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Just a few questions

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Trusted Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 47
Topic starter  

Hello everyone. I would like to first Introduce myself and thank anyone who takes the time to read this enormous post.
My name is Jim, and I've been playing the guitar on and off for going on 15 years now.
I play both the electric and acoustic guitar, and looking forward to trying my hand at classical guitar someday. All that aside though, I'm going to go ahead and get to the questions.

In my many years of playing, I have never taken the time thoroughly clean any of my guitars, or do anything special to protect them. To be completely honest, I've only started playing seriously in the past year. Once again, onto the questions.

I'm having problems with tuning on two of my guitars.
On my acoustic, when tuned perfectly, the guitar sounds just fine up to the 4th fret. Beyond that, the 1st-3rd strings go ever so slightly flat and continue to become more flat with each higher fret. To my ear, a 12th fret high E sounds slightly more than a half step flat.
The problem is lessened on the 2nd and 3rd strings and is virtually nonexistant on the 4th string and beyond.
Based on my research, this is not the product of a bowed neck (I'm not very educated in that area either though) but possibly either the intonation or a twisted neck. Feel free to prove me wrong. :)
I would just like to know if there is any hope of repairing this, or if I should just replace the guitar? I only paid $125 for the guitar, so it is not a big loss if I do have to result to replacement. Like anyone else though, I would like to find a solution (if possible) to the problem before jumping the gun and buying a new guitar altogether.

The problem I have with my electric guitar is practically the exact opposite for the most part.
Fretted notes may or may not be a little off. If they are, it's not bad enough that I can hear consistently. Playing open, or barre chords produce a very ugly sound though. I suspect that it could be 1 of 2 problems. I bowed/twisted neck, or once again bad intonation.
This one is also a cheap guitar (Harmony Electric) but has an unmeasurable ammount of sentimental value. It belonged to a family member who is very near and dear to me, and has since passed on.
My question is. Is this repairable? I've done what I can in my limited knowledge of guitar care to keep this axe in good playing condition but inevitably it has taken a turn for the worst.

The rest of these are just general guitar questions.

I've been told that leaning a guitar against say..a wall, or anything that isn't meant to hold a guitar is bad. Is this true? What kind of potential damage will this cause?

I usually clean my guitars between each change of strings(Usually every 2-3 months). I use a soft, cotton cloth dampened only with water. I've been told that this is bad also. Was I mislead?
What kind of potential damage can water do to a guitar?

I know generally that drastic temperatures can be devastating to a guitar.
My house is usually between 65-75 degrees at any given time, depending on the weather. Cooler in the summer, warmer in the winter. What is the safe temp range to keep guitars in good condition? I am willing to change my heating/cooling lifestyle if necessary.

I've never bothered getting one, but have read hear and there, and have been told that having a humidifier is a must for acoustic guitars. Does this also apply to electric guitars as well?
Is it absolutely necessary, or is there variables that may or may not change the need? I.E. A humid home, compaired to a dry and dusty home.

I've heard of many different types of fretboard conditioning products. Lemon oil, olive oil, Fast-fret, finger-ease, etc. From your experiences, which of these have shown the best results? How often should they be applied? Are some fit to certain style of guitarists, or are they just all around products to increase life and playability?

I've heard that a simple change in the gauge of strings used can fix small imperfections in a guitar neck. I've never tried this myself though. In my long experience, I am most comfortable with 0.10's. .09's are too flimsy and the tone is too thin and crispy. .11's are not so much uncomfortable but the tone isn't to my liking unless I'm playing more bluesy stuff.
This is probably a matter of personal opinion, but would it just be better to fix these small imperfections by adjusting the truss rod?

I'm a novice when it comes to repairing a guitar obviously, so what precautions should I take before messing with things like intonation and truss rod adjustment? I really want to know my guitars better, but I don't want to risk damaging or completely destroying them in the process? What kind of measures can I take to optimize my chances at safely repairing such problems, and experimenting in general?

I've always been excited at the thought of becoming a luthier, yet I do not have the slightest idea where to begin the learning process. Are there any schools or institutes that provides this type of training?

Last but not least. I whole heartedly apoligize that this post has become so large.
I thank any and all of you that have read it all.
Keep in mind that I don't expect any one person to be able to answer all of these questions, but all in all, I want to discuss all these issues at hand, and possibly provide a learning experience for anyone who reads this. (Especially myself :lol: )

Thanks to all of you for your answers and/or replies.


