Thursday, July 20, 2006

UMGF Weekly Summary # 9 Jul 10

It’s the dog days of summer, and so we devote two pages to nail care. Nail Care?! Yep, that’s what it’s all about.

There’s also some interesting – though not definitive - information about the intricacies of Custom Shop ordering (it’s kind of the dark science of guitar buying), alternate tunings, and finding a good instructor.

If you’re going to MartinFest, don’t forget to send in your details for the Attendee Directory.

And if it’s your first time at MartinFest, you’re a beginner, or you just like the Beatles, check out the Beatles Beginners Circle!

[b]1. Martins and Movies?
2. Custom Shop Requests Denied
3. Lucinda Williams D-37W limited signature edition??
4. Did Martin ever make a 14 fret 00 in rosewood?
5. Poor finish?
6. Slotted vs. Solid Bridge Pins...
7. Guitar Set-up Question
8. Humidity again... (changes ± 20% daily)
9. Left to right conversion
10. Fine steel wool on neck finish?
11. Fret size
12. Tolex Repair (guitar case covering) Sources?
13. Installing Grover Sta-tites on 000-15S
14. Fingernails
15. Do you condition your fretboard during string changes?
16. Alternate tunings - will they screw me up?
17. Loud vs. Good?
18. Can you really get faster???
19. String noise when sliding - Good or Bad?
20. How to find and choose an instructor?[/b]

Previous issues are archived at

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

1. Martins and Movies?
What movie best feature Martin guitar(s)?

unclemoe9: "Heart Of Gold" "Walk The Line" although he does put his foot through one !

Carped35: "A Mighty Wind."

BTW: Looked to me like modern Martins in "Walk the Line."

2. Custom Shop Requests Denied
In another thread I and some others have noted Martin Custom Shop requests that were denied. What custom requests have you had denied? What reasons, if any, were you given?

I asked for a 000-28VS with Madagascar b/s. No luck.

DM3MD: A while back I wanted a DM3MD replica. Martin would sort of do it, but I believe I had to make at least 2 changes. And, they have to be significant changes...i.e. different woods, different binding, etc. Martin wouldn't do it for something as simple as "Waverly tuners instead of Grovers" or "Low profile instead of V neck"...I could be wrong since that was awhile ago, and fortunately enough, I own a DM3MD so I'm not worried.

wilson: I've mentioned here before that I was saving up my $$$ to order a left-handed 000-17S from the Custom Shop with a number of nice upgrades.

I called up one of our dealer friends to get a quote and was informed that Martin will no longer make any customs below Standard Series (read... M&T necks) without a VERY substantial surcharge... ($1400 in my case).

That's $1400 + the list price + the price of all the mods from original specs. And then the dealer selling price, so even at 60% percent of list this surcharge is about $850.

MHGLS: I'm not sure how I got away with it, but I just took delivery of a Custom OM-16 two weeks ago. I'm not aware of any upcharge aside from the usual prices for the changes I had done. How long ago did you inquire about the custom 17?

Black Hole Gang: I was told by a dealer (and the story is backed up by a member here who just received his custom early) -I'm paraphrasing now - that CS will discourage customs of 15 series, for one, and that will free them up to get other custom guitars completed sooner. Sure enough, mine will be ready in two weeks, about 3 months earlier than originally expected (up to 8 months)

3. Lucinda Williams D-37W limited signature edition??
A while ago I was reading the July '03 Martin mag and on the cover was Lucinda Williams, John Mayer and Andy Griffith and Eric Johnson. The inside stories were about each artists' signature edition guitar that was being made. I remember all the guitars except for the Lucinda Williams model D-37W, which I have never seen. Fast forward to last week, and on the Martin web site, looking at back issues of the magazine, I notice that the Lucinda article has disappeared and that the cover has been altered by stretching John Mayer's picture to eliminate Lucinda's. Anyone know of why there was a falling out there?

DalmationDexter: Well, she is well known for playing Gibsons. She also misindentified the guitar model she writes her songs on in that article.

jsalmon: All I know is that they announced the guitar but never apparently made them. Too bad, as it looked like a nice walnut guitar.

It did seem like a strange match though -- i associate her with Gibson acoustics almost as much as Emmylou Harris or Buddy Holly.

Original Announcement:
Martin D-37W Claro Walnut Sunburst Honors Lucinda Williams
July 24, 2003
C.F. Martin honors Lucinda Williams with the D-37W Signature Edition. From birth, Lucinda Williams seemed predestined to become a songwriter. Her well-traveled childhood included stays in Louisiana, Chile, Mexico and Arkansas, and her family's eclectic music tastes encompassed everything from blues to Broadway. Rebellious and fearless, she dropped out of college to pursue her music career, but her unwillingness to cater to record industry whims kept her first recording unreleased for several years.
After a quiet debut with Happy Woman Blues in 1980, she established an underground reputation with release of her Lucinda Williams album in 1988. Her career began gathering momentum in the early 1990s, first with the release of Sweet Old World in 1992 and then by winning the "Best Country Song" Grammy Award in 1994 for "Passionate Kisses." Her next album, 1998's Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, put Williams in the big time, earning rave reviews, Gold record sales, a Grammy Award for "Best Contemporary Folk Album," and yielding the hit single "Can't Let Go."

Williams built on her success in the new millennium with the release of Essence in 2001. The album resulted in her third Grammy Award, this one for "Best Female Rock Performance" for the cut "Get Right With God." World Without Tears, released earlier this year to ecstatic reviews, is perhaps her darkest and most revealing album yet and shows fame has not slowed her evolution as an artist.

The Martin D-37W Lucinda Williams Signature Edition embodies altcountry attitude. This traditional Dreadnought features a top of Engelmann spruce, and back and sides of flamed claro walnut. Scalloped, forward-shifted top braces enhance the powerful tone. The 1 11/16" low profile neck is carved from genuine mahogany.

Bold herringbone edge purfling and Style 45 soundhole rosette with a central ring of blue paua shell inlay add color and contrast against the tobacco sunburst top. Both top and back are bound in contrasting grained ivoroid, with the latter encompassed by black/white/black purfling and divided by a colorful Style 45 mosaic back strip edged with black fiber lines. The top is protected with a polished and beveled tortoise-color pickguard, and the entire body is finished in polished gloss lacquer.

The solid square tapered headstock features a polished flame claro walnut headplate to match the body. The familiar gold "C.F. Martin & Co." logo shelters a spectacular "two-headed serpent" inlay (recreating a Williams' tattoo drawn from Aztec mythology) in abalone, mother-of-pearl and composite that weaves between the nickel Waverly open-geared tuners with butterbean knobs. The unbound black ebony fingerboard is unadorned except for simple, distinctive "diamonds and squares" inlays -- recreating a pattern used on guitars that Martin built for William Foden in the early 20th century -- at the 5th, 7th, and 9th frets. The matching black African ebony belly bridge is equipped with white bridge pins topped with tortoise-color "red eye" inlays. Both the nut and compensated saddle are crafted from genuine bone for clear, brilliant tone.
Protected in a Geib style hardshell case, each D-37W Lucinda Williams Signature Edition guitar bears an interior label personally signed by Lucinda Williams and Martin Chairman and CEO C.F. Martin IV, and numbered in sequence with the edition total. Left-handed instruments may be ordered with no additional cost; factoryinstalled electronics also are available at additional charge.
Orders for this Signature Edition will be accepted for a period of 60 days from the date of announcement. After the order period closes, the total number of D-37W Lucinda Williams Signature guitars and the names of participating Martin dealers will be posted on the Martin website.
List Price $4999.00.

