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Acoustic Guitar Bridge Replacement

Acoustic Bridge Replacement

Acoustic Guitar Bridge Replacement

Acoustic Bridge Replacement

I recently had the opportunity to perform a bridge replacement on a really cool 70s era Ibanez Concord 699. These were really good guitars, and were unique in that they were all solid wood, with no laminates, and had spruce tops with maple back, sides, neck, and fingerboard. Yes, fingerboard. Don’t see a lot of acoustics with maple fingerboards, so I was definitely intrigued!

The original bridge had cracked through the string pin holes, and had completely come apart. Another unique feature of this guitar, the original bridge was also adjustable. It had a brass bracket holding the saddle, and screws at either end of this bracket to facilitate raising and lowering the saddle, and therefore, adjusting the string action. Pretty cool.

This is what the original bridge looked like at one time before it broke :(
Original Bridge

Obviously, by the time the guitar got to me, the bridge had completely come off, leaving a bald spot on the gorgeous solid spruce top. A little sanding to prep the bald spot, and she was ready to have a nice new bridge glued on.

Sourcing the bridge was not an easy task, but I finally found one that was very close. The Retro Parts RP287. It’s a nice rosewood bridge with an adjustable saddle. It was slightly wider in the string spacing, but not enough to make a huge difference. The only thing missing was the hole for the bolt behind the bridge pins, but that would be easily remedied with a well placed countersunk drill hole, and a pearl dot inlay.

Retro Parts RP287. This will make a great replacement for our original Ibanez bridge!
Retro Parts RP287

New and (what’s left of) original bridge.
New and Old Bridge

The placement of the bridge is critical to the intonation of the guitar, so I spent a good amount of time measuring the scale length, and marking the location for the new bridge. This is a fairly straight-forward process, but you only get one chance to place the bridge and glue it up, so I wanted to make sure it was right!
Essentially, in order to get the bridge position, you measure the distance between the nut and the top of the 12th fret. This distance is equal to half of the scale length of the guitar. Since the 12th fret marks the halfway point, you then measure the same amount from the top of the 12th fret to a point on the guitar top. This point is the exact scale length.
Now, the saddle needs to be placed at the point of exact scale length plus a small amount of compensation to account for when a string is fretted. When you fret a string, the pitch will raise slightly due to the increased string tension, so the saddle needs to be moved back a bit to compensate for this, and bring the note back to pitch.
This compensation amount varies a bit with string type, desired action, saddle type, etc. but a good rule of thumb that has served me well on 6 string steel acoustics, is to add about 1/8″ (0.125″) to the scale length.
If you are interested on more exact calculations, there is a fantastic calculator available at Liutaio Mottola’s luthier wbsite. You can check it out HERE.
Note that with a compensated, or slanted saddle, I take this measurement on the centerline of the neck and top. That way, the bass and treble strings will be slightly compensated with the slanted saddle, but the D and G strings will land right on the scale length + compensation measurement. This will allow the maximum flexibility when making small intonation adjustments to the saddle later. Also note that this point on the top is where the top of the saddle needs to be placed, not the front of the bridge!

After the top prep, the marking of the bridge location, and a little masking with painter’s tape to protect the soundhole, I’m ready to drop the clamps inside the guitar, and get to gluing!

Always use a clamping caul when clamping…..well…..anything! There are expensive cauls out there, and you can spend some time making your own if you’d like.
Here, I’ve used some scraps from a balsa wood project my daughter had. They are soft enough not to mar, but solid enough to provide good pressure, and they don’t split. They work great!

Clamps in soundhole, cauls present, getting ready for glue!
Bridge Clamps

Next, I prep for gluing. I’m going to use standard wood glue for this bridge. I know, I know…..You can talk about hide glue and vibration transfer and tone until you are blue in your face, but you will never convince me that hide glue is any better than carpenter’s glue for a bridge. Hide glue is a pain to work with. Hide glue also results in lifted and completely separated bridges if the stars aren’t aligned absolutely perfectly, or the temp is .06 degrees off, or there’s a fly near your bench, or a molecule of dust gets in it, or……you get the idea. The stuff is finicky as can be, and I’ve had too many bridges pop off after using hide glue. Don’t get me wrong, it has its place…..just not under the bridges I do unless the customer demands it! But enough of my rant…
Make sure to have any tools and items needed for cleanup at the ready before gluing. I always have some rags, a small bowl of water, some paper towels, and a small screwdriver near by.
I do a “dry run” of placing the bridge, putting the clamps and cauls in place, and lightly clamping them to make sure everything will go as planned when the glue is in there. I take some measurements again to make sure the bridge is centered and in the right position. Then, I release everything, and apply a light coat of glue to the bottom of the bridge.
You don’t need a ton of clamping pressure to get a good joint. Just enough to get good compression, and squeeze out any excess glue. Start cleaning up the excess right away by dampening a cloth rag and folding it over the end of a flat screwdriver or similar flat object that can be used to get to the very bottom of the joint where the bridge meets the top. Run the screwdriver/rag combo down the seam of the joint to wipe out the excess glue. This needs to be done several times. Tighten clamps, wipe away excess, repeat. Also, pay attention to any other areas of the bridge where glue will squeeze out. This particular bridge does not have holes cut through for the pins yet, but many do. You will want to remove excess glue from these areas also.
Once the clamps are fairly tight, and all of the excess glue has been removed, leave the bridge clamped up overnight to cure.