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Famed Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 4113

Welcome to GN

seek out a shop in your area that does set-ups and confer with the luthier as to your options on the acoustic.
the electric sounds as if it could use a good going over as well.
if you are game setting up your electric yourself can be very educational and rewarding (not to mention saving a few bucks)
check out for info on DIY

Oh and btw visit our "meet & greet" forum and introduce yourself.


Noble Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 2171

For setup stuff I always go to a luthier that I trust. Ask around to find out who is good in your area.

For your general questions:

Cleaning a guitar with water and a damp (not wet) cotton cloth is perfectly ok, and is in fact the preferred way to clean a guitar.

A humidifier is essential for any guitar you care about if you're running a heater. With no heater running, base it on the room humidity.

Instrument stands are important if for no other reason than to avoid having your instrument fall over and break. But they also hold the guitar correctly and avoid putting pressure on the neck that could cause the instrument to twist or bend.

Temp ranges of 40-100 and beyond are ok for guitars. Drastic temperature changes are really bad, as is being overly humid or overly dry. Too humid is very rare in the USA, and too dry is the most common problem faced by guitar owners.

For the fretboard avoid any product that has additives. I like olive oil, it's cheap and I always have some around. Apply it once a year or so when you're doing a string change. More won't hurt, but it won't really do much to help either, unless you're guitar is being kept in too dry an environment.

When "messing with intonation and truss rod adjustment" realize that small changes of less than a quarter turn can really have an impact. Let the guitar sit a bit and really look at the neck to see what changes you've made have done. Also, know which way is tightening and which way is loosening and don't get them mixed up!

Yes there are schools for becoming a luthier, but you can learn quite a bit by working on inexpensive guitars. Pick up Dan Erlewine's Guitar Player Repair Guide: How to Set-Up, Maintain, and Repair Electrics and Acoustics

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." -- HST

Honorable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 518

Everything that kingpatzer said!

By the way, give yourself an attaboy, you probably do a better job than most beginners. (and some not so beginners)

don't shortchange the Harmony, some of them have their own quirky charm!

It does sound like intonation problems, nothing that can't be fixed. When you do get a better instrument, keep the old ones and use them to learn how to do it yourself, it can be very rewarding.

When I die, I want to go peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather, not screaming......
like the passengers in his car.

Illustrious Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 6348

you are fine.
water is (damp) is perfect.
I dont use fretboard conditiioners. my guitars are fine.
10's are better than 9's.

you need to:
change your strings more often
clean your guitars more often
get a guitar stand.

that's all.
and welcome. :)

Trusted Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 47
Topic starter  

First of all I'd like to say "wow". So many replies so fast, and so much information and good advice.

Very soon I will be making my way to the local guitar shop (which is a 45 minute drive at the least :lol: )

I will be buying a guitar stand. Assorted hex/allen wrenches for the adjustments.

I'm also going to play it very safe and put a mark on anything that I change, so that I'll be able to at the least return it to it's former position, and ofcourse to keep track of what I've done.
I'll probably pick up some olive oil at the grocery store. Is there any preferred place to get it, or will any olive oil work?

I've been keeping the room that houses my guitars a steady 70 degrees and I'm going to let them sit in this temperature for a few days to make sure the wood is settled before making any adjustments. Just to be on the safe side. I don't know if this will have a major effect but I want to play it safe.

I'm going to assume that with turning anything that "righty is tighty and lefty is loosey" but there's a chance that I'm wrong, so someone can confirm this?

I've been using just normal cotton clothes for wiping dust and cleaning my guitars.
Would a different type of cloth work better than another? Compairing a shimmy cloth to a wash cloth is an example, or is this just fine?

As far as the frets go, between string changings, I use a sewing needle and very carefully remove any finger gunk from them. I make sure not to scratch the wood, or the fret itsself by applying just enough pressure to remove the gunk.
Is this fine or should I go about using a different method?

I'm going to cut this post short now because I've already went on too long and I have to be excused to tidy up my house.
Thanks again for your advice everyone and I will definately do what I can to contribute to the community. My short stay has already been very enjoyable and very informational.

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Honorable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 518

I use just plain flannel for cleaning, a broken pick to clean around the frets, (if you keep the fretboard clean between string changes you won't have to do this very often), righty tighty, lefty loosey for most truss rods, and if it doesn't want to move, don't force it!

Do what you plan and you will not have to use the universal adjustment tool. (a large hammer) :twisted:

When I die, I want to go peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather, not screaming......
like the passengers in his car.