4. Did Martin ever make a 14 fret 00 in rosewood?
For some reason I only think of the 00-21...Maybe I just don't know my Martin 00 history but I would love to know if there was a 14 fret rosewood (then I would have to buy it, so I hope the answer is no).

skluthery: In terms of older stuff, no, not as a regular production model. There are a small handful of 00 14 fret brazilian rosewood Martins in pearl styles that were built in the 30s and 40s for various country music names that were custom orders, one of which resides in the Country Music Hall Of Fame in Nashville (can't remember who it was made for, but his name's in the fretboard). That one is either a style 42 or 45, don't rightly recall which.

As far as I know, the only regular production rosewood 00 14 fretter was one in the 'women in music' series. That was a deep body 00 14 fretter in rosewood with a slot head. I think the model name was something like 00-16DBR.

SteveKrasnow: Actually in 1934 many standard models became 14 fret guitars. There were many 00 models from that time forward with solid pegheads, I know for sure they made many in mahogany but I read that there were some in rosewood also.

I need to say one more thing in '34 the Standard model was the 12 fret, and they came up with the Orchestra model which was produce in the 14 fret design. So really way back when they revampted their line and added solid peg heads they still were not 'standard' models. OM's today are only offered in a 000 shape, back in 34' they offered them in a 0, 00, 000 size.

SleepingRust: Joel, Buffalo Brothers a few years back offered a nice "00-18VR", which is the current production 00-18V with Rosewood back & sides. I believe Gryphon also had a variation on that model. Short scale, 14-fret, V neck, wide nut and rosewood. Sounds ideal to me!! They may still have some in their back room, or have some on order.

Of course there was some discussion among us weenies here about how a rosewood Martin could retain a "18" moniker, which is heresy of course. The simple answer is that these were from the Custom Shop, and stamped Custom; Buffalo simply advertised them as rosewood 00 18's because all other specs were identical and it offered a nice shorthand. I bet these would be nice if you could find one.

avincent52: By 1934 virtually the whole Martin model line had transitioned from 12 fret body styles to 14 frets, (the one notable exception being the 00-21 and some Hawaiian models.) The OM was introduced in 1929 and most were made between 1930 and 1933.
And while Martin did make a few OM-scale (25.4") 14-fret O-18s, by mid 1934 Martin had phased out the long scale on everything but dreds, along with the OM name. (A few long scale 000s were made in 1934)
Any long-scale non-dred pre-war Martin is a rare thing indeed.

I guess they made a few 14-fret 00-45s sometime in the mid 1970s.

Mac Carter: The 00-21LE, of which 19 were made in 1987, was a 14-fret rosewood 00. It had a slotted headstock and a short scale.

Fingerstyle2: Just to clarify something Allen didn't explicitly address in his excellent response to Steve K.'s post--OM's were never made in 0 and 00 body sizes. While some features changed between 1929 and 1933 (tuners, pickguard, bridge, bracing, etc.), all OM's were 000 sized and long-scale. If Martin made any long-scale 14-fret 0's and 00's, they were designated as 0-somethings and 00-somethings, not OM's.

Hamlen: According to information I received from several authoritative sources (R. Johnston, E. Schoenberg, F. Ford, D. Boak), Martin never made a catalogued/production RW/Spruce, 14-fret, solid headstock 00 model in either style 21 or style 28. There were a handful of RW, 14-fret 00 sized guitars made in the 30's (short-scale, x-braced, lightly, for gut strings) .. and a smattering of customs over the years since w/ either slotted or solid headstocks. The slotted headstocks are a more likely (but still difficult to find) bet for the collector. I learned of this as part of my due diligence after ordering my RW/Adi, 14-fret, short-scale, solid headstock 00.

Fingerstyle2: Because in later catalogs, after they'd ended production of the specific OM style, Martin used the generic term "Orchestra Model" for all of their 14-fret guitars, from 0's to dreads. Nonetheless, guitars that were specifically designated "OM" (both in the 1930 catalog and stamped on the neck block starting in late 1930) were built from 1929 to 1933 and they all were 000 sized and long scale.

5. Poor finish?
While guitar shopping yesterday I was able to speak to the Martin rep who happened to be there. I forgot to ask this question. Two of the guitars I was interested in (OM-35, 000-28VS) had what I thought to be poor finish. On the back of both of these the finish was quite poor. They seemed to have small dimples over it's entirety. It felt smooth but when looked at with an angle they could be clearly seen. Has anyone noticed this? I believe I will email Martin and see what they have to say.

Imapickn: Both my D-18GE and my OM-18GE had problems and imperfections on the top Adirondack. In fact they looked like the finish had been applied with a spray can in a dusty room.

But, both of these guitars are some of the best sounding guitars I have heard, so I was not about to take a chance on changing that sound by sending them "out" to be refinished. I sanded down the tops and rubbed them out myself.
They still have the sound that gives me goose-bumps

CLG: I suspect that what you are looking at are the pores in the wood. Rosewood, I believe, does not get filler like mahogany does so you tend to see the pores. A thin finish, a desirable feature, tends to show them more. Likely Martin would not consider this to be a defect.

BigRed51: I saw a D-16GT a few weeks ago being sold as new, and the finish was a mess. If you looked at it straight on, no problem found ... but if you looked at it from an angle, it looked almost as if it had been sanded. You could see little rectangles that looked really odd. It was perfectly smooth. The salesman (no, not at GC) said that was normal, and he was not interested in reducing the price. I guess the rest of the D-16GT's that I saw for the same price or lower at other stores were all abnormal!

rt1965: I bought an OM-35 from Jon at MFG and after a couple of weeks I noticed the same thing. You have to look at just the right angle. At anyrate, I sent it back. Jon felt it was a enough of an issue to send it to Martin. In the mean time he sent me a replacement, which I didn't like as much. The good thing was that Martin had him send the first one out to Griffin Guitars to be buffed out. He got it back and now I have it once again.

It looks excellent and the little indentations are gone. It seems the buffing heats the finish just enough to get it to move into the pores better.

tonguy: Part of the refinishing process is to remove the old finish, and a little of the wood has to go as well. As a result, a refinished guitar may have microscopically thinner top, back and sides, and that may affect the sound (I would predict for the better).

