If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And if do you fix something, fix it right.
Once any musical instrument is produced, it then has what I call a “sonic footprint,” which is the sum of every component that makes up that particular musical instrument. All of these parts working together is what’s called a “coupled system,” and this is what produces the sound of a guitar. If these parts are altered in any way, it has the potential to change that sound.
When performing any repair, or even general maintenance, you have to be very careful about the decisions you make. Not only could they profoundly change the sound, they could have an impact on the response and even the longevity of your instrument. The importance of a good working relationship with your technician can’t be overstated. Between the two of you, smart decisions can be made that will better ensure a lifetime of enjoyment.
At the very least, unnecessary repairs or alterations can dampen the sound of a guitar. At their worst, they can significantly reduce an instrument’s lifespan. Acoustic guitars are already fragile instruments to begin with, susceptible to humidity changes and wear from general use. As a repair technician, I’ve witnessed seemingly endless bad repairs over my lifetime that have done irreversible damage. The trick is to know where to draw the line.
When a customer comes into my shop and is concerned about his/her instrument, I generally ask the “big four” questions: How does it play, how does it sound, how is the intonation, and is it stable? If the answer to all these questions is “good” or “yes,” then the guitar generally has no problems. It’s when people try to fix problems that aren’t there that can cause irreversible damage. So, again, where do you draw the line with when or when not to perform repairs to your acoustic instrument?
For example, let’s take the bridge area of a flattop steel-string guitar. One commonly suggested repair is shaving the bridge, which is an alteration that has been around for years. There are indeed times when shaving the bridge is warranted, but then again, a neck reset is often what’s really needed. If the neck can be reset, you never shave the bridge. It’s bandaging the symptoms rather than addressing the true issue. Additionally, removing mass from the bridge will lighten the bridge, and that will absolutely change the sound and response of a guitar. All that said, if it’s an inexpensive instrument where the neck angle is next to impossible to change, yes, shaving the bridge may very well be the ticket to getting a few more miles out of your guitar.
Another sensitive component of this coupled system is the bridge plate. Again, I have seen way too many attempts to flatten the top by removing the original bridge plate and replacing it with a larger version. At the core of this misguided alteration is the inability of the technician to recognize what the load of the top is and what it’s supposed to look like. Generally, the customer and the technician see an arch behind the bridge (what we call the “load of the top”), and misread it as the top failing. There is, however, a load behind the bridge on all acoustic flattop steel-string guitars. The real question to ask is if it’s excessive, failing, or stable.
The bridge plate (Photo 1) and bridge represent a fragile coupled system that has a big impact on your guitar’s sound, so if they don’t truly need to be altered, don’t.
The best-sounding acoustic guitars have what many might consider to be a heavy load behind the bridge, but most commonly, that’s just what it needs to be to sound as good as it does. If your technician replaces the bridge plate to flatten this load, it always dampens the sound of the instrument, and typically does nothing to lengthen the life of the instrument. If the repair is unavoidable, removing a bridge plate is a job that should only be performed by a skilled luthier. I’ve seen the results of someone getting in over his or her head too many times unfortunately.
These are just two of the most common repairs performed on acoustic instruments. And both need to be thought out carefully before moving forward. Remember: The bridge and bridge plate make up a fragile coupled system to begin with, and they live right at the edge. The trick is to keep them performing there for as long as possible. If everything is balanced correctly between the bridge, top, braces, and bridge plate, it’s magic. If one of these components is altered, however, it will likely affect the instrument’s tone and response.
So, where do you draw the line? Again, I recommend you start by asking yourself the aforementioned four important questions. If the answers are all positive, then you probably don’t have a problem. And at that point, I will generally inform my customers that we should just keep an eye on it and see where it goes.
Until then, just relax and play your guitar.
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Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters are designed to offer a fat midrange and a smooth top end.
Billy Corgan was looking for something for heavier Smashing Pumpkins songs, so Joe Naylor designed the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One pickup. Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters have a fat midrange and a smooth top end. This pickup combines the drive and sustain of a humbucker with the percussive attack and string clarity of a P90. Get beefy P90 tone plus amp-pummeling output with the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One.
Patented Railhammer Pickups take passive guitar pickups to a new level with rails under the wound strings lead to tighter lows, and poles under the plain strings offer fatter heights. With increased clarity, the passive pickup’s tone is never sterile.
Railhammer Billy Corgan Signature Z-One Pickup Demo
For more information, please visit railhammer.com.
Designed for utmost comfort and performance, the Vertigo Ultra Bass is Mono’s answer to those who seek the ultimate gigging experience.
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The Vertigo Ultra Bass features:
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The Generation Collection of acoustic guitars features the exclusive Gibson Player Port designed to offer a unique and immersive sonic experience.
The G-Bird, the newest addition to the Generation Collection--represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird colliding with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port to add a new dimension to the G-Bird sound. The Gibson Player Port allows players to hear more of themselves as the audience hears it. With a tone that is crisp and resonant, all of the Gibson Generation Collection acoustics are designed to be comfortable to hold and play for long periods of time. All Generation Collection guitars feature the Gibson Player Port, slim, lightweight bodies, a flatter fingerboard radius, Walnut back and sides, Sitka spruce tops, and a stunning Natural finish. Additionally, the new G-Bird, and the G-200 and G-Writer are equipped with LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup systems which amplify deep bass and crystal-clear highs.
The G-Bird represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port adding a new dimension to the G-Bird’s sound. The G-Bird features a stunning solid Sitka spruce top and solid walnut back and sides for the ultimate in crisp, resonant tone. This square-shoulder dreadnought delivers all the rich low end and well-balanced mids and highs the original Hummingbird is famous for. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with chrome Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning. The utile neck, with its easy-playing Advanced Response neck profile, is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Modeled after Gibson’s pioneering small-body parlor acoustic guitars from the 1930’s, the G-00 is a top choice for blues and fingerstyle guitar performances. Despite its more compact size, the G-00 achieves a full, balanced sound. The G-00 fills any room with rich tones-which players can hear like never before, with the exclusive Gibson Player Port. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-00 is handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustic guitars. The G-00 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-00 parlor-sized body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-00 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
The G-45, a round-shouldered jumbo, adds the Gibson Player Port to its famous “Workhorse” J-45 style body, which is Gibson’s best-selling acoustic guitar of all time. On the G-45, players can now hear more clearly than ever how this beloved guitar responds to every style and technique of playing. Powerful one moment and soft the next, the G-45 delivers all sounds with incredible dynamic range in an elegant, medium body size. The G-45 is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-45 features a slightly thinner round shoulder body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-45 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Gibson’s impressive range of square-shouldered guitars have become an expressive standard for rock, pop, folk, and country artists. The G-Writer is known for its wide range of sounds, from gutsy and loud, to soft and sweet; they are superb for all styles and shine, whether strumming chords or fingering intricate solos. The G-Writer comes ready for the stage or studio with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system and the ear-opening Gibson Player Port. The G-Writer is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-Writer features a slightly thinner cutaway body, is more comfortable to play and provides effortless access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Writer is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
Gibson built its first “Super Jumbo” SJ-200 as a custom order for country and western singer and film star Ray Whitley, who desired a big, loud, and deep flat-top over which to croon. The SJ-200 quickly became a staple of cowboy singers and horseback troubadours, and then country music, 60’s folk stars, and onto every acoustic guitar genre that has followed. Ray would be proud to hear the booming sound from the Gibson Player Port on the new G-200, which comes ready for the stage or studio with a LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-200 is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. The G-200 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-200 cutaway jumbo body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and provides excellent access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-200 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
G-Bird | Generation Collection
For more information, please visit gibson.com.