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."

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