Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"Stop Counting on that Camera that Hangs 'Round Your Neck..."

I had planned to do another semi-instructional post for today, covering the replacing of guitar strings and the general care and feeding of stringed instruments. However, my camera is on the fritz again. It has been doing this almost from the day we bought it - it will turn off instead of taking a picture, and then it won't come back on for a while. Finally, it ran out of batteries, but it doesn't like to come on at all if you open the battery compartment and replace them...

So here is a site with multiple step-by-step guides to doing just that. Reading through the guide on replacing acoustic guitar strings, it is better than my post probably would have been. I like that he mentions the importance of not just removing all of your strings at once (and especially don't just snip your strings off while they are still under full tension!); the sudden change in tension can cause your instrument's neck to bend. Or worse, if you've removed all of the strings so that there is no tension on the neck, then place a new low-E string and tighten it all the way, your neck might warp. This is almost impossible to fix, whereas a bent but not warped neck can usually be straightened by adjusting the truss rod in the neck (best done by a professional, especially if you are inexperienced).

 However, I disagree on the way that he attaches the string to the tuning peg - he feeds the string through the hole in the peg first, and then using a string winder swiftly rotates the tuning peg to wrap the string.

I prefer to wrap the string around the peg first, then tuck the loose end of the string through the hole in the peg. My rationale behind this is that then the greatest tension will be on the string as it smoothly curves around the peg; the end of the string going through the hole in the peg is just to keep it in place. When you feed the string through the hole first and then tighten it, the tension is at its greatest along the edge of the hole. Especially on cheaper guitars this edge can be sharp - much sharper than the smooth round curve of the peg itself. Think about it - which rope would fray more quickly: one that wraps around a round pole, or one dragged across an edge? Guitar strings are essentially tiny metal cables (or tiny plastic ropes if you have a nylon-string guitar), and I've seen them begin to fray and often break at that critical friction point of the tuning pegs.

Since I started using my method of wrapping the string first, I've not had a single string break up by the tuning pegs. I play very aggressively, and break a lot of strings, but mine tend to break where the strings have become worn by the frets and started to come unwound anyway. Now if only this troublesome camera would cooperate...

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