Can a specialized luthier really make a guitar play amazing?

Discussion in 'Luthiery, Modifications & Customizations' started by JustinRhoads1980, Jan 13, 2019.

Independet Luthier or Sam Ash/GC Luthier?

  1. Independent

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  1. JustinRhoads1980

    JustinRhoads1980 Jackson Elitist

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    Hey guys so I was pondering the thought, given the guitar to the right luthier can he turn a guitar that might just feel neutral or dull and after doing his magic make it feel like the best playing guitar of your life?

    I have heard from a few people that a specialized luthier can do this and such.

    What I mean by "specialized" Is a luthier who runs his own shop like GMW guitars compared to the guy working at GC/Sam Ash who is getting paid $14 an hour.

    Is any of this true or some hocus pocus BS?
     
  2. diagrammatiks

    diagrammatiks SS.org Regular

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    Absolutely. Someone that actually goes and levels the frets and dresses them, that sets your intonation, and adjusts the nut if necessary is going to do a much better job then someone who just changes your strings and sets the action.
     
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  3. JustinRhoads1980

    JustinRhoads1980 Jackson Elitist

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    So if someone who is their own independent luthier will do a better job and give the guitar more love than the guy at sam ash? I hate to bash on them since my luthier at sam ash is a cool dude, but I am not satisfied with his work and after spending $140 for him to fix a issue that hasn't been resolved has really ticked me off
     
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  4. broj15

    broj15 SS.org Regular

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    Yeah I would never take any of my stuff to be set up by anyone at a chain store like GC. My bandmate took his j bass to GC to get the action lowered and I swear for $60 they made the action HIGHER. Go to a local shop and ask them how much a set up is and what exactly that entails. The shop I go to adjusts truss rod, checks intonation, bridge height, polishes the frets & fretboard, and cleans up the electronics for $40 for a hard tail and $65 for a fr style bridge. Shit, my Hohner headless guitar had a slight "bump" in the neck making everything from the 1st-4th fret buzz. Only way it could be remedied was to heat treat the neck and they only charged me $90 and had it done in less than a week.
     
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  5. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire unofficial sso pickup tester

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    finding a good luthier/tech is like finding a good mechanic. They're hard to find, but when you do find one, you make damn sure to utilize their knowledge/skills. In the long run though, it's far more cost effective to develop the skill to at least install your own electronics/hardware/do basic setups.
    A good setup/etc can take a mediocre guitar and make it play infinitely better ime. Obviously it won't impart some magic voodoo into the guitar like when arcane runes are scribed in lead underneath your fretboard, or a piece of human bone is used for your guitar nut but it's a good start.
     
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  6. JustinRhoads1980

    JustinRhoads1980 Jackson Elitist

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    I know how to do my own electronics (at least at a passable rate) and do my own setups. I am just having an issue with the guitar that I have no idea how to fix and can't find any info on and have asked many people. I went to my luthier at sam ash and he said a fret leveling should do it and down $140 and with the same issues today
     
  7. JustinRhoads1980

    JustinRhoads1980 Jackson Elitist

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    I know how to do a lot of the basic stuff, but I believe that luthiers, good ones at least have this special touch that is magical. At least from what i have heard
     
  8. JustinRhoads1980

    JustinRhoads1980 Jackson Elitist

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    Ever happen to hear of Lay's Guitars in Ohio? Heard some good stuff from them and heard they are trusted by fender to do restorations of vintage guitars
     
  9. MaxOfMetal

    MaxOfMetal Likes trem wankery. Super Moderator

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    There's nothing magical about having the experience, know-how and tools to do a proper job.

    Luthiery is a trade, much like being a plumber or electrician. Those who put the time in to learn the craft and have the tools to perform the job will do better than some rando off the street.
     
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  10. broj15

    broj15 SS.org Regular

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    I guess this is what I was maybe trying to say. Someone at guitar center is probably just there cuz it's thier job. A luthier that's running thier own shop is doing it because it's thier passion.
     
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  11. Hollowway

    Hollowway Extended Ranger

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    It should also be pointed out that the guys at Sam Ash and GC are NOT luthiers. Luthiers have training in making instruments, and I'd be shocked if the guys at those stores have any official luthierie training. Unless you know specifically that the guy at the store can do a good job, don't give him the guitar. Go to someone who, as an individual, has good reviews and a good reputation. There might not be anyone in your actual town, because not many people do it, but there should be someone in driving distance of you. Try that Lay's Guitars place, maybe.
    And, as Max and broj were saying, there is nothing magical. It's just either set up correctly or not. When making an instrument from scratch, the design, craftsmanship, and artistry does combine to make a sort of magic that makes you want to look at, and play, the guitar all day long. But, handing an existing guitar over to someone to fix is strictly technical.

