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Guitar Guru: Troubleshooting Unwanted Sounds on Acoustic Guitar

By Dana Bourgeois |This article originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine and was reprinted in the September/October 2020 issue. Q: My 1983 Martin HD-28 has a buzzing or rattling high E string. The rest of the strings sound great. A local fellow worked on the frets and smoothed them…

guitar tops

Ask the Expert: Is It “Right” to Experiment?

Q: What do you feel are the “right” areas to try to improve upon the classic styles? What areas of design must remain true to vintage originals in order to preserve integrity, and what areas have wiggle room for experimentation? On a more personal note, do you still feel challenged…

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guitar glue

Ask the Expert: Do Bonding Agents Affect a Guitar’s Sound?

Q: Why is hot hide glue preferred by some luthiers, while others use synthetic glues, and what are its advantages and disadvantages? —Doug MacKenzie, Cary, North Carolina A: Hide glue, animal glue, and protein colloid glue are names for adhesives made from the connective tissues of various animals. Used by woodworkers…

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wood grain

Ask the Expert: How Much Does Grain Orientation Matter?

Differences between riftsawn, quartersawn, and flatsawn wood can be significant. Stiffness-to-weight ratio, highest when boards are perfectly riftsawn, drops noticeably when a top is cut even slightly different. Velocity of sound—the ability to vibrate efficiently—corresponds closely with stiffness-to-weight ratio.

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binding guitar

Ask the Expert: How Do I Determine the Value of a High-End Guitar?

Q: What exactly is the difference between a “handmade” and a “handcrafted” guitar? Furthermore, in the high-end market, what qualities should a player (not a collector) look for when evaluating the differences between, for example, a $3,500 guitar and a $7,500-plus guitar? —Dan Liechty, Normal, Illinois A: A quick Google…

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western red cedar guitar

Ask the Expert: Can a Soft Top Wood Last as Long as Spruce?

Perhaps because of their lighter weight, cedar and redwood tops tend to “open up,” or break in, relatively quickly. However, unless the builder pays adequate attention to longitudinal stability, cedar and redwood tops sometimes open up beyond a point that many players consider optimal, losing low-end definition as the guitar continues to be played.

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acoustic guitar neck

Ask the Expert: Should I Reset the Neck on My Vintage Guitar?

Guitars sound best when string load and top resistance are in relative balance. An underloaded top cannot drive enough air to achieve optimum volume, power, and presence; an overloaded top is unable to generate higher overtones and lacks sustain. One key to optimizing the mechanical efficiency of an individual top is knowing, with some precision, how it wants to be loaded.

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audio glitch

Ask the Expert: What Causes Random Intonation Glitches?

Q: Using an electronic tuner, I can verify that when my open strings are in tune, my fretted octaves are accurate or nearly accurate. Individual notes of certain chords, however, can be very out of tune, and capoing in some positions requires retuning. I’ve noticed that all guitars, even electrics…

close up of a Gibson guitar bridge

The Importance of a Strong Bridge Glue Joint

I play a Gibson LG-0 that my mother handed down to me—she got it as a teenager in the ’60s. It’s a great guitar and in pretty killer shape considering all it’s seen. A few months ago, I noticed that the bridge was pulling up. (I can get a piece…

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adjusting the bridge height on an acoustic guitar

DIY Maintenance: How to Adjust String Height at the Bridge

Every guitar needs regular maintenance, and at some point, no matter how careful you are with your instrument, it’s bound to need some kind of repair. If, say, your old campfire guitar isn’t fun to play anymore because the action (the distance between your strings and the fingerboard) is too…