Friday, July 28, 2006

UMGF Weekly Summary # 11 Jul 24

Some interesting statistics about the UMGF were posted last week. While the total visits number is a bit hard to grasp, the number of daily posts is more understandable. 756 is a lot of posts a day; no wonder the mods get overwhelmed sometimes. A hearty thank you to them for all that they do.

UMGF Community Statistics As @ July 2006

Total Visits :: 56,375309
Total Posts :: 782601
Avg Daily Visits :: 66220
Avg Daily Posts :: 756

This week there’s a bunch of weather related posts about humidity and high temperatures. Fret wear and bridge pin cracks are addressed, and there’s an interesting thread on string changes; just how often do people change those strings? We close out with an interesting question; ‘How do you know that the tune you wrote is original?’ and a great list of backhanded compliments.

Publishing schedule: With MartinFest just around the corner, the summary will be on hiatus for the next couple of weeks.

1. List Price of D-28 in 1971?
2. Factory Polish Question
3. OM-28V bracing vs. OM-21 bracing ???
4. D-16 bracing Question
5. Chris Martin's Signature
6. Decal Rosettes - Just the 15 series?
7. Stain for Series 15?
8. Interior case color switch.
9. Lowest Setup From the Factory
10. How hot is too hot?
11. Summer Humidity
12. Playing Outside In Extreme Humidity
13. A black case on a hot day: How hot does it get?
14. How to remove Pick marks?
15. Bridge pin cracks between the holes
16. When did Martin stop using Red Spruce
17. Fret wear after 3 months
18. Refret cost?
19. Dumb end-pin question from a Newbie
20. Effect of Different Gauge Strings On Neck
21. The TRUTH about string changes!
22. How to tell what kind of neck joint your guitar has?
23. Earplugs?
24. Fingerpicked Ragtime Guitar
25. K&K Users...Opinions Please
26. Songwriters – How do you know your tune is original?
27. Backhanded compliments?

Previous issues are archived at

Did I miss anything? Email me any interesting items you think should be included in the next report.

1. List Price of D-28 in 1971?
A friend of mine paid $410.00 in 1971 for his D-28 (new)... in 2005 dollars that’s $1950 - based on today's MSRP and the usual 40% discount it's $1709 actual cost.

Anyone know the list price as of 1971?

CountrySquire: That price sounds about right. In those days, dealers would often discount anywhere from 10-15% off the list price. An early 70s D-28 usually listed for about $450 with periodic price increases as the years went on. The lifetime warranty should cover things like a neck reset and pick guard repair/replacement (about $550 there) + any defects attributable to manufacturing and/or materials. Wear and tear expenditures (like fretwork) aren't applicable warranty considerations.

Mac Carter: The list price for a 1971 D-28 was $495.00. Although 40% off was not as commonplace then as it appears to be now, it still could have been purchased for as low as $300.00, new with warranty.

Agerbaek: I purchased a D-28 back in early 1972. Mac's list price figure of $495 agrees with Martin's price list, dated 9/71, a copy of which Martin sent me, along the acknowledgement of my warranty registration. However, this price did not include a case, which separately retailed for $80. Also, back then, you were lucky to get a 30% discount.

n7qx: I traded a D-18 for a D-28 in 1968. Price on the 28 was $400. D-18 was worth 200 in trade, so the 400 plus figure for a 71 sounds about right...

2. Factory Polish Question
The last time I was at the factory (back in March of this year) I saw a guy in the inspection area using some white milky fluid with some significant viscosity on a glossy-finished guitar. I can't figure out what this stuff is (I hesitated asking him) and it doesn't appear to be sold by Martin. Has anyone else seen this stuff in use at the factory or elsewhere (related to guitar finishes)?

randyp6: I cannot be sure but, from my experience restoring a few Corvettes, what they may be using is a swirl mark remover that eliminates any marks remaining from the buffing process...

gfspencer: When I was on a factory tour in the 80's I watched Meguiar's (right out of the tan bottle) being used to buff guitars. I don't remember which number polish it was . . . . probably something like a swirl remover.

Meguiar's makes a kit for guitars. It is marketed through Fender but it is Meguiar's. When I got my used 000-28VS it was scratched around the sound hole and the finish was dull where someone had rested their arm. The Meguiar's polish cleaned up everything.

I went down into my garage and checked out my Meguiar's cleaners/polishes/waxes and here's some information -

DO NOT use Meguiar's #1. That is a Heavy Duty cleaner. You won't have much finish left when you are done.

You MIGHT be able to use #3 - Professional Machine Glaze. It's non-abrasive and non-silicone. (Most Meguiar's "Professional" products are non-silicone.)

But to be safe use the Fender Kit (made by Meguiar's). The kit includes (1) Polish and Conditioner, (2) Swirl & Haze Remover and (3) Mist and Wipe Finish Enhancer.

P.S. I do not work for Meguiar's. But I am very particular about my cars and I have used Meguiar's for years. Their products work for me.

If I really want to get fancy I use Zymol . . . but not on my guitars.

3. OM-28V bracing vs. OM-21 bracing ???
Does anyone know if the bracing on the OM-28V is the same as the bracing on the other Martin OMs? Is the primary difference on the OM-28V, the neck and string spacing ??

Lefty00042: As far as anyone from Martin has indicated here, as well as the luthiers who chime in from time to time, there are no structural differences in the bracing between the OM-28V and OM-21 (or OM-18V, OM-35, OM-41 Special or OM-42 for that matter). The differences between the -28V and -21 are string spacing at the bridge, neck profile, and bridge/fingerboard materials. There are differences between the "regular" OMs and the GE/Marquis line (the specific profile of the scalloping from what others have said), but the positions of those braces are the same.

So differences in sound between otherwise-similar models are attributable to neck profile and woods used for bridges and fretboards. Similar arguments have raged about old D-21s versus D-28s. People who have taken them apart have pretty thoroughly convinced me the differences aren't that the sides and backs are thiner on -21s (a long-held theory), but simply the differences in woods used for bridges and fretboards.

tonguy: I've been told that the size and positioning of the tone bars differs between the OM-28V and the OM-35. Don't know how the OM-28V differes from the OM-21 "under the hood", though. If you're comparing the OM-21 with the OM-28V, understand that the higher-grade wood the 28V receives can and will make a difference in its tone as compared to the structurally similar OM-21. That being said, there are some fine sounding OM-21's out there.

tuoti: Having owned both an OM-21 and an OM-28V, there's gotta be something different "under the hood". I'm no luthier, and I don't even play one on TV, both those two OM's sound VERY different. Maybe the rosewood bridge and fretboard vs. ebony?

Lefty00042: Perhaps, as Tony says, there are some tweaks to the tone bars at least on some models (such as the OM-35). But as for the main X-brace, I strongly doubt it. That's so easy to measure that it would be common knowledge around here if it were the case.

I will say one thing though - when I take the tour again in a couple weeks I'm going to watch the top-bracing part of the tour more closely and I'm going to ask the tour guide about it.

4. D-16 bracing Question
The D-16's of the late 80's like the D-16M came with scalloped bracing and a dove tail neck joint, so wouldn't it be a D-18 with scalloped braces? And wouldn't it be close to what a D-18V is, and if so, why are they so cheap?

Buck49: No. The 16 line and the standard line have more differences in their bracing than just whether or not it is scalloped.Martin Braces

matthewrust: Buck, the early 16 Series did not use the M&T neck and "Hybrid A Frame Bracing" that the 16 Series of today uses (as shown in your link). They were in fact very similar to the scalloped braces of the V series and also had dovetail neck joints.

There was also a model that was very similar to the HD28V. The reason they are so cheap is that they have the 16 instead of the 28 on the neck block. But before the vintage series, those 16 series boxes were the vintage reissues as far as I know.

Buck49: While it is true that the early 16's didn't have the same bracing pattern as the current ones, the 16 series has never to my knowledge been built with the same pattern as the standard series. The purpose of introducing the 16 series was in fact to experiment with different bracing patterns. There was always some sort of variance from standard, however small it might have been.

The dovetail on the early 16's would have been virtually identical to the standard series.

None of this keeps the 16's (early or current) from being good guitars and terrific bargains.

scoper: As I recall, the earlier (c1996) 16's had some nice cosmetic stuff - abalone in the rosette and on the bridge.

The entire lower end (by which I mean anything below "standard" series - not a knock) has been a work in progress ever since. My son has a terrific D-1 - solid top and back, laminate sides. I wonder why the 1 series was eliminated - very nice guitars for the prices.

I think Martin has made great strides in all areas of their lineup in the last 10 years... for a period, the stock D-18 and D-28 seemed a little dead sounding, while they are now back to Martin standard. The introduction of the vintage series, along with improvements to that "lower" end, has really made them appeal to all price ranges without sacrificing what makes a Martin "special".

5. Chris Martin's Signature
Does Chris Martin still sign the underside of the tops on D-18GEs'? Just wondering.

bobdcat: He did mine, a 2001.

6. Decal Rosettes - Just the 15 series?
Are there any other decal rosettes besides the 15 series? I would think there are some other less expensive guitars that Martin might put decals on too. I looked in the FAQ but if it's there I didn't see it.

lathem: Most of the HPL-topped X series guitars have decal rosettes as well. All the spruce-topped X-series guitars I've seen (to include the LX1s) had "real" rosettes. Makes me wonder why they continue to use decals on the 15 series.

I will say the cheap/cheesy decal didn't stop me from buying a 00-15 for my daughter, but it's by far my least favorite thing about an otherwise excellent guitar.

cfmwoodbuyer: Decal rosette is currently only used on HPL toppped X and LX models, as well as the 15 series.

7. Stain for Series 15?
What would you use to touch up damage to the finish (down through the stain to the lighter wood) on Series 15 tops?

Arnoldgtr: Brown mahogany stain is a good match. IMHO, the best stains are water soluble aniline dyes.

8. Interior case color switch.
My latest guitar, a new D-41 Special has a burgundy case lining. A new 000-28EC purchased earlier in the year has a green case lining. I wonder if this is a Martin mandated switch?

martinslinger: I've got some with each of those three in modern (post-80's) cases, and yellow from the 60's, purple from the 30's.

Most of what I'm seeing in the local stores is the green, with an occasional burgundy.

