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General Guitar Maintenance and Repair

How to Maximize Your Guitar’s Value by Keeping it in Shape

No matter whether your guitar was a beginner’s value model or a custom-built 6-string, one of the best investments you can make in time or money is to learn how to practice basic maintenance and repair of your instrument. While you can certainly take guitars into the shop for regular maintenance and repair, you can save a considerable amount of time and money by learning to perform the more basic types of guitar fixes.

Please keep in mind that the procedures listed here are very basic. For more advanced processes, it is best to take your guitar to a professional.

Cleaning Your Guitar

It is highly recommended that you keep your guitar in a case or gig bag when not in use to protect it against the elements. Even if you do this, however, eventually your guitar will accumulate dust, dirt, and grime from use. In either scenario, here are the basics of guitar cleaning.

Strings are the part that generally need cleaned the most. It is best to take the few minutes to clean them after every playing. Use a chamois or soft, clean cloth to give the strings a general cleaning, then pinch each individual string with the cloth and rub all the way up and down to completely clean it.

Since most guitars are made of wood, it is best to simply dust and wipe the body with a soft cloth, as well. To dust between the strings in hard-to-reach places, use a small camel’s hair paintbrush. If you desire to use a liquid cleaner, make sure that it is a cleaner made just for guitars – this is no time to use 409. And if you swing an electric axe: for the love of all things musical, do not let any kind of liquid, cleaner or otherwise, come in contact with your pickups! They are sensitive magnets, and their performance can be marred, often permanently, when any kind of liquid hits them.

As for the hardware: In most cases, you would do best to use a simple dry cloth for cleaning. It’s all right to use a mild jewelry or chrome polish if you want, but keep in mind that many hardware components are “dipped.” This means they have a thin shiny metal coating over a baser metal, and the shininess of these parts can get damaged with repeated polishing. Make sure no polish gets anywhere near your tuning machines!

Keep your guitar out of direct sunlight and wipe it down as instructed on a regular basis. Your guitar’s finish will last for years to come. If your guitar gets chipped or cracked, take it to a guitar shop to prevent the ding or crack from spreading.

Adjusting Your Guitar’s Saddle

Action is the word used to describe the playability of your guitar. Specifically, it refers to the distance between your strings and the fretboard. If the strings sit too high, they are hard to fret, causing undue stress on your fingers. If they sit too low, they create a buzzing sound when you play them. If you are facing either of these problems, you can adjust the action by a simple adjustment of your guitar’s saddles. (The saddle is the part of the bridge where the string sits.)

guitar bridge and saddles

Guitar bridge and saddles

You raise or lower the saddle by turning the hex screws with a tine hex wrench (available at guitar stores). Turn the screw clockwise to raise the saddle; turn it counter-clockwise to lower the saddle. If the saddle has two hex screws, be sure to turn them the same amount so that the saddle stays level.

Adjusting the saddle is also a way to correct a guitar’s intonation. Intonation is the accuracy of the pitches produced by fretting. For an example, if you play on the twelfth fret, it should be exactly one octave higher than the open string. If the note played on the twelfth fret is too high, move the nut away from the saddle. If it is too low, move the nut closer to the saddle. This can typically be done with a small Philips or flathead screwdriver. It is best to put on new strings when adjusting intonation for maximum effectiveness.

Adjusting the Truss Rod

Most guitars have a truss rod, which is a one- or two-piece adjustable metal rod that goes down the inside of the center of the neck. This can be loosened or tightened if your guitar’s neck has started to bow as a result of temperature or humidity change. Different guitars have access points in different places, but they are generally easy to find. The truss rod has a nut which is used to adjust it.

This is a time-consuming process because it must be done slowly to ensure it is done properly. The truss rod must be turned a quarter-turn at a time and then allowed to adjust. (It’s okay to play during that time.)

If your neck bows outward between the seventh and twelfth frets creating a large gap that makes pressing down the strings difficult, tighten the truss rod by turning the nut clockwise (as you face the nut straight on).

If your neck bows inward between the seventh and twelfth frets causing the strings to buzz and fret out (that is, come in contact with frets they’re not supposed to as you press down the strings), loosen the truss rod by turning it counterclockwise.

Guitars come with their own truss rod wrench. If you do not have one, they are easily available at a music store for a low price.

Conclusion

If, after minor adjustments, you still haven’t achieved the results you are looking for, it is time to take it to a professional for servicing. Meanwhile, avoid expensive repairs and service by keeping your guitar in tip-top shape.

Phone Glenn Sutton at: 619-306-3664.

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