Talking me down from drooling over a new guitar

I posted this in another thread, but I really think it’s a different topic, so I’m spinning it off.

I dug an old guitar out of the closet and I’ve decided to learn how to play it. I’ve been practising basic chords for a couple of weeks now.

Actually, I’m having trouble keeping the damn thing in tune. I took off the whammy bar, thinking that might be screwing things up, but …

… But maybe I just need a new guitar!

What would you guys recommend for a beginner?

I’m kind of lusting for something like this, but I think it’s probably too extravagant for someone at my stage.

Can’t post long - in a meeting at work!

A buddy of mine just got the 5120 - single-cutaway version - and LOVES it. He is a longtime player and really knows his stuff, so his word goes a long way with me. For well under $1000 he has me tempted.

At the risk of being a bore and completely misreading your intentions,my rejoinder:
Not knowing what guitar you currently possess and whether the updates would be worthwhile, any guitar that doesn’t stay in tune either suffers from crappy tuners or some anomaly with the bridge/ ball end anchors. (possibly stale strings-how long a closet hiatus?)
If the guitar doesn’t intonate well that’s a bridge compensation issue.
So get some new tuners ~60 bucks more or less. Note that certain whammy styles tend to float and suffer from string bending with the fret hand. ( some Gibson SG standards had these as a notable example) Stop tailpiece solves that.
If it has a Fender style neck and is missing/lacking string trees, there’s another problem area. The strings need to break over the nut with sufficient pressure. Either install trees or get a locking nut.
First thing for me would be to verify whether the frets are cut in correctly since if they aren’t repair would be impractical. You’d have to at least compensate the bridge to get to that point.

**Carson ** is spot on - if you are interested in sticking with your closet guitar, swap strings, and get it set up properly by a guitar tech, making it clear that you are having tuning issues so he/she can talk that through with you.

However, if you are really suffering from GAS (Guitar Acquisition Syndrome) and the closet guitar’s tuning issues provide a ready reason for you to succumb to said GAS, then those new Gretsches can rock!

gotta run - keep us posted!

Right - first, the new axe question. I don’t know what you currently have, but it sounds like it could use some work. I agree with WordMan and Carson O’Genic from upthread - six new tuners and a set up in Toronto would set you back about $75 - $150. I can’t tell if that axe is worth the investment, although I’m one of those who believes every instrument should be brought up to its maximum potential. $75 - $150 is not going to buy you a new instrument that is anything more than a piece of firewood that you can’t burn for the varnish.

That being said, you need to be inspired by your instrument. It needs to call to you at all times of the night and day. Your fingers need to twitch at the thought of your guitar; it’s that horse and rider relationship where you learn exactly how each other are going to respond. If getting a new Gretsch is what’s going to do it for you, tell your SO I said it was OK.

Now, this finger pain thing (from GQ) - first and foremost, I am not your teacher, and I highly recommend taking this up with your teacher. If you don’t have one, get one! In the meantime, I can give some advice, so can lots of people on this message board, but it’s nothing like being right there to poke, prod and straighten. Let’s test your grip - take your fretting hand and put it around your neck so that the thumb and fingers cover your jugular and your carotid. Pretend you’re fingering a chord, any chord. If you start to see spots, you’re using unnecessary tension. If you black out, you’re gripping way too hard. If your SO can pull your hand away from your neck without leaving a mark, that’s the idea.

The fingerboard of your guitar should be on several angles. The strings should not be running parallel to the floor - the headstock should be higher than the body so that the neck is on a 25 to 30 degree angle. Likewise, the fingerboard should not be perpendicular to the floor - the bass strings should be closer to the player than the treble strings. If you touch the high ‘e’ string to the wall, the fingerboard should form about a 25 to 30 degree angle.

If you’re right handed, your fretting hand should look like the letter ‘c’ when viewed looking from the headstock to the body of the guitar. (If you’re left-handed, it should look like a backwards letter ‘c’.)
The next question is the elbow of the fretting hand. It should be comfortably bent, and it is not allowed to rest on anything - not the chair, the couch, the arm of the chair, not your leg, nothing. It gets to flap in the breeze. Keep the wrist straight.

Now, put the fingers on the instrument and let the weight of the fretting arm pull the fingers to the fretboard. As an exercise, pull the thumb away from the back of the neck. If the fingers are in the right place (just nut-ward of the fret, no fingers or anything else touching the string between the fret and the saddle of the bridge), the note should sound just as pure, sustained and rich as with the thumb touching the back of the neck. To be absolutely clear, the thumb of the fretting hand is there for balance and location. It is not there for grip, pressure, squeezing - none of that is required because the finger transfers the weight of the arm onto the instrument, and that weight alone is enough to pinch the string between the fret and the fingerboard, giving the gorgeous sound we all know and love. If that weight is not sufficient, the services of a luthier or good guitar technician are required.

Chords are a little harder than single notes - the fretting fingers have to be perpendicular to the line of the frets and the line of the strings. This ideal x-y-z axis holds as true as possible for all the fingers - that way, the energy is efficiently transferred to the string (for minimum tension in the fretting hand) and the strings are allowed to vibrate freely without the interference of some flesh hanging over from a different string. This latter effect partly depends on the development of callouses, but angle is a huge factor as well.

