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davidm
10-30-2010, 10:09 AM
Years ago I tried to learn the guitar. I even took lessons for a short time but gave up. I've had musical experience, playing the cornet in the school band, but my attempts at the guitar were unsuccessful.

My problem was with fingering the strings. My fingers are relatively short and it was difficult, if not impossible, for me to properly hold down the strings. I couldn't do it without bumping adjacent strings.

I recently discovered a website that claims to sell guitars that are designed "to play easier than any other guitar made".

They're custom built (actually custom modified) by Denny Zager. He was half of Zager and Evans who were one hit wonders in the 60s with "In the Year 2525".

He claims:
Lower string heights: So you barely have to press to form chords
Custom string spacing: So you're not accidentally bumping other strings
Lower string pressure: Increases speed & accuracy, reduces buzz
Custom neck design: Feels natural in your hand, increases comfort
Special fret design: Reduces string bite and overall finger fatigue
Special bracing system: Produces a more powerful sound
Perfect quality control: all work performed personally by Denny Zager
The website is here: http://www.zagerguitar.com/?event=public.store.guitars.list

I've googled around and found varying opinions on his guitars. Some feel that they suck. These appear to be in the minority. Others are of the opinion that they're good but over-hyped and that any good "setup guy" (their term) can do the same thing. Others think they're the greatest thing since sliced bread.

I'm not really qualified to judge. I want something that is physically easy to play but doesn't sound like crap. Obviously it also should be durable and not fall apart or something after a few years.

Are his guitars worthwhile? Is there something better out there (without spending thousands of dollars)? Does my previous experience indicate that I won't have much success with any decent guitar?

One good thing is that he does have a money back guarantee, but shipping a guitar back would be a major hassle.

E-Sabbath
10-30-2010, 10:32 AM
I'm remembering something about Mr. Zager being completely nuts. But I may be wrong. That being said, the bracing and the fret is a 'to taste' thing, and the rest of it looks like good setup work.

I'll be honest, when I started playing guitar, I had the same problem. And then, eventually, I didn't. You're gonna hurt your fingers. But really, it's one of those things where it winds up being entirely up to you. And a lot of practice.

You sure you want to go acoustic?

davidm
10-30-2010, 10:35 AM
He also has acoustic-electrics. I was thinking about one of those so I can can go either way depending on the situation.

sleestak
10-30-2010, 10:35 AM
Anyone who plays guitar for a reasonable period of time and bitches about his fingers hurting, like this guy, is probably doing something wrong. I've been playing for 20+ years and my fingers only hurt if I play for like 3 or 4 hours straight, and then it only the typical soreness you get when you overdo something. The only reason that happens is because my standard playing period these days is about an hour*.

Without actually picking up one of the guitars it is impossible to tell if they are worth anything.

I'd suggest going into a local music store and asking them to help you find a guitar with a thin profile neck.

Slee

*I used to play ~8 hours a day. Never had a problem with soreness. Wish I could play that much now....

davidm
10-30-2010, 10:42 AM
My problem wasn't soreness so much as that I couldn't hold down a string without bumping the adjacent strings.

Pork Rind
10-30-2010, 11:37 AM
Give me gone time to dig up some relevant links from acousticguitarforum.com and/or umgf.com. The gist of it as I recall was that Denny was buying cheap Chinese made guitars and filing the frets down to nothing. Nobody had anything good to say about the instruments, and in general, you'd be better off buying an inexpensive but reputable instrument and taking it to a local luthier for a setup that suits you best.

Pork Rind
10-30-2010, 11:49 AM
My problem wasn't soreness so much as that I couldn't hold down a string without bumping the adjacent strings.

Here's (http://69.41.173.82/forums/showthread.php?t=128098) one of the links I was thinking of.

I'm hoping Word Man shows up soon, but I can tell you a couple of things that i'll bet he'll agree with...

1. Take a lesson or two. A good teacher can tell you what to look for in a guitar to suit your hand size and other limitations, but more importantly, can analyze your technique and help you get to the point of being able to play cleanly on any instrument. When you're learning to play guitar, you're gonna bump the wrong strings all the time no matter what your hands look like. Playing cleanly takes a while.

2. Browse around the forums I mentioned, particularly the Acoustic Guitar Forum. Theres plenty of discussion of multi-thousand dollar instruments, but also lots of talk about more reasonable guitars as well.

