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1voyager2 07-12-2019 11:08 PM

Guitar Upkeep Questions
I have recently purchased my first guitar in almost 50 years.
I now have more interest in the proper care and mintenance of it.
I have a full set, and then some, of luthier type tools on order.
I intend to do the setup of an acoustic guitar myself.
I have many questions about it's care.
Lets ask them only a very few at a time.


Some sources advise to change a new guitar to lighter strings in order to ease the player's break in process, then some sources insist that one should stay with the same sizes installed by the manufacturer.
What is the consensus here?

OK, another related String question:

While tuning the brand new instrument, I notice that it does not tune smoothly and evenly.
The tuning of the strings seems to hang and jump.
It does not transition evenly as it changes.
My thinking is that the grooves in the nut are binding the strings and will need some filing to smooth tuning of the instrument.
Thinner strings could probably take care of the problem.

Frownland 07-12-2019 11:46 PM

I mean it all depends on the guitar but

1. Switching to a lighter string won't give you any issues unless it's a drastic reduction of tension. Go the other direction and you'll have to set up your guitar again (new players should probably use a guitar tech to do that if they can afford it but it's pretty easy and useful to learn). I say stick to what your guitar has, it will give you resilience in your playing in the long run.

2. I would restring my guitar and thoroughly clean bridge and nut to start. Then I would take a sharpened pencil and draw in the grooves where the strings go to fill in any fine gaps that the strings are getting caught on.

1voyager2 07-14-2019 01:50 PM

Thanks Frownland,
The instrument was equipped with A'ddario EXP16 .012 to .053 coated PB "Light" strings.
I have ordered several sets of A'ddario EJ16 .011 to .052 PB "Custom Light" strings.
I expect very little difference between the types, and will probably go back to the original strings when new ones are bought again.

The straight edge, and the action and radius gauges have been shipped.
They will arrive later this week.
I should be able to begin soon, but may need to wait on a few other things to arrive.
I'm hoping the slightly smaller strings will relieve some of the hang-up while tuning.

More questions:
In looking at a few setup instructions for acoustics, I notice that they use a flat, straight edge.
Many notched straight edged for guitars are offered online.
String action is measured from the top of the frets, not the fret board.
I see a need for a flat rather than notched straight edge on as new instrument.

I'm given to understand that humidity levels for a guitar should be about 40-50% RH.
I'm in Hawai'i on the lewardside where humidity varies very consistently , every day 60-100%.
Ways to deal with the local humidity?

mr dave 07-17-2019 07:22 PM

I have as many questions as answers. I also got my first guitar in 1993. I've owned more than a few since. A couple of Fenders, an LTD, a bunch of no names.

I'll keep it simple - what kind of guitar did you buy and how much music experience do you have?

Because ultimately it seems like you're insecure about playing the instrument and allowing yourself to get hung up on the technicality of it all to avoid the initial learning curve. Or at least that what this thread reads like. If it's a brand new instrument then it's not going to be unplayable unless you bought junk at a flea market. The difference between an out of the box setup and a pro setup is negligible in inexperienced hands. To tell yourself otherwise is just making excuses. A professional setup will make the instrument slightly - slightly - easier to play technique, but it won't make it sound substantially better or make it any easier to learn.


Strings are ultimately a matter of personal preference. The main factors are the gauge and the winding method (round, or flat / ribbon).

Smaller gauge strings like .009s are easier on your fingertips and require less effort to bend - but due to their thinness they're also more prone to snapping. They're a lot more popular for flashy electric guitar leads.

Heavier gauges will hurt a bit more but give you a more robust tone and will generally sound better for longer.

As for the winding, the most common are round wound strings. These are the bigger / lower strings in a set. They're built by wrapping a wire around the string and depending on the shape of that wire you get different tones and feel. The round tone is generally brighter and a bit more abrasive. You can actually feel the ridges as you run your finger along the edge of the string. It's also necessary if you want to do something like a pick scrape.

Flat wound strings are just as they sound. Rather than wrapping a round wire around the length of the string, the wire flattened before wrapping. This results in a smoother feel and darker tone. It's a lot more common in jazzier styles. It's impossible to pick scrape flat strings. Very smooth and bass-y.

Personally, I keep flats on my basses and rounds on my guitars .010s or .013s.


As for hiccups with tuning it could be a variety of things. If you actually had a problem with the nut the strings would be breaking at that point rather than sticking and jumping while tuning. It's far more likely that the strings haven't been fed through the bridge properly and are being pulled into place by tightening the tuning pegs. This is not a defect in the instrument. It should stop once the strings have moved into proper position within the bridge / under the pegs.

This is also something to be aware of if you're planning to change strings yourself.