Lefty00042: The 300 Series and 500 Series (Geib-style) cases are sourced from TKL. For years now Martin's cases have been plush green material similar to velour. Recent 500 Series cases have gone to cabernet-colored lining as reported by several new owners and dealers here. Whether Martin pushed the change (as is likely since they are the customer) or TKL did, it appears to be more or less across the board. I'm sure if any older green-lining cases are around at Martin for various sizes they will be used first but replaced as supply runs out.
paulw128: My HD28v had a green interior when purchased new in '97. Now it has turned to a (mostly) brown color

9. Lowest Setup From the Factory
Anybody ever got a setup from the factory as low as 4/64" on the low E and 3/64" on the high E?

MojoDreads: For the most part... a low set-up on a Martin for flatpicking* is considered to be 3/32" on the bass and 2/32" on the treble at the 12th... of course everything else (straight neck, great fret job, etc.) has to be perfect and aligned with the stars in order to make this work flawlessly without buzzing... I personally rarely see a "new" out of the box guitar set-up to these specs. Also, I've noticed that the nut is frequently slotted a hair too high.

*Heavy bluegrass rhythm playing would require a set-up to be a bit higher and a fingerstyle set-up could certainly be a slight bit lower.

mrjcelica: 4/64 at the low E is about a 32nd lower than Martin spec. They will not set up a guitar lower than 3/32 at the low E. I asked at the factory to take a guitar down to 5/64 at the low E and they would not do it. On the other hand I was fortunate to receive my 000-18GE right where I like it. I don't know how it slipped out of the factory under 3/32, but I'm glad it did. So I would think maybe once in a while one will slip thru. (lower or higher than spec.)

pickngrin99: That's what they told me too. They said they had 2 different action settings depending what the customer requests and the lowest is what they refer to as 3 & 2 which means (3/32 & 2/32).

Dmac252: Factory setups are generally high (6)7/64 @12 & (1) 5/64 @12, I have found that fingerstylist setup on martins works great at 5/64 & 3.5/64. it is my understanding that the purpose for the high action is that the guitar could be sold anywhere if the guitar goes to a climate that is dramatically different from where the guitar is made it is much easier to take the action down ( easier on the $$$ as well) then to raise the action at the saddle or nut typical would require a replacement ( with a ticked off customer. Most of my customers that are real players would never think of buying an instrument off of any shelf without asking for a setup to be either included with the sale or negotiating for a bit of a discount with the issue being they are taking it to their own tech. A high end instrument $$$ should go to your tech/luthier for tweaking and inspection anyway.

10. How hot is too hot?
How hot is too hot to sit outside and play your Martins? The current run of temperature here in Scotland has me defeated - I tried to play earlier on the deck when it was slightly cooler but then it got to this.....

For those of you who don't have a calculator at hand - that is 104F and the humidity level is 69%

Missouri Picker: Yeah, I keep my guitars inside during this kind of weather. If I have a gig, I cool down the car before putting the guitar in it........I have taken my Rainsong out in all kinds of weather. It holds-up very well. Don't know if the temps mentioned would do any damage to the Rainsong, but they would damage

martintones: I think the instrument can take it at 103 or below, as I did it a few years ago when I kept my word to play at an outdoor party. Was in the shade, no direct sun, but heat stayed up.

I was soaked with sweat. Had to towel off the guitar and myself. This was a straight-braced 50s tank though.

I'll hesitate before doing it again though, to avoid my own misery.

11. Summer Humidity
Currently the natural humidity in my guitar room is approximately 69%. I've always been under the impression that a guitars humidity environment should not rise above 55% or it risks possible structural and cosmetic damages. Unfortunately the cheapest de-humidifer I can find is $200 CAD and this is beyond my student budget.

Could anyone suggest a method of reducing the humidity or perhaps give me further insight into over-humidity? I'd greatly appreciate it!

geeterpicker: Keep the guitars in their cases when not in use. I wouldn't worry too much unless it starts getting in the 100s inside your home.

Hamlet The Pig: FQMS sells a dehumidifier for like 10 bucks, not sure how good it works or anything, but its worth trying i would say...

Also the Kyser lifeguard humidifiers supposedly work as a dehumidifier when you dont get them wet... they claim to pull moisture from air in humid conditions, but once again i cannot vouch for them.

Here's the links
First Quality Dehumidifier:

Kyser Lifeguard:

MichaelM: An air conditioner will remove some humidity too

Keep it in the case and make sure you have an accurate measurement of the humidity in the case.

At last year's MartinFest, guitar tech Dave Musselwhite said that at around 80% you were at risk for structural damage; the swelling could break glue joints etc.

ScotsDave: How about some silicon sachets from the pharmacy - keep them in the cases?...

juhy789: Your guitars are safe at 60-70% humidity.

vlj45: Something I saw today in K-Mart that seemed a little interesting - they had a mini-dehumidifier for about $69. It used a peltier (sp?) cooler technology. Not sure how big of a room it would work with. I've used the silica case dehumidifiers with good success, when they are needed. I've been pretty lucky this summer in upstate New York - the humidity in the house has been 55% to 60%. I usually put it in the case with dehumidifier if the humidity get to 65% for too long.

steviedeeny: I find it much easier to keep things in the 45-55% range in the summer than I do in the winter, actually.

For the summer, I just keep the house AC on pretty much 24/7 the entire season. It does the trick: We're in the midst of a major heatwave, and the outside temp/humidity has been in the 90+/80-90 range consistently. Right now, my guitar chamber is stable at 48%...

In the winter, stabile humidity means refilling the Venta AirWasher pretty much on a daily basis... kind of a pain, but necessary. (BTW, the Venta is very expensive, but worth it. No filters are used (a big savings right there...), and it both humidifies and cleans the air -- excellent German technology. Before, I was replacing the standard $100-$150 crap humidifiers I was buying on an annual basis in order to deal with NYC steam heat. This Venta is built to last and actually does what it is supposed to.

johnreid: I know that guitars dry out, but also know that many guitars held up quite well before Air Conditioning was popular. IMHO like anything else a little common sense pays off, keep them out of direct sunlight and keep them where things are the most comfortable for you. Oh yes, remember to wipe the sweat off before putting them back in the case

Carped35: I have heard that "in the old days" Martin air-dried tone woods before building their instruments. I understand that tone woods are now kiln-dried. Is this correct? If so, does the method of drying have any effect on the assembled instrument's response to changes in humidity?

mcgannahanskjellifetti: Found this one on the Larrivee website...
Most of the problems related to excess humidity can be avoided with some simple precautions.

1) Keep your guitar out of the case. A guitar stand is a good idea as it allows the air to circulate around your guitar. If possible, it’s a good idea to keep your guitar on the second or third floor of your house when the weather is warm.

2) Never keep your guitar in a dark cool basement during periods of high humidity. Do not store it inside its case in such an environment as the moisture accumulates in the tight quarters of the case.

DSilber123: Keeping the guitar in its case will not protect it from elevated humidity unless you cover the instrument with silica gel. The cases are not air tight and the ambient humidity will equilibrate with the interior of the case. Only changing the ambient humidity will result in a more ideal general humidity level.

12. Playing Outside In Extreme Humidity
Our little duo has been very busy this summer playing outside gigs in over-the-top humidity here in PA.
I've resorted to arriving earlier than usual to allow my Martins to soak in all the moisture in an attempt to keep them in tune. They certainly don't sound their best being saturated with all that moisture.

Does anyone have any tips on playing outside in high humidity to pass along?

flatpicknut: Humidity does muffle my Martin. I know that the general concern is of damage from high humidity or high temperature, but when the humidity gets up there, my Martin sounds like it is full of cotton. Sigh. No fix that I know of (I play my CA when it gets too hot or too humid).

geeterpicker: There isn't anything good to say about playing in high heat and humidity. It's awful for the performer, the guitar and the audience. Your fingers stick to the strings, tuning is ridiculous, the back of the neck gets gritty and you sweat all over the instrument. I start to get a bit wobbly in the heat if I don't drink lots and lots of water. My old band played the Fourth of July every year and it was always stifling hot. I would go through 9 or 10 bottles of water. I'd go in the shade and sit still on breaks, rub some ice on my head.
If you can, keep the instruments in the shade. If it's not possible, toss a large beach towel over them to protect them from the direct sunlight.

Larry124: Also in PA, near Philadelphia. One excuse for multiple guitars…and old guitars. My D16 has been virtually unplayable. It sounds sock-stuffed.
But my Blueridge BR140 seems to like humidity! It sounds better than usual. Go figure.
I wasn’t even going to attempt the HD28 but I did and was surprised. It sounded just a little “thick” but still very enjoyable. Maybe because it’s seven years old?

Bluegrass bands have been performing outdoors in humidity for decades. Their Martins frequently sound fine – and are often decades old.
If I recall correctly Larry Sandberg in his book “Acoustic Guitar Guide” contends that solid wood guitars “breathe” moisture in and out but that over time their ability to do so diminishes. After that they become less prone to high or low humidity reactions. And acquire that magic “crisp and dry” sound.

Peter Cree: This is when rainsongs come into the picture. My little rainsong parlor has been excellent.

13. A black case on a hot day: How hot does it get?
avincent52: I've been trying to air out a smoke scented Geib case, and I guess watching Mythbusters with my kids got to me.

I wondered just how hot it gets inside a black case on a sunny day.

The answer: Pretty darned hot.

I put the case out in the sun for a couple of hours on Friday (about 83 degrees ambient temp) , with my Radio Shack thermometer/hygrometer in the case pocket. It reached a peak of 120 degrees, even with some periodic opening and closing.

Did the same today--it's much hotter about 94--and left the case in the sun closed for about three solid hours. The result was surprisingly the same: 120.

Just for kicks, I put the thermometer inside my car--back of a station wagon, tan interior, direct but late afternoon sun.

It reached a whopping 138 degrees within about 10 minutes.

In any case, I would bet that most wood glue starts softening up at 120 degrees so be forewarned. Keep that darned case out of the sun.

Be interesting to see how a really optimal case--a non-black Calton--would fare under the same conditions.

The results are in:
Sitting in the back of my station wagon in more or less direct sun, the inside of my black Geib case reached a temperature of....

144 degrees F

That's pretty hot.

I put a couple of pieces of wood (probably pine) glued together edge to edge with Titebond, and clamped until dry.

It may not have been the world's best glue joint, but at room temperature, I couldn't pull them apart.

At 144 F, I did without too much effort.

