You won’t believe some of the debris found in old acoustic guitars. Here’s how to get rid of it.
I'd like to thank you for all your feedback about Mod Garage's first column on acoustic guitars (“Conquering Classical Guitar String-Changing Terror," February 2015). By popular demand, here's another acoustic-oriented column, just in time for this issue's acoustic theme. Our topic: cleaning out an acoustic guitar's interior.
Free surprise inside! When you add an old acoustic guitar to your arsenal, chances are it'll be full of dust, dirt, and other things that have accumulated over the years, especially if the guitar was stored on a stand or wall rather than in a case. Most of this debris builds up naturally over time, but I've found the oddest things inside old guitars: picks, woodchips, string ball-ends, pet feces, gigantic dust bunnies, toasted plant parts, a mummified mouse (former nest included), and most memorably, a very old handwritten letter folded and glued inside the soundboard.
Such debris can tell us a lot about a guitar's history, but it's not always fun removing the stuff. Additionally, old acoustic guitars often smell bad inside due to a combination of old dust and moisture. But don't worry—I'll show you how to clean things up in a few simple steps.
My procedure isn't the only possible method, but we've used it in our shop for many years with great results. It works equally well for steel- and nylon-stringed guitars, and it's dirt-cheap.
Enter the parlor. Our demo model is a MAFIMA parlor guitar built in the 1920s in Markneukirchen, Germany, which a customer brought in for a full restoration. (MAFIMA was the brand of luthier Max Fischer, derived from the words “MAx FIscher MArkneukirchen.") Our customer bought it at a flea market without a case. It was in surprisingly good shape for its age, but it was full of dust and dirt, and inside it smelled like an old museum hall with a waxed floor that hadn't been cleaned for decades—not very appealing.
The first step is easy: Remove the strings, turn the guitar upside down with the soundhole facing the ground, and shake for several minutes until any large, loose debris falls out. It's a good idea to do this outside—you may be surprised by the amount of debris you encounter!
Photo 2. Image courtesy of singlecoil.com.
Next, grab your vacuum and a duster. You can also use any piece of cotton cloth or an old, clean sock. Disconnect any attachments from the vacuum's hose, and then wrap the duster or cotton cloth around the end of the hose, securing it with a rubber band (Photo 1). Turn on the vacuum, put the hose inside the guitar, and hoover everything up (Photo 2). The duster protects the inside of your guitar from damage.
Photo 3. Image courtesy of singlecoil.com.
Those hard-to-reach places. Now use a small extension vacuum hose like the one shown in Photo 3. You can buy these for a few bucks at most home improvement and computer stores. (To prevent damage, I only use the kit's small, soft hose.) With this neat little toy you can vacuum all the spots inside the guitar that your standard vacuum hose can't reach.
By now most of the dust and dirt should be gone, but the next two steps should get everything out. The idea is to loosen the rest of the dirt with shots of high-pressure air, and then suck it up as it's flying around with the vacuum hose. We have an air compressor at the shop, but you can use a can of compressed air that's sold to blow dust out of computer keyboards.
Photo 4. Image courtesy of singlecoil.com.
Return to your vacuum's standard-sized hose and remove the duster. Power up your vacuum to full throttle—yeah. Insert the hose into the soundhole and simultaneously blow into the body towards its lower end (Photo 4). If your guitar has an endpin hole, make sure to seal it temporarily so no pressure escapes. Don't overdo it—too much air pressure can damage loose braces. Repeat several times and don't inhale when your mouth is near the soundhole! It's also a good idea to wear goggles.
Alternatively, you can use a hairdryer at its highest speed, but only with unheated air. (Never blow hot air into an old acoustic guitar. The aged glue can soften, and you don't want braces falling from the soundboard.)
Photo 5. Image courtesy of singlecoil.com.
The rice stuff. Our last step is the funniest one. You need two things: a piece of cardboard, plastic, or wood veneer to cover the soundhole, and a package of rice (Photo 5). Use the cheapest big package of rice you can find. Pour the rice into the soundhole. (Don't insert the packaging!) Cover the soundhole and shake the devil out of the guitar for several minutes. Remove the soundhole cover and pour the rice from the guitar into a bin. You'll probably be surprised by the grains' dirty appearance. Get a new package of rice for your next guitar. Boiling and eating used rice is not recommended.
Photo 6. Image courtesy of singlecoil.com.
Now if you look inside your guitar with a mirror or endoscope, you'll see a very clean guitar body (Photo 6).
