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QUICK GUIDE TO GUITAR REPAIR AND MAINTENANCE Whether you are seasoned pro with an enviable collection of vintage instruments, or simply a beginner who wants to keep their only instrument in top playing condition, at some point you will most likely have to shell out for some kind of repair or set-up. These can range anywhere from slight adjustments all the way up to fell re-frets and break repairs, and it goes without saying that the price can vary drastically depending on the level of work that needs doing. This is why many players take it upon themselves to carry out set-ups, alterations, and even small repairs. While the very thought may strike fear in the hearts of noobies everywhere, it really is a very cost-effective and handy skill to have, as long as you are competent (and not bothered about potentially damaging your instrument in the learning process). In fact, many players buy up all the £20 Strat copies they can find, simply for the pleasure of experimenting with upgrades, set-ups and configurations, without the added pressure of working on a high-end instrument. And as the basic principle is the same on every guitar, you can use the knowledge you’ve obtained down the road when it comes to setting up your more desirable instruments. Now, while there are a number of easy upgrades and alterations you can do on your own, and even repairs for that matter, that is not to say that you necessarily SHOULD take these upon yourself. Again, it’s really down to how confident you are and the value (monetary or sentimental) of the instrument. Set-up – This is probably the single most important factor to consider, as it can be the difference between a guitar you enjoy playing and a guitar you hate. Your guitar’s set-up basically defines its playability, including string gauge, string-height (or ‘action’), truss-rod bow, balance of tension, tremolo tension, and intonation. Luckily, any player can learn how to set up a guitar with minimal effort, and it is a great skill to have! Not to mention, it pays to be able to change string gauges and take care of any truss adjustments/string-height issues on your own, without having to fork out £40-60 for a full setup! Having said that, however, it is still important to get your guitar checked over 1-2 times a year by a professional, as they not only ensure it is playing 100%, but also that there are no issues you yourself haven’t noticed! Electronics – Again, a lot of the time electronics repairs can be very daunting. You may require anything from cleaning or replacing a crackly pot all the way to a full re-wire, and much like set-ups, this work could cost you if you are not willing to take it on yourself. Again, experimentation and practice are your friend here, and doing a cheeky re-wire on a cheap guitar could very well help you out down the line! It is also probably worth looking into changing pickups around, as this is an upgrade pretty much every guitarist will undertake at some point in their life, and it may not always be cost-effective to hire a Luthier to do this for you, especially if you might swap back a week later! Major Work/Break Repairs – Now for the big stuff. Damaged or broken necks and headstocks, bows in the body of an acoustic, replacing old, worn frets.. These are BIG jobs, and they also take a fair amount of competence to do correctly. I would never suggest doing any of these works on your own, as you could very easily ruin your instrument, and on this occasion it is worth paying the price to have it done correctly. Again, if you can find something cheap to practice on, it can be both enlightening and highly rewarding, but also very frustrating and time-consuming, and often the results can be less-than-desirable. In closing, I would recommend that every player learn at least the basics of setting up a guitar. This should present no problems to the modern musician, as the internet (especially YouTube) is full of information (some of which is even correct), and though it may take some sifting to find, it is highly beneficial to any aspiring guitarist. Knowledge is power people, and when it comes to your axe, you can never have too much power!
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