I remember asking one of the finish guys on the Martin Factory tour if they ever ding guitars in-house and/or redo finishes on guitars that are still in the factory. After telling us that the punishment for dinging a guitar was to yank a hair out of his head and saying that they never dinged guitars in-house (FYI - he was completely bald), he told us they can and do refinish guitars right off the line, but no more than 2 times after the original finish application. He mentioned that the wood gets too thin.

In addition to playing time, leaving a guitar on a stand in front of a speaker while playing music can also enhance a guitar's tone (YRMV). You may have missed the Conair personal massager frenzy from a few years back, where UMGF'ers were (carefully, I assume) attaching Conair personal massagers to their guitar tops and vibrating them to put them on the fast track to having better tone. Any "working" of the wood on your guitar will only serve to enhance its resonance, so don't fret about the factory refinish process (pun intended).

mblankenship: I have read, and been told, that a guitar's finish continues to dry and release vapors over the years. This, along with playing the guitar and thereby vibrating the wood, is part of what makes older guitars generally sound better than when they were new.

Raider60: When I got my 000-CBD's (Dion), the one I kept experienced what I belive your referring to. A small nick in the top (looked like a pick mark). Then another and another until there were about 100 of these small marks on the top. Had to send it back to Martin to have a refinish done to the black top. Wasn't too happy about having to send a guitar that was about 6 weeks old back for that.

6. Slotted vs. Solid Bridge Pins...
what's the advantage of switching from slotted to solid pins? More sustain? "Fuller" sound? More bass? (Or are these characteristics more a function of pin material?)

And what modifications of the bridge are needed? Filing slots in the string holes? Only experienced luthiers need apply? Or easy to do?

Buck49: Improvement in tone/volume is one of the frequently cited reasons for slotting. For me, the best reason to slot is to help the bridgeplate live a little longer. Unslotted bridgeplates get a lot more wear on the front edge of the hole than slotted ones do. This is due to the ball sitting in a better position on a slotted plate.

7. Guitar Set-up Question
On my 000C, the action is wonderful in the lower registers (up to the 12th fret) but is unacceptably high above the 12 fret. I'm curious what is the best course of action? 1)Try adjusting the truss rod first to see if I can get it feeling better at the higher frets, or 2) start shaving down the saddle. I don't see and relief in the neck it looks straight.

The saddle is "Long White Tusq" with a radius of curvature on each end. It is not something I want to fabricate nor is it readily available locally. For this reason I'm slow to start sanding it.

Also the adjustment for the truss rod seems fairly deeply recessed and harder to get at then others on my guitars which I've adjusted. I'm sure I will get at when I try.

Lefty00042: Adjusting the truss rod won't do a thing for action except incidentally; it's only for adjusting neck relief. If it were me I'd just remove the saddle and sand it to where I wanted it. There are lots of instructions available for doing this at places like

rocknrollrjm: Looks like you've got a long saddle there so be sure to take the height of the top and not the bottom.

DM3MD: I’ll take the pacifist role and say leave it alone. If the action is perfect in frets 1-12 and the neck relief is correct, can you live with it? Do you play that much above the 12th fret to really justify any adjustments?

The only reason why I say this is because I have found that the least little adjustments tend to be the costliest, and on top of that, getting the action right may alter the rest of the guitar and leave you with more of a headache.

WeaselD28: Taking it off at the bottom will cause the ends to no longer match the slope of the bridge.

hogwldfltr: Actually there is a good 1/8th inch of verticle adjustment on the bottom prior to the rounded slopes. That is why I said that there is adjustment on the bottom. The top itself has a radius which would be a pain to match. At any rate having made the adjustment and not seeing any problem I suspect I did the right thing. Thanks for the heads-up. I was planning on sanding the top until I saw the vertical side walls on the bottom of the saddle.

talon5550: The point that Weasel was trying to make, is that if you use the existing saddle and remove material from the bottom, the entire upper profile will be lowered. The 1" radii at either end of your saddle blends flush with the top of the bridge......they won't do that if you lower them, in this way.
Starting with a new blank is the correct way to do this. Then you can first get the height right, and then finish off the radii.

8. Humidity again... (changes ± 20% daily)
I noticed the daily humidity is varying right now from 60% overnight and early morning to 38% in the afternoon and evening. Room temp can range from 68-80 degrees. I like to leave my guitar out on the stand but am concerned with this much change daily. Is this variance harmful?

DM3MD: My best guess is that those values themselves are not strikingly harmful...HOWEVER, the variance between them all might pose a problem in the long haul. The long haul being that you are leaving it out on a stand. So, my best guess would be that the variance is ok IF you leave the guitar in its case, and monitor the RH and temp inside the case.

Bryan Kimsey: Those are still well within range. It takes your instrument awhile to acclimate, so just figure a rough average and go with that. My RH varies from 35 to 65% in the same day.

Arnoldgtr: Quote: I like to leave my guitar out on the stand

I have repaired a lot of damaged guitars because of that preference.

SteveKrasnow: I have the same problem with big swings in RH this time of year. If I leave one of my guitars out I can really tell it's drying out and then swelling back up day to day. It gets way out of tune with the RH swings.

I put them all back in the case when this starts to happen. Take them out, play them, then back in the case. I humidify the room if it gets to low.

farfel5941: The Martin website gives a range of 72-77degrees F and 45-55 RH where the guitar should be kept.

9. Left to right conversion
Simply put - can a left handed guitar be restrung right handed without consequence? If there are issues, what are they and why? Just my inquiring mind at work...

rt1965: I would think the saddle would need some work, if it is compensated. Maybe a new nut with the right size slotting. Not sure of anything else.

SteveKrasnow: The issues with that are;

The nut would have to be replaced (nut slot sizes)
The bridge would have to be replaced (If saddle slot is angle)
The tone bars are not going to be right (unless it's a Larrivee)
Pickguard replaced (of course)
Saddle replaced
Side position markers will need to be installed

Lefty00042: Tone bars are the smaller, asymmetrical braces that "branch off" the main X-brace on most guitars, though as pointed out above Larrivees are symmetrically-braced. That's the one thing you can't easily convert on a Martin, though many luthiers who've done a conversion say there's no appreciable change in tone from the conversion - the "Martin tone" is a function of the bracing pattern, not necessarily which side has the bass or treble strings, if that makes sense.

thegreypicker: My Fylde Oberon was originally right-handed, apparently, and then turned into a leftie, probably back at Fylde a decade ago.

When it came my way I took it back in to Fylde and Roger Bucknall had a look at it and said it could probably take one more conversion back to a right-hander. It needed a new nut. The saddle slot was filled and a new one cut. If it ever gets switched again, I think it would need a new bridge.

It is pretty hard to believe that there would be no difference in tone with a conversion, however, as the tension on the bass side is greater than the treble. Inverting this tension must be doing something to the tone.

Maybe these equalized tension Newtone Heritage strings would be the answer to tone variation?

10. Fine steel wool on neck finish?
As Martin guitars are played, the necks tend to get smoother and shinier. To me, that's good up to a point, but I often wish for the woody, less sticky feel of the original satin neck finish.

