Sunday, November 30, 2014

go have a fit revisited

At this time, more than any other, giftiness is in the air - and sometimes that means guitar gifts.  (If anyone wants to send a PRS my way - any model that isn't a lefty - don't let me stop you.) I have pasted some of a previous post below for your serious consideration.

... Let's say I have a philosophical issue with the first sentence: "Generally, when it comes to buying a guitar there are three key factors to consider: how does it sound, how does it look and, perhaps most importantly, how much does it cost?"

If you have listened to my podcasts or are a student with whom I have gone to purchase a guitar, budget or otherwise, you'll know that, sure, sound is the first consideration. If it doesn't have the sound you're looking for, what's the point of even purchasing it?  But the second very serious consideration is how does it fit?   I feel like I'm alone in the desert on this one, but as guitarist and instructor who has accompanied more friends, friends of friends and students than I care to quantify, to return guitars they bought or were given, that are downright uncomfortable to unplayable, I have to  hold firm on this one. 

Of course you don't want an ugly guitar.  Obviously, you can't buy a guitar you can't afford.  But come to grips with that no matter how well-priced and pretty and gorgeous-sounding it is, if you can't hold onto it comfortably, you're not going to be able to play it well. You may be able to play around with it, but play it?  Uh uh.  

Kids, extremely muscular men and petite people (usually women, but some men, too) have the hardest time finding a guitar they like that fits them.  With the major gift-giving time just around the corner (2 months and a bit until Hanukkah and 3 months and a bit until Christmas) please take what I'm saying under advisement:

If you are purchasing a guitar for anyone other than yourself, or an adult who has played the guitar they have asked you for, give your recipient a gift card or photo of the guitar or some other representation of it, until they can go guitar shopping with you.  I realize that you may want to do your shopping online.  In that case, still take them shopping to a guitar store, where the model of their desired guitar is available for the lucky one to play. In more than half the cases of kids or petite adults I know, the guitar they thought they wanted sounds great but they can't hold it comfortably. 

Don't allow them to get locked into thinking they only want a particular body shape.  Hey, dreadnoughts aren't for everyone.  Neck profiles vary noticeably from maker to maker, as well as from model to model from the same maker.  Their left hand needs to be able to grip properly.   If that left hand has to support the neck while they play (because the counter weight of their right arm isn't sufficient, or because their right shoulder is up so high, when their right arm is over the guitar, it's not the guitar for them.  Sometimes, that's hard to take.  I've been with students who owned the guitar they were about to buy, in their mind for a long time.  Try as they might to justify buying it when we were at the guitar shop, they could feel that the axe wasn't right for them.  

Okay, the annual rant is out of my system.   If you're buying online, verify that you have a reasonable return/exchange policy, and don't allow the recipient nor yourself to mark, scratch, bump, nick or otherwise compromise the cosmetic appearance of the guitar before you or they are sure they're going to keep itIf you're shopping online, use a reputable dealer, not an unknown.... 

It's critically important that you embrace my advice about getting or giving a guitar that fits.  As I'm writing this, we are just weeks from both Hanukkah and Christmas, this year. I can't recall a holiday season in which students didn't received guitars - either as a surprise or because they wanted them - but since they weren't present for the purchase and the fit was simply impossible, the guitars had to go back to their point of origination and the process had to begin again. In my experience,  It was a waste of time and energy. It also took some of the delight out of the gift.  Yes, of course, it's the thought that counts, but can you imagine getting an adorable puppy as a gift, falling in love with it, and then having to take it back? That's something like the feeling of receiving a gift guitar that doesn't fit.  If you're going to make someone's season bright, fit is way more important than the element of surprise.

                        ~ D A Arlaus, "doing my part to spread the excellence, one guitarist at a time."

death rattle

Twice a year I have my humidity rant and that time has come again.  I was just at someone's house a week or 2 ago and heard that tell-tale raspy  buzz, characteristic of a guitar that has dried out. If this kind of  buzz is ignored, it can quickly turn into a death rattle. Ugh!!  If you're in the Northern Hemisphere and have heat on, HUMIDIFY!! If you're in the Southern Hemisphere and have the A/C on, HUMIDIFY!!  Unless you have a Rainsong guitar, this is for you. 

