5 smart ways to save time and money on guitar repairs
1. Keep your strings clean
Sounds obvious, right? Yet I bet you, like me, at the end of a long rehearsal or gig think, “I know I should clean my strings… ah I’ll just do it next time.” If you’re not guilty of this sin, congratulations! Keep it up.
Keeping your strings clean can extend their life immensely, saving you the hassle of changing them frequently, keeping your hard-earned in your pocket for longer, and making playing more pleasurable by increasing your guitar’s playability. In addition there are flow-on effects such as maintaining the condition of your frets and fretboard timber.
2. Get a good case
A good case is as close to guitar insurance as you can get without taking out a policy.
It often baffles me how many great guitars and basses I see come to me in bags that look like they were treated as a target by a professional fencer. Case design has come so far in the last ten years. There are now some great soft cases out there that will not only make you look sexier while wearing them, but will protect your instrument from the routine knocks and bumps that are part-and-parcel with rehearsing and gigging.
3. Store your instrument wisely
At the least, get yourself a couple of small foldout guitar stands – one for home, and one for travel. Resist the urge to lean your guitar against things! The couch, the bean bag, your neighbour… it doesn’t matter how soft they are – just don’t do it!
One important note here. An absolute no-no is leaning your guitar against the front or back of your amp cabinet. The reason? Speakers have massive magnets… guitar pickups have small magnets. The magnetic strength of your pickups can be randomly altered by exposure to large magnetic fields. In some cases this may have a pleasing ‘vintaging’ effect, but I would caution against it as its effect is largely uncontrollable.
4. Get it set up professionally first
Unless you’ve purchased a guitar that hasn’t travelled more than a few blocks from where it was manufactured, or you’ve bought a high-end model that has been subjected to very rigorous quality testing, chances are that it’ll never play as well as it could without a few tweaks from a seasoned guitar guru. Some of the tooling required to do this is quite specialised and pricey – but in most cases once an instrument has been set up correctly, routine maintenance can be all that’s required to keep it nice for many years into the future.
When you do decide to have an instrument set up, think hard about what you’ll want to do with it in future. For example – if you have to make do with just one instrument but play multiple styles, pick a middle-of-the-road string gauge and stick with it. Once you’ve chosen the strings you’ll play long-term, and you continue to use them, things such as neck adjustment, action and intonation will remain fairly constant. As long as you observe points 1 – 3, you’ll be well on the way to having a healthy, happy and trouble-free relationship with your stringed friend for many years to come.
5. Play a long game
It probably comes as no surprise to you that the cheapest instruments are often the ones I have to spend the most time on, and charge the most to repair.
The saying, “always buy the best you can afford” probably sums up all you need to know here. If you can’t afford it right now, perhaps wait until you can scrape together the cash to buy something truly great, rather than buying something of lesser quality and thus locking yourself into a life of repairs. A well-built guitar will pay you back in the long run.
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