Can I use a fine steel wool to satinize the neck finish I've glossed up from playing? If so, what gauge?

Arnoldgtr: I use 0000 steel wool for this process.

Martinman55: Same goes for me. I usually do this once a year on each of my guitars. I do this very lightly, just enough to "haze" the finish.

I don't like glossy necks ... the palm of my hand tends to "stick" to the neck making it more difficult to play.

I like the woody feel of satin finished necks ... which allows my fretting hand to slide nicely across the length of the neck.

jscio: Won't this eventually remove the finish on the neck?

Arnoldgtr: With 000 steel wool, it would take several hours of rubbing, but yes, it will eventually remove the finish on the neck.
Speaking of unfinished necks, that is the never gets sticky.

illumin8em: I would like to try this, because I have a gummy spot on my neck from 1st to 4th fret. I would just be scared that it would negatively effect the neck? If it is safe, I might try it. I like the feel of satin finish neck better anyways

cpmusic: If you have a gummy spot, proceed with caution. If the finish is nitro lacquer, it may be that it has softened, and if so, steel wool could make it worse. I had that problem on an old Guild, and it required a good repairman to fix it.

If it's just dirt and sweat build-up, clean it off with a damp rag or one of the cleaners made for guitar finishes before you use steel wool.

price7204: I cannot speak for Martin neck finishes, but I have run 0000 steel wool up and down my Fender Precision Bass guitar once a week or so for the last 15 years and I still have finish left. It really slicks the neck up nicely. You might also try a small piece of pool players white chalk rubbed on the web of your hand from time to time while playing. It does not affect the guitar that I can see and it does slick up your hand.

11. Fret size
Could someone explain to me the pro's and con's of the different fret sizes? From regulars to jumbo's to bar frets?
When you need frets redone do you always get them all done or just the bad ones?

tippie53: The fret sizes come in a wide selection Some for uke and mando and some for banjos; Then we have guitars and bass guitars. All use a different size crowned part and tang.

Bar frets are something altogether different and they were used in the old days. Fret height often refers to the actual size of the fret you see on the board.

The tangs of frets are critical as a wider tang is often used like bar frets to compress fret and this will adjust the neck relief in unadjustable truss rod necks.

Fretting isn't something for the beginner and should be left to a pro . The best results are from an entire refret as refretting just the first position can cause more problems down the road.

Different sizes of frets allows adjustments to player style and preference.

Buck49: One of the best things about a refret is being able to sand the fingerboard level and really nice looking again...getting all the wear divots and scratches out of it. If you only replace a few frets, you really can't do that. It's worth the extra money to get them all done.

thermality: Why are wider frets desirable on an electric and not on an acoustic?

Buck49: Not true at all. Wider,'s more about what you feel comfortable with than it is about the pros or cons of either one.

Electrics often use wider, TALLER frets, which help with string bending. Simply wider isn't all there is to it. There is no technical reason why large frets cannot be used on acoustics with results as good as on electric guitars.

Howard M Emerson: Most guitars come from the factory with smaller frets and my observation it's because they believe the instruments will play in tune more with them. That is to say that uneven finger pressure won't cause as much 'sharping' of the notes with a lower fret.

I always use tall, fat frets (jumbos) because with the higher action I prefer, it's easier to play. The string/fret contact happens with less fingerpad being stretched against the fingerboard.

That stretching is what causes discomfort while pressing the string into the flesh.

Also, I really don't have much in the way of callous build up on my fretting hand.

You can have partial refrets done, but it requires a lot of skill and finesse on the part of the repairman. Also, with a partial, there's really no 'proper way' to rid the board of divots.

That is usually accomplished when all the frets are out and the board can be sanded level along its entire length.

Bar frets are another thing altogether and they require a very knowledgeable tech to install and maintain, and they're not the easier frets to slide across without lots of experience.

Fat frets are not for everyone. If you tend to squeeze too hard against the frets and you're using lightish strings, or open tunings, or both, there can be a real tendency to playing the notes sharp and worse.

I use jumbo frets, high action, open tunings (6th string down to C very often), but I don't have much trouble with tuning and intonation, although there are always little adjustments happening on-the-fly.

12. Tolex Repair (guitar case covering) Sources?
I'd like to try patching the fake leather or textured vinyl (Tolex?) on some old guitar cases, and have heard about repair kits for the coverings that somehow replicates the texture of the original surface.

Zoot: Pardon my ignorance, but I don’t know what Tolex is. If it’s a leather-textured vinyl, any auto supply store sells kits to repair vinyl seat covers in cars. There are small jars of various colored creamy liquid vinyl that can be mixed to match the color you are after. You spread it on with a small applicator stick and then cover it with one of the small textured sheets that come with the kit to match any of a number of leather textures, and then use an iron to heat it and cure it. The stuff works quite well, and I repaired a nasty rip in a black vinyl seat cover so it was completely invisible.

twelvefret: Check the plumbing section at Home Depot

jscio: Give the folks at Cedar Creek a call. They may be able to help you out. They relined an old case for me and may be able to assist you as well.

Zoot: I just checked, and Tolex is the cloth backed leather-textured vinyl used for car seats and convertible tops, so the stuff from the auto supply store should work.

Tommymc: Tolex is the vinyl material used to cover guitar amps. You can buy it by the yard at a lot places that sell parts for vintage amp restoration. I have some links from when I was restoring my '68 Fender:
I opted to keep my original Tolex and repair it. For tears and small voids, I worked out a process similar to the vinyl repair kits. I also do this on my guitar cases.

Here is what I do: For a filler material, I use clear epoxy and mix in a small amount of black craft paint....viola! Black epoxy. For minor dings or cuts, just mix a small amount and dab it around. The little dabs will simulate the 'leather' effect.

For voids maybe up to the size of a dime, you need to make a mold of the leather grain. Find a pristine area of your case and spray or rub a lubricant on a small area. Silicone spray, mineral oil....something like that. Then get some silicone sealant...the stuff you caulk tubs and sinks with. Spread this on the lubricated Tolex and let it dry. Peel it off, and you have a mold of the Tolex grain. Now mix up some of the 'black' epoxy, apply it to the area you want to repair, and press the mold over it. Wipe off any excess and keep pressure on until it dries. (It is helpful to use the 5-minute dry epoxy.)

The repairs aren't invisible, but look a darn sight better than bare wood and white mesh.

cbnuttjd: do a serarch for or tubesand more .com, I ordered tweed for a amp project they have a lot of that stuff.

Buck49: I use Brownell's "Epoxy Black". It's a fine powder, around 5 bucks for a pound at It colors most any epoxy, and seems to make it dry even harder than normal. I've repaired badly damaged ebony fingerboards and bridges with it, and it's invisible after drying.

It goes a long ways...I've been using the same can for over 25 years.

MikeHalloran: Many large fabric stores will have a roll of black Tolex® around.