FWIW, the case survived fine, although I was careful how I handled it when it was superheated and allowed it to cool gradually.

inertian: Did a similar thing a few weeks back, trying to dehumidify a case that my hygrometer indicated was too high in RH%.

After about an hour outside, the temperature in the case was over 100 degrees. When I brought the case back in and opened it up, the cloth strap that keeps it from opening too widely had come unglued.

tmansonusa: Quote:

OK, let’s say you wanted to “customize” your Geib and spray paint the top a lighter color. Could it be done (or would it just flake off) and what type of paint would work best?

I've already been thinking about painting mine - not entirely though, just some decorative stuff. That black-black-black is just way too boring. My daughter the graphic designer suggested that acrylic might be the way to go, but anything with some flex to it (they do make "vinyl-based" paint) might be ok. And there is a rubberizing additive they put in paint for car bumper covers that might work too.

johnreid: They make paint for Radio Controlled Cars, the paint stretches, I bet it would hold up good too.

WeaselD28: Get the paint of choice and throw in a little of this:

J21M: If you want to spray paint a guitar case there is some paint made for vinyl that I think would work. It is used on car interiors and holds up pretty good. However if you do white over black any scratches will show up bold.

I bought some at a store that sells auto stuff and painted red over black.

Black Hole Gang: I've ordered a case cover from the Colorado Case Co. in a light color with double insulation (R16) to help ease those temp and humidity swings from the house to the car, etc. They have a graph showing how hot it gets inside a closed car after just one hour with an outside temp of only 80 degrees.

66d35: Not identical conditions... but it was over 90 degrees here yesterday, and full, searing sunshine without a cloud in sight... using a remote probe inside my white calton case after two hours it registered just 83 degrees F. I'll repeat that with my ivory Hiscox today. The exterior of the calton did not even feel especially warm in full sunshine, so it really must reflect the heat extremely well. The very thick internal padding clearly also slows down thermal transmission.

14. How to remove Pick marks?
I have a hunch this has been discussed many times before, but what is the best way to get rid of pick marks on the wood?

rsdean: I have had good success with Petros. Here's a link:

bobdcat: If the scratches are merely in the finish and not through the finish into the wood, the Petros Finish Restorer can make a real improvement in lessening the visibility of the scratches. My D12-20 looked a lot better after an application of Petros.

elephantfan85: You might also want to think about getting some sort of additional protection for the top. You can get a clear thin material that is nearly invisible when installed.

gfspencer: Meguire's markets a product for Fender. (It comes in a kit with polish, wax, etc.) Like Petros, it also does a good job of removing scratches.

lkb3rd: I use meguiar's #7 car polish as a cleaner/light polish and it works for removing finish scratches. I use a micro fiber polishing cloth to apply, and a separate dry micro fiber cloth to buff it out. 1 container has enough to last a long time.

15. Bridge pin cracks between the holes
I have an '03 Gibson j185 with cracks between each hole on the bridge. The bridge plate is without problems when viewed with a mirror.
My luthier suggested using epoxy but ... there is an interesting thread on The Vintage Corner concerning bridge plate repair with glue and a specific wood dust. I have used tite bond and sawdust to fill the cracks/gaps when refinishing my wood floor.
I'd hate to remove the bridge. Do these cracks need to be stabilized? Said guitar plays well and the cracks stop at the mop dot inlays either side of the bridge.

Arnoldgtr: Epoxy may work, but I have also had good success fixing these with super glue. If the cracks are wide enough, I insert a sliver of ebony or rosewood and flow thin super glue around it. On thinner cracks I use ebony or rosewood dust. After the glue hardens, I string the guitar and see if the cracks open up again. If they do, I repeat the application of super glue. That usually does the job.

Buck49: The cracks do need to be fixed. They are probably affecting tone and volume as they will affect how snuggly the pins fit. Besides: they may get worse...and they sure aren't going to get any better without a little professional help.

As far as how to fix them, John's superglue is the standard method nowadays. I have also used blackened epoxy on ebony bridges, and after cleaning up the glued holes you can't even see it.

16. When did Martin stop using Red Spruce
Was 1939 when Martin stopped using red spruce? What was used in the early 40's and when was Sitka first started?

Buck49: The change took place in 1946, I believe, but may not have been at the same time for all models. For a short time, the two spruces may even have been example with sitka is known to be older (at least by serial number) than another with Adirondack even within the same model.

17. Fret wear after 3 months
I had a refret done about 3 months ago at Martin. I average about an hour a day of hard playing have noticed very slight fret wear under the steel strings on the first 2 frets.

I do squeeze chords harder than I should and I'm working on my technique but isn't this a little soon for any wear to start showing?

papogi: Based on my experience, everything is normal. An hour a day for 3 months is quite a bit of playing, and I would think that the frets should show beginnings of wear. Hopefully the indentations are very small at this point, though.

Buck49: Whether or not it SHOULD happen...fix your technique and it WON'T happen. I used to go through a set of frets every year. My current frets on my main guitar are 2 years old, and before they were replaced, they were 17 years old. Technique is a bigger deal than you realize.

Brown44012: I second the fix your technique. I am a self-taught player who learned on cheapo guitars with poor action. The result was years of acquiring the bad habit of pressing down too hard. In recent years I've worked very hard on technique. You'll find that lightening up your touch will improve your intonation (i.e. you won't be pressing the notes sharp by too much pressure), keep your body from tensing up, smooth out your playing, reduce fatigue, avoid injury, keep your fingers from getting sore, and save $ on fret jobs.

Brown44012: A good setup helps technique also. If the strings are too high, it's difficult to relax and loosen up your grip because the strings require so much force to bring them down to the frets.

It always amazes me how easy it looks when players with good technique play. If you go to Nazfest this year, check out Jack Lawrence's playing. His playing is effortless. As Steve Kaufman says, "if it looks like I'm not pressing down very hard, it's because I'm not pressing down very hard".

18. Refret cost?
How much would a refret run, for just the first 5 frets? My VS is getting real due for one.

Opheltes: As a rough comparison (and it's local), Peter Stokes at Broken Neck on Boylston St. in Boston did a refret of the first 5 frets of my 1999 F5 mandolin (and set it up) for $95. This was a year ago. It looks perfect (you can't tell that they aren't the orignal frets) and it plays very nicely. His number is 617-262-0220 (the usual disclaimer; I'm just a satisfied customer). Great guy to work with too.

tmansonusa: I've seen a Martin-Authorized Luthier charge as much as 350 for a fret job.

Zipster100: The first 5 frets should run about $100, I dropped a guitar off today for this and that’s what I was quoted. A full re-fret should run about $200 – 250. If the fingerboard is bound add in a little more.

Bryan Kimsey: I charge $10/fret + $20 and $195 for the full thing. That includes setting the nut height, crowning and polishing all frets. If you need/want a new nut, that's extra.

I don't mind doing partial refrets, esp. on f/boards that are in good condition.

J21M: I had a partial refret. $200.
I had wear on the first five frets but the luthier said he had to replace seven or eight to make it come out right. He also leveled and polished all the frets.

Nice job and I can't tell exactly how many were replaced.

Next time I have any refretting done I am going ask about fret wire hardness. Some luthiers use soft wire because it is easy for them to work with. I have also read on this forum that some new guitars wear very fast. Like one year! (I think they were made with soft wire).

Dmac252: Hey I may be late to this party. However being in the business a fair price for partial fret replacement should be the standard bench fee i.e. 40 bucks for the first fret then about $10.00 for each additional fret.

I replace the 1st 5 (money) frets all the time that's how I charge. Binding adds a surgarge. So you might get the work done for $80.00 no bindings 100.00 bindings

66d35: A rare instance where the UK is substantially cheaper. You can get a first class refret where I live for £45.00 (about $80).

19. Dumb end-pin question from a Newbie
I've read the 'care and feeding' instructions regarding installing the end-pin, but as I almost always play sitting down I'm wondering if I should bother installing it at all. Apart from the possibility of losing it, are there any 'cons' to leaving it out?

Mac Carter: Leaving the end pin out will have no effect on your guitar. In fact, it's a lot safer, because if you ship a guitar and forget to take the end pin out, there's an added risk of damage during transit.

CountrySquire: Another alternative: just pop a white or black (depending on the model) 1/4" plastic cap in the end pin hole. It will fit flush and eliminate that gaping hole.

20. Effect of Different Gauge Strings On Neck
I generally use medium gauge strings on my guitars, but have been experimenting a little. I've got Martin Fingerstyle Mediums on one, which have less tension than normal meds. I’m going to string one guitar with True mediums which are basically mediums on the 1st, 2nd and 6th string, and light gauge for the middle three strings. Will this uneven distribution of tension (Compared to standard mediums) have any bad effect on the neck, such as causing it to twist over time?

Dr L J: No. You might need a truss rod adjustment at some point, but even that may not happen.
I have used all of the strings you mention on several guitars over many years and have no ill effects.
Right now, I am using Martin SP Light/Mediums on a couple of guitars. They really fall in between light and medium gauge, have a nice tension and sound great. They work very well on my 000-28EC and a Larrivee D-10 I have.

Floyd1960: The 'true mediums' actually create a more even tension across the fingerboard...the A & D strings in a standard medium set are the culprits that create the 'uneven' tension. True mediums are a great way to go...better playability, minimal loss of overall volume & healthier for your guitar's neck.

21. The TRUTH about string changes!
I am seeking the (one?) truth. Ok, I get it when the crud and the rust are falling off the strings, or no matter how you tune 'em, they keep going flat on you.

But otherwise....when and how often and how do you really know? I played my OM42 the other night, which has been sitting out (in a climate/humidity controlled room) for a long time. And I thought--wow, this will sound even better with new strings (I have had it a year, and while I seldom play it, it has never had a string change!) So, on go some new P/B lights, and as I start playing, I 'm thinking ....

HEY! This sounds really....really....GR.....really -- like it did before! Is it me? Is it my low-level playing skills? Is it a bad ear? Or are string change differences to some degree in your own head?

terryf1960: I have been playing for 33 years. On my guitar I will usually change it about every 6 weeks. The last set that I put on were a set of Medium Elixr PBs. They've been on for a little over 5 months and sound not too bad. I probably would have changed them by now but because they are just on a loaner guitar I am waiting till the beginning of August when I get my guitar back. Hopefully these Elixr PBs will sound as good on my HD28 as they have on this HD35. I figure I'll be changing strings about every 4 months. Its just a preference thing. When I played full time on the road I would change strings on my Tele twice a week. I had to have a nice crispy new sound all the time. I've seen some guitarists and bassists keep strings on for several months.