Bridge all glued and clamped and resting for the night.
Acoustic Bridge Replacement
Acoustic Bridge Replacement

The next day, I remove the clamps, do any final glue cleanup, and prepare to cut the holes for the string pins, the bridge screw, and the saddle adjustment screws. At this point I tape up a vacuum cleaner hose to suck up some of the dust. This, of course, isn’t necessary, but I hate cleaning, so I try to do it as I go. ;)
I also add some protective tape around the bridge to protect the top.
I start with string pins. The RP287 has holes started, but not all the way through, so I center punch the existing holes and drill them through with an 1/8″ bit. A 3 degree tapered reamer is then used to finish the holes out to get a good fit to the pin. I’ve used a bit of painter’s tape here on the reamer to indicate when to stop for the hole to be the perfect size. This was done on the first hole by trial and error, reaming and then pressing in the pin until a proper fit was achieved.

Then it’s on to the bridge bolt/screw. Some bridges have these, others don’t. There was no provision for one on the replacement bridge, but the original had one, and the customer wanted to have one on the replacement. I had some 1/4″ pearl dot inlays left over from a fretboard project that would work perfectly to cover the new screw.
I simply drilled a 1/8″ hole for the screw, and then counter sunk the hole with a 1/4″ brad point center bit. This will accommodate the screw nicely, and is the perfect size for the inlay.
After installing the screw, I slip the washer and nut on through the soundhole, and tighten it down. Make sure it’s tight, because once the dot is glued in, it will be next to impossible to remove without some damage to the bridge!
The dot inlay is them dropped in place with a drop of super glue to hold it in.

Finally, I drilled a 3/16″ hole at either end of the saddle slot to accommodate the screws for the adjustable saddle.

Reaming the bridge for the string pins.
Bridge Pin Reamer

Drilled, reamed, screwed, and in-layed!
Acoustic Bridge Replacement

Now comes the sanding. Lots and lots of sanding! I start fairly aggressive at 220 grit to get the inlay smoothed out, and then gradually work my way down to 2000 grit. Rosewood has a beautiful finish, and really doesn’t need any treatment other than a good sanding and perhaps some oil, but I usually just sand it down and let the beautiful grain shine through!

Sanded, and ready for strings!
Acoustic Bridge Replacement
Acoustic Bridge Replacement
Acoustic Bridge Replacement

After the bridge is sanded and polished, we’re ready to string it up! I do another test fit of the pins, and seeing they are good, go ahead and start stringing her up.
Since this bridge is adjustable, we can set the action with the adjustment screws. This is really handy. Normally, I would need to file and sand the bottom of the saddle at this point to set the action, but here I just need to adjust the screws like on an electric guitar bridge! I like to aim for about 3/32″ on the bass side, and 5/64″ on the treble side at the 12th fret. Of course, if this bridge weren’t adjustable, I would want to do a final adjustment with the customer playing it to get it to their liking.

After setting the action, and stretching and settling the strings a bit, it’s time to check intonation.
This is done with a good quality tuner, and fretting the open note, the note at the 12th fret, and sounding the 12th fret harmonic of all the strings. All of the notes on a given string should be the same (the 12th fret note and harmonic will of course be an octave higher). If the 12th fret notes are sharp, the string length needs to be lengthened. If they are flat, the string needs to be shortened.
The intonation came out very well in this case thanks to a good bridge placement, and no additional adjustment was required.
If adjustment were required, however, the saddle can be filed on the front or back of where the string breaks over the saddle to adjust it. File the front of the saddle to move the break point farther back to increase the string length, and file the back of the saddle to move the break point forward, and shorten the string length.

