Guitar Talk
Bolt on Necks Print E-mail

At Montana Guitar Shop our guitar necks (except nylon string and Snails) all  have a mortise and tenon joint and are bolt on.  This makes it a much easier process to reset the neck should it ever need to be done somewhere many years down the road.  We use brass bolts which are threaded, epoxied and pinned into the tenon of the neck.  They will NEVER come loose.

 Bolt on Neck


In the quest to make the SNAIL travel guitar more playable, the answer has finally come.  As you Snail players know, the design of the instrument is very good in every way except the head is somewhat heavy when playing in the seated position without a strap.  It came to me this morning, I tried it, and Presto-Change O it worked.

Here is the solution if you prefer not to play in classical style with the guitar at a 45 degree angle when seated. Attach your strap to the end pin only.  While standing and holding the Snail in position let the strap hang straight down to the floor.  Wrap the strap around the middle of your posterior and hold with your left hand.  Sit down on the strap.  With the strap hanging over the left side of the chair adjust the tension so that the Snail neck is counter balanced by the pull of the strap on the guitar body.  Resting the Snail on my right leg worked best for me.  Lo and behold it is just like playing a full size steel string because that sense of having to hold the neck up is gone.

Please e-mail me with your suggestions.  Thank you.


Humidity and Your Guitar Print E-mail

As we are entering the dry winter months it is important that you protect your guitar from low humidity.  High quality acoustic guitars are generally built at around 45% humidity and usually the better instruments are crafted with solid woods.  Solid wood guitars are more sensitive to dry and temperature extremes than less expensive laminated wood guitars; part of the price to pay for better tone.

It is easier for an instrument to endure high humidity than low because wood will expand and can usually take the pressure without anything coming apart.  Although I don't really recommend using your guitar right next to a lake or river for very long as it can throw it into a tizzy that will last for a few days.  One effect higher humidity has is that it has a tendency to cause the soundboard to rise which will cause the action to be higher than it normaly would be.  Some players have different height saddles for different seasons.  Extremely high humidity environments should be avoided.

A good investment for your home and instrument is a hygrometer which will tell you what your humidity level is at.  The best humidity level is near the level at which your instrument was built so ideally we would like our homes to be 40% to 60% or so.  If humidity levels begin hovering around 35% or lower for very long we should be purchasing an instrument humidifier which stays inside your case.  Most music stores will have them.  And always keep your guitar in the case when not in use.

Remember low humidity and high temperatures are the real killers.  If wood shrinks it has nowhere to go except to crack.  NEVER store your guitar near heaters or heater ducts and NEVER carry it in your car trunk in hot weather. 

Be especially cautious with your NEW instrument as it is more likely to check or crack in its first few years of life.  Take good care of your guitar and as the wood ages (and through use) you can expect the tone of your guitar to be sweeter and sweeter.



Holding the SNAIL Print E-mail

To properly play your SNAIL travel guitar it should be held as would be a classical guitar when sitting down.  The guitar body should rest on the right leg or between the legs and the neck should tilt up at around 45 degrees in relation to the body.

If you prefer not to play classical style or to play standing up it works best to use a guitar strap with one end attached to the end pin and the other end attached to the peghead (with a strap or cord underneath the strings).


Replacing Guitar Strings Print E-mail

This article is specifically aimed at changing strings on a flat top steel string acoustic guitar.  It is important that it be done with care that repairs could be avoided and that your instrument would stay in tune.

If your guitar is sounding somewhat dead or you are noticing it is harder to keep your instrument in tune, it is time to change strings.  For most applications I recommend a light gauge or custom light gauge set. The light gauge strings are easier to play and are easier on your guitar as they have less tension than a medium or heavy set.  The only tradeoff by using the lights is slightly less volume, however tone could be better since the guitar top is a little more free to ring out.  I also recommend using a coated string as this greatly extends their life.  Elixir and D'Addario both manufacture excellent coated strings and there is now a number of other makers also.

The first step in changing strings is to back off all your tuners until the strings are all loose and floppy.  Take a small wire cutter and gently grasp each bridge pin underneath the ball.  A little wiggle while pulling the pin up should do the job.  Put the pins in order as you take them out so they go back in the same hole.  Remove all the strings.  If they won't pull up through the bridge pin holes clip them off with the wire cutters and reach inside the guitar and pull them out.

A typical flat top guitar has no finish on the fretboard surface or the bridge, so the next step (and I do this every time I change strings) is to take a soft cloth and lightlly coat these surfaces with lemon oil (such as Formby's) or boiled linseed oil.  These will protect the wood from cracking and the lemon oil smells wonderful.  Linseed oil darkens the wood better and is longer lasting.

Now we're ready to replace the strings.  Place the ball end of each string through the bridge pin hole from the top (if the hole is too small feed the string through from inside the guitar).  Grasp the string with your left hand just above the bridge (carefull not to bend it) and make sure the ball end is just inside the guitar as you gently replace the bridge pin.  Make sure the slot in the pin is facing towards the peghead and that the string is resting in that slot.  Here is the single most important thing in changing your strings.  As you are pulling up on the string and at the same time pressing the pin into place REACH INSIDE THE GUITAR AND MAKE SURE THE BALL END IS PULLED UP AGAINST THE BRIDGE PLATE INSIDE THE GUITAR. Work with it until the ball is ALONGSIDE the pin and up against the hardwood veneer inside the instrument.  Do all six strings.  Doing this step properly can prevent a bridge from coming loose.

Now we're ready to attach the strings to the string posts.  Lay all the strings on the right side of the guitar and start with the low E #6 string.  Feed the string through the string post hole and leave a little bit of slack between the post and the bridge so it will have enough for about one turn of the post.  Before turning the tuner grab the string that has been pulled through and wrap it clockwise around the string post, under the string and then bend it straight up and hold it.  Now turn the tuner button so the post is turning counter clockwise and as you are tightening keep the winding string at the bottom of the post. As you go through each string leave more slack between the post and bridge so when tightening each progressively smaller string you will get more winds.  The direction for wrapping the string and tightening the strings will be just the opposite for the three treble strings as it was for the bass strings.

Tighten all strings roughly in tune and with the wire cutters clip the excess string on the string posts even with the top of the post.

Tune your instrument and enjoy that beautiful tone. The strings will stretch for a day or two and so will need more frequent tuning.


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