Snowboarder Bo
10-30-2010, 11:52 AM
I have big fat fingers, and like E-Sabbath mentioned, I too had problems fingering the strings without hitting adjacent strings. And problems forming chords. And problems only strumming the right strings instead of all 6. My fingers would hurt, and yeah, a couple of times I drew blood.

Over time, that all goes away. My fingers only hurt now if I've been away from home without my guitar for a month and I try and play for 2 hours my first day back. I'm still pretty sloppy, but it's more by design than inability now.

I can recommend Gibson necks over Fender necks for width: they are a little wider, so more space between the strings, so easier fingering. The height of the strings (or "action) is something any decent guitar tech should be able to configure properly for you, however you want it.

I'm sure WordMan will wander in here soon, with his usual excellent advice on this subject.

74westy
10-30-2010, 12:15 PM
My problem wasn't soreness so much as that I couldn't hold down a string without bumping the adjacent strings.
Have you tried a classical guitar? Not only are the nylon strings much easier to press, the fingerboard is wider with more room between the strings.

The sound is completely different and that could be a deal breaker depending on your preference. The sound is not objectively worse than a steel string, just different (sweet but lily livered).

The other potential problem is you said your fingers are short and you'll need to reach a little farther on a classical.

That said, I'll reiterate what others have said.

1) time and practice may be all that's needed to overcome your problem. Other people with fingers like yours play beautifully. The difference is not innate talent; it's the time that's been spent.

2) a good luthier or "setup guy" can make even a brand new instrument sound better and play easier. I just spent $140 CDN on my acoustic which included adjusting the truss rod, setting the string height, tightening the tuners, gluing a broken brace and re-gluing the neck joint with magic glue that seeps into the joint so you don't have to disassemble anything. Still can't believe it's so cheap.

PlainJain
10-30-2010, 12:18 PM
I have small hands. I had trouble at first but my hands adjusted. Honestly the best advice is to spend enough to get a good action. The less trouble you have pressing the strings down, the less trouble you will have bumping other strings. Also a lighter gauge string while you are learning will help a lot as well.

Gary T
10-30-2010, 12:49 PM
I would say it takes most people about two months of serious daily practice to get to where they can do passable job of fretting at a beginner level.

Guitar necks come in a range of widths. I think the widest are typically classical/Spanish guitars. You may want to learn on one of these. The string spacing on any guitar can be adjusted rather easily (replace the nut), although the amount of adjustment is limited by the neck width. I'm thinking the right guitar with proper set-up would address your concerns.

There are several things that bother me about the Zager website, not the least of which is calling himself a "Master guitar builder" when by all accounts it appears he is simply a guitar modifier. The comment on the acoustic-electric, "It's truly like having 2 guitars in one," is almost juvenile in its claim. Every model is on sale, and I'll bet they're always on sale (which would be deceptive pricing). This site strikes me as designed to impress people who don't know much about guitars.

That said, if Zager has a true 100% (including shipping both ways) money-back guarantee, there's no cost to try one out. You may find the shipping it back is easier than you think. If they provide a return shipping label, UPS can pick it up from any location they deliver to.

Turble
10-30-2010, 12:51 PM
Hope you're convinced that the Zager thing is not the way to go; his website is just marketing-speak with no real information -- Special string spacing? What is the spacing? Look at other guitar sites and they will tend to tell you the nut width, not just say Special. Phooey on this guy.

Classical guitars do have a wider neck,typically between 48 to 52 mm, and more space between the strings, making it easier to press the strings separately, but that causes other problems. Steel string guitars are not as wide but they also vary; you can look for the wider ones if you want.

You want to talk short, fat fingers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwL-sSUWMGQ

You want short, thin fingers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYDKNW_7r-o

So it's not the fingers that matter, it's the technique. And yeah, your fingers are going to hurt when you start out; that's just part of the process. I concur that fat nylon strings hurt less than thin steel strings on an acoustic guitar ... and the skinny strings on a straight electric guitar may hurt even less.

A cheap guitar will almost always be harder to play than a very good one but you don't have to spend thousands. The difference between the $99 Walmart junker and a $400 guitar is probably bigger than the difference between the $400 one and a $4,000 one.