With the action and intonation set, it’s time to take a spin on this old girl who’s been given a new lease on life! She plays and sounds awesome, and I can’t wait to see the smile her owner’s face after being able to play her again!

This was a really fun project, and I think it came out really well.

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Ready to make some sweet sounds again!
Acoustic Bridge Replacement
Acoustic Bridge Replacement

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How to Set Up a Floyd Rose-Style Trem

Floyd Rose

How to Set Up a Floyd Rose-Style Tremelo

Repost of Premier Guitar article :

Last week, a client brought in an Ibanez solidbody for a setup. Overall, it was in great condition, but the Edge tremolo was out of adjustment and the action at the locking nut was ridiculously high. My client wanted to perform with the guitar, but it was unplayable in its current condition. At first glance, it looked as if it was going to be a typical setup, but as you’ll see, looks can be deceiving.

The project guitar. The instrument we’re dealing with is a 1987 Steve Vai signature model Ibanez Jem. My client wanted it set up in standard (A-440) tuning with D’Addario EXL120 strings, which are gauged .009–.042. The guitar appeared to have been previously set up (and I use that term loosely) for a .010 set of strings. The action was very high and the tremolo was tilted back against the body (Fig. 1). This guitar is designed to have a “floating” tremolo, which means it should have been level with the body. However, my biggest concern was the locking nut.

Floyd RoseFig. 1: When a Floyd Rose-style tremolo is tilted back against the body—as shown here—you can’t use the system to its full potential.

Locking Nut Pitfalls
There are three common issues I run into with the locking nuts in a Floyd Rose-style tremolo system:

(1) The radius of the locking nut doesn’t match the fretboard radius.
(2) The locking nut sits too high and there are no removable shims.
(3) There are deep grooves in the string blocks caused by overtightening.

When the radius of the locking nut is rounder or flatter than the fretboard, the action will be inconsistent at the nut. When the nut is too curved, the middle strings will ride higher than the two E strings. When the nut is too flat, the middle strings will be low and the E strings will be too high. Make sure you have the correct locking nut for your guitar.

If the entire locking nut assembly is too high—as in this project—you’ll probably have to remove some of the wood under it. Don’t try this unless you have the proper tools and training to do it correctly.

Take great care when you tighten the string blocks at the nut. If you overtighten them, it will ruin the blocks and you might strip the bolts. The blocks just need to be snug. When grooves appear in the blocks, it’s time to replace them. Otherwise, the blocks won’t lock down the strings and can cause them to break.

Preliminary evaluation. The first step in evaluating a guitar’s condition is to tune it to concert pitch and take four primary measurements: action (string height) at the 12th fret, neck relief (or gap between the strings and frets), action at the 1st fret, and intonation.

To measure the action, I place a capo on top of the 1st fret and then use an action gauge (a specialized ruler available from stewmac.com) to measure the string height at the 12th fret. Measuring from the bottom of the string to the top of the fret, the string height was 3/64″ on the 1st string and 5/64″ on the 6th string. The action was way out of balance!

To measure the amount of relief in the neck, I hold down the 6th string at the last fret and measure the greatest distance between the bottom of the 6th string and the top of the frets. The relief was .020″—a little more than necessary.

For string height at the 1st fret, I remove the capo and measure again with the action gauge. At the 1st fret, the 1st string was 2/64″ and the 6th string was just over 3/64″. Again, this is extremely high action at the locking nut. To make this guitar playable, I’d need to slightly tighten the truss rod, float the tremolo, and lower the locking nut.

Adjust the truss rod. With the guitar tuned to concert pitch with .009 gauge strings, I began by adjusting the truss rod (Fig. 2). Tightening the truss rod reduced the relief from .020″ to .012″—the proper amount of relief for my client’s shred-oriented playing style.

Note: On single-action truss rods, clockwise motion tightens the rod, lessening the relief. Counter-clockwise motion loosens the rod, increasing relief. Just think “lefty-loosey, righty-tighty.”

Floyd RoseFig. 2: Adjusting the truss rod to reduce neck relief.

Adjust the trem claw and bridge base. As I mentioned, the Edge tremolo was tilted back against the guitar body. On a Floyd Rose-style system, you can’t use the tremolo to its full potential if the bridge base isn’t level with the body. When properly adjusted, the tremolo should be able to pivot forward and backward.