I always take care with the logo sticker, assuming there's enough of it to preserve (Photo 7). Simply use a damp cotton cloth to clean the sticker, avoiding pressure. Make sure the cloth isn't too wet, or the sticker may come loose or crumble. Let it dry for some time. (You can use a sheet of blotting paper to speed up drying time.) To preserve the sticker, I apply a thin layer of clear coat or shellac with a soft brush. You can add some amber-colored stain to the lacquer so the sticker looks old.
Photo 7. Image courtesy of singlecoil.com.
This guitar stinks! Finally, let's remove that nasty smell.There are techniques galore for this, but I prefer non-chemical ones, because you never know how wood and glue will react to chemicals. One good technique is to put some fresh lavender in a thin cotton pouch and place it inside the guitar, hanging from a strand that protrudes from the soundhole for easy removal. Block the soundhole with your previously used cover, and leave the lavender inside the guitar for a few days or weeks until the bad smell has vanished. Alternatively, you can use flavored tea instead of fresh lavender—just choose an aroma you like. (One of our flamenco-playing customers does this with a flavored tea that smells like fresh espresso. He says it inspires his playing.)
That's it! Next month we'll return to electric guitar mods and discuss “The Trouble with Tribbles." Until then, keep on modding!
- Guitar Shop 101: Safe Ways to Clean Your Guitar's Finish - Premier Guitar | The best guitar and bass reviews, videos, and interviews on the web. ›
- Resonance, Response, and Your Due Diligence - Premier Guitar | The best guitar and bass reviews, videos, and interviews on the web. ›
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- Guitar Shop 101: Safe Ways to Clean Your Guitar's Finish - Premier Guitar ›
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Looking for a compact, “noiseless” way to plug in and play guitar? Check out the brand-new Gibson Digital Amp, available only in the Gibson App.
The new Gibson App simplifies the learning process and brings guitar playing to life for the current and next generation of guitarists in a modern, comprehensive, and intuitive way. The Gibson App is the place to take your guitar playing to the next level. New to the Gibson App is the Gibson Digital Amp, the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediate players and pros to get their sound anywhere. The Gibson Digital Amp is an accessible amplifier for both acoustic and electric guitars, and is currently available for Apple/iOS users--an Android version will debut next year.
Use the Gibson Digital Amp’s jamming guide to get started and transform your sound with built-in effects and pedals, jam to backing tracks, or use it in lessons and songs. The Gibson Digital Amp only requires your phone, and wired headphones for the best playing experience, no cables are needed. The amp features 3 acoustic mic presets, 4 electric amp presets, and 6 effects pedals.
The Gibson Digital Amp is the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediates and pros.
The Gibson App uses a unique two-way, interactive platform to teach guitar students how to do everything from playing their first note to shredding loads of songs. The Gibson App features interactive lessons with thousands of lessons and songs. Learn the songs step-by-step with video tutorials from superstar artists and pro guitarists in the “Gibson App Guide.” The Gibson App also includes the new Digital Amp, a built-in tuner, a metronome, Gibson TV, and new songs are added every week. New Gibson App Guides are added regularly and include Tommy “Spaceman” Thayer’s favorite iconic KISS guitar solos, Richie Faulkner’s (Judas Priest) “Guide to Metal,” Jared James Nichols’ “Guide to Blues,” CELISSE’s “Guide to Songwriting,” and more.
The Gibson App uses “audio augmented reality” to provide dynamic feedback to students as they learn and play. As you pluck a note or strum a chord, the Gibson App listens to your guitar and gives you real-time feedback on your playing. It also gives students a more contextual learning experience: Instead of learning chords and scales in a vacuum, you’re able to practice on a scrolling tablature that lets you hear how you sound with the backing of a virtual band. That means you can load up “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “American Girl" by Tom Petty, “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica, “Where is My Mind" by Pixies, “Country Roads” by John Denver, “I Hate Myself For Loving You" by Joan Jett, “Heaven” by Kane Brown, “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran, “Killer Queen” by Queen,“ Sweet Child O’ Mine,” by Guns ‘N Roses, “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden, “Roxanne” by The Police, and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “The Man Who Sold the World” by Nirvana, “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz, and “Don't Look Back In Anger” by Oasis and hundreds more songs in a wide range of genres, to see how your play matches up with such seminal tracks.
As you’re playing, the Gibson App gives you feedback on timing and tone, ensuring that students are getting active input on how their play is developing. The Gibson App appeals to players of all levels, it’s not just for beginners looking to learn a few chords; the app can assist seasoned guitarists who are working their way through difficult riffs, want to learn their favorite songs, or polish their advanced techniques.