I think these days about $400 is a reasonable expectation to get a decent acoustic guitar. You might look for something from here: http://www.lasido.com/. They have a very good reputation. I actually like my $400 LaPatrie more than some guitars I've paid over $1,000 for.

E-Sabbath
10-30-2010, 01:55 PM
Davidm, one of the reasons I was asking about acoustic versus electric is not the sounds they make, but rather the profile they have.
Acoustics are thick. Electrics are thin. Acoustics have nylon strings (the better ones do), electrics have steel.

Generally, acoustics are a little bit harder to play, rule of thumb. Less forgiving, at least.

Electrics require buying extra gear

Any guitar will wind up with you spending lots and lots of money over time, because there's a lot of neat stuff these days.

Now, what I'd do, if I were you, is I'd go wander over to a guitar store, and look at a Epiphone Les Paul, and a Fender Squier. They are very different guitars. Most importantly, their necks are very different, one being longer than the other, one being wider than the other. One's also generally deeper than the other, but that tends to vary around.
Once you figure out which of those you like better, you can tell which features you want in a neck. Then go look at the acoustics.
(I picked electrics for examples because I know them better, and can predictably say that the necks on those two guitars will be as different as butter and bread.)

E-Sabbath
10-30-2010, 02:01 PM
Might as well add, we have a Great Ongoing Guitar Thread.
http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=550219
It starts with me knowing jack about guitars, and everyone kindly offering help over the year or so.
It's incredibly educational. Might want to give it a look.

Taomist
10-30-2010, 02:06 PM
I probably didn't play enough, but my problem when trying to learn guitar was that I'd develop callouses which would then PEEL OFF. Leaving me with yet more tender skin to try to build up.
This happened for two years, and I gave up. Also had issues with finger reach, as I had small hands, but did find a guitar with a narrow neck <just by feel; kept picking up guitars in the stores until one said 'Take me home!'> but it was the inability to callous for long that killed me.
As I enjoy the sound and playing for myself, and not for professional reasons, the idea of an 'easier to play' guitar doesn't sound bad at all.
Of course, it'd have to pass the 'take me home!' test, which isn't possible online without lots of returns.

Perhaps you can find a guitar such as that one in a store somewhere, and try it out for yourself.

E-Sabbath
10-30-2010, 02:30 PM
Hm. The low-end Ovations aren't that expensive. Anyone have any experience with them? I dig the bowl-back.

sleestak
10-30-2010, 03:02 PM
Hm. The low-end Ovations aren't that expensive. Anyone have any experience with them? I dig the bowl-back.

They are nice though the bowl backs bug the heck out of me because the body wants to slide out from the bottom when I play them. Other than that they are pretty nice.

Bumping adjacent strings is usually caused by either high action (string height) or not holding your hand correctly. When holding you hand on the neck, you want your thumb about in the center of the neck with your fingers parallel to the frets. Also you want your wrist to be fairly traight in relation to your elbow, not bent. Most beginners want to hold their elbow in, close to their body. Holding your elbow in twists your wrist which lowers the finger dexterity and also makes it very hard to fret a string correctly. Pop your elbow out away from your body.

Have someone knowledgeable about guitars check out any guitar you may want to get for playability. They should be able to tell you if it is a dog or not.

If you are learning acoustic, play with the guitar resting on your left leg, not your right. It is easier to get in the correct position that way. Once you've been playing for a while the positioning will become automatic and you can then get all rock star by hanging your guitar at your knees.

Slee

Gary T
10-30-2010, 03:16 PM
Acoustics have nylon strings (the better ones do)...
Friend, you still have much to learn about acoustic guitars. Nylon vs. steel strings is not related to quality, it's related to the particular guitar design. Better has nothing to do with it.

Walmarticus
10-30-2010, 03:30 PM
I make it a point to always play on a difficult/uncomfortable instrument. The guitar I play most has a bowed neck and heavy strings. No pain, no gain.

E-Sabbath
10-30-2010, 04:51 PM
Yes, and the guitar I started out with had the frets with razor sharp edges. No pain, no gain.
It's where the pain goes that I was talking about. Why would you play something uncomfortable, when you could play something that doesn't dig into your chest?

Gary T: I was simplifying. Vastly. I've found that the _cheapest_ of the acoustics are steel-strings, though. Washburn Lions, for example. After a bit, then you have the choice, but I'm talking the cheap-cheaps (100 to sub-100). I may be wrong, but that's what I've gotten out of seeing a small parade of things people broke.

