Setting Up & Maintaining Your Gear
(11 May 02)
Cleaning and putting on strings
OK, the next step is to take off the old strings. The first thing I am doing is: I tighten the screws that are connecting the neck to the body. They tend to loosen themselves occasionally, so you should check them every once in a while.
Also, I check the tuners. They often loosen up (that means, their connection to the headstock loosens up), which leads to tuning problems. So I check whether they are still tightened and donÂ´t move.
OK, now I get to the cleaning process...
First I take a soft painters brush and wipe the bridge / vibrato system to clean it up and get rid of the dust and dirt there. If I wanna be extremely picky, I take an old toothbrush and clean the area around the frets. A lot of dirt gathers there, between the fretboard and the frets, so I clean that up with the toothbrush.
Next I take some limeoil, apply it to a piece of cloth and use that to clean the wood between the fretwires. The oil does not only clean the wood and makes it look better, it also adds moisture. That way, you prevent the wood from becoming to dry... if it does get too dry, it might crack, which is not a good thing.
Then I apply some fretboard conditioner (there are several companies who offer that kinda stuff). The conditioner adds some kind of longtime-protection. I wipe away all the left-over oil and conditioner and then use a dry cloth to clean the body and the headstock. Then I put on new strings.
Now, there are some things to pay attention to when putting on new strings. If you do, you might notice that the strings stay in tune better. DonÂ´t wind the end of the string around the tuning post too often. ItÂ´s enough to do so two or three times, maybe even only once. Once youÂ´re done, pull the string to pull out the slack. When tuning up, keep pulling the string to make sure the string gets stretched and all the slack at the bridge and headstock is pulled out. DonÂ´t pull too hard though, cuz it is possible to overstretch a string! When the strings are tuned to the right pitch, pull them again and check whether they are still in tune. If they are not, repeat pulling and retuning until they stay in tune. Finally, play some bends all over the fretboard on all strings and check the tuning again. If you do have a Floyd Rose-style system, close the locking-nut, use the bar and recheck the tuning.
If you do all that when stringing the guitar, the guitar will stay in tune way better.
If you notice a cracking pot or switch, you might use "contact spray" to fix it. Spray some spray into the switch or pot and turn the knob / use the switch a few times to make sure the spray gets evenly spread. Please remember that contact spray is just a temporary way to fix cracking electronics. You will eventually have to replace the part. But contact spray might help you to get through a gig without that disturbing noise.
Taking care of the guitar
I definitely recommend a real good guitar case. Those are expensive, but itÂ´s worth the money since it will protect your guitar the best way. There are some good gigbags which offer some protection, but: If someone else handles your guitar, and that person doesnÂ´t know much about guitars, he will see the gigbag and think "Hey, the guitarÂ´s in a gigbag, so itÂ´s protected". That person will be less careful than he / she would be if your guitar was not in a case at all. That means, a guitar without a gigbag will surely be handled more carefully than it would be in a gigbag.
A case also offers good protection against temperature changes. Please remember that it is not a very low or high temperature that will damage your guitar. It is the speed at which the temperature changes! That means, if itÂ´s very cold outside and youÂ´re driving your guitar around in the trunk of the car, it wonÂ´t hurt the guitar too much... unless you take it and immediately carry it into a warm room. ItÂ´s better to let the guitar "acclimatise", leave it in the case first, maybe in the basement where itÂ´s usually not that hot. Let the guitar adjust to that temperature, and wait before you take it into a room warmed by a furnace / radiator.
The same is true for amps, especially tube amps. At the end of a show, when the tubes are still hot from working for hours, you should not immediately take the amp from the warm room outide into the cold. Turn the amp off and let it sit for a while so that the tubes can cool off. If you do carry the amp with the hot tubes into the cold, the tubes might crack.
Back to the guitar:
I really recommend to get a good guitar stand. DonÂ´t lean the guitar against things where they might fall. If the stand has rubber protectors and your guitar has a nitro-finish, cover the protectors with some cloth, otherwise the chemicals in the rubber will stain and damage the finish.
You might see by now that I am leaving out certain things... I didnÂ´t get into things like adjusting the string-height and things like that. I wanted to focus on the important, everyday-situations a player deals with. Things like changing pickups and adjusting the string-action can be done by yourself, but it would take several articles to go into details on those topics. There also is a lot of good literature about that.