Tips & Tricks

Here I will publish tips & tricks to the guitars topic which shall take care that all of you enjoy your instruments more and longer! The most problems musicians have with their instruments founds on a wrong adjusting of the guitar. It requires only some short grips mostly and it already is as if one had another, better instrument in the hands. And most damages can be explained by wrong treatment and lacking care. And for that nobody ever says: "I really couldn't know this... " - here and now the possibility to save cash money. Because many repairs get expensive since they can get very circumstantial.

What follows now is a generally valid set of rules... who has a special problem that isn't killed with this chapters, I only can offer to make contact with me personally. Describe me the problem and perhaps I can venture a remote diagnosis, otherwise we must think about something else! I will execute any topic dealt with here very far. In principle I will go into the cause of the respective problem first, than i will try to explain how you detect, that one has this problem and then point out how one removes this problem at all. Who won't like to read my complete solutions can click in the topic list on the heading of the desired topic to read, and I will "catapult" you directly for the beginning of the article. Who my explanations are too scientific, which should try on this triviality title

clicking behind the respective heading, if available. It you will come directly to the problem solution without all the really interesting and gripping background information. This I had invented after some of my "editors" said I would exaggerate perhaps a little and go into the detail too much. But on the other hand my slogan isn't "Knowledge Makes of The difference !!!" by fortuity.
Let's start!

Topic List
Fundamental to the Cleanness
How do I store my Instrument correctly???
The String-Height
Why and for what is the right string-height important?
The Saddle
The Neck-bend
  ... to be Continued


1.Fundamental to the Cleanness

Therefore I must get rid of one briefly once again before I get cracking: I don't like it on the death if somebody with a guitar comes strolled in and thinks he would have a problem with the good piece. He then fetches his instrument from the suitcase/the bag and what appears? A guitar which is rusty and whorish, covered by the "Schmand", hardly to recognize as a guitar...

So be quite honestly people now it is well obvious who has a problem with whom there... Not the guitarist with the guitar - no! Rather reversed! It makes me sad, how many musicians let dilapidate their instruments or simply not correctly service and keep in good condition . Can it be glad for some there, that there isn't any youth welfare department for instruments . so many guitars then would have a happier life in a "guitar home"! I have already held instruments in my hand, which had never seen a duster in the time of their regrettable existence!

It isn't a secret, if I tell you that while playing guitar skin particles and sweat unite to a disgusting, aggressive, sticky, partly foul-smelling mass, trying to wrap up the instrument slowly . this knows each one who spent more than 6 hours already with a guitar in the playing state. But: (for some of you this may sound like the philosopher's stone) "Schmand" isnt everlasting ! No -- more still: one must not let it come to the pollution of the good piece! There are many cleaning and maintenance mediums thought for this purpose especially in the specialized trade, which anyone can purchase for a couple of bucks. And the good guitar already still looks (almost) new, even after an intensive use for years!

I would be a bad smart-aleck now, however, if I would leave it at this, very subjective argument. I often saw guitars, where the aggressive human handsweat had attacked the tremolo that hard, that the chrome layer partly was already taken off completely therefore even polish couldn't help anymore . One nice guy actually wondered now whether he should have installed a new tremolo. But he still rejected this thought in the same second I gave him the price for a new tremolo...

what do I want to tell you with this??? Thus now we check anyway: a new Tremolo costs € 100 on an average (if we don't want China scrap metal)! A bottle of Guitars-Polish about € 6 we are calculating another € 4 for polishing cloths now and we are at € 10 for the cleaning agents. Out of my experience I would say that such a bottle of Polish holds for approximately 5 years if one keeps a guitar in good condition regularly with that.

Result: for the costs, which causes a new Tremolo (without installation!), we can keep our guitar fresh for 50 years. This argument doesn't draw with whom, I give it up! Only these "ignoramuses" shall not be surprised then either if it then gets at the final count more expensive than they would have expected! Seriously - it is of use for all of us if you get you guitars cleaned in regularity. And it doesn't get expensive for you in the repair case unnecessarily and the guitarmaker must not get irritated or even disgust your guitar of it to grasp now!

Oh...and greetings to all vintage fanatic outthere - who expects to find the dirt of the centuries also on his instrument, after it was in my workshop, this one should say this particulary also before!!!
My appreciation of this "dirt nostalgia" is infinitesimally . And who means this is the dirt of James Marshall Hendrix is on his guitar, this I want to leave his faith - but maybe i will laugh at him!

Yes, I know, cleaning the instrument provides at some under you that your toenails unroll, but be honest to you yourselves! Is it such a leg fracture to wipe the guitar off after playing with a dry cloth, to wipe over the whole guitar with Guitar-Polish at every string change and to go into the small cracks at the Tremolo, too, then? Well, so badly this cannot be! Both, varnish- and metal surfaces will owe you and shine in a real gleam longer.