Gabby55: I use the rubber made to insulate tool handles. It's available from auto parts suppliers. Use a small brush and apply to small divots covers great and looks good. I also cover up the threads around the case to water proof the seams. If the covering is loose I always glue it down first before filling rips with the rubber. Blue Grass festivals are hard on cases it always rains at Bean blossom!

13. Installing Grover Sta-tites on 000-15S
tmansonusa: I just finished replacing the Schallers on my 000-15S with Grover Sta-tites. The job was much more "threatening" than it was difficult.

I spoke to a number of folks via PM here in the forum and got a good deal of info before I started. I had ordered the the Grovers from someplace in NJ and two sets of bushings from Stew-Mac. It appears that the two sets of bushings saved me a good deal of grief.

I was able to get the center stock bushings out using a dental pick with a hook on the end of it and everything else came apart very easily (and went in easier still).

My only complaint about the process is not having a better means of holding the tuners while I marked the holes for the screws (I drilled pilot holes for the new screws and had to mark them to drill).

The old screw holes were covered completely.

The Grovers came with bushings but their OD was too small to make them useful. I did not use mine (fortunately I had the extra set of Stew-Macs of which I was forewarned).

One last thing I may want to do before I restring, is to slide the outboard bushings out and dab a bit of adhesive on them and then slide them back in. They are just a bit on the loose side and I don't want them rattling or sliding around.

Thanks for everyone's help. Here's a pic.

14. Fingernails
Anyone use wraps or acryllic nails. How do you maintain them etc.?

Howard M Emerson: I've been using acrylic & tips for over 11 years now.

All I do is file the ends down occasionally and I get them completely replaced about every 3 weeks by my nail tech.

I've never bothered to have them filled where they grow out in front of the cuticle.

Getting tips and acrylic done is, without a doubt, the best thing I ever did for my guitar playing, including any instrument I've owned.

If you can't bring out the best sound from any instrument, what's the use in owning it?

bluesphile: I've been using acrylic for a couple of years also. It's the only thing that's allowed me to keep nails, as mine are thin, plus I work on my cars and do garden work, so otherwise I'm constantly breaking them. With the acrylic, I chip one now and then, but they're repairable and/or replaceable. I recommend them for fingerstyle players. If you have thin nails like me, especially. You can get quite a bit of additional volume from an acoustic with a thick nail!

Howard M Emerson: For many years I played Hawaiian style Dobro and used National fingerpicks on my index and middle finger, plus a National plastic thumbpick.

The sound was exactly what was needed for bluegrass and blues, with really good volume.

On guitar, however, the advantage of using your real nails, or acrylic, with or without tips, is that you can frail, a phrasing tool that is indispensable, and unobtainable with almost all fingerpicks that I can think of.

If you have good natural nails, enjoy them to the max! Mine suck...........

SkyShot 1” I recently got a "gel coat" for my right hand. They're great - I could drive screws into walnut if I had to.

Fingerstyle2: I believe it was Ed Gerhard, quoted in Tim Brookes' book, who said, "I started playing guitar in order to impress girls. Now I spend all my time talking with middle-aged men about my fingernails."

JoD18: Although it's mostly the guys here, I'll chime in as one of our female members. My nails are very weak, and I tried just about everything before putting on acrylics. I also liked 'gel nails', also available at salons. I can file & shape them myself, and I get them filled every 2 weeks. (I get polish on mine, but you fellas can skip that step.)

I've taken several classes with Ed Gerhard, and he is meticulous about his nails. He uses a coating himself to strengthen his nails. I tried doing mine myself, but I either didn't have the talent for it or the patience...not sure which. I think there's something at Ed's site about his techniques.

This month's Acoustic Guitar has a good article by Doug Young about nail care, and it's pretty slanted to the guy's point of view.

If you go with acrylics, find a reputable salon rather than one of the multitude of fly-by-night ones that have popped up over the past few years. Many of these have frequent health inspection violations and use the cheapest equipment and products possible. A good friend of mine is now fighting a fungus she got from her nail salon. My technician keeps separate files, etc. for each customer in a bag labeled with their name and uses high quality products. If you're choosy about who you use, acrylics are a great answer for fingerstyle players.

BigMamaJ40: I got acrylics on both hands in April, in part for guitar playing, and in part for vanity/work.

I have always bitten my nails, and my hands were a "bit" of an embarrassment for me when I would have to make presentations.

It is a challenge keeping my left hand nails short enough for guitar playing, though (I only play a few times a week).

A question for you acrylic wearers: what length and shape do you prefer for your tips?

MAF51: OK, time for a word from the silk-wrap camp. I've been getting my picking fingers (T, 1, 2 & 3) silk-wrapped for about the last two years. I have it done by a nail tech at a nice little salon across the street from my local pizza shop. The cost is $4/nail, and the wrap usually lasts for about four weeks. I have found that silk-wrapping helps immeasurably in my picking. I can play for very lengthy periods without breaking or wearing down my nails. I heartily endorse this method of nail reinforcement.

That said, I have also lately tried once again to get comfortable with fingerpicks. I've tried them without success many times over the years, but this time it seems to be working. I was inspired by seeing Steve James and Del Rey perform recently. They put on an extraordinary display of "power picking" with plastic thumbpicks and metal fingerpicks. I figured it was just a matter of perseverance, and I was right.

Steve, Del, Jorma, Pat Donahue and many other great pickers swear by fingerpicks. Howard Emerson, Laurence Juber and countless other great pickers perform fingerstyle miracles without 'em. Which is better? Only you can answer that question. For me, I prefer nails when I'm playing solo and picks when I'm playing with others. That's because even with reinforced nails, I can't get the power and drive I'd like when the overall volume level in the room rises.

Howard M Emerson: The length that I wear my acrylics at is pretty much tantamount to metal picks, or even a bit longer. The tone, of course, is mellower. However, when metal fingerpicks are well-worn, they really are very smooth sounding.

Laurence Juber only used flesh on his picking hand when I saw him perform in NYC about a year ago, and although he's obviously a very accomplished player, the combination of magnetic pickup and no nails was just not happening tonally.

When playing with others, Marshall, make sure they're all good listeners when it comes time to backing-up the soloist of the moment.

That way you don't have to play loud if you don't want to.

JoD18: I bit my nails for years, too, even when I was playing guitar a lot. I broke the habit years ago, but my nails remain thin and tear almost immediately if I attempt to use them for playing.

I tried a variety of picks, but I just can't seem to get comfortable with them. I miss the 'feel' of the strings - that connection with the instrument - that I just couldn't get with fingerpicks. So I went with acrylics.

My nail tech has my routine down now. My left hand nails are very short, except the thumbnail, which can be longer. On my right hand, I like a longer nail, and the fingernails are long enough to just be visible when looking at the fingers from the palm side of my hand. I keep them very rounded, and I also ask her to make them thinner than most acrylics seem to be by using her 'sander' (don't know the technical name...) on the underside of the nails. I don't like a thick, clunky feel. I use a very natural polish, usually a light pink or American manicure, because when I play out, I don't want my nails to stand out more than my music.