If you have the traditional acoustic bridge setup you have a series of 6 pegs that hold the strings within the bridge. If there is too much string under that peg it's going to cause jumps when first tuning. Every instrument is slightly different and it's a matter of experience to figure out just the right length to get it working smoothly. Also make sure to pull the string tightly when restringing your instrument to maintain tension within the bridge and avoid slippage.

As for action I honestly wouldn't worry about it. Most acoustic guitars do not have an adjustable bridge so if you decide you need to adjust the action that means the truss rod - and that can only adjust so much. The easiest way I learned to check your action was to press down on the 1st fret of the lowest string with one hand and the 12th with another and eyeball the gap between the string and the frets around the 7th or so. Ideally that gap should be about the thickness of a business card. If it's too low you're likely to get buzz when playing an open string, too high just means a bit more effort when fretting a note.

As for humidity - acoustic guitar humidifiers are a thing. Some of them look like a tube that you slip into the instrument, others sit within the sound hole. There are lots of options -

I can't comment on them more than the fact that they exist though.

Ultimately though, the most important thing to remember is that 95% of your tone comes from your hands. Rhythm comes from your heart. Melody from your mind. The instrument is really just a tool to accentuate those elements. If it's not within you, no piece of gear will change that. It's not fun to accept that you need to actually practice in order to play what seems like basic parts, but we all had to go through that process.

1voyager2 07-18-2019 04:12 AM

@mr dave,

Many of the tools ordered to setup this instrument have arrived today.
After a quick check of a few things, its condition is not as good as I had hoped, but nowhere near as bad as I had feared it could be.
It is a new instrument, little to no use, but has been owned by some one else for over a year.
I have worried about why it was sold so quickly after being bought.
The possibilities of major flaws with no warranty was a great concern to me.
That has pretty much been laid to rest today.
Some work does need to be done, though.

I'm not going into the reasons here, but I did purchase it somewhat under duress.
I hate buying anything that way.
I was worried about a bad purchase.
Does not seem to be a serious concern now.

My primary concern is for the instrument to be the best it can be.
I have always taken a great interest in most things I have owned.
That is why I will learn to do as thorough a setup as possible, myself.
I will learn much about the instrument, and how and why it works.
My use of it will grow as I become more familiar with it.

Not seriously beginning to relearn playing yet because of tender finger tips.
But, I am starting to slowly harden them up.
By the time I finish the setup work my fingers should be close to being ready to play.

The instrument is not a prima donna, but is not a useless pile of wood either.
It is a Washburn Comfort G-Mini 55 Koa, a travel size guitar.
They won't allow me to post a URL to the instrument.
It does have a fairly good sound to it.
It is for my own personal use, not meant to impress anyone else.
I think it will be able to do the job I want of it.

I live in a sub-tropical climate.
We have no sealable rooms.
I will not buy a dehumidifier.
Right now the only way I can see to protect it from the humidity, is to keep it in the hard case.
Most people need to deal with dryness not wetness.
Most info is about keeping them from cracking.
Time will tell what need to be done here, if anything.

Back to setup.
I am going to first check, truss rod function, fret height and evenness, and all associated conditions.
string height near the nut is not bad.
But, I am choking on the $100 cost of a good set of nut files.
So far I haven't found anyone who will ship here for the cheaper ones.
Near the 12th fret it is a little over 3mm, quite high.
The bridge is very high.
It will need to be trimmed down.
There may be more that needs to be looked at, and worked out.
The order of work may change as it progresses, and my knowledge grows.

You are correct, the strings do seem to be moving much more smoothly after a few days of tuning.

My questions are more for discussion, not because I have absolutely no idea as to what to do, just looking for more info.

I will begin checking out the truss rods and the neck and frets in the next few days.

mr dave 07-18-2019 08:18 PM

I just googled that model. I really like that little cutaway. Unique. I've never seen it on an acoustic (and only ever on the back on electrics).

You might still want to consider some of those humidifiers but use them opposite of the recommended method. They typically contain a sort of sponge that needs to be soaked prior to being inserted into the instrument. Rather than soaking them put it in dry and it should absorb some of the humidity and need to be squeezed out every few days.

How does other wooden furniture in your home handle the climate? The guitar should be similar.

Those specialized files are intended for making your own nut. That's not anything you should be needing to do. But if you insist on getting some, a cheaper alternative would be hobby / modeling files similar to these -

Most of the rest you describe sounds pretty normal. 3mm at the 12th is about what mine has. It's also higher at the bridge. And when I check - which I msspoke last night - rather than pressing at the 1st and 12 (for an electric), use 1st and last with an acoustic.

And generally speaking you're not playing that high on the neck on an acoustic. And if you are, anchor the string with your index finger and fret with the others.

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