GLT: I buy most of my strings from and like 'em fine (80-20's for the most part). I don't much like the sound of brand new strings, and once they are broken in, I keep them on as long as I can, which can often be 3 to 6 months. Eventually I can't get them to tune up right, then I switch.

PS I don't really mind changing strings either, I just don't see a need to change them all that often.

Dr L J: Strings tend to go dead for me after 4-5 weeks of playing. I am talking about 1-2 hours per day of playing, too. I find they don't tune as well as they should. When I notice that, I change them. If they start to get that corroded, funky-gunky look, I change them. Other than that, I play them as long as they sound good to me. When I change them, I put a little piece of paper in the case pockets with the date on it. That way I know how long they have been on the guitar.

Some of my guitars, ones that are not played as often, can have the same set of strings on them for several months.
I have had friends who just kill strings. Something in their sweat just eats the strings up and they have to change pretty often to keep things sounding nice. I am pretty lucky in that mine will go for a long time.
Don't feel you have to follow a schedule. Keep the strings on as long as you think they sound good and don't worry about it.

bobdcat: I guess I change mine about every 4-6 months. Luckily, I don't have the perspiration-rot problem. The 12 string is a pain to change, so I usually let it go a lot longer. The little Guild sounds best with old strings, so I never change them unless they break. It's got Martin Fingerstyle Lights on it that are over 2 years old now and it sounds perfect.

BigRed51: Sound means different things to different people. The sound you are looking for and that you sound pleasing, and the style in which you play, make a difference in the type of strings you use, and how often you will want to change them.

It is my observation that fingerpickers can generally play strings until they start to cause gangrene, and in many cases, they hate the sound of new strings. A bluegrass flatpicker, on the other hand, is often looking for a lively, ringing tone, and that is never found in some strings, and goes away quickly in others. The third factor is the chemical reaction that some of us seem to have that degrades strings more quickly.

I am primarily a flatpicker. Personally, I have no use for PB strings. They sound dead out of the box to me. They sound no better new than a 3 month old set. I prefer Elixir 80/20s, because they have a great ring out of the box, and they keep it 4-5 times longer than unwound. I put a set of GHS uncoated 80/20's on last Thursday. (Have tried several brands that claim to sound brighter longer) They sounded great new. But after jamming for 5 hours Thursday night, and 6 hours Saturday night, they were dead as a doornail ... unless I fingerpick without picks, in which case they are as good as any. With Elixirs, I typically change them every 4-5 weeks ... and I generally play 20-25 hours a week.

I'm sure that there are some people that I could send my old strings to, who would love the sound for another 6-8 months! It really comes down to what you like, and how you play.

One of my favorite Ebay ads was for a 80's model Martin ... it said "you can tell this is a great guitar, because it still has the original strings!"

Wire and Wood: My luthier once related the story of a local man who came in to pick up his guitar, which was in for an action/intonation job.

Upon looking over the bill, he began complaining about the inclusion of a new set of strings. My luthier explained to him that it was a necessary part of the action/intonation work. The customer screamed "Listen buddy, I've had those strings for over two years and none of 'em broke yet!"

Hamlet The Pig: You guys are going to think im crazy...
I order 6 sets of strings every 2 weeks, and change every other day... I get them from fqms at about 4 bucks a pop... so its not "that" bad on the wallet.
For me though, I have the worst possible case of acid hands ever, I lose interest in a set of strings after about 4 hours of solid playing... so by the time I change them I don’t like them at all..
However, I don’t like that brand new ringy string sound either, so I play that out of them in about 15 minutes, just by strumming and they are perfect, but once they start to dull beyond that, I’m done with them.
I can tell a huge huge difference every time I change.. heck I can tell a difference per hour I play of them getting worse...
One thing that helps is john pearse string wipes, I’ve been using those every time I play before and after too, and that helps quite a bit, after an hour or so of playing, I can pull a thick dark chalky black line off crud off my string with those wipes.
I've also tried coated/elixir strings, and just don’t care for the sound, I use d'ddarrio EJ17's instead, so that probably has something to do with my string life too...

ronsongz: I change about once a month whether needed or not. My D-28 likes new strings (SP PB xtra lights, btw).

Stokes73: I guess it depends on your playing style and habits. I play every day for an hour or two and change the strings on my OM-42 about every 3-4 weeks. I use D'Addario EJ16s. I tried their coated strings and didn't really see any 'life cycle' advantage. The most obvious change to me that indicates it's time for a string change is the guitar doesn't hold the tuning.

CountrySquire: Reminds me of a magazine interview with Duck Dunn of the MGs. He kept the same set of strings on his electric bass for over 20 years. No one ever mentioned to him that they required periodic changing and he was satisfied with the tone. The countless Volt-Stax recordings prove his point. While guitar strings do not have the longevity of bass guitar strings, changing them is often a matter of tonal preference. Some like a bright, metallic sheen while others perfer a more played-in, warmer sound.

philphool: Truth is, what gets me to change strings most often is a rough feel to the unwound strings over the 1st 5 frets. This becomes noticeable about every 6-8 weeks for me.

Sometimes I just change the 1st & 2nd strings (with some unwounds I bought in bulk) and wait another month or so before changing the whole set.

SkyShot 1: Most of the recording and touring artists I've spoke to along with producers and sound engineers (myself included) will insist on fresh strings for every gig and recording session.

I personally change strings about every month regardless of playing time. Especially in the summer.

22. How to tell what kind of neck joint your guitar has?
Is there a way to tell whether your guitar has a mortise-tenon or dovetail type neck joint by looking at it?

Arnoldgtr: If it's a Martin, just look at the neck block. The M&T ones have a laminated neck block with a thin veneer pasted to the face. The laminated block is made from a whitish wood.
The dovetail Martins have a solid mahogany neck block.

tippie53: Some mortise and tenon neck blocks are mahogany. If you have one , there is a small piece of mahogany with the cf martin logo on it that will cover the screw so if you see a raised piece on the block you will have a mortise and tenon.

23. Earplugs?
My ears are taking a beating. The band I'm playing in keeps getting bigger--we've gone from an acoustic trio to a 7-piece with a drummer and keyboards, electric guitars and lots of amps. I never worried about this kind of thing when I was younger, but now I'm 43 and have had tinnitus for a couple years, so I want to protect what hearing I have left. Any recommendations on ear plugs? BTW, I don't sing in the band, but alternate between rhythm and lead guitar.

desaljs: Here is a link to just one site I found:

Most sites that sell these are going to be suppliers to manufacturers. I am not sure if there are any music specific sites.

Keep in mind that these hearing protectors will attenuate (decrease but not eliminate) the noise exposure. The real key to this is just reducing the decibel exposure to a level that will allow you to hear what is going on, and protect your hair cells in the inner ear. The hard part is finding a set that is a good fit for your particular anatomy.

I would suggest that you try a few different sizes and styles until you find something that works.

I urge you to do this. If you already have some tinnitus, its time to get some protection.

scolardeau: Very good decision! Back on July 3rd my wife and I attended a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert and for the first time in my life (I'm 52) We decided to wear ear plugs to a concert. We were very glad we did because it was LOUD!!! No head ache the next day, no ears ringing for a week. Surprisingly I could hear all of the instruments very clearly. We both could pick out the piano over the volume of guitar(s) noise. I used a plug similar to the Howard Leight Airsoft Earplug that you can see on the above link. They sell them for $50+ a case so it works out to about a buck a set. A very small price to pay to protect something so valuable.

steviedeeny: Sonic II Hearing protectors, made by Norton and available at most music stores, are the state of the art IMO -- I've been using them in bands since high school, and they have saved my hearing. They're made of surgical latex rubber, with a metal baffle plate inside that cuts all the damaging high-end frequencies, but still allows you to hear the music -- just compressed and lower in volume. I swear by them.

24. Fingerpicked Ragtime Guitar
Arranging classical piano rags for guitar was pioneered initially by Dave Van Ronk and then taken to new levels by Dave Laibman and Eric Schoenberg, and then carried on by others who were brought recognition through Kicking Mule records (started by Ed Denson and Stefan Grossman, etc.). You don't see much of it anymore, but here is a clip featuring the great Larry Campbell doing Black and White Rag, composed by George Botsford in 1908.

Larry handled the string stuff (guitar, mandolin, fiddle, pedal steel) on a couple of the Bob Dylan tours, and I saw him a few months ago at one of the Levon Helm "Midnight Rambles". I don't know if he played when LesM and Lamplighter (Bruce) attended the Ramble last month. He's a great player as this demonstrates:

Up North: FYI, more Larry Campbell here:

See show #356.

LesM: Just a recommendation: Stefan Grossman's "Black Melodies on a Clear Afternoon" CD, which can be ordered from his website has lots of rags on it.

If you peruse his website for CD's, there are terrific guitarists playing rags and available.

25. K&K Users...Opinions Please
I can be rather aggressive with my strumming, forcing rhythms to occur where they typically wouldn't, so I have been a bit apprehensive about making the switch to a soundboard transducer verses an USP.

Is this apprehension valid? Or am I being paranoid?

Does anyone who uses the K&K beat the crap out of their guitars on stage with no ill effects?

Lefty00042: I don't play out so take this with a grain of salt but . . . Dan (grababanjo) Frechette DOES beat the crap out his guitars (I'll show you the pick marks on the D-18VS that I traded for if you don't believe me) and he uses a K&K. In fact, the D-18VS has a K&K still installed though I've never tried it plugged in. Hopefully he'll make it to Naz and he can talk to you about it directly but yeah, he certainly plays very aggressively (and very well I might add).

MauryOM28V: The K&K (or any sounboard transducer) is more forgiving than a UST when it comes to heavy strumming. These sbt's don't overload and quack the way that USTs can.

