The Guitar Doctor Is In

Ask questions and get answers about how to make music in any particular way. Hardware or songwriting or whatever.
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The Guitar Doctor Is In

Post by mo » Fri Jun 21, 2019 2:42 pm

Ok as an experiment, I decided to act on one of the discussions happening in a different thread.

If you are curious about potential mods you can do to your guitar, or want advice on making your guitar better, this is the place for it--I'm pretty sure that besides myself there are plenty of other guitar and guitar gear geeks who have knowledge, apocryphal tidbits, and possibly even wisdom to share.

Please ask questions about:
-how to improve your guitar's tone/playability
-what kind of guitar you want
-how to get specific tones
-anything physical about the guitar (i.e. if you have questions about tonewoods or construction methods or whatever)

When seeking information/thoughts about your guitar, it's best to preface with what kind of guitar you have, if there's anything modded already on it, and what kind of musical style you play/what tones you want to achieve.

I have also started a guitar blog (as if the world needs another one of those) here: https://medium.com/@mzmo
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Re: The Guitar Doctor Is In

Post by jb » Fri Jun 21, 2019 2:58 pm

Can you make my guitar play only the correct notes please thx
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Re: The Guitar Doctor Is In

Post by vowlvom » Fri Jun 21, 2019 3:41 pm

Hey mo! This is a good idea thank you for your time.

A few questions have been buzzing around my head of late, and I keep thinking about maybe buying another guitar but I'm not really sure I need one, so maybe you can save me money!

I play an Eastwood Wandré, which looks like this (but orange), it has stars on the neck and the knobs look like bombs so you know it must be a quality instrument

Image

I guess I'm generally aiming for songs in the indie-rock genre, from jangly to crunchy, with occasional exceptions?

Anyway:
Q1. If I were to get it professionally "set up" and all that, how much difference do you think it would actually make? I haven't really noticed any playability issues but I'm sure this isn't the world's most playable guitar, I just don't have much basis for comparison. How do I know if anything on this guitar is sub-optimal? If I don't notice anything, is it actually fine and I'm just looking for excuses to spend money?
Q2. What other things should I be looking out for if I were to get another guitar, in order to maximise the different things that I can do? My Greatest Worry (within the scope of this thread) is that I spend a bunch of money on another guitar and find that it"s just... the same thing, in a different colour.
Q3. I flip-flop pretty much at random between using a variety of amp-sims and the emulated output of a little Blackstar amp for my guitar sounds. I'm not in a position to record Loud so is this the best I can hope for?

I probably have more but I'm writing all this on my phone and I'm tired so that will do for now
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Re: The Guitar Doctor Is In

Post by mo » Fri Jun 21, 2019 3:46 pm

jb wrote:
Fri Jun 21, 2019 2:58 pm
Can you make my guitar play only the correct notes please thx
Yes, but it's an ancient Chinese secret that I can't share with you unless you go to 15 Shen Yun shows and help them fight off the Scientology aliens.
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Re: The Guitar Doctor Is In

Post by mo » Fri Jun 21, 2019 4:18 pm

vowlvom wrote:
Fri Jun 21, 2019 3:41 pm
Hey mo! This is a good idea thank you for your time.

A few questions have been buzzing around my head of late, and I keep thinking about maybe buying another guitar but I'm not really sure I need one, so maybe you can save me money!

I play an Eastwood Wandré, which looks like this (but orange), it has stars on the neck and the knobs look like bombs so you know it must be a quality instrument

Image

I guess I'm generally aiming for songs in the indie-rock genre, from jangly to crunchy, with occasional exceptions?

Anyway:
Q1. If I were to get it professionally "set up" and all that, how much difference do you think it would actually make? I haven't really noticed any playability issues but I'm sure this isn't the world's most playable guitar, I just don't have much basis for comparison. How do I know if anything on this guitar is sub-optimal? If I don't notice anything, is it actually fine and I'm just looking for excuses to spend money?
Q2. What other things should I be looking out for if I were to get another guitar, in order to maximise the different things that I can do? My Greatest Worry (within the scope of this thread) is that I spend a bunch of money on another guitar and find that it"s just... the same thing, in a different colour.
Q3. I flip-flop pretty much at random between using a variety of amp-sims and the emulated output of a little Blackstar amp for my guitar sounds. I'm not in a position to record Loud so is this the best I can hope for?