    What issue are you having? Maybe we can guide you to what you need to have done.
     
  12. GatherTheArsenal

    GatherTheArsenal SF2 > Everything

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    Hands down my local indie luthier is the way I go, even if I'm just too lazy for a restring (I know I know I shouldn't...but hey).

    I just took 2 guitars to him which have seen better days to say the least, i've moved overseas twice in the last 5 years so they were in need of a good critical eye. I basically told him anything you notice just go ahead and adjust/fix it no need to call me to check. For $110 (CAD) + taxes per guitar he adjusted the nuts, rehydrated the dry fretboards, intonated (both guitars have floating FR bridges), restrung and touched up little things here and there that caught his eye. About 2 hours all in.

    They both play like a dream now.

    I haven't taken my guitars anywhere else in 10 years because he's really detail oriented and has approx. 40 years experience. It's totally a skill, it shows in the quality of work and ethic.

    Big stores (cool dudes or otherwise) typically can't hire ppl like that because they command a higher salary due to experience.
     
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  13. JustinRhoads1980

    JustinRhoads1980 Jackson Elitist

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    Yeah I plan on going to them. They can make their own guitars and such and hell for what I want to get through them they could build it for about $2800-$3000 and have it done in 6 months compared to jackson where I would pay $5000-$6000k for it and wait god knows how long (2-4 years) due to it being a custom shop instead of custom select. That was if I were to be going down that route.

    The guys there seem really nice (at least over the phone) and when I was talking with them a setup is $90 and he said they cover everything and he was telling me that they get guitars all the time that come previously setup from guys at the chain stores and he said that a lot of those guys miss the essentials that really make a guitar play well.

    They also have some reputation with fender as being recommended with vintage restorations so I am sure they know their shit.

    Man there is quite a few. Tried fixing some of them on my own, but to no avail:

    1. Some weird buzzing on the open strings (E,A,D,G) and through like the first 3-5 frets on the E-D strings. Got a fret leveling hoping that would be solved, and still nothing works. Tried adjusting the truss rod to loosen it to get the right measurements gap wise in certain areas. I did a few tests that I used to evaluate where I want my guitar to be setup wise.

    2. There seems to be some buzzing/resonance on the bridge saddles (I have a floyd rose) and I have no idea what is causing it at all. I have gotten FU-Tone noiseless springs thinking that that was the culprit and still nothing. I have no Idea what is causing it and I have pulled the bridge out a few times to evaluate everything and making sure everything is tightened and wasn't rattling and everything checked out, but I was still experiencing these issues.

    3. I don't know why this is happening either, but the notes just die out/barely resonate when I am playing from the 19-24th fret. Mostly prevalent on the G-e strings. Wouldn't really know on the bottom three since I never play high up there on the bottom strings to tell, but I can check today.


    Those are the big 3 that need to be addressed. I have considered selling this guitar also partially because I also haven't necessarily gelled with it and such and one of my friends stopped me from a trade last night due to a few reasons and such and he has convinced me to keep this guitar and to just give it to a good luthier and have him do whatever he needs to do to make the guitar a "players" guitar.

    Plus I really like the guitar and it is kind of rare and the price I got it for I guess there is no harm in continuing to try and get it to become a player.
     
  14. JustinRhoads1980

    JustinRhoads1980 Jackson Elitist

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    I would also like explain that I am someone who tends to dig into my strings a lot and have a stronger picking hand. Due to this I have done stuff like get heavier string gauges for my guitars, but nothing out of the extreme.

    For my guitar in question I bumped it up to 10-46s in E standard. With my recent fret leveling I changed this to a 9-46 hybrid set and still have the same issues at hand.

    I have my Mick Thomson pro series soloist in Eb standard and have 10-52s on it and it has buzzing when I play power chords, especially when the root note is on the 6 string. Is there something additional I will have to do when I am doing basic maintenance on my guitar to accomodate for my playing at all?
     
  15. MaxOfMetal

    MaxOfMetal Likes trem wankery. Super Moderator

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    The most important part of being a tech is evaluation and measurement.

    You'll notice that most Luthiery tools are used to measure things.

    The idea is that you don't want to do anything without knowing why you're doing it. It's a big picture thing. That's why evaluating a guitar through the computer is so hard and why you need to either invest in the tools and knowledge to use them if you want to start fixing things. Shots in the dark can be lucky, but as you've already seen it's not the best way to solve some of the more ambiguous issues.

    From the best that I can tell:

    1) You need to get a handful of measurements:

    -Height of nut slots vs fretboard and first fret.
    -Relief, both sides of neck and center.
    -Action height at first, 12th and last frets.
    -Neck angle
    -Bridge height relative to fretboard and guitar top.