With the length I have, I can dig in with nails for a louder sound, or I can angle my fingers so I get little or no nail for a mellow, softer tone.

fir28: I've been using natural nails all my life but the 'hard work days' they just disappear. The steel strings just eat them.

I've ordered the other day some metal 'fingertone' propik fpicks.
Anyone use them? They seem a middle way solution: flesh and metal as you have the metal under your own nail.

If propiks doesn't work for me I'll give a try to the savarez nail kit ( silk wraps and superglue ).

Fingerstyle2: I've recently experimented with various thumb and fingerpicks in order to increase volume. For the latter, Propiks seem to be the best of the lot as far as letting you feel the string against your fingertips. However, I've so far found that, just like any other fingerpick, they limit my ability to do things that have become integral to my right-hand style, such as various kinds of down brushes or taps of the strings with the nail side of my fingers (what I think Howard referred to it as frailing).

Alaska picks had promise but I haven't yet worked at getting them trimmed to the right length. I'll probably stick with fingernails and may look into acrylic and tips.

fir28: I've seen how Talon wears the fpicks. Is that the right way? I thought the blade should go under the nail (assuming you have some nails), I mean the metal protecting the wearing of the nail.?

MAF51: Blade under the nail? That could be painful! Kidding aside, I don't wear picks that way, and I've never seen anyone else do it either. The general idea of fingerpicks is that the pick itself hits the string, not your fingertip or your nail. But, as we all know, there are no rules on guitar. So if you can make "under the nail" work for you, perhaps you'd have something to teach the rest of us.

One more thing: You should experiment with the degree of rotation of the pick on your fingertip. I've never felt the need to wear picks at such an acute angle as Darrell does. Just find something that works for you!

15. Do you condition your fretboard during string changes?
Typically I use a Dunlop Deep conditioner# 02 or lemon oil only when the fretboard looks real dry. I apply small amounts and wipe off as much as I can. I know Martin says not to use anything on your fretboards. I also realize that too much oil can cause problems such as fret loosening. What do you guys do? Another thing that was brought up on another forum, during string changes do you remove all your stings at once or one at a time?? I remove all then clean and condition as needed. How bout you??

Buck49: Nothing at all. Rosewood and ebony are both very oily woods and don't need to be fed anything. If they look dry, it is probably just dirt/sweat/etc on the surface. Try cleaning them with just a damp (not wet) rag, and forgo the "feeding". You can dab on a drop of oil on a rag, and wipe (Martin uses 3-in-1 oil, believe it or not) and more than once a year is too much (and it's only doesn’t help anything other than looks!). Make sure you wipe it down (all over) every time you play, and if you have hands that sweat a lot, wash them before you play.

fattdad: I never have all the strings off at the same time. I also don't/wouldn't put anything on the fretboard.

jscio: Usually I clean the board when I change strings by wiping it down. It gets polished w/Virtuoso once per year.

DM3MD: Same thing here....once or twice per year using Petro's Fingerboard Oil/Cleaner....

I figure I change my strings about once per, I clean my fretboard about every 6 string changes (once every six months).

One of those two times I use 0000 steel wool to polish up the frets, make them nice and shiny and take the excess tarnish or greenish crap off them...mainly on frets 12-20...since I don't play up there.

Martin Ping: I take all the strings off at the same time...I use Petros fret board oil once a year and only if it needs it and only a drop or two...When I change strings I clean the board with a damp cloth...

Threadbare Cat: I do what Martin and all the highly qualified luthiers that post on this forum suggest. Nothing. Well, once in a blue moon I will use naphtha and '0000' steel wool on the fretboard.

thermality: I used to be paranoid about removing all the strings at once, and was super cautious about how I retensioned the neck while putting strings back on. But every luthier I've heard address the subject says it's no big deal. They do it all the time. So now I remove them all for two reasons -- so I can clean the guitar thoroughly (including the fretboard), and so I can reach in and make sure the new string balls are properly seated against the pins and bridge plate. But I'm still careful about how I bring the strings back up to pitch.

As for oiling the fretboard, I played for 30-odd years before I even knew that was an option -- something I learned from Maury's web site. I ordered the Petros oil from him, used it on my Martin and my friend's Taylor and it made a world of difference in how the fretboards look and feel. But this thread has made me realize I was probably doing it too frequently so I'll back off to once or twice a year.

martinfand15: Thanks for all the responses guys, its funny, I posted a similar question on an electric guitar forum and the responses were quite different, The majority here dont use anything. I'm for the most part an electric player, strat, LOVE the blues!! I tend to play my acoustics like an electric at times, doing string bends up and down the neck. For those who do condition the fretboard then you know what I'm talking about, the neck just feels faster, cleaner, smoother. Now I probably only do this once or twice a year myself, but to me, it does make a big difference and I've been doing it that way for 40 years without any ill effect.

16. Alternate tunings - will they screw me up?
I keep seeing recommendations to try alternate tunings. I've used drop D (who hasn't?), but haven't ventured into DADGAD, Open G, Double Drop D, etc. I've been making good progress in my flatpicking improvisation in standard tuning. Will time spent with alternate tuning screw me up with my standard tuning skills? (I can see that, if nothing else, less practice time spent in standard tuning will mean less time in standard tuning.)

thermality: Yes, they will tangle up your fingers, warp your psyche, make you write dark, deep lyrics and give you an irresistible urge to buy a bottleneck slide and wear funky hats. Before long, you'll be thinking you need a separate guitar for each tuning. Avoid at all costs.

Floyd1960: If you use an altered tuning for more than one piece, it may prove to be a worthwhile venture/tool. Striving to master an altered tuning just to play one song is a waste of time & energy.

fingerpicker: I play pretty much all the time in alternate tunings, but not as a flat picker. In my opinion the value of alternate tunings is greater for fingerpicking, where you can get an alternating bass (or monotone bass for some things) line going against which you can pick out a melody in the mids and trebles. I can't say it will screw you up but I do find that my feeble brain can only remember so many things on a fretboard, so I keep it pretty much open D, open G and a little standard. Others can remember more; Joni Mitchell has supposedly recorded in something like 51 different tunings.

musicguy123: I find the alternate tunings help to 'jump start' my creative juices sometimes when I find myself in a creative rut or slump.

It's like a whole new world of ideas and possibilities open up.
DADGAD is a great starting point for alternate tunings.

When I was young, I discovered DADGAD by myself noodling around and thought for awhile there that I had invented it! Of course I was quickly corrected when I joined the realms of more experienced players!!

flatpicknut: I wrote out the fretboard notes for DGDGBD and then plinked around with the tuning a bit tonight. Chords are pretty easy. Yes, I can see where this tuning, at least, would be best suited for fingerpicking, as compared to flatpicking. Since the first four strings repeat (and there are three D strings), remembering what notes go where is pretty straightforward. Scales aren't as convenient, but they work fine on the upper strings where you'd usually play the melody anyway. I do like the deep sound the low D and G give me. I think I'll try to work in DBDGBD at least once a week to see where it takes me. But most of my time will stay with standard tuning!

jackwhiskey: The other thing about alternate tunings besides the truisms above, is that you will spend a lot more time listening to the richness of the tuning rather than apply discipline to figure out what to do with the tuning.

