More good tone

Last night I pulled my “new to me” 1995 Sheraton VSB off the wall. I didn’t plug in because the kids were asleep. But I really enjoyed the way it sounded. It had more volume and tone than my other electrics that I often play unplugged. It felt good in my hands and certain songs and styles felt and sounded right on it.
The two most obvious are John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom Boom and Cake’s cover of the Muppets’ Mahna Mahna.
I then pulled down my Warmoth project guitar. It has a chambered mahogany body with maple cap and the neck is mahogany with an ebony fret board, so it has great tone and beautiful sustain. I quickly played some Thickfreakness by The Black Keys and I Want You (She’s So Heavy) by the Beatles. They did not sound good. Nothing sounded good…and not just because of my playing. I tuned the Warmoth, but it just did not sound good unplugged. Especially in comparison to the Epiphone.
Now a big part of that is probably because one is a semi-hollow body with f holes and the other is merely chambered, but it was more than that. The Warmoth just played poorly. And that is when I realized that I haven’t changed the strings on the Warmoth in months and haven’t done a set up adjustment in even more months, if not years. And I just did those things to the Epiphone since it is my latest acquisition.
I forget that guitars are also “breathing” things. The wood expands and contracts with moisture. The strings lose their elasticity. That is why so many things are adjustable on the set up of a guitar.
After this realization I pulled down my Wolverine guitar. The body is solid and heavy, but the reshaped neck is wonderful to play. The Wilkinson floating bridge, LSR roller nut, and Sperzel locking tuners make this guitar so stable that tuning it is almost always a formality. And it feels great to play.
So I will be doing a complete set up on the Warmoth. I know it is my fault for not doing one sooner. But I am curious, do any of you run into guitars that just need a good set up? How often do your breathing instruments breath a little too much? Is it slow and gradual to the point that you just don’t like the guitar as much each day? Or is it sudden and jarring to your playing? Are there instruments that will just never play well? Have you ever had an instrument go so far that it cannot be brought back?


4 thoughts on “More good tone

  1. Never had a guitar than couldn’t be salvaged. Whether it is worth salvaging is a different matter though.

    I always check whether a guitar needs the setup tweaking whenever I change strings, but it is rare that they do. In my experience, as long as they’re not subject to big swings in either temperature or humidity then once every couple of years suffices. Even then it is no more than a slight change to neck relief and action.

    • I went over it last night and was shocked at how out of whack everything was. But it did all go back into place with a little tweaking and the guitar plays wonderfully again!

      • It really is a simple process. All it takes is a slow hand, few tools for measuring and adjusting, a few good books on guitar maintenance and repair, and friendly internet forums for anything unusual. Thanks for the support and comments.

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