I probably have more but I'm writing all this on my phone and I'm tired so that will do for now
Eastwoods can be great guitars, like a lot of things, made in China, but after a few years of production, Chinese factories can make guitars of pretty decent quality. It's not like a CNC machine cares where it's being operated. That's a great guitar for what you're trying to do, and has its own look, which can be important too. The key element here is the gold foil pickups, which are a type of single coil that's known for jangle and snap. So you're working in the right idiom--at least you're not starting with a BC Rich Warlock loaded with super aggressive overpowered humbuckers--it's not impossible to make that work for what you want, but it's a bit more difficult and maybe less "authentic" sounding.

Q1. How long have you had the guitar, and what kind of climate? The key parts of a good setup are action, neck straightness, nut condition, bridge condition, intonation, nut condition, pickup heights/adjustments. Some of those things are easy to take care of yourself, some of them are best taken care of by a pro. Do you know how to measure your action? Do you have strings that consistently go out of tune, especially when bending? Is your intonation pretty good up and down the neck, or does it go out as you go up the neck? Are there any buzzes or notes that choke out? Are your pickups at roughly equal volume levels?

Q2. Since you have an Eastwood, the basic "other kind" of electric guitar that would sound most different is a hollowbody or semihollow with humbuckers and a whammy bar. Different construction, different pickups, adds in the whammy that you don't have currently. I'm thinking about this in studio terms--like what other guitar would complement the tonal range you already have? And so I would suggest something in that style. Humbuckers will require very different amp and EQ settings so you should be ready for that. But again, it's about what you want to do. I basically think you can use any guitar to play type of music, but I also think if you want guitar sounds to mix well together, you want them to occupy different frequency ranges.

Q3. Amp sims are totally good these days. In a full band mix, only a few people in the world can really tell the difference. And it's so much easier to record. What you can do though is, if you haven't, learn about your EQ ranges for each instrument and where everything wants to live--because a mix is a lot cleaner when the kick lives in a frequency, the bass lives in a frequency, the guitar lives in a frequency, the other guitar emphasizes a different frequency, keys, and then vocals, snare, cymbals. For what I've heard of what you do, I would say you just want a really great clean sound, a dirty sound, and then for lead tones, you can experiment with those layers to make different textures.
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Re: The Guitar Doctor Is In

Post by jb » Fri Jun 21, 2019 4:45 pm

A professional setup is on the order of $35/50.

Worth it to me to have somebody who does it all the time make sure the neck is straight, the action is where I like it, and that it’s as in tune as it can get.

The worst part of getting g a setup is not having the guitar for a couple days while it waits for the tech to have a spare half an hour. But I do have one of those Warlocks that Mo mentioned...
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Re: The Guitar Doctor Is In

Post by jb » Fri Jun 21, 2019 4:46 pm

Oh and they’ll probably change your strings for you too which is my least favorite part of playing guitars. So, setups are awesome.
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Re: The Guitar Doctor Is In

Post by mo » Fri Jun 21, 2019 6:11 pm

How do you wrap your strings on the Casino?
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Re: The Guitar Doctor Is In

Post by jb » Fri Jun 21, 2019 6:42 pm

Cellophane duh

But for real I had locking tuners installed so wrapping is for suckers. Though the tech did wrap the strings he put in it when he installed the tuners. Something about “staying in tune” or some crap.

I’ve tried the obnoxious twistitinaknot guaranteed to work locking methods and could never remember from string change to strong change how to do it. I don’t change my strings often enough. So I always had to look it up and life’s too short.

I had these Russian pickups installed on my other guitar and they are pretty fun. All humbucking but two are slimline and they’ve all be wired to go single coil when I pull up the volume or tone knob. Not that I really ever do that BUT I COULD MO.
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Re: The Guitar Doctor Is In

Post by mo » Fri Jun 21, 2019 8:02 pm

I have tried coil splits in a bunch of guitars and my considered opinion is ew
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Re: The Guitar Doctor Is In

Post by mo » Fri Jun 21, 2019 8:11 pm

I have locking tuners on my guitars with whammy bars, for which they are great, bc I have a thing against the Floyd Rose, which is that they take too much time to deal with, and god forbid you break a string. And with a good setup and locking tuners, you’re most of the way there anyway.

