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More Top Tuning Tips - Whammy Bar, Nut, and Graphite
Stratocaster Whammy Bar
Most guitar tuning problems
on a Stratocaster, arise from the old style whammy bar
or "vibrato bar" as it's correctly called. And altho' a
wonderful, fun, fantastic, and great invention, does
have it's shortcomings. Newer Strat designs and
double-locking systems have mostly overcome these
annoying side-effects, but they do have a very different
feel to them.
But if you set an old one up
properly, and keep it well lubricated (use sewing
machine oil), you can reduce your guitar tuning
vibrato-bar problems to a minimum.
It's well worth your while
learning all you can about your guitar and music gear,
as regards keeping it serviced and running smoothly. If
you don't do it yourself, it means taking it to a repair
guy or someone else, every time the slightest thing goes
astray. I have a mountain of books like this for
reference and it's another interesting side of playing.
Guitar mags such as the excellent and long running
Guitar Player, or try Guitar One Magazine, Guitar Amps
and so on are also a mine of information. I'm sure I'm
not alone there.
important point to remember when it comes to choosing
strings is don't "Cheat on the Cheese". This too is a
major source of Guitar Tuning problems even nightmares!
Try a few different brand types out, and only buy from
recognized and reputable guitar-string makers. Different
players, styles and guitars have different needs. Always
go with a respected brandname such as "Ernie Ball" or
9's on a Strat and something heavier on an electric
guitar with no whammy bar. You can experiment with
gauges yourself, find one you like and stick to it,
especially on a guitar with an old style hand-vibrato on
it, ok whammy-bar. If you intend to play slide on
electric or acoustic guitars, use heavy gauge for the
best tone and tuning. In general the heavier the string
the heavier the tone, but they are harder to play and
control. Try bending a g string on a heavy set and
you'll see what I mean. Strings are your guitars
lifeblood, and as mentioned elsewhere, no Lee Chang or
Red Dragon 50c Specials!
Use that Pencil Behind Your Ear/Stay in Guitar-Tune
Sometimes you might hear a
pinging sound when you use the whammy. This is caused by
stored tension in the Nut being released as you dip the
bar, and then bam, your out of tune. If it's an
emergency, i.e. it happens in the middle of a song
during a gig, try pulling the bar up a bit and depending
on how far you've slipped out of tune, this might just
get you back in. At least to the end of the song.
To solve this annoying and
interfering nuisance, some good ol' lubrication is
needed here. The best thing to lubricate the nut-end of
things, is graphite. An easy way to do this, is to use
an ordinary pencil, and literally write onto the nut
underneath where the strings slot in (lifting it up
first, loosen if necessary), and give it a coating of
lead. Then the strings just glide along the grooves
instead of sticking there until you "ping" and release
This simple little trick
works wonders for Strat guitar tuning dilemmas.
Depending on your style and how often you gig, once a
week of this treatment should be fine. Vaseline is also
recommended for this task but I think it's a bit messy
and more suitable to nappy rash ;-).
Remember Guitar Tuning is
half the battle as they say, so it's seriously worth
getting right at an early stage. Good or excellent
guitar tuning skills, will automatically improve your
musical ear and this also helps you play better. There's
nothing worse or more unprofessional than a "lazy ear"
player, who flies around on the guitar no problem, but
the guitar is constantly out of tune. So pay attention
to your strings and look after them and you will be
repaid back a hundred times.
Next we're under the
bridge and checking out the nut, plus we'll be having a
look at the all important guitar-neck massage.
About The Author:
O'Toole is a guitar player, music fan, and musician from
Ireland. He is the webmaster/editor at the following musician
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