Speaking of cheap acoustics, Seagull is a decent brand, I hear, they're Godin's budget brand. Washburn isn't bad, either, but not great. Ibanez is good, acoustic or electric, but interesting in that they do not have a separate brand for their cheaper stuff, it's all Ibanez.
First Act is a Bad Idea.

River Hippie
10-30-2010, 08:16 PM
My standard advice to beginners is to start a on an electric, string it with very light gauge strings and don't worry about an amp until you are starting to learn some stuff and think you might stick with it. As you develop some callous on your fingertips you can bump up the string gauge. Heavier gauge strings generally sound better (IMHO) and don't break as often. An unamplified electric guitar is plenty loud enough to hear yourself play without bothering others and when you start to build up some chops...buy a practice amp.

Totally biased here but I like the ergonomics of Fender Stratocasters or knock-offs of same.

Richard Pearse
10-30-2010, 08:44 PM
Gary T: I was simplifying. Vastly. I've found that the _cheapest_ of the acoustics are steel-strings, though. Washburn Lions, for example. After a bit, then you have the choice, but I'm talking the cheap-cheaps (100 to sub-100). I may be wrong, but that's what I've gotten out of seeing a small parade of things people broke.

It's unrelated. Nylon string guitars are designed for a different purpose to steel string guitars and you can find cheap and expensive examples of each (though not necessarily in the same brand.) Expensive acoustic guitars have good quality solid wood on the body, good quality parts, are well built, and have a good setup straight from the factory. Whether you get a nylon or steel string depends entirely on what style of music you want to play.

To the OP, you've discovered one of the limitations of learning the guitar. There is initially a steep learning curve just to get a nice sound out of it.

davidm
10-30-2010, 09:28 PM
Thank you everyone. This is why I posted this on the dope. I knew that I'd get all kinds of advice from knowledgeable people. I guess I need to do some reading and then visit a good store and check out some instruments.

I'm really more interested in acoustic. I want to play for my own pleasure and for family and friends so an electric doesn't really seem appropriate. However, I will consider the suggestion that an electric may be an easier route to get to where I want to go. I could always start out with an electric then sell it and graduate to an acoustic. I'll have to handle some in a store and see what seems right.

Snowboarder Bo
10-30-2010, 09:51 PM
Thank you everyone. This is why I posted this on the dope. I knew that I'd get all kinds of advice from knowledgeable people. I guess I need to do some reading and then visit a good store and check out some instruments.

I'm really more interested in acoustic. I want to play for my own pleasure and for family and friends so an electric doesn't really seem appropriate. However, I will consider the suggestion that an electric may be an easier route to get to where I want to go. I could always start out with an electric then sell it and graduate to an acoustic. I'll have to handle some in a store and see what seems right.

Absolutely the right way to go about this, but let me add something: if you even think you'll want to play acoustic guitar, get one first, then get an electric. IMO acoustic guitar is harder to play, and learning the hard stuff first will make the easy stuff feel like a knife cutting through warm butter: no effort at all.

If you go the other way, you'll just struggle with electric, then struggle again to make everything you know work on an acoustic.

I got this advice w/regard to my strings and plectrum choice years ago, and I immediately switched to the biggest, nastiest, hardest to deal with strings and pick I could find, as well as practicing the most difficult thing in the world (at the time): picking up and down. :mad: It sucked for a while, but now I can handle any new guitar with ease, and I my speed and dexterity picking are solid. :D

Luckily for me, I hate acoustic guitar, except when wielded by someone like Bola Sete or Robert Fripp or something. But me, I'll prolly never own one, so it was fine to get an electric first.

In fact, I'm glad I got my Les Paul Custom as my first guitar. Carrying a 30 pound block of wood on your shoulder to practice for a few years made me strong like an ox. Now when I play my Steinberger, it's like not even having anything on my shoulders.

Kim o the Concrete Jungle
10-30-2010, 09:59 PM
I have small hands and I'm a guitar player. I've found the necks on Ibanez guitars are the most comfortable fit for me. Some of the Fenders and Rickenbackers are also pretty good. Finding an acoustic guitar that's comfortable for me to play has always been the biggest challenge.