2.How do I store my Instrument correctly???

And still something: Don't leave your instruments in the rehearsal room! If the room cools down, there is a steam pressure descent, this provides dew water finds its expression on your dearest guitars.
What the humidity does to the complete instrument I explain perhaps later! What it, however, causes at your metal parts is well obvious: Corrosion! And I tell you: one likes to carry his guitar home after every rehearsal when he had to replace a complete hardware sentence for his guitar once.

Who does think now it would be done, is mistaken with that! You should fetch your guitar from the bag or the suitcase at home and putting to the fresh air, please. Because, in the suitcase, the guitar can start sweating as well as in the rehearsal room!
I don't want to you make you believe that you all have to buy a desiccator now! All you have to follow is a rule of thumb: Do not exposes your instrument to any conditions you wouldn't feel yourselves well in these! Nothing more then can go wrong actually!


People pay attention - well what you are learning now may multiply your joy in playing guitar because most guitars are adjusted so badly by the factory, that no one can talk about fun... playing is rather work there. We begin with the most basic one...

3.1. The string-height

I seldom get an instrument in my hands for whose string-height is only roughly optimal. Mostly it's too high -- in rarer cases too low. This probably lies that so many factors play a role for the string-height: Bridge-height, neck bend and saddle notching.

3.1.1.Why and for what is the right string-height important?

The most fundamental problem besides the bad playability is the disturbance of the octavo purity by a too high string location. This problem explains itself as follows:
Assume we grip a string in the 12th fret, then we stretch the string by the pressure found by our finger and increase the string tension with that - around a couple of cent in turn this leads to a rise of the tone. Since I am a small fan of graphic calculation examples, we check how many mm more a string at 3 mm distance to the fret stretches than at 1.5 mm distance.
One always measures the string distance against the 12th fret as a light distance between string and fret-top edge - of course it would depend on it now how strong one presses the string ... we push for example so strongly this the string is pressed on the fingerboard, the stretching would increase of course so! For the simplification of our calculation example we simply assume that a good guitarist works at the instrument and he tightly pushes the string only in such a way, that she has enough pressure for a clear tone, we then come to the formula:

We assume the scale of a classic concert guitar (650 mm) for our example.

At 1.5 mm of string distance we get:

It is, however, at 3 mm of string distance:


One must establish with being frightened, that the string stretches at doubling the string distance around fourfold . the stretching is even 9 times as big at triplication! This represents the following curve - the graph of this quadratic function:

This curve clarifies how important it is to limit the string-height - primarily at instruments which, don't make it possible for us to optimize the octavo purity, afterward (this is generally the case at acoustic instruments). The guitarmaker has already invented something there! Some will have wondered perhaps before why for example the bridge inlays are installed at an angle at western guitars! This has to compensate the different stretching coefficients of the differently strong (and consisting sometimes also of different materials) strings for the purpose.

Of course this is a completely incomplete attempt to get a grip on the intonation problem, but it has proved itself! Otherwise one should charge a single scale for every string and use tiny small frets for every string. I heard about a guitarmaker once, who had made himself this stress - at least he got a guitar sounding like a keyboard! The world had to recognize then that the "bad" octavo purity of the guitar agrees on its charm - this completely makes all freted string-instruments something special with high recognize-value. And one shouldn't try to rattle at it either! Otherwise it simply sounds terrible, though, if one doesn't restrict this effect to the most necessary measure! I have moaned the reasons for a good string situation - so long now I want to explain you which factors have influence on these and how one favors them!
We simply begin on account of the logic above.

3.1.2. The Saddle

The saddle notches topic is a very sensitive and I would like first of all to warn everybody from wanting to take this work into his own hand. Then firstly: a set saddle files is very expensive so that it might hardly be worthwhile to acquire just for notching at his own couple of guitars. and secondly: it requires some exercise so that one doesn't file the notches too deeply. If this has happened still much more dexterity is needed to undo this mistake properly again. Why do I want then to go into this point at all? Good question, because many guitarists don't realize at all, that their string location is too high at the saddle since they don't know their instrument differently at all.

Therefore should here now two pictures, one with an exemplarily notched saddle, one with a not so 100% optimal notched one. But I have got no guitar with a too high notching at home though - of course I finally also want to play on them, so they are all perfect!
That means I must take a photo of a bad example someplace in a store! Therefore I can give only the general piece of advice: the distance between the string and the 1st fret should be between 0.3 and 0.5 mm someplace! But I can only warn you twice to try to notch them yourself! You need for it: 1.the right tool and 2. Exercise and fingertip feeling!

