Following Dan’s excellent article on 5 Tips For Tracking Electric Guitar, community member Rob got in touch to add his tips…
This is imperative to making the guitar as playable as possible, I’ve set up lots of guitars over the years, it’s worth hunting out Guitar Maintenance Workshops if you want to save yourself some money on setting up your guitars in the long run. They are good fun and you’ll learn a lot about the guitar.
It’s shocking to realise how many ‘guitarists’ are ignorant of their instrument of choice. I’ve witnessed people who can’t even string up their own guitar, handing it off to a shop to install a single string when they’ve broken one.. Intonation is only one part of the setup and it’s relative to the other elements of the setup in this order;
- Truss rod
- Nut height
- Pickup height
There are plenty of books, Hideo Kamimoto’s books on guitar setup and repair are great starting points, Dan Erlewine’s books are excellent, very easy going, just remember, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing and don’t forget a decent tuner when you set your intonation. Peterson produce iStrobosoft for iPad, PC etc, I’ve used that of late to set up my guitars, the iPad has been a great resource from that point.
Humidity will alter the neck shape, action and intonation, particularly where I live, it’s very cold at the moment, I have to alter the necks around twice a year, just a small tweak as the temperature changes, increasing the torque of the truss rod and decreasing it as the cold and warm weather allow the wood to expand and contract.
Recording A Guitar
Normally I’ll use an Avid Eleven Rack to record guitar, if I need delay and/or chorus, I’ll apply them on the channel, not the Eleven Rack, meaning I can change them later if I don’t like them. The Eleven Rack has been great as I’ll record the main outputs with the amp’d sound and the guitar input as well, applying the Eleven Rack plug-in to the guitar input track later on.
Try Different Guitars
I would perhaps recommend more than one guitar for recording with. It’s not just for sound, it’s for inspiration, you may have a certain image in your mind; your mental projection of your physical self so to speak, it’s how you see yourself or hear yourself. For example, you may want to try some hard rock riffs (Slash, Angus Young, Tony Iommi), it helps if you have a Gibson SG or Les Paul. However personally I can’t really get on with Gibson guitars, partly due to the ‘belly cut’ that I’ve grown up with. I will usually grab a MusicMan Axis or a Peavey Wolfgang; a good combination of a Stratocaster and Les Paul in one guitar in my opinion. You don’t need a museum of ’50s Stratocasters, Les Pauls, ’80s Jackson Soloists etc, just two or three that will help cover most of the stuff you are likely to record.
The Right Guitar For The Job
’80s rock would lead me straight over to an early ’80s Kramer Pacer or Baretta, possibly even a Peavey Vandenberg. I’ll never use just one guitar, I’ve yet to find a guitar that does it all, then again I record different genres of music, all guitar based. Today, you get what you pay for, I would choose an ’80s Japanese or USA made shred guitar over something made today as you end up with a lot more guitar for your money. This isn’t an excuse to find the first ‘beater’ that’s been gigged to hell and back because it’s cheap, you still have to do your research, know what you are buying and how it’s going to sound i.e. whether it’s going to suit your needs. Do your research.. just because your hero has a signature guitar, it doesn’t mean it’s going to suit you so try a lot of different guitars in stores to find out what is going to work for you.
A Double Locking Bridge For Me
If a guitar doesn’t have a double locking bridge i.e. Floyd Rose Original, Gotoh licensed Floyd Rose, Schaller etc, it won’t be suitable for me, the vibrato (or tremolo which technically is incorrect) is a big part of my playing style and lead work, without it, I’m done for. The locking bridge isn’t for everyone though, some people find them complicated, the vibrato needs time spent with it, the unit alone is expressive and there are a few techniques to study from the likes of Edward Van Halen, George Lynch, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and most importantly Jeff Beck.
There are bulk deals on the internet, try to experiment with different brands of string though, you will find the right set for yourself. After years of using one brand I switched due to the ball shooting off the string when using a Kahler 2330 Pro vibrato on a Charvel Model 5. The new brand changed a lot of things, I’m on another brand at the moment, some tend to leave you with more deposits on your fingers than others (the black patches on your fingertips). I’m using coated 009-042s, they tend to stain the fingerboard less (unfinished maple), obviously I’m not going to push brands on here as it would be unfair, it’s each to their own.
Don’t Mess If You Don’t Know What You Are Doing
Remember, with any setup or tweaking of the guitar, if you don’t know what you are doing, just take it to someone who does, you’ll save time and frustration as a badly set up guitar can impede creativity. For myself, guitars are tools for creativity and expression, once you understand them, you’ll get a lot more out of the guitar in the process.
Mike says, Thanks Rob for taking the time to share your experiences. As we have said many times, we aren’t the experts but when the community shares experiences we can all become experts.