When we receive guitars from consumers and artists, I am occasionally blown away by the setup of one guitar. Frets are nasty and corroded, the neck looks like the back bowl of the Vail ski resort, and the action is set so high it would make any bluegrass player hug you. Here are a couple of tips to make you and your guitar happy:
· 0000 Steel Wool: You can buy a bag of this at any hardware store for under $5. It will last you forever. Run a small handful of steal wool across the frets and fingerboard. This will not only clean the corrosion off the frets, but will remove the gunk (or finger jam, as some call it) off the fingerboard. Linseed oil or Lemon oil to follow, when needed. Oiling the board, depending on your climate, should only be done two or three times a year (or when the seasons change).
· Oil Your Rod: Do not be afraid. Adjusting your neck is a quick and easy way to love your guitar. Before you adjust, remove the truss rod nut and oil the truss rod threads. You do not have to remove the nut entirely, just enough to see the threads. The truss rod is cold-rolled steel. The threads can rust up making it very difficult to tighten. It just will take a small drop of oil (air tool oil, three in one oil). Be careful not to get the oil on your finish. Big mess.
· Adjust Your Neck: Use your E-String as a straight edge. Finger the string on the second fret. With your other hand, Use your pinky and finger on the 16th fret. You may see play or relief in the neck. You want the neck to be straight with maybe just a touch of relief. If you find the turning of the truss rod difficult and you’re using all of your strength to turn… STOP! Take it to a repair dude.
Straightness of a neck really depends on the player. Some players are hard pickers. Some are very light pickers. I am a hard picker, with fat fingers. My action is a little taller than most, so I can get my fingers under the string. Some players are soft pickers and have a set of .008’s with the lowest action (like strings sitting on the fret). That’s fine… if it works for the player. I would be splatting all over a guitar, set up like that.
I have been blown away by how many “guitar celebrities” use extra light strings. I cannot name names, but it is the guys on the short list… that you hear on the Classic Rock stations… every day. I prefer .011’s on my guitars. They make my amps really sing. I tend to like the stiffness, especially when bending the strings. It brings out the Rock God in me. (I just hope I do not make all of those painful facial expressions you see too often in the magazines.)
This brings me to another point:
· PLAY YOUR FREAKING GUITAR! My personal guitars are not clean. They have multiple scratches and dings from drunken lead singers tripping on their mic stand, slamming into my guitar. They do not sit in a climate-controlled room with just the right amount of humidity. It is out in my car, right now. I believe that if a guitar (or amp) can survive all of the grueling conditions I put said guitar in, the more trustworthy the instrument. My gigging guitars have proven their worth tenfold, and I will probably never sell these guitars. You should see some celebrities’ touring guitars… TRASHED. But, they are dependable and trustworthy. The celebrities and their techs know how the guitar is going to perform, day-in and day-out. That, to me, is a keeper.