If you are mentally unstable to begin with (most guitar players are), do NOT expect alternative tunings to benefit the condition. Several symptoms to be aware of: excessive counting, obsession with hammer-ons and pull-offs, obsession with string bending, a compulsive mission to find just the right strings for EACH guitar you plan to buy, and others. . . .

gfspencer: Try a Dropped D for a start. It is not difficult or that much different from standard tuning and it will open you up to a whole new sound. Then work your way into a Double Dropped D.

I leave one of my guitars in Dropped D all the time and have a set of songs just for that tuning. In fact I think that particular guitar was made for Dropped D!!

IainDearg: Standard tuning was developed over time as the optimum tuning for a guitar for playing harmonically rich material. It gives reasonable access to all keys, although difficultly increases with the number of flats or sharps in the key signature. The tonal centre of gravity of a guitar hovers around C / G / D major and their relative minors. Modulation between keys in standard tunic without loss of sonic character is accessible in standard tuning.

"Altered" tunings certainly have a resonant sonic character and can sound wonderfully evocative in the right hands. The music, however, will inevitably be modal in character, as opposed to being rooted in major / minor tonality. Effective modulation for extended periods in altered tunings is impracticable. Even chromaticism within a single key is like fitting a square peg in a round hole. The net result is that altered tunings impart an archaic and "folky" feel to the music.

It depends, I guess, on what you want to play: if you dig the sonority of open / altered tunings and that's what you want to hear when you play, then fantastic - they'll do that for you. If you want to play harmonically rich music, they're not where your guitar should stay tuned for very long.

opencee: I have pretty much lived in Open-C (C-G-C-G-C-E) for the last 15 years. Started dabbling in it about 35 years ago. In between those times, I played frailing and clawhammer style banjo. I enjoyed all of the many open banjo tunings and rhythms. It was fun to bring some of that back over to the guitar.

Open-C really allows this old guitar fraud to be musical, at least in my own mind.

Here's a link to an amusing John Fahey and Open-C story.

MaxwellSmart: I'm surprized nobody has mentioned this tuning yet, but I play a lot in DGDGBE, sometimes called G6 tuning. Chet Atkins used it quite a bit, and I use it a lot when fingerpicking.

17. Loud vs. Good?
The conventional wisdom seems to be that "loud" equals "good" when it comes to acoustic tone. Why is that?

Threadbare Cat: Bluegrass and Praise & Worship players have to be heard above the other instruments and whatnot, so they seem to prefer louder guitars. I personally disagree. Too many times I have heard a loud guitar that was simply one-dimensional. All the guitar could do was to ‘be loud’. No overtones, no resonance, no shimmer. They were merely loud. If that’s the way you prefer them, though, that is fine with me. That way there is more of the ones I prefer left for me!

papogi: Here’s my opinion anyway. In the early 1900’s when guitars were gaining in popularity and were being added into band settings, it was hard to hear the guitar over other instruments (banjos, pianos, etc.), and the singer. There was a slow move over the next 2 or 3 decades toward louder guitars, meaning bigger bodies (dreads and jumbos), steel strings and heavier strings. I think these dreads have become the standard guitar sound that most people think of when they imagine guitars, and it has become ingrained in most minds to the degree that small bodied guitars sound thin, tinny and cheap to most ears.

fulminis: "louder is better, at least on this planet" ~Jerry Garcia to David Grisman.

blankstaircase: Usually when you play a high quility guitar, no matter what the size, They should be very balenced. A good guitar will allow you to play soft or very loud. Most guitars with a nice complex tone to begin with will sound great when you really dig into them and open them up. Your picking hand, and brand of pick really has alot more to do with tone and volume than most people really give credit.

Fingerstyle2: In Clapton's Guitar, Allen St. John quotes George Gruhn talking about the differences between tone, volume, and projection and observing that many modern builders don't understand how the three are different. To paraphrase--tone is the quality of the sound, volume is how loud the guitar sounds to the player, and projection is how the guitar sounds, unamplified, to the audience.

I think Eric Schoenberg made some interesting points about tone versus volume in this piece: Thoughts on Tone

papogi: While I agree that quality guitars are normally balanced guitars (treble/bass balance), I think that, in general, the historical move toward louder guitars (i.e., bigger bodies and heavier strings) has also resulted in a general enhancement of bass. We many times hear the words "boomy bass" when people discuss dreads and jumbos. True, these are more often the lightly-braced varieties, but not always. Again, this is a generalization, but I think the trend is there. I belive that some of the slightly smaller-bodied guitars have a more balanced tone along with their slightly lower volume.

18. Can you really get faster???
As a kid, I could play Black Mountain Rag at -- as I count the metronome -- 125 bps. That is the same speed as Doc on his first album, and about 1/2 as fast as Clarence could play it when he chose to be mean...

After many years of practice, and with the busted left hand, I can play it at 132 bps....

Maybe some people are born with faster clocks or something. Admittedly I am left handed, and play righty. But I've seen kids walk into music stores, pick up a guitar and make a blur with their right hand and the pick... no practice or anything.

avincent52: While I think we all have an upper limit--no matter how hard most of us trained, we're never going to run a 100 meters in 10 flat.

But I think that a lot of players run into the Myth of Medium Fast. An Olympic Cycling coach told me about this. He said that most riders love to go out and ride medium fast because it feels good, and thus do almost all their training at this speed and never improve.

His theory--and one born out by guys like Lance Armstrong--is that most of your rides should be either Painfully Slow (to build your aerobic base) or Sprint Intervals (to build speed and power). But the former takes patience and the latter hurts like hell which is why no one does them.

Seems to me it's the same with guitar. I think it was Steve Kaufman who advocated the guitar equivalent. Play it slow and absolutely perfectly instead of kinda fast and sloppy. Then when you can do that, try it at a crash and burn tempo. Play as fast as you can hang on and damn the mistakes. Eventually, you'll clean up the mistakes.

He also advocates things like just picking an open string as fast as you can. Scott Tennant suggested the same thing for classical players.

dermot: Quote: Play it slow and absolutely perfectly instead of kinda fast and sloppy. Then when you can do that, try it at a crash and burn tempo.

Heard the same advice at a workshop recently with El Mcmeen & Micheal Chapldiane.... set the metronome as slow as it can go, and work there...

One thing that Micheal passed on to us was from Segovia whom he studied with... he pre-visualized playing the piece before touching a string, and said each note in order.. he could tell you what note was going to be played two measures away...

It makes me feel better to hear those guys talk about how it took them a year of constant work to get a trick, and the newest piece Michael has written he said he can't figure out how to play yet...