Using a medium Phillips screwdriver, here’s how I adjust the trem claw to get the bridge base level with the body:

  • Tune to pitch.
  • Check the tremolo to see if it’s tilting back toward the body or lifting up too much away from the body.
  • Inside the trem-string cavity, adjust the two screws holding the claw to the body of the guitar (Fig. 3). Loosen the screws to lift the bridge base away from the body. Conversely, tighten the screws to pull the bridge base back toward the body. Always adjust both screws equally.
  • Retune the guitar and inspect the tremolo to determine if it needs more adjustment. Expect to turn the claw screws and retune repeatedly before you level the bridge base.

After several attempts, I finally got the bridge floating parallel to the body with just enough clearance to pull the tremolo in both directions (Fig. 4).

Floyd RoseFig. 3: Adjusting the trem claw to bring the bridge base level with the guitar body.

Floyd RoseFig. 4: On a correctly adjusted Floyd Rose-style trem, the bridge base is level with the body.

Once this task is complete, adjust the overall bridge height by raising or lowering the two screws located on either side of the base (Fig. 5). The goal is to raise the bridge to have enough clearance to actually use the tremolo. Note: This is a balancing act between the amount of “float” and “height.”

The measurements that matched my client’s playing style were a little lower than on a typical guitar. I set the action at the 12th fret to 2/64″ on the 1st string, graduating to 3/64″ on the 6th. This was a comfortable action that worked perfectly for my client’s preferred .009 set of strings.

Floyd RoseFig. 5: Adjust bridge height by raising or lowering the two screws located on either side of the bridge assembly.

Adjust the action at the nut. When the action is too high at the nut, the strings will pull sharp when you fret them. And, of course, the guitar is tough to play—we don’t want that.

As we know from the preliminary evaluation, the string height at the 1st fret was extremely high on this Jem. Usually, you can lower the locking nut by removing it and taking out small metal shims.

But when I took off the strings and removed the locking nut (Fig. 6), there weren’t any shims. This is one of those little “surprises” you’ll run into from time to time working on guitars.

Floyd RoseFig. 6: To remove the locking nut, take off the strings and then undo these two screws.

Instead of shims under the locking nut, I found a big glob of paint (Fig. 7). This raised the locking nut, so it had to be removed. When a locking nut is jacked up too high, the best way to deal with the problem is to measure the depth of the rosewood slab that’s under the locking nut to determine if you can remove any wood without compromising the structural integrity of the neck.

Caution! If the action at the locking nut is too high, consult a qualified luthier or guitar tech before attempting to sand the neck.

Floyd RoseFig. 7: The paint glob under the locking nut acted like a shim.

Fortunately, the slab was thick enough that I could safely remove both the paint and some rosewood to lower the locking nut. I sanded off the paint and then about 1/64″ of wood (Fig. 8) and reinstalled the locking nut.

Floyd RoseFig. 8: Sanding off the paint and 1/64″ of wood lowered the locking nut and improved the guitar’s playability and intonation.

After tuning the guitar to pitch, I again measured the action at the 1st fret. It had 1/64″ clearance at the 1st string and 2/64″ at the 6th string. This is perfect action for the string nut—just high enough to prevent open strings from rattling on the 1st fret, but low enough to keep the strings from pulling sharp when fretted.

Next, I adjusted the string retainer behind the locking nut (Fig. 9). Here, the goal is to lower the retainer just enough that the strings don’t change pitch when you tighten the string blocks (Fig. 10).

Floyd RoseFig. 9: Adjusting the string retainer.

Floyd RoseFig. 10: The string retainer should provide just enough downward tension that the strings don’t change pitch when you tighten the string blocks.

Adjust the intonation. Adjusting the intonation is the final step in setting up a guitar. I’ve covered this process in detail in “DIY: How to Set Up a Fender Stratocaster.” Here’s a summary: Intonating a guitar involves adjusting the length of each string so the instrument will play in tune. I use a strobe tuner for this. First, install new strings and tune the 12th-fret harmonic on each string to pitch. Then, fret each string at the 12th fret and compare it to the 12th-fret harmonic, which is the reference. If the fretted note is sharp, move the saddle away from the neck. If the fretted note is flat, move the saddle toward the neck.

Some tips: Remember to always retune after every adjustment. Also make sure you strike the string as you would when playing. In other words, if you normally strike the string lightly, then use the same technique when tuning and checking the intonation.

On this guitar, some of the strings fretted sharp and others flat—the variation was between 5 cents flat to 8 cents sharp (a cent is 100th of a half-step). No wonder this Jem wouldn’t play in tune. Most locking tremolo systems, including the Edge tremolo, require a hex key to loosen the bolt that holds the bridge saddle in place. After you move the saddle to the correct location, tighten the bolt, retune, and check the intonation for that string. Take your time—it’s important to get this right.