For my stoptail guitars I do the lockwrap which works great, and really takes the same amount of time as the locking tuners.

To be less glib re:coil splits, I think they only sound good in really hot humbuckers, and since I prefer PAF style vintage low output humbuckers, once you split, the one coil is so weak that it just sounds thin and underpowered.
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Re: The Guitar Doctor Is In

Post by jb » Fri Jun 21, 2019 9:38 pm

I can imagine using the single coil if it’s a certain situation. Like a more quiet thing, or at least it would let me turn the amp up past 2...

Anyway, @vowlvom go get your guitar set up and live life.

People make guitars out of anything these days, so if you have a guitar figure out what you don’t like about it and change that one single part. Get another or a different guitar only if you want a whole different sound and can’t get it from what you’ve already got. With amp sims that’s pretty hard to di snoutaide of a live performance, where it’s more like you get what the amp gives you according to your knob tweaks.
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Re: The Guitar Doctor Is In

Post by vowlvom » Sat Jun 22, 2019 12:34 am

Thanks for the info, mo! Good to hear that it’s a decent guitar - I did basically buy it just for “the look” back when I used to perform live regularly so there wasn’t much thought given to how it would sound when I inevitably stopped leaving the house when not wholly necessary, a decade or so later.
mo wrote:
Fri Jun 21, 2019 4:18 pm
Q1. How long have you had the guitar, and what kind of climate? The key parts of a good setup are action, neck straightness, nut condition, bridge condition, intonation, nut condition, pickup heights/adjustments. Some of those things are easy to take care of yourself, some of them are best taken care of by a pro. Do you know how to measure your action? Do you have strings that consistently go out of tune, especially when bending? Is your intonation pretty good up and down the neck, or does it go out as you go up the neck? Are there any buzzes or notes that choke out? Are your pickups at roughly equal volume levels?
I got it on March 11th, 2006. It has always been kept indoors in fairly standard “never particularly hot or cold” conditions. I don’t know how to measure the action, I think the action is OK - but I’m judging it against the other guitar that I used to have as a backup, which cost £60 new, and was absolutely godawful. I haven’t noticed any intonation issues, and the tuning is generally pretty solid. No major buzzes or chokes, and the pickups seem pretty consistent (although I’m confirm this when I’m next near the guitar, which is currently 200 miles away due to a Family Photoshoot Event. It’s sounding like this guitar doesn’t really NEED anything doing to it, though, if I’m pretty happy and haven’t noticed any real flaws.
Q2. Since you have an Eastwood, the basic "other kind" of electric guitar that would sound most different is a hollowbody or semihollow with humbuckers and a whammy bar. Different construction, different pickups, adds in the whammy that you don't have currently. I'm thinking about this in studio terms--like what other guitar would complement the tonal range you already have? And so I would suggest something in that style. Humbuckers will require very different amp and EQ settings so you should be ready for that. But again, it's about what you want to do. I basically think you can use any guitar to play type of music, but I also think if you want guitar sounds to mix well together, you want them to occupy different frequency ranges.
I like the idea of identifying exactly the features that my current guitar doesn’t have and seeking out something that has as many of those features as possible. The Gibson ES335 and Gretsch Electromatic are the two guitars that are mostly coming up when I look for hollow-body / tremolo / Humbuckers - I’ve never really considered this kind of guitar because I’m not massively into them aesthetically but since they’d be “studio” instruments I guess that’s less of a concern. In terms of hollow-body I’ve always liked the look of thinline Telecasters but it seems less common (and more expensive) to find those with Whammy Possibilities.
Q3. Amp sims are totally good these days. In a full band mix, only a few people in the world can really tell the difference. And it's so much easier to record. What you can do though is, if you haven't, learn about your EQ ranges for each instrument and where everything wants to live--because a mix is a lot cleaner when the kick lives in a frequency, the bass lives in a frequency, the guitar lives in a frequency, the other guitar emphasizes a different frequency, keys, and then vocals, snare, cymbals. For what I've heard of what you do, I would say you just want a really great clean sound, a dirty sound, and then for lead tones, you can experiment with those layers to make different textures.
I do this to some extent, but I guess I think about it less in terms of the different guitar layers which I have leaned more towards “sort of mashing everything together”, which might not be the best approach. I do generally like the way that the amp sims that I use sound, and the possibility of tweaking the sound a lot more later on in the process, plus being able to exactly recreate the sound I was using if I want to re-play a part later on.

