Rattling strings in any guitar can be a sign of worn frets. How can you tell whether your guitar has worn frets, and how much would it cost to get it fixed?
What are frets? What is a refret?
The frets are the raised metal wires on the neck of the guitar. As the guitar is played, the strings are pushed against the frets, which naturally wear over time. The wear shows as dents or flattened frets, which can lead to string buzzing, problems with intonation and playability, especially when string bending. Fret wear is a normal part of the life of a guitar, but some guitars will suffer more from wear than others: those regularly played with a capo, fitted with steel strings, or just subjected to heavy string pressure when played.
The process of replacing them is called a refret – though it can involve a considerable number of time-consuming steps to complete the job.
It’s that time of year again, and the madness of Christmas shopping is upon us. We all want to make our loved-ones happy with the right gift, but some people are just so difficult; yes we know they are mad about guitar, but how would you know what present to get?
Well, we’re all guitarists too, and we’ve got some suggestions for you… from stocking-fillers to main presents, we’ve given it some thought. Read on!
1 – Black T-shirt
You can’t go wrong with a black T-shirt; they’re cheap, useful and come with just about every design ever conceived. Most bigger guitar manufacturers offer such things, but you can also get them printed yourself if you have the perfect photograph. Here are some of this seasons favourites
This is a term that is widely used in vintage guitar circles, but it’s meaning may not be immediately obvious. Finish checking, or weather checking as it is also known, refers to the pattern of small cracks, usually comprising a series of parallel lines, but sometimes loosely checkered, that can appear on certain guitars with nitrocellulose finishes. The cracks may be loosely spaced or very tight, and can appear on any part of the guitar.
But what causes the checking? As the two names suggest, these cracks are in the finish (paint) of the guitar and are caused by extreme changes in temperature. Typically a guitar that has got cold and then warmed too quickly: maybe travelling in a cold vehicle, then brought into a warm venue – or flown in an unheated aircraft hold before landing in a warm destination. But this does not mean guitars should not travel, only that they must be allowed to acclimatize gradually.
Finish ‘checking’ may actually be in lines rather than checks Figure 1 checking in a translucent Cherry Gibson SG, Figure 2 in the Candy Apple Red of a Gibson Melody Maker
Guitars can take a battering, it’s true. Whether it’s just the knocks, dents and dings of everyday use (how many of us started out with a guitar with no case?), fading resulting from excessive exposure to sunlight, some damage sustained from an accidental drop, or even deliberate abuse with flaming lighter fluid à la Hendrix-at-Monterey. And sometimes a guitar can sustain more serious damage requiring a structural repair – maybe a headstock or even body break. Any guitar can be brought back to ‘as new’ condition with a complete or partial refinish. A refinish, or refin, is basically a renewal of the guitar’s paintjob, either over existing lacquer, or on completely-stripped bare wood. But is there any reason not to perform guitar finish repair? Can I perform a DIY guitar finish? And if I leave it to a professional luthier, what is a guitar refinish likely to cost?
The fact is, the finish, thin and fragile as it is, is all that protects the wood from grease, sweat, beer, and a whole lot more. Whilst not essential for the instruments function, the finish also creates an important first impression; your stage act might be highly polished, your look crucial, your music tight as humanly possible… but your favourite guitar would look so much better in black… So is refinishing the answer?
Figure 1 – Play wear, especially on a vintage guitar, may not be reason to refinish a guitar; refinishing can improve appearance but dramatically reduce value!
For years guitars have been falling off their straps; for years they’ve been taking damage. And for years people who care about their guitars have been fitting strap locks to prevent this problem. So no problem then? Well not until you forget the strap with the lock heads on… or until you get a second or third guitar…
Strap locks work great, but they can get a little expensive if you have several guitars; but Fender have come up with a cheap, incredibly simple and highly effective alternative. They cost under $2 for a pair, are pretty durable, and they are easy to move to a different guitar, installing in seconds. And THEY WORK GREAT! We can’t recommend them enough. Strap Blocks are available from Amazon, and most music stores. Check out the Guitar Savers Strap Block, for an even cheaper, unbranded version.
I was lucky enough to receive an Original Fuzz guitar strap as a gift this year, and I’m absolutely delighted with it. Firstly, they look great – somewhat reminiscent of the woven straps produced by Gibson, and other companies in the 1970s. Mine is called Rust Stripes, but there are a lot of cool designs to chose from – with names like Kurt Vile, Doug Martsch, Duane Eddy, Cusco and Dick Dale. I play a lot of older instruments from the 60s and 70s and these straps suit my vintage guitars perfectly.
But better still is the fact that they are so well made, of high quality materials, and each one is unique. The patterned side is actually hand-woven in Peru, under fair-trade conditions – “Each strap is as unique as the artisan that crafted it.”
And they don’t suffer from some of the failures off other straps. It’s thick; the woven ‘pattern side’ is backed with a similarly thick plain fabric – but one that has sufficient friction to reduce slipping and neck dive – something you normally need a wider leather strap to achieve. The end pieces are rigid leather- they shouldn’t deform in the same way that thinner straps do. And they are long; mine has a maximum length of 5 foot; sufficient for all but the lowest slung guitars.
Jeff Beck talks guitars – showing some of his collection and telling some really interesting stories on the way. About the fate of his legendary Fender Esquire he played so much with the Yardbirds, and the many other vintage (and newer) guitars he still has.
JEFF BECK LIVE AT RONNIE SCOTT’S 2007.11
Jeff’s guitar tech Steve Prior gives an in depth interview about Jeff’s guitars and beyond. Stay TUNED for more.
Jeff shows off some of his favourite guitars: his Gibson L5, 1954 Stratocaster, 1954 Telecaster, Gretch Rancher and a Maccaferri given to him by Led Zeppelins Jimmy Page. Jeff Beck clearly has great affection for his guitars, and talks about the other players that influenced his sound – mostly rock and roll guitarists like Cliff Gallup and Scotty Moore, but also the likes of Django Reinhardt.
And he treats us to a few choice licks in a different style for each guitar – even when not plugged in the tonal differences are really apparent. From twanging teles to soulful strats – check this clip out!
A gemstone guitar pick may seem like a luxury, but tonally stone guitar picks are just as different as nylon and metal picks. Typically semi-precious stones are not exorbitantly priced, compared to more valuable jewels; but they will cost around thirty to fifty times as much as the standard nylon or plastic guitar picks. So is the price worth it?
What is intonation on a guitar, and is it important? Well, yes, it could be very. If your guitar is poorly intonated it could play horribly out of tune! It may sound fine down low playing open chords, but suddenly, when the solo starts, up at the fifteenth fret… aaaahhhhgg!
Figure 1 – Strings passing over the saddles of a Fender Jaguar guitar.
I’ve known young guitarists change out tuning keys, and even buy new guitars because their old guitar would never stay in tune. In many instances it was just a matter of a poor setup, with nothing wrong with the guitar or any of it’s components.
But don’t worry, adjusting intonation is really very easy. All you need is a guitar tuner and a screwdriver. This article tells you how.