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Capo on the fly – DIY makeshift capo

Capo-6

Do it yourself makeshift capo

So you’re at practice, or worse yet, at a packed gig, and you get to that song. The song the singer can’t sing unless you capo at the fifth fret. You reach into your case for your trusty Kyser, Dunlop, or Shubb….and it’s gone! You know it was in there yesterday! Now what do you do??

Or maybe you finally found tab for that awesome song the cute girl in gym class likes. You’re going to learn it so you can serenade her in the parking lot – only to find out that the song requires a capo at the third fret, and you don’t have one. After you’ve broken most of your strings trying to tune your guitar up a step and a half, you figure you better buy a capo. But, you don’t have enough money for strings and a capo, so what do you do now?

Well, never fear forgetful and cash strapped guitarists! Right here we have a dead simple way of making a capo that will do in a pinch, with items you can easily find in your home, or school, or local watering hole.

First, let’s gather up the supplies we will need. The first thing will be something straight, fairly sturdy, and wider than the neck of your guitar by a couple inches or so. I like to use a pencil, but you can grab whatever works… a pen, lighter, popsicle stick, nail file, sharpie, tuning fork, half of a clothesline clip, one of your drummer’s broken sticks… whatever you have handy!

Capo-1

Second, we need something with some elasticity to hold your pencil (or pen, or drumstick) onto the fretboard of your guitar. Rubber bands are perfect for this, but I have used hair ties, sweatbands, even elastic out of old clothing before… just remember it has to be able to firmly hold your rigid device on the fretboard with a bit of pressure, so it has to have decent elasticity!

Capo-2

Now, you’re ready to assemble your DIY capo! You simply loop one end of your elastic material around one end of your rigid device.

Capo-3

Then,  place your rigid device at the correct fret.

Capo-4

Now, wrap your elastic material around the other end until it’s tight enough to put sufficient pressure on the strings to act like a capo.

Capo-5

Capo-6

You may have to double up your elastic device to get enough pressure, or put several wraps on one end of your rigid device. You also may have to ’tilt’ your makeshift capo to get a good sound. The ’tilting’ is similar to the movements sometimes necessary with any capo. This is required more on low radius fretboards than on flatter fretboards.  The more curved your fretboard is, you may want to use a rigid device with a little more flexibility, such as a plastic pen. Something that can bend slightly and more easily conform to the curve of the board.

Capo-7

And there you have it! A down-and-dirty, super easy, silly cheap, on-the-spot, do-it-yourself capo that will surely get you out of a pinch. It will get you through that practice or gig, and impress that cute girl (or guy) from gym class!

So, what say you? Have you ever used this technique? Let us know below! We’d love to hear what you used, or what situation it got you out of!

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Metal Method Videos from 1988 Making Nostalgic Return

Metal Method

Metal Method Videos from 1988 Making Nostalgic Return

This article originally appeared at Guitar World.

Since 1982, Doug Marks has been helping guitarists learn the ins and outs of metal guitar playing with his Metal Method instruction videos.

What started out as a supplement to help Marks achieve his dream of taking on the metal world with his own band quickly became one of the most enduring and successful mail-order guitar lesson courses in history.

From its origins on audio cassette tapes, Marks’ Metal Method developed into a video series that has been updated several times over the years.

For those who are nostalgic for the original videos (and Eighties hairstyles), Marks has begun uploading them to YouTube. On August 16, he uploaded “Metal Tricks,” one of the six original programs from the Complete Basic Course. He plans to upload the rest of the programs from 1988 at his Metal Method site later this week. Check the site for the updates.

And enjoy this blast from the past!

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Guitar Strength: Seven Habits That Will Make You a Better Guitarist

Seven Habits

Seven Habits That Will Make You a Better Guitarist

Like the headline says, here are seven habits — habits you’ll need to get into — that will, simply put, make you a better guitarist.

01. Visualize: You don’t just have to practice when there’s a guitar in your hands. There’s plenty of time in the day being wasted that you can use to improve your playing. Whenever you have a spare few seconds to daydream or are zoning out in class or at a meeting or waiting in line at the DMV, etc., use the time to go inside your mind’s eye and ears and visualize yourself perfectly executing the lick, riff or song you’ve been working on.

See and hear yourself playing the part with an expert ease, gliding as one with the strings, “virtually” feeling your fingers and your pick in precise synchronization. Repeat this whenever you can and you’ll find you’re better than you were before the last time you picked up the guitar and that the experience of the real guitar in your hands is enriched for the process.

