Getting this Hertz humming at the right frequency!

CAUTION: This post is a rant. Those not wishing to suffer it, stay away!

Some time back, this Hertz came to me with a lot of small problems. To be fair, it was not a badly built instrument even though it was a laminate.

The nut slots were shot – much deeper than you would like them to be, while the saddle too had enough wear on it, calling for a change.

The fretboard was too dry while the fretwires showed all the signs of rigorous playing.

And there were telltale signs that the guitar had taken a bad knock on its headstock, somewhere down the line.

I began with taking the strings off and pulling out the saddle. But what did I see?

Then I knocked the nut out.

As you can see, it took a bit of the nut slot wood with it. Ah, well! That is what you get when manufacturers don’t wish to invest in proper wood glue and trust a five rupee super glue to do the job!

And because I had the strings off it, I gave the hardware on the headstock all the attention it needed.

I went about shaping and sanding the nut and saddle till I had them where I needed them.

The set on the right is the fresh, bone pair. The other set is what came off the guitar.

But there was something not quite right about the bridge. That patch of black (can you see it?) was disconcerting. What, I could not place my finger on it, but I knew there was something mighty wrong.

Whateva! I moved on to the fretboard, cleaned it, mummified the board and worked on the fretwires, making the divots disappear and making the wires shine like new. While at it, I also conditioned the fretboard.

That done, I was ready to install the nut and the saddle. I smoothed out the nut slot and glued in the nut. And just as I was about to slip the saddle in, I saw it. A-ha!!!

Not a very good photograph, but do you see the round dent in front of the two centre bridgepin holes?

I called the owner and asked him if his bridge had lifted at any point. He replied in the affirmative saying he had his instrument fixed at this huge showroom in the vicinity of Fun mall, because the owner was known to him.

I explained to him that his acquaintance had screwed him in his bridge and to hide the screw had used some kind of an epoxy. I looked further and there were all the telltale signs of a sloppy effort at a repair.

And here begins my rant!

After you buy a vehicle – two-wheeler or four-wheeler – do you go back to the agency for repairs? Not even to avail of the free vehicle services do you go back to the agency. So when you have a problem in your instrument, why do you go to the shop to get it addressed?

Shops know just one thing: how to sell the ware in their establishment. Ask them to show you a solid top guitar and I guarantee you that eight out of 10 salespersons/shopkeepers won’t know what you’re asking for – at least that is the case in our dear city.

All shopkeepers know is how to change strings (which you, as a guitar player, should, in any case, know) and how to work the truss rod (to lower/raise your action – for which the truss rod SHOULD NEVER be used). Read this:

If they know any more than that it is to their credit. They pass on their limited knowledge to the salesman, who with his limited understanding, understands whatever he does understand. With that limited knowledge, you expect him to rectify the problem in your instrument – one for which you probably saved a couple of years?

In the three years that I have been back in the city, I have seen countless ‘repairs’ that made my job worse, making it cost more for you.

The hacks that abound in Aminabad/La Touche Road may have a cheap and a quick fix but if your guitar is a prized possession, or you are sentimentally attached to it, believe me, when it comes time to ‘really’ repair the instrument, it will be double, even triple the investment.

I recall a guitar that had come to me. It had a near perpendicular break at the headstock and despite my best efforts, I could not put it together (a la Humpty Dumpty!).

A few days later, the owner called me up to inform me that someone in Aminabad had fixed his guitar for him. I was happy for the young man but the more I think about it, the more I worry. If I could not set it right (not that I am the last word on guitar repair), how did this person join such a break?

I am guessing epoxy or super glue. Both of these set very fast, very firm; the flip side: both are more brittle than a dried twig in summer! The least stress and the break will come alive along the fault line. For the sake of the owner of that guitar I pray: a) that he was not sentimentally attached to that instrument, and b) that it was not epoxy or super glue that his guitar was fixed with.

Epoxy/super glue are great glues – for furniture. For musical instruments wood glue and hide glue is the way to go, for musical instruments vibrate, move. Wood and hide glue have a tendency to move along with the movement, the former two cannot.

PLEASE…you’re all educated young men and women, and your smartphone that you flaunt is not just for taking photographs and sending WhatsApp messages! You can even use it to browse the Net, read about things, watch videos of how things are done. You can even search for a trusted guitar tech/luthier. Find that person!

Your association with the shop from where you bought your guitar is over, unless you see a problem in your guitar within a week of you buying it.

I am breathing easier now, and so I return to what I was doing.

The bump on the headstock I repaired with a little wood putty. If it had been a larger break in the binding, I could have even put in a replacement piece of binding but for a little piece like that, it was too much work.

The saddle was set and the guitar strung up. It played well with a comfortable action. I just hope the owner was happy with how I returned his instrument.

The owner also said that there was a problem with the pick-up. I pulled out both units and checked the connections – all solid, and I could not find the problem.

I returned the guitar to him apologising that I could not find the issue.



Amit Newton

An experienced guitar tech with over 10 years of experience working on acoustic Gibsons and Martins in the Gulf region. There is nothing that cannot be repaired; the only consideration is the price at which it comes. And yet, if there is sentiment attached, no price is too high! WhatsApp/Call me: 7080475556 email me:

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