That said I heard a tape I made in 71 when I was in college studying flaminco, and playing 10+ hours/day.... I will never be that fast and precise again unless I spend the time getting to that place again.. not likely as I am playing incredibly sllllllooooooowwwwwwly these days...

Back to slow, slow practice for me - I am now learning to use a thumbpick... as much as I love it (and I do) controlling the shear volume and balancing it with the fingers makes the slllooowwww approach even more useful

A sitkia/rosewood OM, a thumbpick, and a set of Ej19's is an awesome combo...

19. String noise when sliding - Good or Bad?
After installing a set of 80/20s, there's a noticeable increase in string noise when I slide on the strings. I hear this noise on some professional recordings so is a certain amount of this a desirable effect or is it totally subjective.

How do you know if you've got too much of this sound?

talon5550: The main thing the strings you're using provide the tone you desire, when you play? Any incidental noise is just that. All wound strings make noise if you slide your fingers along them. I pay no attention to it, and for the mostpart, I don't think I really produce enough to speak about.

Flat5sub: They bug me sometimes but not all the time. I don't know why. Maybe a mood thing.

I found that a tiny bit of skin moisturizer on my calluses can help quiet them down. (I wipe off any excess amount.)

hogwldfltr: I suspect that perfect technique would eliminate the sound of sliding. On the other handed I've heard it in recordings of Segovia.

vallguy: I've spent time in the past few years working on my technique to avoid string squeak, mainly because my wife cringes every time I do it. I now think it sounds better without it.

BigRed51: Coated strings will cure about 90% of the problem! One of many advantages ...

CountrySquire: Or try wound strings with narrower-gauged windings.

SleepingRust: I'm convinced many times the squeaks are the best part of whatever I'm playing....

20. How to find and choose an instructor?
I'm not sure where to post this thread, but I'm looking for some advice in terms of finding and picking a guitar instructor.

People tell me I should learn from the very bottom (I've played for about two years now) so that I can learn theory, how to read music better, etc., but I'm not sure if that's for me.

Anyhow, if anybody has any tips on what I need to figure out on my end first, and then how to find the right person for me, that'd be great.

JPcares: References: if you can get them.

Know what you want when you go in. Know something about where the person you are taking lessons from is coming from. Many times it's just finding the correct match for you personally.

I also think that you must have a zen like, go with the flow, attitude. If a student has what it takes to go through every Carcassi study or learn every scale and arpeggio combination, then go with it. In general, when I teach, I try about 1/3 technique, 1/3 playing something fun, 1/3 practical theory. I also give some students DVD'a to watch, CD's to listen to and it's so important to make sure their instruments are in good playing condition with a good set of strings. If the string height at the nut is way too high, they may never get those F chords in root position.

edmondlau: I quit lessons and learned on my own. No, I do not want to learn how to read music, I don't want to learn theory and I do not want to learn how to play simple songs like Mary Had A Little Lamb.

The teacher I took lessons from was like that. I wanted to learn songs and he wanted to stick theory stuff on me. When I wanted to learn the solo to Something and he said to wait because it was too difficult, I stopped going the next week. What kind of teacher tells a student that learning something is hard and that they should wait?

Wire and Wood: While a fledgling guitarist, I went thru 4 or 5 teachers before finding the right one. IMO, there are a lot of bad guitar teachers out there.

Many of them dabble in guitar as a 2nd or 3rd instrument, some have great credentials and can't play their way out of a bag and still others think that students should spend all their time working thru ancient method book series that will allow the student, after 10 years, to single note Jingle Bells in several different keys.

37 years later, I'm teaching 45 students a week. I custom tailor every lesson to the individual student, attempting to teach each pupil exactly what they want to learn in a fun and educational manner. It's not easy work.

It's your money. Find a teacher who will show you exactly what you want to learn. Ask them to demonstrate the style you wish to learn by playing an example for you. Then find out if they can teach.

thermality: Unless you're one of the gifted few who "play by ear", I don't know how you can become a fluent guitar player without knowing quite a bit about theory and the fretboard. But I don't agree with teachers who think all that has to be mastered in the beginning. And I don't think being able to sight read music is ever necessary unless you're a classical player or maybe a studio player -- it doesn't hurt, but it's not necessary. Reading tablature, however, is very useful for a guitar student.

You've been playing for two years, so by now you've taught your hands how to deal with the instrument. The next step depends on what your goals are. For instance, whether you want to play rhythm or lead, some knowledge of scales is important. Ditto for fingerpicking, plus additional muscle memory is required. If you want to play bluegrass, start working on playing chords fast and clean, and there are few dozen fiddle tunes you need to memorize. Etc etc.

So, get some good books and work on those things. To me, the real value of a teacher kicks in after you're acquainted with some of the stuff I've mentioned. If personal instruction is the way you like to learn, find a teacher who understands the kind of music you want to play and let him help you build the foundation for that style with an even mix of stylistic fundamentals + learning songs + fretboard fluency.

I think the most important thing about learning new material comes from taking the time to break down what you're learning. In other words, it's not enough to memorize a song; you need to understand how it is put together. If you want to learn Texas Flood, for example, make sure you understand the chord progressions and what scale postions Stevie was working out of. In the process of learning music that excites you and having fun, you'll learn a whole lot about theory etc that your teacher wants you to know.

uncle vern: First, be honest about the style or styles of music you want to play, and then look for a teacher who really plays that way and has a genuine enthusiasm for it. You learn best when your teacher loves the music he or she is teaching you. Don't expect Robert Fripp to teach you bluegrass licks.

The classical guitarist Elliot Fisk once said that when he first began to study, his teacher told him that once he'd mastered classical guitar he'd be able to play any kind of music. Fisk said that, in fact, what those lessons did was make him a classical guitarist. It only stands to reason. I never saw a whammy bar on any of the photos of Segovia's guitars, although that would have very interesting!

I have a good friend who's also an excellent guitar teacher, through all levels. He finds out what his students wants to play and then he teaches it to them, and fortunately for his students, he has wide-ranging personal tastes. What I like best about his method is that, once the student is comfortable, and can hold and tune the guitar, he helps select a simple song that the student actually likes, teaches the basic chords and rhythm, and sends the student home supplied with both a cool song and the means to actually play it, very useful homework. After a few lessons, he explains a bit more theory and helps the student grasp how that theory works and how it applies to other tunes, which is very good ear training. Once this process gets rolling, he adds songs and theory of increasing complexity according to the student's needs and abilities. it really works out well.

I wouldn't recommend a teacher who spends a month or two teaching scales and theory before any songs get played. That's like eating a bowl of steel wool.

JoD18: As for theory, I think you should learn the theory you need to play the songs you want to play. For example, if you want to learn blazing solos, then study the scales that will help you do that. If it's jazz improvisation you want, then you'll need to look into chord theory.

For me, theory is a language that helps you 'speak' the music you hear in your head. Theory's not just for classical players. It can help all guitarists, but only if the student understands the purpose behind the theory and is motivated to put it into practice in his/her playing.

Hope some of this helps! Good luck finding the right teacher for you.

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