Oh, you laugh? Well, on the internet I saw an authentic draft of the pamphlet the Federal government is preparing on how to defend yourself in a zombie invasion, so I don’t really think this is a laughing matter. The government plan was well written, and although I agreed with most of it, unfortunately the authors fell a bit short. They did not mention the guitar. Instead, they focused primarily on protecting self, family, friends, lovers, and pets. But no mention of one’s cherished axe? That’s a huge oversight. I mean, really.
The problem with the guitar is that it can attract zombies. So, lacking direction from our leaders, it’s important that we take matters into our own hands and zombie-proof our instruments. Here’s what you need to know:
1) Get in tune—and stay there. Zombies are attracted to unpleasant noises, especially those that sound like a human shrieking in fear (they either think it’s the real deal or it’s just a bit of a turn-on . . . it’s hard to say for sure) or those that induce people to scream out— y’know, like Pavlov’s dog, and all. Anyway, poorly tuned guitars rank high on the list of the world’s most unpleasant noises.
There are several reasons a guitar will not play or stay in tune. First, “not playing in tune” means that even after you’ve tuned all six strings to perfect pitch with an electronic tuner, when you fret chords in certain regions of the fretboard, they don’t sound right. This is a problem of intonation.
Few people have perfect pitch, so many guitarists are unaware that their guitars are not properly intonated. Spend some time in a music store and you’ll realize how bad the problem is. Why is it that the guy who insists on playing the loudest usually sucks the most at tuning a guitar? These guys are big-time zombie attractors. Please! Get your guitar professionally set up and learn to tune it.
The setup should include bridge adjustment with a strobe tuner, as well as other intonation-improving procedures like checking the depth of each nut slot, adjusting the truss rod, and setting the correct action. These adjustments are all interrelated. A pro understands how changing one element affects the others and knows how to get the entire system working harmoniously.
Then there’s “staying in tune”—which is a very big deal for humans reluctant to join the ranks of the undead (or their next meal). Do you find your strings going out of tune after a short period of playing? If you aggressively stretch the strings where the neck meets the body, this will work better than buying fancy locking tuners. Pull up on each string and wiggle it three or four times, then tune it up to pitch. Repeat this operation until stretching the strings no longer pulls them out of tune. The G string usually needs the most attention.
Get some “key lock” lubricant from the hardware store and grease those nut slots. This substance is a black graphite powder you can dab in the nut slot under the string. You can also use this to blind zombies: Squirt the powder in their eyes and then run like hell!
2) Use tube amps. There’s credible evidence that zombies recoil at the sound of loud second-order harmonics (which humans seem to enjoy, particularly in high-gain distortion) because they make a guitar sound fat and rich, rather than jagged and edgy. Also, you can break the tubes and use them as weapons, if, God forbid, it comes to that. In a worst-case scenario, you might entice a zombie to stick her hand inside the chassis and fondle a filter cap. A shocking thought!
3) Get a wireless system. This one will be pretty controversial, but hear me out: A wireless enables you to keep jamming if you’re forced to escape to the “safe room.” Other than that, I see no reason to use one.
4) Change your strings. They don’t get dirty from dirt, they get dirty from DNA. This is bad for two reasons: First, it deadens your strings by causing intonation, sustain, and tuning problems. Second, it can undead-en you. Yup, your dead skin and blood on those strings can attract a zombie from over a mile away.
5) Practice. See, if you suck, that’s just another form of unpleasant noise. And we know who goes for that, right?
6) Weaponize your rig. Although any guitar can function as a blunt implement for destroying a zombie’s head or removing its brain, something with sharp edges and a more aerodynamic profile—like a B.C. Rich or perhaps a V-style axe—will make the chore that much easier and more effective. Speaking of axes, whatever you hear Mr. Simmons say about the reasoning behind his proprietary bass design, don’t believe it—it’s safety first for Gene!
Randy Parsons builds guitars for Jack White, Jimmy Page, Joe Perry, and other adventurous players using out-of-the-box materials like bone, flowers, copper, and solid ebony.