26. Songwriters – How do you know your tune is original?
Over the years, I have come up with various original songs while playing guitar or banjo, and until recently, this was something I never really worried about. A few months ago, while noodling around a set of chord progressions I like, I came up with what I think is a really nice tune (no lyrics yet) that I have since been arranging for guitar. Because I like the tune so much, I’m thinking of going through the copyright procedure when I’m done with it, but I’m wondering how I can know the tune is really original. To my knowledge, I’ve never heard it before, but that’s obviously no guarantee. With lyrics, or other writing, when I come up with a particularly worthy turn of phrase, it’s easy to Google it to see if it’s original. This is essentially the same method some college professors use to check the originality of student work. But you can’t do that with music. One option is to push ahead and not worry about improbable consequences. For those of you who create music, what do you do?

ronsongz: Everyone steps on someone's melody at some point in time. All you can do is try your very best to be original. In order for someone to sue for infringement, they have to prove intent to copy and access to the original song, unless the original is a recognized hit. This was used in the lawsuit won against George Harrison in 1975 or '76 by the publisher and writer of "He's So Fine" who sued over "My Sweet Lord".

Play your melody for others, and the minute someone says "I think I know that song", be careful.

The writers of "He's So Fine" didn't need the money, but I don't think George infringed on purpose. Melodies are certainly copyrightable; that I guarantee you. Write a new lyric to "Your Cheating Heart", and you will not only get sued, but you will lose. The question in George's case was did he know the other song, and he most certainly did, as it was a huge hit in Britain as well as the US.

avincent52: Think of copyright a little like the title to your car. You've got it, but until you're thinking about selling the car--or some odd situation in which someone disputes your ownership--you don't really use it.

If you copyright your tune, it's pretty much incumbent upon someone to prove that you stole it from them. This isn't easy, and in legal channels, it's not cheap.

So if you're playing a song at an open mic, no one's going to care. If Johnny Depp hears you playing that tune at that open mic and wants to make it the theme song for Pirates III, that's where it could become an issue. (No one was suing Dan Brown when he was selling 14,000 copies of his earlier books.)

The other thing to understand is that copyright is very specific when it comes to prose, and I assume it's similarly rigid with music. You can copyright a sequence of words, but you can't copyright an idea.

So if I say "Ideas don't fall under the domain of copyright, which is reserved for an exact sequence of words." I'm wouldn't be violating the copyright of the last sentence.

ronsongz: You are correct, and also in music, you can not copyright a title.

Billy Sherrill, the great producer/songwriter, once said that 90% of the melodies in hit country songs could be found in the Broadman Hymnal (the Baptist hymnbook of the 40's 50's and 60's). I know he was right about some of them, because I recognized them from church. Of course, most of those were in the public domain. I just try to be as original as possible, and sometimes I'm sure I have stepped on someone's melody.

Don Hurley: Ron is the expert on this but I have been astonished at the number of hits that have been (maybe unconsciously) plagiarized down the years.

Earliest example I can recall is Bing Crosby's `50s hit`In A Little Spanish Town'. It turned again up in the early sixties with a new rhythm and entitled `Why' which was a monster hit for Frankie Avalon.

Sometimes whole hooks/riffs are copied. Like `Fly Me To The Moon' which contains mirror chunks of `Happy Heart'. The are countless other examples especially in Folk. Woody, Pete, Ramblin' Jack have been `copied' blind for decades.

Recently the BBC classical department compiled an hour-long feature on the songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber and gave chapter and verse on which classical work he'd `borrowed' every one of them from.

For some reason ALW remained mute and decided not to reply!

27. Backhanded compliments?
Playing out you get a lot of backhanded compliments, and I'd like to hear some of your funnier ones. I play in an acoustic duo and my personal favorite is "you guys are really good.....for only having two guitars." This is the one we hear most often and always one of my favorites.

Eugie Baange: Our singer is a teacher in his day job.
A bunch of his old, ex-students came out to hear us once and, after the gig, told him: "Gee, Mr Taylor, you don't suck too bad".

leftshu: I hear "That sounds real good for a lefty" all the time. I guess they mean well?

IainDearg: Someone once said that one of my songs was "quite nice". I don't know, but it was something about the way she said it that made it seem like it was the worst song she had ever heard. I changed my mind about asking her out for dinner.

Modac X: "You're a really good guitarist...for a songwriter".

denison329: One time in a church our group was setting up and checking sound levels. I knew pretty much where the settings had to be from a lot of experience but we made the mistake of asking one of the people from the church if we were too loud. They said it needed to go down a bit. I turned it down a little and asked again. Same answer - turn it down. I turned it down to the point where I KNEW they weren't even hearing the mains. I asked again. They said "I can still hear you".

Blue Yodel: I don't know if this counts but one time we were playing for a nursing home and in the middle of a song a women starts screaming 'PLEASE MAKE 'EM STOP!'. We didn't, but she got wheeled out of there.

gypsy picker: After the first set with my acoustic duo at a paid gig that had promo posters up with our "band" name, a guy comes up and says... "That was pretty good... you guys should think about playing for money... do you know when the band starts?"

B dim b: Jeff Beck at the end of his set opening for Rod Stewart:
"That completes the musical portion of tonight’s program, on with the show!"

Carped35: The first time I ever played "out" was a pass-the-hat gig with a group of other rank amateur old-timey string band enthusiasts. We were in a bar with a juke box. The manager had told us to plug in the juke box between sets. We unplugged the box to begin our second set. A moment or two into our first tune, someone plugged the juke box back in. The tune was "Band on the Run." We split, hatless with tails between our legs. Cold, very cold.

gitpik: Our lead singer had just finished singing, Okie from Muskokie one night when a drunk walked up and asked her if she knew or would sing Okie from Muskokie !!!

Tommymc: Hey, you guys are pretty good.........for a country band.

Rucker: I've had two:

"Your rhythm playing is amazingly adequate." That was from a former bandmate and he truly meant it as a compliment.

I was sitting in a group of people having a discussion on how John Duffey (Country Gentlemen, Seldom Scene) had a distinctive mandolin technique, mostly because it was erratic, off-the-cuff, and didn't always go where it sounded like it should, his breaks didn't always resolve in an expected way. In other words, he was distinctive and very original, but not always very clean. Bear in mind, the overall feeling was one of appreciation, not of derision. None the less, I was a little taken aback when someone looked at me and said:

"Yeah, you play guitar like Duffey plays mandolin"

Vulcansdad: Back in the sixties, the local Kiwanis sponsored a pancake breakfast. We were the musical entertainment and played while folks were eating. Aunt Jemima was the m.c.-(It was the early sixties).

Anyhow, after two or three songs, Aunt Jemima took the mic to make some announcements and thank some of the event sponsors. She then introduced us again, and in a very audible stage whisper said, "They've asked that you turn it down. They still want you to play but could you please turn it way down."

ETnRambler: This was not an underhanded comment about my playing, but about my taste in music.

Being married to the daughter of classical musicians, I've gone to my share of classical music performances. At one such reception, I was chatting with a wild haired member of the orchestra who was about my age. Can't remember what he played, but I think it was cello. He asked if I played music and when I told him I played guitar he seemed interested. Saying he always asks someone if they are a musician as a way to find other people to play with.

Then he asked what kind of music I played, probably expecting Albeniz or Sor. When I told him I played Neil Young and Rolling Stones he said, "I really should expand my knowledge of other types of music," and turned and walked away without even saying goodbye.

Buck49: Around a year ago I sang a "special" in church. After church, a lady came up to me (with a very serious look on her face) and said: "I am so encouraged when you sing...because I know if you can do it anybody can!" I don't think it came out the way she intended it, so I just said "thank you" and wandered away.

Patrick0045S: One night I was doing stand up comedy and had a real good set. The opening comedian hadn't done well, though, and the audience had been very quiet.

After the show, two older ladies came over to compliment me. The opening comedian walked over and joined us. One of the ladies tried to say something nice to him as well. She told him, "...and you were very restful."

I saw the worst comedian I've ever seen a few weeks ago at the Comedy Store in Hollywood. There were a couple dozen people in the audience. The comedian had told about 10 jokes and hadn't got a single laugh.

So he tells another joke, and just this one lady laughs. Then the lady looks around the room, and she's kind of embarrassed. She realizes she's the only one laughing. She says to the comedian, "What'd you just say again?"

So he tells the joke all over. She goes, "Oh, excuse me. I thought you said something different."

WmRob: How about this?

"Is this your first gig?"


"Yep, sounds like it, too."


"We'd like you to play something we like, for a change."


"We can hear you all the way in the back."

"Hey, that's great. Thanks."

"Wasn't meant as a compliment."

gypsy picker: A fellow UMGFer and I went to an open mike and waited at the bar for our turn while the fellow on stage was destroying a Beatles tune. After looking around, I asked the guy next to me if everyone in here was a musician, as there were as many guitar cases as people. Without missing a beat, he quipped "Everyone but the guy on stage".

SomeTimGuy: I had a long story here, but this isn't the right place for it. I'll just say that a music theory prof. said of a piece I wrote:

"It's just not as good as it sounds. Really."

Monday, July 24, 2006

UMGF Weekly SUmmary # 10 Jul 17

Is a headstock break a kiss of death (since I have a good guitar that has one, I didn’t vote) but the consensus seems to be that if it’s repaired right, a headstock break needn’t be the end of your guitar.

Interesting discussions about used pricing vs. warranty, learning the fretboard, capo’s and whether the Martin factory works on the weekends. For those performing, thoughts on using just one mic (most people think it looks authentic, but is actually a pain in the a--) and stage monitor recommendations.

1. MTV-2 - anyone ever played one?
2. Vintage vs Aging toner
3. M&T help needed (16 series).
4. 1940's scalloped brace Martins
5. Headstock break - always a kiss-of-death??
6. Used pricing vs Warranty
7. Why do we need frets?
8. How did you learn the fretboard?
9. Sustain
10. Paige Capo
11. Planet Waves NS Capo
12. Quick question regarding the Martin Factory...
14. Lowering bridge?
15. Sustainable Woods?
16. Using one mic? (bluegrass content)
17. Advice Needed for Stage Monitor Speakers

Previous issues are archived at

Did I miss anything? Email me any interesting items you think should be included in the next report.

1. MTV-2 - anyone ever played one?
The back seems to be half EIR and half maple. Is that correct? What do they sound like?

harmonist34: Played one at a GC in Minneapolis. I'm sure the strings were old, but it was about the most "blah" sounding Martin I've ever played.

ScooterD35: My MTV-1 is approaching it's 10th birthday. It sounds fantastic, plays like butter and has had no structural issues whatsoever.

MikeHalloran: By most accounts, the half-hog/half-rosewood guitars were pretty good. I was impressed with them when I played them at NAMM. The combination of rosewood warmth and mahogany bite made for a very nice sound IMHO.