    Additionally, checking the frets with a straight edge and fretboard with a notched straight edge, both with the neck straight would be very helpful as well.

    The issue is either fret/fretboard related, or there's some setup geometry out of alignment.

    2) If all the screws and bolts on the trem are tightly fastened, check the locking blocks (little pieces that hold the strings in place). They should have a light groove to them on the smooth side that contacts the string. If there's heavy gouging, they might not be seating properly, same with the side that interacts with the locking bolt. Poor contact is a great source of string noise.

    It's also helpful to lock the bridge in place with some wood blocks to make sure it's not just the unit moving around. If the studs have too much play, or the claw, you can get tones similar to noisy springs.

    3) This can be caused by two things:

    A) The strings are hitting something, usually frets or pickup, and it's causing the vibration to stop earlier.

    B) That's the guitars "dead spot" or an area of the fretboard where the notes played interact with the guitar's unique resonance in a way that dulls the notes. Unfortunately you can't get rid of dead spots, everything has a given frequency that will cause this, but you can move them to a place where you won't notice them. You move them by adding (or subtracting) mass from the guitar. Try clamping a pair of vice grips to the headstock.

    But, this is all pretty much guess-work without the actual guitar on my bench.

    The way I see it you can either get good at your own setups and troubleshooting, or pay someone who is already very good at it.

    Grab some of Dan Erlewine's books on guitar setup, repair and maintenance.
     
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  16. JustinRhoads1980

    JustinRhoads1980 Jackson Elitist

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    I have followed a video where in the beginning he does stuff to measure for buzzing. He basically capos the first fret, frets the last fret and said the gap at the 9th fret should be able to have a credit card be able to slide under it,but no more than that. Then you fret the 3 fret and get like a index/business card and make sure that it just slides under the first fret but not a lot of room up top/ not too big of a gap.

    I also did one more test where I capo'd the first fret, use my thumb to fret the 12th and index finger to tap on the 9th fret to eyeball if it has at least a 1mm gap.

    I have a notched straight edge, could I still use this as a regular straight edge to check inconsistent frets at all by not using the notches?

    Also my floyd rose is parallel with the body so I can rule that out of being a culprit.

    I will be able to check the inserts for the gouging possibility when I do my neck string change or if I take it to the luthier I am meaning to go to and ask him about it.

    I can do the test where I block the trem and see if anything happens at all.

    Two questions:

    How can I check for play in the studs at all? Are those the two posts where I use it to raise up the bridge action at all? Or did I misinterpret that at all?

    Also how do I check for any play on the claw at all?

    I know for a fact that it is not hitting the pickups.

    So either it has to do with the frets or the dead spot.

    If I just attach one of the grips to the headstock what should I look for? If like the dead spot come closer or of it goes away?
     
  17. MaxOfMetal

    MaxOfMetal Likes trem wankery. Super Moderator

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    That's just checking the relief. That's but a small part of the puzzle. On its own, knowing the relief doesn't really tell you much, just how much the neck is curving due to string tension and truss rod position.

    If your straight edge has a non-notched side, sure. Though, it's not really going to do anything unless your neck is dead straight, which is best accomplished with a neck jig where you clamp the neck at both ends and apply force to get it perfectly straight.

    Without the neck being straight, you're just going to be measuring the relief again.

    Trem angle should be parallel to the direction of string pull and aligned as close to the top of the studs as possible. Try not to go just by the top of the body.

    :yesway:

    Yes, those are the trem studs

    Put some wax on the threads.

    Make sure it's taught against both screws going into the body. Place some surgical tubing over the screws that keeps the claw in place.

    As long as you're sure. It doesn't have to hit them hard, just enough to contact the string.

    You're looking for any change in the location of the dead notes.

    Be sure to put some rubber between the jaws of the vice grips and the headstock, you don't want to chew up the finish.
     
  18. prlgmnr

    prlgmnr ...that kind of idea

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    Just watch this guy work:

    If you find someone who knows their craft then sure.
     
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  19. JohnIce

    JohnIce Singlecoil Enthusiast

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    Is it a bolt-on guitar? It might be dead spots like Max said, but in my experience some funky stuff like that can occur in the area of the neck joint if one or more of the bolts are screwed in too tight. If you loosen each neck bolt ever so slightly (with strings on and tuned to pitch) and hear a bit of a "crack", that means you just evened out the tension in the neck pocket and "restored" the proper radius of the fretboard in that area. Kinda like going to a chiropractor.
     
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  20. JustinRhoads1980

    JustinRhoads1980 Jackson Elitist

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    It is a neck through


    I will take a look at the video later on. Hopefully I will learn somethin from it
     

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