An added bonus of this is that when you get better at connecting the disparate experiences of the imagined and the real, you’ll find that the accuracy of translating what you hear in your head through your fingers to the fretboard will significantly improve, as will your ability to transcribe things you hear while away from your guitar (if nothing else, you’ll be floored at how realistic your air guitar playing will be!).

02. Learn Something New Every Day: This is one of the easiest things you can do to enrich your guitar playing, musicianship and, most importantly, your discipline and motivation. Simply put, find one guitar-related thing a day that you didn’t know already and learn it. And play it. It can be a riff, a lick, a chord, a scale, an exercise, a song, a melody, an altered tuning, a strum pattern, the part of a song you know all of the cool riffs of but never bothered to learn the “boring” connecting transition sections of, whatever.

The discipline of seeking out, playing and internalizing a new piece of guitar knowledge on a daily basis will feed your subconscious musical instincts, add new concepts to your muscle memory and ultimately aid in your ability to express yourself and perform effortlessly on the guitar.

Make this a part of your day and you’ll find that as you continue on your journey, one thing will become two, then three, and on and on until you are devouring as much as you can absorb on the guitar, every day!

03. Jam! While it’s awesome to have perfected that ripping 128th note shredfest in your bedroom or basement, perhaps the most important thing for a guitarist to do is to play along with or to some sort of accompaniment.

Obviously, playing with another live musician or group of musicians in the same room is the perfect situation (And you should put yourself in those situations as often as possible), but there are many alternatives that can be just as beneficial. Today we have innumerable options, such as virtual backing bands and tracks through the Internet, computer programs such as EZ Drummer (highly recommended for its ease of use and versatility) or Garageband loops, plus apps on our phones that can act as stable backdrops against which we can hone our performance skills.

Playing with accompaniment such as this will greatly improve your consistency, your endurance, your improvisational ability and your feel for locking into a groove.

As another fun and educational option, jam along with your favorite songs. You can play along with the song note-for-note as written and improve your chops by executing the nuances and fitting in seamlessly with the rhythm, or you can use the track as a launch pad for exercising your improvisational muscles and integrating the licks you have been practicing. Play along with songs outside of your comfort zone of style or technicality to gain further benefits from this. Jamming along with TV, commercials or movie soundtracks while you’re relaxing with a guitar in your hands can be fun and rewarding.

04. Record Yourself: There is no better way to see your guitar playing objectively and to motivate yourself to work to become a better player than to record yourself. There are countless affordable media for recording yourself on your own, and when you record, you can listen to yourself with fresh ears and hear the things you like and dislike about your playing. You’ll find it’s infinitely easier to pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses and focus your practice accordingly.

Record yourself playing rhythm and then record other complimentary parts such as leads, melodies, counterpoints and complimentary alternate rhythms and you’ll learn about composition, production and ensemble performance. When you begin to focus on these complimentary parts, you’ll find that your vision and scope expands, as do your goals, and as you work to create complete songs, your abilities grow exponentially while you work to write and perform to the best of your ability.

The other benefit of recording yourself is that you will consistently maintain a record of your growth as a player. The journey of a guitarist is always (or should be) one of constant growth, and recording yourself is an awesome way to measure how far you have come.

05. Take Lessons: As a guitar instructor by trade, I am clearly biased, but the most obvious and productive thing any guitarist can do to improve their playing is to take lessons. While there is an ever-expanding universe of Internet resources, books, instructional videos, etc., available, nothing can compare to the one-on-one interaction with the expertise of a skilled guitar teacher. A teacher will identify your strengths and weaknesses, sharpening your skills and eliminating your flaws. A good teacher also will help you save time in your development by helping you sift through all of the information out there and lead you on the right path toward quickly realizing your goals as a guitarist.

Guitar teachers get paid to make you better, and spending the money will make you take your study seriously. Every story of a “self taught” guitarist still involves some part where they learned a lot from someone they knew who was more proficient and knowledgeable than them who helped shape their development, and even the extremely educated and virtuosic Randy Rhoads (who was a guitar teacher himself) was known to seek out guitar teachers whenever he had available time while making history touring and recording with Ozzy Osbourne, so break out of your rut, accelerate the evolution of your playing to the next level and get some lessons!

06. Focus your practice time: We’ve all heard stories of guitarists with marathon 12-hour or daily three-hour practice sessions, but for most guitarists, a tight, focused 10 to 30 minutes of consistent daily practice will prove more efficient. There is a difference in “practice” and “playing” time, and oftentimes the two get confused.