But unless a guitar is set up improperly, or it's one of those nylon string acoustics with insanely fat necks, the size of the neck shouldn't be that much of a problem. It's very common for beginners to have trouble properly fretting strings, and that sometimes comes down to cheap and nasty or improperly set up guitars, but more often it's just that they haven't yet discovered the most natural way to fret the various chords. Beginners torture themselves by trying to contort their hands into unnatural positions, and by applying too much pressure in the wrong place.

In the end, it just comes down to practice.

mangeorge
10-30-2010, 10:27 PM
I don't have a lot to say. I just want to follow this thread. I'm 65 and ready to try again. I know how difficult that is, so I'm just gonna channel SRV. Cool huh? :cool:
Peace,
mangeorge
I'll just lurk now.

E-Sabbath
10-31-2010, 11:00 AM
So, you think maybe an acoustic Ibanez of the inexpensive sort, Kim? I've heard good things about the Artwood.
http://www.guitarcenter.com/Ibanez-AW30-ARTWOOD-SERIES-Acoustic-Guitar-512309-i1441935.gc

Le Ministre de l'au-delà
10-31-2010, 01:43 PM
So here's the thing - Mr. Zager has found a set up that works well for him. That doesn't mean it's necessarily going to work well for you, nor for anyone else whose hands and playing style aren't a lot like Mr. Zager's.

I remember going into a guitar shop in Cornwall, ON, where the proprietor was also the guitar tech, and every instrument was set to his specifications, as I found out when I went to play some of his steel strings. "Do you have anything with the action and frets a little higher, and strung a little tighter?" I asked. I got an earful about how his guitars were all perfectly set up to his ideal, and that I needed to change how I was playing. Yet one more reason that I hate Cornwall, ON.

At any rate - I highly recommend going in person to a guitar shop with a guitar-playing friend. (The guitar teacher who was giving the lessons - is he or she still on the scene? A real, live, in person teacher is a really good idea - I cannot express this opinion strongly enough. Why, yes, I do teach guitar, and a huge part of that teaching is correcting the thoroughly ingrained bad habits acquired by the self-taught, or book-taught, or web-lesson taught.) Go through a number of instruments; the friend plays the same three short pieces on each of them. You will walk in there thinking you won't be able to hear the difference. You will walk out of there being amazed at the difference between instruments in the same price range, sometimes even from the same maker. Have the friend help you finger something really basic so that you can feel how the guitar fits your own hand. D Major and e minor chords, perhaps.

Your first guitar may not be the guitar you grow into - just accept that. It's a good idea to get an instrument that is good enough to be adjustable. In my experience, it's not impossible to find a worthwhile instrument in the $100. - $200 range, it's just that it's so unlikely as to be a large waste of time. By the time you hit the $400. range, you're much more likely to be able to find something worthwhile.

Get the best guitar you can afford.

Steel-string acoustics are the hardest on your fingers for starting out. In string tension, there's an inverse relation between volume and ease of play - the higher the tension on the string, the more sound it can project, but the harder it is to press the string to the fingerboard. Too loose, and the sound quality drops off. Steel string acoustics sound better with a higher string tension than an electric.

Nylon string classical guitars have a different idea behind their construction - they are built to project single notes well. The soundboard gets overwhelmed with a lot of rapid strumming of all six strings. The nylon strings are far easier on your fingers, but the guitar may not respond well to your style of playing. That being said, this is your first guitar - maybe it would work well for you to learn on a classical for a year and then trade it in for your intermediate player guitar. Just a thought worth considering...

Electric guitars have a couple of handy things for the students - they don't have to be strung with high tension strings to produce good sound, and you can practice silently at all hours of the day or night. Most amps produced in the last 10 years have a headphone jack that cuts the speaker out of the circuit, so you can play with a natural sound but no one else has to hear it. Good for woodshedding.

So, even sticking with a steel-stringed acoustic, what should you be looking at? Neck width and neck profile are going to be important, esp. for someone with smaller fingers. Scale length, the distance between the nut and the saddle of the bridge, is very important also. You want to be able to reach from 1st fret to 4th fret comfortably. You and your guitar friend with you in the shop need to be your own best judges - is that a stretch that will develop or is the scale length just too long for you. I like a 640 mm neck. I can play a 650, and a 660 is no fun at all. Some classicals come in 665 - I've never played one, but I can't imagine I'd like it.

