Guitar Maintenance
by on December 5, 2016 in Education

In my years of teaching, I have been called on many times to be the guitar tech with students instrument. I will be straight up front and tell you that I am no master luthier or electronic gear head, but there are basic things you need to know to keep your guitar playing well. Realize that when you play, everything, yes everything, vibrates, and vibration makes things loosen.

Let’s talk about tools your going to need and then I’ll go into further detail on when and how to use these tools:

  • Sledge hammer (No, no, just kidding but it came to mind and I just had to put it in!!!!!!!! lol)
  • Small Phillips and small flat head screwdriver (you might even want to invest in a set of small jewelers screwdrivers too for those extra small screws).
  • A Regular size phillips and a flat head screwdriver (I have a six in one screwdriver with interchangeable tips/highly recommended).
  • A string winder
  • Extra Strings
  • Small pair of pliers
  • Small pair of cutting pliers
  • Electrical Tape
  • Graphite/a pencil will do in a pinch
  • Guitar Polish
  • Guitar Polishing Cloth
  • A brush used to put on women’s makeup (a Blush Brush…very soft bristles)
  • A toothbrush
  • WD-40

Basic maintenance starts like this:

Note (* only do repairs if you feel qualified. If not go to a reputable music repair place. My staff and I use Award Music/right next door to us in Terrell, TX
Check all screws and tighten if necessary

  • Check your tuning keys. If you’ve found your guitar going out of tune a lot, there is a set screw on the top of most tuning keys (not all so don’t freak if your guitar doesn’t have one). There is a small nylon bushing between the tuning key and the shaft. Tightening this say a quarter or half a turn will put tension on the nylon bushing and will take care of most problems.
  • Check your input jack to see if the nut has loosened. This is the number one place on the guitar for things to loosen up. If it’s a bit loose you can snug it up with the pliers. Be careful not to get to tight as you could crack the finish. If the input jack is really loose, take off either the front panel if it’s a strat or the back panel on the guitar if it’s a Les Paul. Hold one end with a pair of pliers while tightening the nut. If you don’t follow this procedure you can turn the input jack around and break the wires causing you costly repairs.
  • If you’ve been getting noise like scratching in your volume or tone controls, take your knobs off, most pull off but some have set a screw so check first. Gently remove them then squirt a bit of WD-40 on the volume or tone post. The solution will run down into the pot and clean out any dust, which causes a bad contact. (Hint….place a cloth or paper towel around the post so you don’t get the WD-40 on the finish of our guitar).
  • Change your strings out at least once a month if you’re practicing regularly. If your gigging a lot, most players like to change their strings out every gig or at least every other gig. Check out my article on how to change out your strings. When you take off your strings, take one off put one back on. Taking all the strings off at once can throw the neck tension off, especially if you’re working with a Floyd Rose Tremelo System. When you take one off use your toothbrush and a little guitar cleaner and scrub the guitar neck. This will loosen any dirt and oils from your skin that build up and collect especially at the frets.
  • Use the blush brush when you’re taking off you strings to dust off dirt and grime in those hard to reach places. Having a couple of different sizes work really, really well.
  • Polish your guitar at least once a month to bring out the natural sheen of your instrument. My guitars are workhorses (I call them my Clydesdales as I but a lot of work on them). One of my guitars I’ve had for over thirty years and she’s my baby but a tough one. I still polish her but she’s more of a tough Marlboro Red Smokin’ girl and looks at me funny when I do. Her attitude is…hey let’s go to work. Ok back to tech talk. It’s best to actually put the polish on a clean lint free cloth and then apply to the guitar. I’ve seen people use too much polish and have it leak down into the pickups etc. Remember less is best. On the neck some luthier’s will recommend a small amount of linseed oil so the rosewood doesn’t crack or dry out. Again less is best and check with the manufacturer or a reputable repairman before attempting this.
  • The remainder of the things on the list (electrical tape, string winder, extra strings etc.) in fact the whole list of tools and extra supplies should go with you in your gig bag to every gig. What’s a gig bag? It’s usually a small bag (could be a backpack etc.) that you carry all your supplies in i.e., repair maintenance kit, extra picks, cords, duct tape etc. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve saved the gig for myself or another musician by having my gig bag with me.

In closing keeping your instrument in repair and doing monthly maintenance, will keep your instrument playing great for years and keep you away from costly repairs.

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