Practice should involve (after warming up) maintenance exercises to keep up your chops and emphasize your strengths, and focused work on specific goals that deal with integrating new knowledge and technique. Keeping the time spent on practice to an intelligent minimum, breaking up the topics to be addressed into small chunks, will help avoid wasted effort and will leave time to play.

In an ideal world, we’d all have three to six or more solid hours each day to spend with a guitar in hand, but for most of you reading this, the time you have available is substantially less. Oftentimes, setting out to practice for an extended period of time becomes a chore for some, and then the practice gets put off if something else comes up. Planning for at least 10 minutes of consistent daily practice time isn’t much of a chore for anyone, and if you get into the habit, you’ll find that you find ways to make more time to practice more.

Break up your practice regimen into skill sets and techniques, practice them daily, and then use them more efficiently when you’re playing. Let a guitar teacher mentor you through the process of designing a suitable practice routine for your schedule, or do your best assessing yourself and create your own. They key is consistency and brief, yet physically and mentally intense sessions.

Twenty minutes every day of truly focused practice is tremendously more conducive to development than a two-hour session every once in a while. And if you keep up with a reasonable, steady schedule, you’ll find that those occasions when you have time for an all-day practice session are all the more fruitful for it.

More importantly, keeping a consistent, intense practice regimen will leave all of your other free “guitar time” available for jamming, improvising, recording and experimenting, all of the while being able to do so with your skills at the highest possible level.

07. Track Your Progress: The growth of any guitarist can be greatly improved by the simple awareness of the development of that growth. As you develop the discipline to be learning and practicing on a daily basis, it is extremely important to keep a log or diary of the process of your improvement in order to further maximize growth. The easiest way to do this is to keep a consistent log of your daily routine.

While this may seem a bit obsessive, you’ll find that keeping track of your daily practice will help you focus future practice sessions, maintain and continue awareness of steady progress, and also locate particularly fruitful practice phases in your past that can be replicated and upgraded when you feel your growth has stalled.

Create your own daily “workout log” or click, save and use the example below:

Workout Log

Scott Marano has dedicated his life to the study of the guitar, honing his chops at the Berklee College of Music under the tutelage of Jon Finn and Joe Stump and working as an accomplished guitarist, performer, songwriter and in-demand instructor. In 2007, Scott developed the Guitar Strength program to inspire and provide accelerated education to guitarists of all ages and in all styles through state-of-the-art private guitar lessons in his home state of Rhode Island and globally via Skype. Visit Scott and learn more at www.GuitarStrength.com.

The preceding is a repost of a Guitar World article.

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The DIY Musician: How to Build a 2×4 DIY Lap Steel Guitar

DIY Lap Steel Guitar

The DIY Musician: How to Build a 2×4 DIY Lap Steel Guitar in less than a couple hours!

The following is a repost of a Guitar World article by Shane Speal:

This is one of the easiest homemade guitars I’ve ever built, and it took me only an hour to make.

This lap steel was made from an extra 2×4 I had in my shed, with just a few saw cuts to the wood. I even used a pre-wired acoustic sound hole pickup, so there was no wiring needed. Anybody can build this lap steel guitar!

The lap steel plays great, too. It’s set up with a standard 23-inch scale, just like the store bought-lap steels! The whole thing feels great on your lap and looks absurdly cool.

Here’s a quick video (below). As you can tell, I’m still learning how to play this properly.

These plans will give you a very basic, yet absolutely playable lap steel. It might look like a lot of steps, but trust me, this instrument is easy to build. You are basically just marking down a few lines, making a couple cuts to the 2×4 and installing simple hardware.

This is my first prototype 2×4 lap steel. I have a second one on the shop table right now. Look for a followup column on installing better pickups and adding some cool “hobo” mods.

Parts needed

• 32” section of 2×4 pine lumber. (Note: Due to harmful chemicals, do not use pressure-treated lumber!)
• Two (2) 1/2” diameter allthread rods, 3.5” long (Allthread rods are like bolts without a head. You can find these at hardware stores. I found a box of them at a flea market.)
• One pack of guitar tuners, three-to-a-side (such as this $8.29 pack of tuners)
• Pre-wired acoustic soundhole pickup (such as the $13.49 Gold Foil pickup here)
• One pack of medium-gauge electric guitar strings.

Tools needed

• Electric drill + two drill bits: 3/32” and 5/16”
• Table saw or circular saw
• Small screwdriver.