So, to answer the question about finger pain, your description sounds to me like you are overgripping, and that’s the source of this long harangue. It’s very different from the violin, although there are some similarities. Guitars are cousins to viols, and they had frets on viols to make up for the relative inefficiency of the older bow. A modern violin bow transfers a tremendous energy to the string, and that makes up for the lack of frets. Guitars have frets in order to get sustain out of a single pluck - contrast pizzicato on the violin and how difficult the sustain is. Frets mean you don’t have to grip…

I am a guitar teacher, so I have a biased viewpoint, but I can’t stress enough how much I recommend a teacher. This excess verbiage above can be expressed in about 10 minutes in a lesson, and it’s more effective because you get the hands-on feel for it.

Hope this helps,

M. le Ministre

Dude 630$ can buy you a lot of porn so just make sure you’ve weighed all your options fully. Either way your right arm gets a work out.

Dude, a guitar is better than porn, and with either one, if it’s only your right arm getting a work out, y’ain’t doin’ it right… :smiley:

It’s only conductors who get to jerk off by waving their right arms around…

Thanks for all the advice!

My intentions are this: I intend to continue using my closet guitar, but I would really like to get a new one some time. I think I’ll have to prove that I’m going to stick with it before my wife would countenance that kind of expenditure, though. In the meanwhile, I’m still interested in finding out if the kinds of new guitars I’m attracted to are suitable for someone at my stage of learning. Yes, I love that $600 Gretsch, but I’d be happy to find a guitar that looks similar for a much lower price.

First thing I did!

At some point a guy needs to diversify his investments, though, right?

So: what is your old guitar? Make, model, year please!

Also, are you wedded to having a semi-hollow guitar if you upgrade?

asenray - on that whammy bar, if its a Strat style setup, an easy thing to try is removing the back cover and tightening all the springs a lot, so that the bridge pretty much doesn’t float (or just barely) any longer. Give it a try and see if the tuning stabilizes a bit. And if the results aren’t good, you can always set it back the way it was (count the number of times you turn the screws!).

Wait, people pay for porn still?

Acsenray, I looked at the pics you posted in the other thread and I’ve seen that guitar before, though I can’t give you a name (memory flaw). But I believe it was branded by whoever wanted to carry it.( Lafayette Electronics for one.)Asian extraction,possibly 70’s vintage, ply construction.

The tailpiece, bridge and tuners are Le Crap, but apart from tuners can be dealt with.
I gave some thought to your dermatitis question but arrived at no likely causes. Rosewood doesn’t usually cause sensitivity after freshly exposed surfaces oxidise for awhile. Some luthiers use cyanoacrylate glue for a variety of things including pore filling, which has lead to threshold pain, but that would be under the top coats and not a likely cause in your case.Epoxies, too, are used in this manner and the amines have similar affect on some people, but again, it would be cured and under the topcoat.

Just to tie the two threads together, here’s Acsenray’s guitar pics.

I agree with Carson – the hardware looks pretty rough. That faux Bigsby is probably a lot of your tuning problem, and there’s no easy mod that will fix it. The bridge has no adjustable saddles, so the guitar will never intonate properly.

I don’t know. See Squeegee’s link for pictures. :smiley:

That’s my preference.

You could solve the tailpiece problem with a trapeze if the guitar is a true hollow body, or a stud tailpiece if it has through blocking ala Gibson 335. Not big money.
If the guitar has no/inadequate bracing nor blocking, there’s another problem area for tuning. The top is flexing under string tension. Time for a new axe Eugene.
Too bad about the vintage madness. I remember when Gibson 175’s and Guild Starfires could be had for $50 in a hardshell.

Last year I decided to learn guitar properly. I bought a cheap guitar and tried on my own for a while. I then met up with the guy who played lead guitar in the band I managed years ago. He is a great player and also a fine teacher. First thing he told me was to buy a better guitar because it would instantly improve my playing and I would enjoy it more. He said it is a false economy to buy a cheap one - harder to play leading to lower enthusiasm and no resale value.

I only spent about $700 on a Cort semi acoustic but it proved him right. It is the only inanimate object I own that I have genuine affection for.

I overcame my new guitar envy by repositioning the loose tuners on my acoustic and planing the bridge. I put the savings towards a new amp and now have electric guitar envy.

When will this vicious cycle end?

What about this one? It looks eerily like my current one.

Looks pretty good and a vast improvement over the other, all 'round. I haven’t kept up with Epi’s since the early 70’s but despite loss of cachet they’re still around in a tough market.
I’m guessing it has solid blocking, so the arch top is moot. Not a bad price either.

If it’s just an straight-up Epi Dot - basically their version of a Gibson ES-335 with dot inlays on the neck (which is what the earliest 335’s have, so “dot-neck” is like code for “cooler and more vintage looking” :rolleyes: ) then it is a very good guitar if you find a good one. The kid across the street has one and had me give it a once-over; I was impressed for a few-hundred-buck guitar…