Stay in Tune vol#64
By Luthier Patrick Podpadec
A lot of interesting things have developed in the past few weeks for me at Wood-n-Strings. I had a good friend who happens to be a nationally touring musician named David Francey. David and his guitar player Mark Westberg took one of my guitars on a short leg of their tour with them to play it and show it off for me. It was an honor to have musicians of their caliber playing and commenting very nicely about my work and craftsmanship.
For those of you who are not aware of David Francey's music, I highly recommend that you take a listen to his songs at http://www.davidfrancey.com He is one of Canada's best singer/songwriters of our modern age. With 3 Juno awards and currently nominated for his 5th one, he makes you feel his every word with is wonderful Scottish brogue. Few writers can do what David does. He seems to strip away all of the unnecessary nuances and delivers only the essential words, notes and feelings that leaves you with all that you need. He does it with such simplicity. I had the opportunity to go up to Ann Arbor Michigan (a very nice little college town with a great music scene) to see him perform and also to pick up my guitar that was on loan to him. It was great to see and hear one of my guitars being played by Mr. Mark Westberg and David Francey in such an intimate setting. They played at a very nice venue called the “Ark”. It seats about 400 people . There wasn't quite that many people there that night (it was a Sunday Eve), but it was very intimate and the sound was terrific. Just the way I and the rest of the crowd liked it!. A big Thank You! goes out to the both of them.
On to what's been stewing in the shop. This past few weeks have been non stop setup after setup. This is the type of work that I really enjoy. It gives me the chance to show the customers how much better their instruments can play after being adjusted properly. The procedure is always the same. I start of with a thorough inspection to insure there is no hidden problems . I check inside with a light and mirror to make sure that the internal bracing is intact. After the interior inspection I start at the headstock and work my way down. The check list goes like this. 1). inspect tuners and tighten any loose screws or bushing nuts so they don't potentially rattle under various tonal vibrations. 2) Check the nut for any cracks or defects. Often the string slots are either too tight or too loose or possibly too deep which can cause the strings to buzz on the first fret. 3) Moving down to the fingerboard I inspect the wear on the frets and the fingerboard itself. Often there is fairly large divots present in the wood of the fingerboard from a consistent chord being played in that position. This usually isn't as big of a problem as would be the dent or divot that is left on the adjoining fret itself. This is why it is my theory that all instruments that come into my shop for a “Setup” should have a fret leveling and re crowning so that I know that there will be no buzzes do to unlevel frets or flat spots in them to deter proper playing. Without this fret leveling and “crowning” it is impossible (in my opinion) to properly adjust all of the other steps that need to be addressed through the setup procedure. (Note* This fret leveling and crowning procedure should notbe attempted unless you have a thorough understanding and some serious experience of the process. You can do some irreversible damage to the instrument.) 4) Moving to the bridge, I make sure that it is glued tightly to the body and then inspect the saddle. This where I can adjust some of the string height . It is a common misconception that you can adjust “all” of the string height at the saddle. This is not the case. Each instrument needs to be properly adjusted at least three areas. This starts at the nut slots being set at the correct depth, the tension on the truss rod needs to be set properly set and then finally the saddle can be raised or lowered for the proper height and intonation relative to the type of string gauge that the player prefers. If this sound intimidating, that's because it is! I have spent over 30 yrs learning this trade and have performed these essential “setup” procedures countless times. That consistent repetition is what gives me the experience to know when and what to due to make the guitar, mandolin, banjo, etc. play to it's best ability.
Patrick from Liam Guitars / Wood-n- Strings