Directions

01. Cut a standard pine 2×4 into a 32” length.

DIY Lap Steel Guitar

02. Cut out the headstock: Turn the 2×4 on its side and mark a vertical line 4” from the left end. Mark a horizontal line 5/8” from the top (as pictured). Cut away the bottom portion in the headstock area (shaded are in the picture). I used a dado blade on my table saw. You can also do the same thing by running the saw in multiple passes over the shaded area and then using a chisel to remove any extra wood chips. (Still unsure? Here’s a link to a quick tutorial.)

DIY Lap Steel Guitar

03. Optional: I smoothed out the underside of the headstock on my belt sander. It also provided a little heel curve.

04. Drill tuner holes: Mark your tuner holes on the underside of the headstock. I went in about 5/8” in on each side and spaced the tuners roughly an inch apart. Use a 5/8” drill bit to drill the tuner holes.

DIY Lap Steel Guitar

05. Turn the 2×4 back over and the following marks on the board, starting from the butt end and going up toward the headstock:
a) 1.5” (this will be our through-body string feed)
b) 3” (bridge location)
c) 4.5” (pickup cavity)
d) 6” (pickup cavity)
e) 26” (nut location)

06. Cut out the pickup cavity: Notch out the wood between the 4 ½” and 6” line. Go about ¾” deep. Use the same dado technique as above with the headstock.

DIY Lap Steel Guitar

07. Drill the string feed holes. Use a 3/32 drill bit to drill six holes for the strings to feed through the body. Quite honestly, I eyeballed these holes. The rough measurements from left to right are: 3/4”, 1 1/8”, 1 ½”, 2”, 2 ½”, 2 ¾”

DIY Lap Steel Guitar

08. Mark your fret guides: Measure out the frets by starting at the 26” nut location and making pencil marks for each fret location. Then use a contractor’s square to draw the fret lines. (I used a Sharpie for some quick and dirty fret lines. You also can paint or woodburn them if you want.)

DIY Lap Steel Guitar

Fret markers*:

1 1.29”
2 2.50”
3 3.65”
4 4.74”
5 5.76”
6 6.73”
7 7.64”
8 8.51”
9 9.32”
10 10.0”
11 10.8”
12 11.5”
13 12.1”
14 12.7”
15 13.3”
16 13.8”
17 14.3”
18 14.8”
19 15.3”
20 15.7”
21 16.1”
22 16.5”
23 16.9”
24 17.2”
25 17.5”
26 17.8”
27 18.1”
28 18.4”

09. Optional: Carve grooves for bridge and nut. Use a wood rasp to notch grooves at the 3” mark and the 26” mark. These grooves will keep the allthread bolts from moving. (You can see these grooves in the picture at Step 13.)

10. Install the tuners and bushings at the headstock. For tips, see this video.

DIY Lap Steel Guitar

11. Install the pickup. Depending on the pickup you choose, installing could be one of many different ways. As you can see, I just bent the cheap mounting tabs down on my pickup and shoved a couple screws into them to mount to the guitar. My pickup cavity was too deep, so I put a little bit of cardboard to raise it up. Ideally, you want the pickup to rest approx. ¼” away from the strings.

DIY Lap Steel Guitar

12. String up the lap steel, but leave the strings slackened. If the strings start to pull through the soft pine wood, place a small nail through the ball loop of the string to keep it anchored.

13. Carefully wedge the allthread bolts into the 3” and 26” marks. These will act as your nut and bridge.

DIY Lap Steel Guitar

14. Space the strings evenly over the pickup, using the threads on the nut and bridge bolts as your string slots.

15. Tune the guitar. Try an open D chord to start (D, A, D, F#, A, D, low to high).

16. Optional: If the strings keep pulling out of the threads on the nut, use simple roundhead wood screws to act as string trees. Simply slacken the offending string, position the screw beside the string (so the screw head holds the string down) and insert it just deep enough to provide tension on the string.

DIY Lap Steel Guitar

17. Crank it up! Use your choice of slide or just grab a beer bottle and go. In the video at the top of this story, I’m using a deep well socket!

NOTES: If you can’t find allthread rods to serve as bridge and nut, try other bolts, pipe pieces with notches cut into them or sections of ham bones.

Please spread the word and share this story on Facebook! Wanna build more? Read my story, How to Make a Mailbox Dobro.

*I used the Stewart MacDonald fret calculator for these measurements. (Thanks, StewMac!) They have been rounded off to the nearest hundredth.

Shane Speal is the “King of the Cigar Box Guitar” and the creator of the modern cigar box guitar movement. Hear the music, see the instruments and read about his Cigar Box Guitar Museum at ShaneSpeal.com. Speal’s latest album, Holler! is on C. B. Gitty Records.