Thanks for the detailed answers!
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Re: The Guitar Doctor Is In

Post by owl » Sun Jun 23, 2019 1:46 pm

Hey guitar doctor, would I benefit from getting a tube amp (or making other changes to my equipment), and if so, do you have any recommendations?

Right now I have a Fender Mustang III (v. 2) and a Fender Squier Telecaster. I like that this amp is light, which is great for carrying around to shows and such, it generally seems to be loud enough for my needs (currently our other guitarist plays through a Vox AC10, for reference), and it has lots of built-in effects and presets, although I mostly tend to just set it to one setting and leave it there. At the moment I'm mostly looking for something that sounds nice clean and sparkly, because it's been subbed in for parts originally written for ukulele for most of the indie pop songs I'm playing live right now and I'm trying to live in that same sonic space, but that may change for songs going forward, so I'd like something versatile.

I have played other people's tube amps and I feel like they always sound slightly nicer than mine, but I also can't help feeling like the return on the expense and the extra weight/hassle of carrying one around is going to be pretty marginal in a full band mix, plus my band isn't that loud so maybe there's no point in getting a tube amp I'd just play fairly quietly. And also because I think the main limiting factor here is me, and buying new gear is not going to magically make me a better guitarist. But on the other hand, I do wonder about whether there's low-hanging fruit I could take care of with small fixes to make stuff sound nicer with minimal effort. (Also everyone I know is all about tube amps but I don't know if that's just some cargo cult tone stuff.)
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Re: The Guitar Doctor Is In

Post by Lunkhead » Sun Jun 23, 2019 2:23 pm

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Re: The Guitar Doctor Is In

Post by owl » Sun Jun 23, 2019 8:33 pm

Because you're planning to borrow my rig in August? ;)
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Re: The Guitar Doctor Is In

Post by grumpymike » Sun Jun 23, 2019 8:37 pm

Guitar doctor, how do I get good distortion out of my Dual Rectifier without blowing my ears off because the gain knob is touchy? And should I get a cab that is smaller than a severely obese grade school child, or is there a combo I might replace the whole rig with that gives me the same sound without all the complex, heavy overhead?
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Re: The Guitar Doctor Is In

Post by ujnhunter » Mon Jun 24, 2019 10:29 am

grumpymike wrote:
Sun Jun 23, 2019 8:37 pm
Guitar doctor, how do I get good distortion out of my Dual Rectifier without blowing my ears off because the gain knob is touchy? And should I get a cab that is smaller than a severely obese grade school child, or is there a combo I might replace the whole rig with that gives me the same sound without all the complex, heavy overhead?
Assuming your Dual Rectifier has an FX Loop, have you considered something like this: JHS Little Black Amp Box which essentially is used for amps with an FX Loop that don't have a Master Volume to control the volume of your amp, I use one with my Fender Performer 1000 which is loud as hell without it... it's a really simple circuit that you could build yourself for under $10 probably if you wanted instead of the $45 that these sell for... all depends on your soldering skills and time you want to invest, but worth looking into... note this is for an FX Loop only... never plug a speaker out cable into this as it will just destroy your amp.
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Re: The Guitar Doctor Is In

Post by jb » Mon Jun 24, 2019 10:43 am

If you have a volume pedal already, you can try putting that in the FX Loop, before you buy the little black JHS box. YMMV and I am not a doctor, but I've seen other people do it-- I think the Dual Rectifier has a knob to control how much of the signal goes through the FX loop, so you'd want to turn that to 100% so all the signal is attenuated.
ujnhunter wrote:
Mon Jun 24, 2019 10:29 am
grumpymike wrote:
Sun Jun 23, 2019 8:37 pm
Guitar doctor, how do I get good distortion out of my Dual Rectifier without blowing my ears off because the gain knob is touchy? And should I get a cab that is smaller than a severely obese grade school child, or is there a combo I might replace the whole rig with that gives me the same sound without all the complex, heavy overhead?
Assuming your Dual Rectifier has an FX Loop, have you considered something like this: JHS Little Black Amp Box which essentially is used for amps with an FX Loop that don't have a Master Volume to control the volume of your amp, I use one with my Fender Performer 1000 which is loud as hell without it... it's a really simple circuit that you could build yourself for under $10 probably if you wanted instead of the $45 that these sell for... all depends on your soldering skills and time you want to invest, but worth looking into... note this is for an FX Loop only... never plug a speaker out cable into this as it will just destroy your amp.
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Re: The Guitar Doctor Is In