I have only played one of the half-hog/half maple guitars and I thought that it was an interesting tone but I preferred the warmer tones of rosewood.

I am surprised that more builders haven't tried it and that Martin has only done it on those two models. The contrasting center panels on many of the 3-piece backs doesn't really count. So few take into account the tonal contribution of the guitar's sides.

Anyway, most of the negative talk has been the MTV association and the respective bling on the MTV models. I would think that a few limited runs with more traditional trim might convince a few that this approach has some merit.

2. Vintage vs Aging toner
What is the difference between these two toners supposed to be?

dom000: vintage has a very dark yellow/orange hue to it (think Neil Young's guitar, but not quite as dark), and aging toner is light yellow to simulate the guitar growing older, but not quite to that dark stage yet.

Martin Rookie: Aging Toner has a slightly aged look, and will darken further with exposure to UV light.

Vintage Toner looks quite aged right out of the box, and may also darken further. The original "Vintage Toner" (see the older M-36 and M-38 models) turned orange-ish with age, but the new mix is more authentic looking.

While some purists will advise to avoid both, I think they both look pretty nice.

Dadsbones: My '03 D45V has aging toner. It hangs next to a '97 HD-28 that is naturally aged. They look pretty much the same with perhaps the '97 being a little darker. I don't subscribe to the purist "natural wood" thing. If anything the aging toner brings out the beauty of the natural wood. Stain and wood have gone together for a long, long time. If the argument is to keep everything in its natural state our EIR sides and backs would look much different without the black filler.

3. M&T help needed (16 series).
Ok, what I need to know is, can the serial # block on M&T models be easily removed/unglued, is it one thin strip of wood glued on, or is it carved into the rest of the block like a dovetail?

I received my SPOM-16 yesterday and found the serial # block of wood glued to the inside back of the guitar! There is a pickup battery rest screwed into the neck where the serial # block should be.
BucksCountyBob: 's glued on...I've watched them burn 50 (something like 5 rows...10 to a row) or so at a time in their big automated wood burning printer....

Arnoldgtr: The veneer is stuck on with pressure sensitive adhesive. IMHO, it just makes it too easy to alter the serial number of a guitar. If M&T Martins ever get valuable, I predict a thriving black market in fake neck block veneers. Just look at all the Fender neck plates on Ebay.

MikeHalloran: All M&Ts have this. There is a bolt underneath the serial# plate. In the event of a neck re-set, the plate would have to be removed to get to this bolt. Although the neck is glued in, this bolt holds it in place while the glue sets up.

4. 1940's scalloped brace Martins
Does anyone have any input on Martins built in the early 40's ...right up to the switch to non-scalloped bracing ....I am particluarly interested regarding the sound of the these guitars vs. one built in the 1920s-30s

JoD18: I have a '33 0018 & a '41 D18. You couldn't ask for better sound from any two guitars. The D18 is, of course, louder, but they both have that dry, clear tone that makes these guitars so special. Personally, from the few times I've heard - never played - '30's Dreads, I don't hear a difference between them and my '41. I heard a great many prewars about a year ago at Dreamcatcher Guitars in Atlanta in a workshop comparing Martins through the decades, and I remember coming away very, very pleased at how the early 40's models, including my own, stacked up against the 30's guitars.

That said, I subscribe to the belief that it all comes down to each individual guitar. I'm sure there were some 'not so good' guitars made in the Golden Era, just as there were in the '50's, '60's '70's and today. Maybe a difference in the woods used, how much the guitars have been played over time, the individual skills of the craftsmen who created them...who knows?

Are you looking to buy a 40's? Just curious...

Headrc: Yes I am looking at two different smaller bodied 40s guitars ....both 1944 scalloped braced ...but of course different guitars ....a 00-21 and a 000-18

Mac Carter: The bracing on the 1944 00-21 is probably the same as on a 30's 00-21, since I don't believe that the bracing pattern changed in those models during that time frame.

As far as the 000-18 goes, the bracing on the 000's and the D's was moved back slightly in late 1938 or early 1939. But at the same time, as indicated by one commentator, the scalloping was made deeper, so that the bass response on the later models is actually greater than the earlier forward-shifted ones. With a 1944 000-18, I would expect the sound to be very similar to, say, a 1937 one.

Todd Stuart Phillips: A lot of people forget, or do not realize, that the necks were a lot thicker back then. So a 1-11/16" neck does not feel nearly as skinny up near the headstock as the modern, low profile ones do.

66d35: One of the main issues facing you with late 30's/early 40's dreads is the neck width. If, like me, you really much prefer a 1 3/4, then you have to go for something made in mid '39 or earlier. If you prefer the narrower neck, then you are OK with those early 40's models. Most all of these seem to be GREAT sounding guitars. The 39-44's seem to be really, really nice with an exceptional low end.... yet great treble too. Much is made of the forward vs back shifting... too much, probably. You are going to find some EXCEPTIONAL guitars from '34 onwards until they dropped the Red Spruce... so much depends on the actual guitar. They're very individual. You need to play as many as you can find. You really can't generalize too much.

5. Headstock break - always a kiss-of-death??
Played a '73 D-28 in my local GC yesterday that had a repaired headstock break, just above the nut. I've read, on this forum and elsewhere, that headstock breaks can really kill the tone of a guitar, so I was surprised to note that this one played and sounded great! They were asking $800 for it, and were I in a position to buy, I would have seriously considered it.

Fstpicker: Personally, I wouldn't let a headstock repair issue cause me to steer completely away from a particular guitar necessarily. It would have to depend more on how well the break was repaired and how stable it was/is over a period of time. I think there are some headstock breaks that I have seen that were repaired very well and are a non-issue from what I can tell. Some may be turned off by the appearance of the repair...just looking at it all the time.

For $800, if it sounds good, and seems very stable, I would seriously consider it. Is the action good? Does it need a neck reset anytime soon? Those are some other things I would consider as well.

basilking: My experience w/Martins is that tonal consequences of a well-repaired heastock break aren't nearly as potentially mortal as in Gibsons.

johnnywrongnote: My friend's 68 D35 is probably the best sounding D35 I've ever played, and that is over 50 of them. I played it many times before he told me it had a repaired headstock break. If it ever comes up for sale, I'll be first in line to buy it, even without a discount.

6. Used pricing vs Warranty
I've always been curious about how good the warranty is. Seems to me if the warranty has some value, the few hundred dollars for new over used pricing would be worth the price paid?

Dr L J: The warranty is nice, but on the other hand, I have been playing guitar for 40 years and during that time, having owned many guitars, I used the warranty one time. That was for a lifting bridge which would not have been a terribly expensive repair anyway. I would buy the new or used guitar that I felt was the better instrument and not base my purchase on whether there was a warranty or not. A top quaility guitar like a Martin should not need to make use of the warranty very often, if ever. That does not mean that some won't , but I think if you buy a good instrument wisely and take care of it, you are probably not going to be using the warranty anyway.

MikeHalloran: My rule of thumb is that, since a dove-tail neck re-set runs around $650 where I live, a used Martin has to be priced less than 'new - $650' to make it a bargain. M&T necks are a different animal -- I have bought a few new but none used.

If I buy a guitar with the intent of reselling it, then a bargain is at least $200 less than the average selling price on eBay. Frankly, I find that a well written description always brings in more than the average on eBay when I go to sell.

RP89d28: About 6 years ago my 28 was sent to Martin for warranty work. Some of the finish was chiping off the binding and the top of the guitar. When I recieved it back 4 months later they also said the neck was warped and they put a new neck on it. Last year my binding was coming loose and they repaired it under warranty.

Gannet2: I think warranties are nearly always a waste of money. Like any other insurance, it's gambling, and you're betting you will take the loss.

Let's run some quick numbers to illustrate. Let's assume that you purchase, over time, 4 new mid-range Martins with a street price of $1500 each at the usual 40% off MSRP. Let's assume that the near-new used price would be 50% off. That would be a $250 premium on each guitar for the privilege of buying new, or a total of $1000 in warranty "insurance", almost the price of another guitar.

Just to break even you'd have to incur $1000 plus shipping costs (plus the time cost of money) in warranty repairs over the life of those guitars. How likely is that?

The cost of the warranty is not the $250 extra you paid for the one guitar that needs service. It's what you paid extra for that one, plus all the ones that don't end up needing service.

And then, if you do use the warranty, you don't get to choose the way the repair is done, or who does it, or how long it takes to get it done. No thanks. I sometimes buy new because that's what I want, but I never do so for the warranty.

As to the only collectibles being pre-1970, that's just silly. I can remember when the same things were said about '70s Fenders. Priced a '70s Strat lately?

Given the huge ramp-up in Martin production, and the recent downgrading in wood, I expect that most pre-2000 models will soon start to command a premium. They already do, with me. Sorry Martin, if I wanted a "select hardwood" guitar, I'd buy something Chinese. Anybody got a first-year-or-two HD-35 they want to sell?

7. Why do we need frets?
O.K., so it's a dumb question, but still one that needs to be answered for the musically incompetent as myself. How cum a violin and a stand up bass is played without frets even tho it's a stringed instrument just like the geetar? Well, not "just like" the geetar, but hell, they are stringed instruments "like" the geetar. You get the idea. I need to be edycated on this here apparent discrepancy.

basilking: Have ya ever played [or tried, in my case...] a fretless guitar? Addressing intonation on 6 strings simultaneously is waay beyond my personal neuro-motor capacity.

CountrySquire: They make fretless guitars fleiger. Instead of relying on the tempered scale via frets, you play microtones like on a violin, cello etc. Slide guitar is another fretless approach as the frets serve no purpose other than to provide a note indicator (similar to the fingerboard dots on your guitars).

avincent52: To answer the question, the reason why guitars have frets is because they make playing chords possible (or at least practical.)

Notice the way you fret a C chord. On the A string, your ring finger is pretty close to the fret, while on the D string your middle finger is a good bit further away (a finger's width, give or take) from the fret. To play that chord on a fretless guitar, you'd have to depress both the A and D strings at the same point. Not easy.

Violins and basses are single note instruments.

FWIW, slide players get around this problem by tuning their guitars to a chord--usually an Open G or D.

Andrewrg: On a bowed instrument the bow produces the sustain to the note. A fretless acoustic guitar just goes "plunk".
I`ve played a fretless electric guitar made by the French company Vigier. It had a brass fingerboard and was a lot of fun, but you could only play single note stuff-"fretting" an accurate chord was impossible!