About your fingers - 'bumping adjacent strings' has many causes. Possible causes include the neck is too narrow for you - however, check that all your fingers are truly perpendicular (in both planes) and the string is centred under your finger. How's the curve of your fingers - are any of the joints flattened out or bent the other way? Are you directly to the left of the fret, assuming you're a right-handed player? And most important, are your fingers calloused yet? Calloused fingertips don't spread as much against the fretboard. Are you holding the neck of the guitar like your niece's hand as you cross the street, or like something foul you found on the floor, or like the neck of someone who owes you a thousand dollars? Hint - go for the niece's hand.

Do you want to wrap your thumb or not? The profile of the neck can help or hinder whether you can get your thumb around to the 6th string or not...

I've got to leave it there for now... good luck with it all and have fun!

Walmarticus
10-31-2010, 05:58 PM
Why would you play something uncomfortable, when you could play something that doesn't dig into your chest?

Because then when you play a real guitar for a gig or whatever it's like it's not even there.

Seriously though dude-OP, your first guitar is so insignificant. The strings could be made of spider silk and it would still feel wrong. I owned and played my first shit guitar for three years before upgrading. When it became time, I actually knew how to play, so I could pick my new instrument intelligently. Sure, a shit guitar sounds like shit, but who cares? You're a musician and you know what the song would sound like on a real instrument. Guitars are overrated and guitarists are underrated. I can't fathom you people who actually care what you play :p

mangeorge
10-31-2010, 06:20 PM
Because then when you play a real guitar for a gig or whatever it's like it's not even there.

Seriously though dude-OP, your first guitar is so insignificant. The strings could be made of spider silk and it would still feel wrong. I owned and played my first shit guitar for three years before upgrading. When it became time, I actually knew how to play, so I could pick my new instrument intelligently. Sure, a shit guitar sounds like shit, but who cares? You're a musician and you know what the song would sound like on a real instrument. Guitars are overrated and guitarists are underrated. I can't fathom you people who actually care what you play :p
I don't know about that, Wally. I love rubbing bellies with my old Ovation. Reminds me of my ex-wife. Now if only I can learn some chords. Maybe three. :D
"rock rock rock, rock and roll high school"
Yeah!

Walmarticus
10-31-2010, 06:37 PM
I don't know about that, Wally. I love rubbing bellies with my old Ovation. Reminds me of my ex-wife. Now if only I can learn some chords. Maybe three. :D
"rock rock rock, rock and roll high school"
Yeah!

As good as I am, this actually reminds me of a real problem. I like to play with no shirt on. I have no strap, but it doesn't matter 'cause the guitar sticks to my belly skin decent enough. It's just that the guitar gets so freaking cold, it's like holding an icecube against my stomach. I suppose I could just buy a strap, but I like having an excuse to play with no shirt. Suggestions?

Snowboarder Bo
10-31-2010, 07:04 PM
Who says you need an excuse? I've never seen Matt Pike (Sleep, High On Fire) play with a shirt on. In fact, I've never even seen a picture of him playing with a shirt on. Some peeps just don't like shirts. Me, I don't like pants. Or shoes.

ETA: That's why they write articles about him titled Matt Pike Don't Need No Stinking Shirt (http://www.popmatters.com/pm/column/117210-matt-pike-needs-no-stinking-shirt/)!

mangeorge
10-31-2010, 07:06 PM
As good as I am, this actually reminds me of a real problem. I like to play with no shirt on. I have no strap, but it doesn't matter 'cause the guitar sticks to my belly skin decent enough. It's just that the guitar gets so freaking cold, it's like holding an icecube against my stomach. I suppose I could just buy a strap, but I like having an excuse to play with no shirt. Suggestions?
No prob. I have a fake ice pack that's made of mylar It's about 7" x 8" x about 3/4 inch thick. A lot of people don't know this, but those things will also keep warm (hot, even) as well as cold.
So, simply velcro the pack to the back of your axe (heh heh, mangeorge said "axe") then you can take it off and put it in warm water for a while then stick it back on and enjoy a nice warm belly while you amaze the chicks for free.
You got anything on youtube? If you link to Mark Knopfler I'm gonna call you by a really bad name.

