David Lamkins picked up his first guitar a long time ago. As best he can recall the year was 1967: the year of the Summer of Love. Four decades later David has conjured up an amalgam of folk, rock and jazz solo guitar music for the occasional intimate Portland audience.
LCW on Bandcamp
location: Portland, OR USA

Facets: guitars, set-up, strings, @musings info

More Tone Secrets

Doing my own setup is important. I learned how to do this when I was a kid (in the late 1960s) and there weren't any techs or luthiers to whom I could bring my guitar for adjustments. (Not that I could have afforded to, anyway...) I think every guitarist should develop the very basic skills needed to adjust neck relief (and neck angle on bolt-ons), bridge height, intonation, pickup height, etc. I'm amazed at the number of people I see bringing their guitars to a shop to have basic adjustments done.

If you're well-heeled and don't want to risk screwing up your umpty-thousand dollar showpiece with your freshman attempts at guitar tech'ry, spend a hundred bucks or so on a cheap, no-name beater that feels good in your hands, then learn how to set it up so it plays really well. You may be surprised at how far you can get...

String gauges are important not only for playability, but also for tone. It's "common knowledge" that meatier strings sound fuller. Most people respond to that by playing the heaviest standard set their hands can stand.

I find that standard string sets have far too much bass response, which forces me adjust my picking intensity as I move from lower to higher strings, or vice versa. I choose gauges to help balance the guitar's output. My lower three strings are about one standard gauge lighter than my upper three. In other words, I string my guitars with gauges that are pretty close to being a standard set of 9s on the lower three, and 10s on the upper three.

I also drop the bass side of both pickups to help even out the bass/treble response.

A wound G sounds better (less "clanky"), more so as you move to heavier strings. Ease of bending will suffer, especially if you like doing bends of a full step or more. To me, the improved tone is worth the cost.

More and more I'm picking with just my fingers rather than using a pick. This gives me much better control over dynamics.

Fresh strings! After about 20 hours of playing on a set of strings, I start noticing that the intonation is a bit off. My body chemistry doesn't corrode strings, and I keep my hands and strings clean. That loss of intonation is almost entirely from wear and metal fatigue.

January 25 2004 22:16:16 GMT