If you reach the decision, that the string location is too high at the saddle anyway, I simply recommend the visit of the guitarmaker of your confidence! So the topic would be finished with that. We come to the next critical point with respect to string location.

3.1.3. The neck-bend

Wood as hygroscopic material is able to admit water in form of steam as liquid water, and since most guitar necks made of wood, a phenomenon which we describe as "work of the wood" in the lumber industry takes place. This is called in the plain text: the neck changes permanent - it is, then his surroundings don't change any more! By temperature and atmospheric humidity fluctuations the neck gets more thickly or thinner, more broadly or slimmer, even longer or more briefly, (what is more seldom noticed due to the wellinganisotropy of the wood, though).
It should be an old hat that substances extend differently at different temperatures. This just leads us to the problem now, however, if we find 2 different woods at the neck - this is for example the case at a maple neck with rosewood fingerboard. If the temperature changes now, then the measures of the respective material also change into dependence of her warmth-expansion-coefficient. We assume wood A (neck) extends more then wood B (fingerboard) due to the fact that the woods are firmly connected to each other by the glue joint and there isn't any gliding layer between them. In this case he would deform concavely, that means the bend get to below (if we define the fingerboard as top).


This effect still is strengthened by another two factors:
- the string traction and
- the change of the water-admission and water-submission of the wood by varnishing.

The backs of necks usually become lacquered, lasting the fingerboard (it is, then it consists of a bright wood) you oil at best. So the admission and submission of water is possible only over the open fingerboard side since the pores are sealed elsewhere with varnish. If the atmospheric humidity is high, then the wood endeavours to prepare for a compensation humidity. Since this can happen only over the fingerboard, this takes water first and starts to well up. Only much later the humidity reaches the inside of the neck and provides a welling also there. The fingerboard has this all already done and already has greater extents than the rest of the wood.
This causes a convex curvature of the neck (the fingerboard side curves up). If the atmospheric humidity decreases again now, then the wood also will hand in so much water by his effort after fairness and equality until the compensation damp is reached. The fingerboard dries now faster, however, since the water molecules can stand out only to the surface. The fingerboard gets shorter -- the rest of the neck comes after only very slooooowly. And see there: we have a concave curvature again.
Of course this hard fact of the allday holds a problem: at concave curvature of the neck the string location increases (why this is so bad I have hopefully already been able to clarify). At a convex form change the string situation gets flatter, the strings begin to beat against the frets when swinging what manifests himself by a clattering nerve-rackingly. In the extreme case the strings can come even to lie on the frets, and way then goes logically nothing more at all!
To compensate for the effect described before a clever fox invented something even more clever: he has put a steel stick into a concave groove, provided the end fixed and the other end with a check nut. And in the reason, to this day, no one has changed this system, (except for some variations and improvements). And if now so the neck goes out of shape concavely, one can tighten the nut (which is approachable of the head plate or the end on the side of the body of the neck) and counteract the string traction with that. (See graphic)

There are some possibilities how to proof your neck bend! A long, thick steel ruler would be the well most precise - well but I regard this as exaggerated. Therefore here two of my dearest ways to the cognition: bearing and the string trick! Who wants to determine the neck bend by bearing needs a good eye for it. It starts out from the head plate best:

One locks an eye and brings the other eye on a line with the first and the last fret on the fingerboard edge (of course the last fret can be hardly recognized on the picture but the human eye is far more efficient there). One can see now quite well whether all other frets also are on this line or not. The "string trick method" is simpler around something:

We put a finger of the left hand in front of the first fret and a finger of the right hand behind the last fret. The string replaces now the ruler -- it lies on the first and on the last fret and just goes straight between this. One sees now the neck quite wonderfully to what extent shows a concave curvature, the middle (approximately at the 8th fret) must be the greatest distance between string and fret. This should be approximately a hair's breadth if the string lies a convex curvature can already be with what we would be at the great disadvantage of this method: it doesn't work at convex necks! The bearing with the eye or a ruler only helps us along there!

So assume we have noticed now that our neck has a too big curvature - we don't clap our hands over the head now and run in the circle like the chickens... no - we solve this little problem with few grips. Sometimes the access to the trussrod is covered with a small small plate at the head plate, we then must unscrew this at first. Actually every guitar manufacturer encloses a fitting key for the trussrod. Normaly, it is then 4 mm hex kex or 7 mm nut-wrench:

We so take the fitting key now and put him on the nut. We must shift to the right or to the left (see photos) depending on this, whether to the attracting the access of the trussrod is due to the head plate or due to the lower neck end now:
to be continued...