WordMan
11-01-2010, 08:12 AM
Argh - with all the Halloween stuff going on and this pesky job thing, I have no time. Good advice so far - really sounds like a question of ensuring your guitar is well set up and you are putting in the right kind of practice - i.e., take a lesson or two to insure you have the correct fingering, make sure your guitar is properly set up and then prepare to practice for a while to get more comfortable with fingering.

I am digging into Keith Richards' autobio - really a great read - and he stops on a regular basis and shares hard-earned guitar wisdom - and it is really good stuff. One of his most basic is: start on acoustic and then play electric. Learn how a guitar breathes...

ethelbert
11-01-2010, 12:00 PM
There are three basic variables when setting up a guitar;


Relief. There should be a very slight concavity in the neck. In some guitars this can be adjusted by tightening/loosening the truss rod. In other guitars (notably Martin, though I haven't looked recently) it cannot be adjusted. In my experience, guitars from reputable makers come from the factory with this adjustment good enough so that no beginning guitarist would want to change it. It may need adjustment later on due to player preferences or changes in the guitar.

String height at the nut (the last thing the strings go over on their way to gears). This always comes from the factory a bit high. This is because it is easier to take it down than to build it back up. Furthermore the factory has no idea of the personal preferences of the owner and is not going to invest the time necessary to set a guitar up to their own preferences. Building string height up at the nut means replacing the nut.

String height at the saddle (the last thing the strings go over on the other side). This also comes a little high from the factory for the same reasons stated above. This is the only adjustment that a beginner should even think about doing themselves. If you take all the strings off, the saddle will pop right out of the bridge and you can sand it down. If you take it down too far, a new one is cheaply bought and easily installed.

String spacing is messed about by some luthiers and if I am not mistaken (and I could be), Denny Zager changes the string spacing.

The downside of very low action (string height) is that heavy playing can make the strings buzz. There will also be less volume.

I seem to recall that the guitars Zager alters get a premium of about $150. You could likely get a guitar properly set up for about $50 if you knew a good guitar technician, perhaps less if you bought the guitar there. I have never played one of Zager's guitars so I can't speak to the quality of his setup, but it is not rocket science and this is all he does, so it is likely that he does a fairly good job, if it is a bit expensive. Many guitar techs, especially less experienced ones, will not bring the action down as low as it can be, for the same reasons I mentioned above. Denny Zager appears to have built his reputation on low action, so if that is what you want, maybe that is the way to go.

ethelbert
11-01-2010, 12:15 PM
I failed to read the entire OP with the quote.

The things I discussed would be what any guitar tech would address in a setup. They would in no way mess about with the braces and the only way they might address the frets would be to polish off any burrs. I suspect this is what Denny does and the rest is just advertising bs. He might choose the guitars he alters for neck profile and bracing, but altering either one of these would invalidate the manufacturer's warranty.

As far as string spacing is concerned, you should know that there are different widths for the fingerboards. Choosing one that suits you makes more sense than changing the spacing.

davidm
11-01-2010, 12:23 PM
I failed to read the entire OP with the quote.

The things I discussed would be what any guitar tech would address in a setup. They would in no way mess about with the braces and the only way they might address the frets would be to polish off any burrs. I suspect this is what Denny does and the rest is just advertising bs. He might choose the guitars he alters for neck profile and bracing, but altering either one of these would invalidate the manufacturer's warranty.I'm now leaning against using Zager but, to address your point about invalidating the warranty, Zager does give a money back guarantee and a "lifetime warranty", although I can't find specifics about the warranty.

SteveG1
11-02-2010, 03:31 PM
My problem wasn't soreness so much as that I couldn't hold down a string without bumping the adjacent strings.

That doesn't sound like a "too small fingers" thing. that really sounds like a "too skinny neck" problem. Either that, or you just don't hold it properly, the fingers should generally be a perpendicular as possible. Yes, there's a reason the "old 50's style baseball bat" necks are still popular.

SteveG1
11-02-2010, 03:34 PM
As good as I am, this actually reminds me of a real problem. I like to play with no shirt on. I have no strap, but it doesn't matter 'cause the guitar sticks to my belly skin decent enough. It's just that the guitar gets so freaking cold, it's like holding an icecube against my stomach. I suppose I could just buy a strap, but I like having an excuse to play with no shirt. Suggestions?

Stop with the cool blues and play hot jazz? :D

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