Your vehicle develops an odd sound when the engine is running. However, it does not affect the functioning of the vehicle. What do you do? Do you run to the mechanic, or, wait till the time that the engine ceases?
85% of us belong to the second category and the rest in the latter category, whereas, it should be the other way around – whether it is your vehicle or your acoustic guitar!
That sound that you are hearing in your acoustic guitar, might just be a loose tuning machine nut on the headstock, or, it could be a brace that has come loose at one end, inside the guitar. Visiting a guitar technician/repairman immediately will do two things: a) confirm which of the two things it is, and b) while the problem gets fixed then and there, other problems that may be developing are spotted and fixed too.
Whether it is the vehicle or the guitar, dismissing the sound can snowball into a problem which can cause great damage to your instrument, not to mention the huge hole in the pocket that it can create.
Besides, it is always nice to sit with your guitar tech – or your mechanic for that matter – for you stand to learn a lot through the interaction. Doubts can be cleared, unfounded beliefs and second-hand (incorrect) wisdom can be done away with.
Here are a couple of half-truths/untruths that I hope to correct/clarify.
- NEVER TAKE OFF ALL STRINGS AT ONE GO: It is a much-touted belief that one must not take off all the strings from a guitar at once. For a guitar which has a truss rod – which most steel-string guitars today do – it is a fallacy to believe that taking off all your strings at one go, or cutting them off all at once, will damage the neck on your guitar. The truss rod in the neck of your instrument controls the sudden release of tension.
So where did this ‘wisdom’ come from? Much earlier in time, when classical guitars were made without truss rods (today, many classical models do boast of truss rods), the sudden release of tension by cutting off strings would damage guitar necks. It got recorded into luthiery books and was passed on from generation to generation, and even today, you should not be surprised to find people mouthing and passing it on.
However, it is also true that one has to be careful while changing strings in a stringed instrument without a truss-rod like mechanism.
- YOU SHOULD NEVER LET WATER TOUCH YOUR INSTRUMENT: If you have been regularly cleaning your instrument, there is no reason for water to come in contact with your guitar. However, if your instrument hasn’t seen cleaning for eons, a soft, cotton t-shirt moistened in a very dilute liquid detergent and water solution, and loads of elbow grease is very helpful in cleaning the guitar.
Again, the idea is to work with a moistened cloth not a wet one. Therefore, the urge to scrub your guitar clean under a running tap must be suppressed at all costs.
These were just some points that came to mind off-hand. If you come to me with a doubt or a suspicion, you will be surprised at how much richer (in knowledge) you leave me, and at no cost!