Post by fluffy » Mon Jun 24, 2019 12:27 pm

jb wrote:
Fri Jun 21, 2019 2:58 pm
Can you make my guitar play only the correct notes please thx
sounds like you want an autoharp
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Re: The Guitar Doctor Is In

Post by Lunkhead » Mon Jun 24, 2019 12:54 pm

ujnhunter wrote:
Mon Jun 24, 2019 10:29 am
my Fender Performer 1000
Whoa!! You have one of those too????? That was my first amp. Bought it 20+ years ago, still got it, although I haven't been using it much since I got my Deluxe Reverb Reissue. Great amp though, for a solid-state/tube hybrid. It indeed is loud. I hated the volume curve, it was like, starts on 1, 1-2 is very quiet, 3+ will blow your face off.
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Re: The Guitar Doctor Is In

Post by mo » Mon Jun 24, 2019 1:12 pm

owl wrote:
Sun Jun 23, 2019 1:46 pm
Hey guitar doctor, would I benefit from getting a tube amp (or making other changes to my equipment), and if so, do you have any recommendations?
There's a bunch of things going on in this question.

1. Given the technology that is available today, and the way that stages and live sound mixing/PA systems are going, I would honestly say that the only people who *need* tube amps are people who use them as part of the instrument--i.e. the feedback loop between amp and guitar is part of their playing. This actually doesn't include most people who play tube amps. By the time you mic a speaker (which speaker? what angle? which mic?) and run it into a board (boards sound different! sound mixer adding compression, sculpting EQ to fit the room and the rest of the mix, etc.) and running it out into a PA, the fact is that most people can't tell the difference between a decent amp modeler (Fractal, Line 6, Amplifire, Eleven, etc.) and any real tube amp. And the amp modelers/modeling amps are a lot lighter and easier to deal with, plus more consistent sounding. So if you're getting results that you like and don't really have complaints, I'd say focus on what you have and practice more.

What people will really notice is the quality of your playing/presentation, not your amp.

2. Now, what often happens is that you practice a lot and you start noticing, my gear setup is not good at doing A, B, and C things that I actually want to do. Maybe it's not loud enough, or it doesn't saturate enough, or it doesn't sustain enough, or it doesn't cut enough through a mix. Maybe you want it gainier, maybe you want it cleaner. Maybe you want a different kind of clean tone. That's when you will really want to take a look at what's out there. I wouldn't buy "better" stuff just to have it. Bc what happens then is that you have awesome stuff but you aren't really using it to it's potential. I used to have a 35 watt combo tube amp that I gigged with in Shanghai, and every time, the sound man would be like, it's too loud! even though I was on like 1.5 on the volume--so the amp wasn't operating in any way that it would sound good anyway (tube amps need a certain minimal amount of volume and power going through them to sound good). Eventually I just sold the amp because I couldn't crank it in an apartment and I couldn't really use it to its potential on stage. I replaced it with a 15 watt amp that made it all easier to manage. So, use the right gear for the venues you play.

3. What is "nicer" about the tone you hear from others? Normally when you're talking about going from a digital modeling amp to a tube amp, it's a bit of more rawness, presence, and warmth, but also the sag in attack that happens because of the way tubes draw power from the transformers, which makes this sound a bit more round and "blooming" instead of immediate. The first group of things you can EQ, either in the deep settings of an amp modeler, or with an EQ pedal (which are possibly the best things to use all around anyway). The attack you can change via compressor settings, or also depending on the modeler, some of them allow control over the sag as well. Different amp models may have that already set in. So basically what I'm saying is that it's good to identify exactly what it is you want to change, or else you'll just be spinning your wheels.

In the end, I still do think that good tube amps objectively "sound better" than good modeling, but they aren't as convenient and there is a bit of a learning curve to use one at its full potential. If your objective is just to have a good clean sound, I wouldn't be that fussed about having to get a new amp. Mostly I'd just practice more.
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