Finish checking on a guitar. What is it, and how can I prevent it?

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 consist tight, roughly parallel, lines

Finish checking may also be far looser

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


Continue reading Finish checking on a guitar. What is it, and how can I prevent it?

What is the cost of refinishing a guitar

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.

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?

Playwear, especially on a vintage guitar, may not be reason to refinish a guitar

Figure  1 – Playwear, especially on a vintage guitar, may not be reason to refinish a guitar; refinishing can improve appearance but dramatically reduce value!


Continue reading What is the cost of refinishing a guitar

Painful Guitar Calluses – Solutions and Information

There are some dangerous ways to get a little entertainment- sky diving, mountain climbing, and even playing the guitar safely at home. Newcomers to the guitar will find out the hard way that fingers and hands will certainly become callused, and may experience a little pain and tenderness to the touch as a result. However, there are a few tricks of the trade that can help speed up the process.

hand callus

Figure 1 – You won’t have the best looking hand in the world- but it can play a mean guitar!

What are Calluses?

Calluses are thickened or hard parts of a certain area of skin. This is a result of rubbing, or pressure, and no doubt they have been experienced before on feet or hands. The thing about playing the guitar is, most pople don’t already have hardened fingertips. Specifically the index finger. As a newcomer begins to play more and more guitar, it will become more apparent that fingertips may feel tender. This can even affect guitar playing, and it is best to wait the tenderness out and wait for skin to harden. Taking a few days away from the guitar will help skin develop- and let you play much longer and harder the next time.


Continue reading Painful Guitar Calluses – Solutions and Information

What is the cost of refretting a guitar?

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.


So how do you know when a refret is required?

Continue reading What is the cost of refretting a guitar?

How to get the Synyster Gates sound

Synyster Gates is getting a lot of attention just now – with numerous hit records, his own signature guitars and amplifier from Schecter, and an increasing reputation as a modern-day guitar hero. We present a profile of the man, explain why he is viewed as one of the best guitarists on todays rock scene; and give some ideas on how to get his sound.

403px-SYN_GATES

Californian metal band Avenged Sevenfold are clearly one of the most popular hard rock bands today, and with six studio albums (including two reaching number one) they are certainly hard to ignore. Brian Haner Jr, or Synyster Gates as he is better known, has been there since the beginning; Syn’s the man responsible for those insane guitar solos you’ll hear on tracks like Afterlife and Beast and the Harlot.



Continue reading How to get the Synyster Gates sound

Stone Guitar Picks

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?

Stone Guitar Pick

Figure 1 – Agate Stone Plectrum

To many guitarists, the answer is a resounding yes! Not only are they longer-lasting, easy gripping, and better sounding; they are also very appealing items to own.

Continue reading Stone Guitar Picks

Guitar Picks

Why A Pick?

A guitar pick, or plectrum is used to pluck, or strum guitar strings; to improve sound, allow faster strumming, and reduce injury on fingers. You can just use your fingers, especially for picking, but a pick gives far more bite to notes, and hurts a lot less. There are many types of guitar picks to choose from: different materials, shapes, as well as sizes and colors. Some guitar picks are even used for special purposes, such as a double-sided pick for “double plucking.” This article explores some of the diffent types.

Different types of Guitar Pick

Guitar picks are commonly made out of plastic, but also wood, bone, amber, rubber, felt, tortoiseshell, stone, metals, and even gemstones. Each of the materials has it’s own unique sound, but also properties such as ease of grip, price, and durability. There is no one type to suit all players – playing style, and desired tone are important when choosing. For instance, metal has a very distinct bright sound when plucked against a guitar string and makes for great piercing solos – but offers little grip. It can also damage a guitars finish if played too aggressively. Wood picks are cheap, with great grip, nice attack, and a full woody sound – great for jazz. Actually woods tonal qualities can vary hugely from species to species, and as they are so cheap, buying a selection of different types is quite affordable. Tortoiseshell was historically one of the best materials in terms of grip and tone, although an international ban on tortoise shell (rightly so) led to the creation of Tortex picks, which are a pretty good all round replacement. Leather picks offer a rather mellow muted sound great for strumming chords, but too flexible when playing individual notes.

Choosing your most suited material is a matter of trying them all out, and deciding on which sound and grip works for your playing style – whether it be metal, blues, or jazz. Many players have a selection of picks, using different ones at different times. If all else fails, weird guitar picks aren’t unheard of – from bone, to an Allen wrench – just about anything can become a useable plectrum!

Fender Guitar Pick A thumb guitar pick.A triangle guitar pick.

Figure 1 – Traditional picks, a thumb pick, and a triangle pick example

Continue reading Guitar Picks

What is Intonation?

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!

electric guitar intonation

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.

Continue reading What is Intonation?

Bass Guitar Strings

 Bass guitar strings, flatwound, halfround and roundwound

A new set of strings can do wonders for a bass. If the old set have been on for a while, the sound they produce will be dull and lifeless. Old strings can be the cause of fret buzz and intonation problems, and in a worse-case scenario could snap during performance.

How long a string takes to become ‘old’ depends on several factors: how much it is played, whether it is wiped down after use, and even how corrosive the perspiration of the player. Top players may change their strings nightly; only fresh strings give them the sound they want, whilst a bass that spends very little time in use – perhaps avoiding gig situations – will be fine for months or years.

So, now you’ve decided to treat your beloved bass to a new set, how do you decide what to buy? There are a lot of choices, but which ones are right for you? Long scale? shortscale? roundwound? flats?

This article describes some of the main types, to help the reader identify the best bass strings for them…

Continue reading Bass Guitar Strings