs are what you use to hold strings onto your guitar and to keep them in tune. This is also called tuning machines and tuning pegs. Another thing that is past the nut is a string tree. Not all guitars have these. Their main function is to angle the strings to hold them into place. They hardly affect the tone of the guitar.

The guitar neck is full of gadgets and parts that are useful to the guitarist. Know what these are and what they are used for and you will be much more familiar with your guitar. You will use these terms in your whole career as a guitarist, even if you aren’t a professional you will use these terms. This is a good beginning list of the parts on the guitar neck and from here you can expand your knowledge with more in-depth knowledge of the guitar.

How to clean a rosewood guitar neck

Guitar necks get dirty from all the use. When we play guitar we sweat and have grease and dirt on our hands and the strings collect it and the fret board collects it. If we want to keep our guitar looking nice and sounding its best we should clean it. I am going to teach you an easy way to clean your rosewood guitar neck. However you should not do this on a maple guitar neck because it has a finish on it and this will ruin the finish. Rose wood guitar necks do not have a finish on it, so this is a good way to clean it. Let’s first take a look at what you will need to clean your fretboard.

The first thing you will need to clean your guitar neck is lemon juice. You do not need much at all. You will not need much of the lemon juice, you can probably just dab your cotton or tooth-brush once and that is plenty.  The second thing you will need is something soft to apply it. I use cotton to apply lemon juice. Q tips work well because it is soft and easy to hold on to. Another option that people use is a soft toothbrush. Make sure it is soft, because if it is too hard it may hurt the wood.

Once you have all the tools you will need to clean your fret board you can gently apply the lemon juice. You will see the gunk coming off of the fret board. When you wipe it down you can also clean the frets. Let it air dry for about a minute maybe 2. Then you should take a soft rag and wipe the fret board off. After you clean it, the neck should look as good as new.

I suggest you clean your guitar neck once every 3 – 4 months. This will keep your guitar in good playing condition and make it look good too! Some people suggest more, but this should be enough. When you take care of your gear it will last longer and look better. Your gear will thank you for taking care of it.

Guitar fret boards have a habit of collecting dirt. Even if your hands are clean they still have oils on them. This will be collected on the fret board. You can clean your guitar to make it look better and sound better as well. Use something soft such as cotton or a soft tooth-brush and apply some lemon juice to the fret board. Wipe it off when you are done and it should look as good as new. Happy cleaning!

The Importance of Putting Strap Locks on Your Guitars

Guitars usually come with strap pegs that are insecure and put the guitar at risk. Putting strap locks on your guitar is an upgrade that you should invest in as soon as possible. Many things can happen if you do not. Today we are going to discuss some of the reasons you need strap locks on your guitars

Guitars can and do fall. Strap locks will prevent this. I was at a band practice once and the other guitar player let go of his guitar for 5 seconds to get a drink from his water bottle and boom. His guitar fell and the neck cracked in half. Guitar straps would have prevented this because they do not come undone.  Strap locks will make you feel more secure that your guitar won’t fall every time you let go of it.

If you are in a situation where other people tend to use your instrument, you may find strap locks very helpful. Some people may be clumsier than you. Do you trust your guitar in the hands of someone else? Strap locks give you that extra security to prevent someone else from dropping your guitar. The couple extra dollars to upgrade to strap locks will pay for itself in the end.

If you are someone who tends to swing their instrument around a lot or bounce around while you are playing strap locks is mandatory. Jumping, bouncing, running and swinging will cause enough pressure on your instrument that it will fall off. Strap locks will prevent this. Some people who are really into entertaining tend can have more ability to show off with strap locks on their instrument. You can feel comfortable knowing that if your guitar has strap locks you won’t drop it and break it.

Strap locks are a necessary thing to create safety for your instrument. There are too many ways a guitar could drop. Having strap locks on your guitar will surely prevent dropping of your instrument. They are only a couple bucks to buy and easy to install. They will pay off for themselves in the long run. If you do not buy them you may need to buy a new guitar instead. I think most people agree that they would prefer to have a safe guitar with strap locks on them instead of risking your guitar. Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions in the comment box below.