Players can also challenge themselves by speeding up or slowing the tabs. Like having a full-time guitar teacher, the Gibson App keeps track of all your progress and adjusts lesson plans accordingly. The Gibson App released a “backing track mode” which supports both lesson and song playback without headphones, so users can self-select what works best for their current environment. And that’s not all: the Gibson App also packs in a fully-featured digital tuner for guitar first-timers, there’s even a detailed lesson on how to tune your instrument, a multi-function metronome, players can connect to free one-on-one consultations with Gibson’s Virtual Guitar Tech team, and to direct links to the Gibson, Epiphone, and Kramer online stores for easy shopping for guitars, gear, apparel, and accessories.
Learn Guitar With The Gibson App
The Gibson App is more than a pocket-sized guitar teacher, it’s loaded with an archive of exclusive content and original programming from its premium and accessible award-winning online network, Gibson TV, featuring music icons telling their best guitar stories, with more episodes and installments added regularly. Users can watch Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi share insights and tales from his decades-long career on the series “Icons,” dive into Joe Bonamassa’s assortment of legendary Les Paul guitars on “The Collection,” or see how Gibson’s iconic instruments are made in their Nashville factory from body to binding on “The Process.” There’s even a series called “The Scene” that focuses on backstage stories from hallowed music venues from coast to coast like The Troubadour and Grand Ole Opry.
The Gibson App free version features a few lessons a day; the premium version of the Gibson App offers full access and a 14-day free trial, then costs $19.99/£16.49 monthly or $119.99/£98.99 yearly.
For more information, please visit gibson.com.
This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
Belltone Guitars, as part of their Custom-Select System curated offering of pickups, has partnered McNelly pickups to create a one-of-a-kind retro-vibe P-90 pickup in the standard Filtertron size format. This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl, and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
The McNelly P-90 Foil-Coil comes housed in a ‘raw’ nickel outer casing with a dull nickel foil face with metal mount screw gromets to complete the ‘new-vintage’ aesthetic, making it a perfect choice for your signature Belltone custom build. Available exclusively through Belltone Guitars.
Check out the Custom-Select System belltoneguitars.com to preview the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons and all our standard and selectable components available to create your own signature Belltone. Then visit the Dream Lab on our website and select either model B-Classic ONE with its top binding or B-Classic TWO with its arm and body contours select your body color from our wide range of offerings, select your neck profile of either standard ‘C’ or thicker ’59 Round Back and either Maple or Rosewood fingerboard followed by your tuners, pickguard, and strings. Finally, review our curated custom-designed, and unique pickup selection to locate the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons to complete your signature build.
Builds start at just over $2,300.00 with a custom case and shipping included.
For more information, please visit belltoneguitars.com.
McNelly P 90 Foil Tron video Sep27
Belltone P-90 Foil-Tron Pickup
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the release of the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses. The new Relentless P and Relentless J series pickups feature the Relentless cover designed in collaboration with Billy Sheehan.
As with the Relentless pickups, we removed all the hard edges from the standard P Bass and standard J Basspickups, and added an arch to the top of the pickups to bring the sensing coils and pole pieces closer to the strings. These improvements increase the dynamic range and make active circuitry unnecessary.
The Relentless P and Relentless J pickups incorporate Neodymium magnets and produce 70 percent more output than traditional passive pickups, and they’re dead quiet due to the incorporation of metal covers and foil-shielded cables. To dial in (or fine-tune) the individual string output, the Relentless P and Relentless J include eight adjustable pole pieces. These pickups also have a broad magnetic field so you can even bend notes without volume dropout.
DiMarzio’s extra shielding makes the Relentless P and Relentless J better for both recording and stage performances. We’ve mounted them onto robust .09375” thick circuit board base plates to eliminate the annoying protruding mounting screws — ultimately creating a more comfortable and consistent foundation to rest your fingers on.
The new Relentless P steps beyond the traditional P-Bass sound and can only be described as massive. It has more of everything: more volume, beefier lows, a growling midrange, and crispy highs with better individual string definition.
The Relentless J incorporates a new invention, (patent pending) parallelogram-shaped coils, offering an expanded mid-range punch, snappy highs, precise lows, and a new dimension to the sound of the Relentless series pickups.
Relentless P and Relentless J pickups will breathe new life into any bass, increase playability, and work well for any style of music from Motown to metal.
DiMarzio’s Relentless P, Relentless J Bridge, Relentless J Neck, and Relentless J pair are made in the U.S.A. and may now be ordered for immediate delivery.
Suggested List Price for the Relentless P is $169.00 (MAP $119.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Bridge and Relentless J neck is $155.00 (MAP $109.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Pair is $296.00 (MAP 209.99).
For more information, please visit our website at dimarzio.com.