8. How did you learn the fretboard?
I'm taking guitar lessons to move past the "Guitar Fraud" stage. My teacher wants me to learn the root, third and fifth of all the major chords (memory work), he wants me to work with the metronome (no problem) and he wants me to know the fretboard. It's the last one that gives me the hardest challenge. Other than just playing notes and saying them out loud, are there some methods that have helped you guys? Well if not, simple encouragement may help. . . .

Player1000: Fretboard Warrior

cheepgtrguy: Gold old fashioned scales.

leehallboy: Reading (relatively) simple sheet music is what worked for me. That way you associate notes on the page with notes/physical location on the fretboard. Using the music keeps it from being so tedious. It also allows you to think about key signatures and how they relate to sound (major or minor for instance). A first level classical book is a good place to start - even if you only work with the melody line it will help. All that being said it took me several years to really "know" the fretboard and I still find surprises on it...

brw: When I was a 16 year old beginner I drew the fretboard on poster paper and wrote the notes in place then tacked said poster to the wall in my room.

thermality: Memorize the low E string notes at the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 8th, 10th and 12th frets -- that's E, F, G, A, B, C, D and E. Now you know two strings, the 6th and 1st.

Move two strings down (to the D string) and two frets up for the same notes (an octave higher). Now you know three strings.

Memorize almost the same frets -- 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 8th, 10th and 12th -- on the 5th (A) string -- A, B, C, D, E, F, G and A. Move two strings down (to the G string) and two frets up for the same notes. Now you know five strings.

For the 2nd (B) string, slide the A string notes down two frets. That's six strings.

So, by memorizing the whole notes on only two strings, the E and A, you know the whole fretboard.

Practice tip: put your 1st finger on the 3rd fret of the 6th string. Now put your 3rd finger on the 5th fret of the 4th string (2 down, 2 up). Same notes -- G -- an octave apart. Move the two notes up two frets to play A, up three frets to C, etc. Do the same thing with the 5th and 3rd strings.

WmRob: Playing pentatonic scales and identifying the notes starting with the low "E" string as you go along is a pretty good approach. Try it in "A" first then move up two frets, then down two frets. Before you know it you're ID'ing the notes. It's a good rainy day exercise, as far as I'm concerned.

I Strum: use this site ..... its the best out there:

Olav Torvund is from Europe and his site is extremly large. Look for scales areas in the blues lessons. This was the key page for me : Pentatonic boxes in all positions

practice - practice - practice

secondroy: I would highly recommend; "Guitar Fretboard Workbook", Tagliarino. It teaches everything about the fretboard and then some. I got mine at Amazon. I am trying to learn to improvise and to do so well I think you have to know where the notes are and how to build a scale on the spot. This book will get you there if you work at it.

9. Sustain
Is it common for the bass and mid strings to have more sustain than the treble strings? If so, why? Is it due to their additional mass/weight? Are there modifications one could make to improve sustain in the treble strings alone? Different bridge pin materials maybe?

Rod Neep: Yes... especially on a Dreadnought.
The ultimate for increased sustain is to fit brass bridge pins.

But think carefully if that is what you really want. Because increased sustain on chords with open strings can make things kind of complicated when you change chords and have unwanted notes hanging around in the mix.

Dadsbones: I'm not really sure what specific mods can be made to a particular body style to even out the sustain -- maybe someone else will offer some suggestions. A couple of things I have discovered that may help you. The phenomenon of which you write is called balance -- or in the case of your question -- lack of balance.

• Body/style shape seems to have a the most effect on balance. In the Martin line the dread has less balance than the OM, 000 and especially the M. Of the guitars in the Martin line I have played, the M is the most balanced. I have not played a "J" and something tells me that would be as balanced as the M.

• The more balance a guitar has the less character I am able to coax out of it's voice. There are a few guitar manufacturers that build pretty consistently balanced guitars across their model line-up. I find their tone to be lacking complexity and character. They're kind of vanilla to me and my style of play. Important to note that's just my opinion for me. Others opinions will definitely differ.

• Learning how to play a body style that may not be as balanced can "correct" the phenomenon. For instance, I think once you've been around a Martin dreadnought for a bit of time, your style adapts to play the instrument with more balance. One of the great things about a Martin dread is you can really make it sqwonk when you want to by leveraging all that bass sustain/response. Still, you can learn how to lay back and play it very balanced and sweet. I think the techniques you bring to this process is one of the things that helps develop your individual style.

• A bit of expansion/compression in the signal chain when amplifying an unbalanced guitar will also "correct" the phenomenon and give you a great benchmark of what your instrument would sound like if it were more balanced. I learned much about how to play my guitar acoustically from playing it amplified with compression.

Andrewrg: The wound bass strings on a guitar have a wider vibration "envelope" than the thinner treble strings. This, coupled with the increase in mass will mean that they sustain-vibrate-longer. Of course, sympathetic vibration, and harmonic response will occur in the treble strings too.

10. Paige Capo
I'm thinking about trying one of these capo's, anyone here tried one and if so what do you think ?

Mac Carter: I have a couple - they work great. They are mechanically the same as a McKinney capo, but at 15% of the cost.

MAF51: For my money, I have never found anything better than the new Planet Waves NS (i.e., Ned Steinberger) capo.

Cheap, light, effective & minimizes detuning.

I haven't tried the Paige, but I've tried the John Pearse (similar design; horrible); the G7 (a big, heavy, expensive piece of junk); the Sterner (little, light, expensive piece of junk); the Kyser (reasonably effective, but obtrusive and detunifying); the Victor (watch out for rubber backing dislodging); and the Shubb Deluxe (the next best thing after the NS and much better than the Shubb original).

pickin preacher: I use a Paige capo on my D 16GT all the time. If fact, I leave it parked at the nut. I like it because it works great, is easy to store and looks very sleek. I use the Shubb or Kyser on my 28 and Kyser on the old Yamaha. I have thought about getting a Paige for the Yamaha but haven't yet. I'll have to check out the NS, that's a new one for me.

ASC67: After trying the Paige at my local MA and Pa store I decided that I did'nt like it, seemed kind of flimsy.

Marshall, I agree with you on the Planet waves design, I've had one for a couple of months and I think it works great. I was looking for another one for my second guitar but I think I'll just use my old Kyser for that one.

bjewell: The old Paige capos with the blueish vinyl tubing around the capo part were high quality. The newer black ones are really cheap imitations of the former.

I have a McKinney and an older Paige. I like them both...

11. Planet Waves NS Capo
Great capo BUT the package has a warning to the effect that the pad may damage nitrocellulose finishes.
To avoid that I cut a small piece of thin smooth leather and glued it with white glue over the pad.

Fstpicker: Hmm...that is a new warning they are apparently putting on the packaging now. Didn't used to be there. However, I've had no problem with my NS and my guitar's finish.

mattinbeloit: I've seen pictures of were someone left their capo on their guitar for a year strait and it messed it up and kind of pealed the finish off when he took it off. That was a very bad decision on his part, as long as you don't do something extreme like that you should be fine. I guess something like that happened and they are required to say that now, just a guess though, I don't know that.

12. Quick question regarding the Martin Factory...
Is the factory closed on weekends? I don't mean for tours...I mean the actual manufacturing of guitars....

cfmwoodbuyer: The factory is closed to the public on weekends. But, there is limited production on an as needed basis on Saturday mornings. In addition, there is a limited second shift that works Monday through Friday nights.

13. Serial Numbers
My two newest Martins (00-15 and OM-42) are just 500 serial numbers apart. I'm guessing they're just a day or so apart...

Lefty00042: Serial numbers are really a poor way to equate manufacturing dates for Martins since the numbers are assigned when production starts and guitars move through "the system" at varying rates depending on many factors. For instance, my 00-18VS UMGF Custom was released from Martin's hold period and officially "done" on December 18, 2003 (I have the production paperwork). Yet the serial number is something like 18,000 below the "last Martin made in 2003" per those serial number lists. I strongly doubt Martin shoved 18,000 guitars out the door during the last 13 days of the year, especially in light of the holiday season. So take that closeness as a "neat" factor, but as far as dating, take it with a big grain of salt.

14. Lowering bridge?
I need to lower the bridge about 1/32 on my HD 28 and I wonder what would happen if I just slotted it to lower the strings? Has anyone done it and if so how did it sound? What are the negatives?

Buck49: No, no, no! don't slot it. You'll look like someone who doesn't know anything about guitars.

Remove the strings (you can do this at the next string change if you want) and the saddle should pull out. Mark a pencil line across the saddle showing how much you want to remove from the bottom. Put a sheet of sandpaper on a flat surface like a countertop, and slide the saddle back and forth on it. Make sure that it stays straight up and down, or you will round off the bottom of the saddle. When you get close to the line, you might want to restring and try...if you go too far, you can't put anything back on to make it taller.

You don't say what year your HD-28 is, but if it is only a year or so old, you may have a bone, compensated saddle. If not, you may want to get one. The advantage would be greater tone and volume as well as improved intonation. They are not expensive.

There may be a few HD-28's around that have the old style long saddle...but I'm assuming you have the regular drop in saddle. If for any reason you have the long-glued in saddle, the procedure is totally different...but you should have the short drop in saddle.

Here’s a step by step: Loweraction

Hankak: Its a 1994 and I've had the saddle out, a drop in, and it's not compensated. It was very tight so I had to use dikes to get it out and they left some marks as it is some kind of pretty soft plastic! The strings have formed some grooves for a guide to slot it. I will order a bone saddle but in the mean time I curious about slotting it, just like the nut is!

Threadbare Cat: Don't slot it! It will develop buzzes if the slots aren’t cut perfect – and believe me, you won’t be able to cut perfect slots! And yes, I learned these lessons the hard way. If your existing saddle has groves from string pressure then slowly sand away the top of the saddle maintaining the curvature until the grooves disappear. Next very gently sand the top on it’s upper sides to make and inverted ‘v’ so the string only touches on one spot as it crosses over the saddle. Now see if the action is what you want by stringing it back up. At this point if you want more saddle removed then sand the saddle from the bottom. Remember that to lower the action at the 12th fret by ‘X’ amount you will need to remove twice that ‘X’ at the saddle by sanding.