Here's something that is posted on my Guitar Technique Tutor web site:


Depending upon where you live, you may be killing your guitar!!

I’m in the north east US and for most of the year, either the heat or the A/C is on in our apartment.

If you reside where:

• the heat is on

• the air conditioner is on

• the air humidity is less than 40%


I suggest you get and begin to use a guitar humidifier immediately. There are several kinds available. More instruments are damaged due to climatic conditions than from any other single cause (not counting being trashed intentionally.) Dryness and sudden temperature changes are the worst culprits.

In the case of an arid environment, not only will the guitar crack from lack of moisture, but when the fretboard dries out, your guitar will buzz and the frets will protrude on the sides of the neck and may give you a nasty scratch/cut.

Get into the habit of monitoring humidity in the room where you keep your guitar. Get a hygrometer (humidity indicator) at any hardware store so you can give your guitar the humidity it needs, when it needs it.

Taking the initiative to humidify your guitar will save you the cost of repairs and will keep your guitar playing its best.


Remember, your guitar is comfortable where you are comfortable. Don't leave it in an unheated cold basement or attic and likewise don't leave it in a sweltering car or attic in the summer.

I was happy to see our friends at PRS join in the crusade, a week or  so ago -  it was the first time i received an email blast from them that spotlighted the necessity of promoting humidification, too. 

There are a variety of humidifiers available for guitars.  There are whole room humidifiers, case humidifiers and several that  that go into the sound hole of your guitar, if your guitar has a sound hole.  Whatever case or internal humidifier you use, it won't work if you aren't vigilant and re-wet it whenever needed.  If your chosen humidifier comes with some kind of humidity gauge, I recommend you get a free-standing hygrometer.  I keep mine on a shelf near where the guitars are hung.  I check it daily - regardless if it is during the traditional "humidifier seasons" or not.  

Dehydration can be deadly for people and likewise for wooden stringed instruments. Humidify and keep on humidifying

                       ~ D A Arlaus, "doing my part to spread the excellence, one guitarist at a time."

Sunday, November 2, 2014

tantalizing gifts under $30

Now that my gigantic project from another facet of my life is finished, I can get back to blogging regularly.  I can't believe it's just over a month since I last posted anything - but I was swamped.  

So, if you're like me, this time of year, when the clock turns back, a chill is in the air, days are now miserably short and we're seeing November on our devices and calendars --- I'm thinking that Thanksgiving is a few weeks away and after that Christmas and Hanukkah time - and gift giving.   My problem is that I have a far more generous heart than bank account.  So what is a philanthropic spirit to do?  I have a suggestion if you find yourself long on love but short on cash.

You know that guitar player in your life who you'd love to get  the guitar of their dreams, but it's not going to happen this year?  I know what will express the thought, but won't break the bank.  Have you seen the new PRS 2015 Calendar or their 2014 Electric Guitar Book

The 2015 Calendar is loaded with some of the most beautiful guitars made in America.  They are beyond iconic.  They are inspiring.  Any bleak practice space, or grand music room can be enhanced by the addition of this drool-worthy calendar.  

The 2014 Electric Guitar Book chronicles the whole Paul Reed Smith journey, from building guitars in his bedroom, to present day and his most recent creations, built in his Stevensville, Maryland facility.    This coffee table book belongs in the home of any electric guitarist who admires the PRS aesthetic and sound -- and that's most of us.  

These 2 under $30 gift ideas shouldn't be dismissed before you really consider them.  PRS guitars are unquestionably among the most beautiful looking and sounding axes out there.  I wouldn't be surprised if both the 2014 Electric Guitar Book and the  2015 Calendar sell out.   I know a few guitarists who collect the calendars every year.  

I'll probably be posting more gift suggestions over the next few weeks, as well as my annual caution about purchasing gift guitars.  

D A Arlaus                     
 "Doing my part to spread the excellence, one guitarist at a time."