15. Sustainable Woods?
A lady came into my shop looking for a budget classical guitar but would not consider mahogany because of the environmental impact of using mahogany? What are the environmental issues right now concerning one wood VS. another and are any budget guitars using sustainable or less "environmentally offending" woods?

Arnoldgtr: Mahogany trees grow in the rain forest. Unlike the temperate forest, once the trees are cut, it is difficult or impossible to restore the forest. This is because there is very little nutrient value in the soil.
The supply of mahogany from the original forests is rapidly coming to an end. The history of mahogany logging mirrors the decline in tropical American forests. It was first cut in the West Indies, then Cuba, then Honduras, then other central American countries, then Brazil, and now Peru. It doesn't grow anywhere else naturally.

Arnoldgtr: Walnut, cherry, and maple are all viable woods for guitars.

tmansonusa :I just looked at the specs for the SWOMGT on the Martin Page and it said the bridge material was "Sustainable Katalox"

Does anyone care to explain what THAT is???

Rod Neep: Also used for fingerboards, it is an alternative to Ebony. A very hard and dense wood which has a slightly purple tinge.

tippie53: John Arnold , you forgot about Oak. There are plenty of viable tonewoods. At the UMGF meetings in the past , this very question usually pops up. Chris Martins answer has always been that Martin would love to use sustainable wood supplies, however the market appears that it doesn't want them. The Smartwood series never caught on yet the guitars were and are a decent instrument.
The rainforest is indeed in trouble and once it is gone we may not be far behind. Mahogany, and rosewood are the 2 most popular tonewoods and both are running low on supply. Mankind in his typical fashion seldom looks at the result of his actions.
The soil in the rainforest is poor and though they Brazillian government is trying , the tree poachers are winning.

Arnoldgtr: the "big three" domestics (walnut, cherry, maple) already have somewhat of an established reputation in guitar making. Oak has always been considered a plentiful, cheaper wood, even though it can sound very good.
And if you value sound over appearance, there are other domestic alternatives, like black locust, osage orange, birch, ash, and sassafras. IMHO, all these woods are at least equal (if not superior) to mahogany or EIR.
I wouldn't be too concerned about the sustainability of red spruce. There are plenty of small trees growing, and the majority of the red spruce topwood used today is second growth. And the inevitable acceptance of wider grain or four-piece tops will further expand the available supply.

16. Using one mic? (bluegrass content)
My little bluegrass outfit has been doing a bit of recording and we are preparing to start playing out. We've tried recording with a single and with multiple mics and like the feel of the old one-mic approach (we're using a large-diaphragm condenser). I'd love to hear any ideas or advice anyone might have about technique/equipment/problems with using the one-mic setup for an acoustic group (such as one playing bluegrass) in a live setting. Are there any mics you'd particularly recommend (or avoid)?

Our lineup is guitar, mandolin, banjo (all three sing), and string bass.

66d35: One thing almost always overlooked by folks when this topic came up... they used one mic way back when because they HAD to. There was rarely any other way. Most venues had one mic and a single, small (miniscule in fact by today's standards) tube amplifier and some very primitive speakers. No mixer. No effects. No proper EQ (just a 'tone' control if you were lucky). I've actually worked on some of this real vintage PA stuff, and unlike vintage guitar amps, it is not very pleasant. The mics they used back then were not LD condensers either, they were ribbon mics (RCA, etc.). The Beatles used British made Reslo's on their early tours...

I think image has a lot to do with this... and to some extent the choreography of 'working the mic', but in truth, things have moved on - a long way - and I absolutely positively guarantee that you can get vastly better sound from a properly set up high quality modern multi mic system than from a pseudo-vintage system based around one mic. Some of those bands that do use this system swear by AT LD mics (condensers).... it might look 'authentic' (dodgy word around her!) but it isn't.

flatpicknut: The single mic looks cool and allows for a flexible mix as each musician can move back and forth a bit to adjust levels BUT it is VERY hard for a band to sound good with a single mic.

The very worst bluegrass performances I've been at have been single mic setups while the best have been individual mics and pickups. Invariably, feedback is a major problem with single mics because of the omnidirectionallity and the high gain that must be used to try to pick up the various musicians. (The last single mic show I saw was a nightmare of feedback every few minutes.) And though the musicians can adjust the mix, I rarely hear a decent mix with single mics. There's always an instrument or two that just gets lost. And of course, the audience can't SEE what the musicians are doing as well, either, since there a lot of gyrations to try to get to the mic for a solo and getting back afterwards without stepping on somebody else or hitting their instrument.

So, experiment freely, but don't get your expectations up too high.

MartinD GibsonA: We gave up after less than a year because our mic picked everything, and I do mean EVERYthing, that was going on -- kitchen noise, the espresso machine, people at the front table talking ... it was a nightmare. In my opinion, the ONLY way to use a large diaphragm condenser is if you've got a dedicated sound (wo)man who knows how to run that kind of mic through a board making adjustments on the fly and you're playing in a place where you don't have to worry about lots of ambient/reflected noise such as a concert hall or an outdoor stage. Otherwise, individual mics will just suit your purposes so much better.

datzus1: Perhaps use individual mics for instruments, but singing around one large condenser mic is sublime - it's sooooooooo much easier to get the harmonies not only locked in note-wise, but the dynamics and volume of singing together, ear to ear, in a bluegrass format, is a magnificent musical experience. If you're singing trio, put the lead about 6-10 inches directly in front, and the two harmonies about 3 inches away on the sides... if quartet, lead and tenor get the middle, and bass/baritone on the wings. From 5 years experience, I've discovered it's really the only way to sing lonesome... and I was quite reluctant for the first two years of using it. You don't need a lot of vocals in the monitors, because you'll be singing so close together. That keeps feedback issues minimized. Yes, the mic picks up everything, but we've learned to keep our side (snide) comments to a minimum, and if the crowd in a bar gets too crazy, we invite them to sing along... it's not the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, more like the Bourbon Tubercular Choir! Usually they then quiet down and we can perform - having a quality sound technician, which our bass player is, is really the only way it can be done. When we do a festival or show, their sound folks sometimes need more than a half hour to feel comfortable - most sound folks like to tweak and twitch, and with this set-up, once the levels and EQ are set, they can sit there with their hands on the heads, and we can work the insturment mics ourselves.

I suggest trial and error... the key, for us, was figuring out that harmony singing is just what the ancient bluegrassers experienced due to their limitations: almost no instruments and lots of vocal energy. And individual singing mics are fine, but then we have to depend on a great monitor mix, and for me, that gets frustrating after getting spoiled by close-together singing,

Oh, be sure to brush your teeth, use mouthwash... tough to sing that close together when one guy has a bad case of halitosis...

ihearok: I've been experimenting with the single mic technique for awhile and really tried hard to make it work. I was hoping for the simplicity of setup and minimal gear hauling. I have tried many variations, and (IMHO) a single mic just doesn't provide good sound. At our last show we used one AT 4033 for vocals, and individual small diaphram condensors for the mando, banjo, and fiddle. The standup bass has a K&K pickup plugged into a small Ampeg amp. We set up in a half circle. This sounded good out front but we couldn't hear the solos very well. Next gig we have I'm probably going to put up a couple of monitors and maybe even switch to SM57s on instruments. So much for simplicity.

Here's an interesting article I found that we tried. This worked pretty well and was simple for a small band, i.e. 3 players.

66d35: Quote: I was hoping for the simplicity of setup and minimal gear hauling.

I don't think the 'single mic' method is the way to achieve that. Instead, I'd look at using a Class D amp (super efficient, no heavy heatsinking, and switch-mode PSU) you can hold 300-500 watts in one hand). I'd also look at some of the latest speakers. Very potent for their size. Lately, our 'small rig' (apologies to Steve!) is a Yamaha Stagepass 300, and our set-up time is down to 15-20 minutes from an hour or more, and it fits on the back seat of the car with room to spare, never mind the trunk.. fine for gigs of up to 300 or so. Our 'big rig' (which is truly pathetic compared to Steve's!) is 2 X 700W RMS and fills the car by comparison.

17. Advice Needed for Stage Monitor Speakers
I'm looking to buy a pair of stage monitors for a 5 piece bluegrass band. There are 4 people in the front row. Is there anything decent available in the $150-175 per speaker range? Seems like that would get me into the 12" speaker diameter size. Recommendations?

Dadsbones: Check out Community MVP-12Ms. They are slightly above your price. $209.00, but great performers.

[For Bose PAS systems:] A 5 piece could use a mixer to a PAS and eliminate the monitors altogether. The PAS has the volume and projection trajectory that enables it to serve as a monitor for both the audience and the band.

Couple things to keep in mind. Assuming one would just use the single tower and bass unit, the sound spread will be somewhat focused to stage positions. I think optimally Bose recommends having the tower 10 - 12 feet behind the band. The way the pattern spreads there are times that if I'm out on the wing I would like more volume. Mostly to hear my vocal. I can fall flat quickly.

Certainly running a stereo PAS set-up or an individual system for each band member would solve some or all of this. Keep in mind you're still only getting the house mix, however. I can see a five piece band requiring a few different mixes in the monitors. One of the PAS's biggest selling points - you hear what your audience hears --- can also be a disadvantage in certain situations. Many singers want their voice hotter and less compressed in their monitor. The bass players always wants more kick and the drummer may want more guitar and bass. There's no substitute for a board with plenty of monitor mixes and a wedge for everyone.

Buzzard II: Check out the Yamaha SM-12Vs great monitors 12" woofer and 2" Ti horn tweeter.

I've bought 5 over the past couple years from Guitar Center... they lsit them at $299... but I've paid $200. At that price you'll be hard pressed to buy a better monitor. Yamaha SM12V Club Series V

SpruceApple: Not sure on pricing, but there is a Wisconsin company by the name of Sonic that makes monitors and PA speakers. They sound good, are very popular with bands and clubs locally, and I've been told they are a great bargain.

Buzzard II: Have you listened to the Yamaha SM-12Vs? They are beautiful sounding and awesome for vocals. The big difference in these is the 2" Ti horn. Not to mention bullet proof Yamaha durability.

I use three SM-12Vs in my setup with a Mackie 808S to drive them. Two out front on poles and one for my monitor. The sound is great.

I am pretty sure there is adequate margin for a GC sales rep to sell these at $200 each... I have done it 5 times now. I think it could be tough to get two 12" monitors with decent sound for $300.