About two weeks ago, I loaned out Sara (my PG-20CE) to a friend of mine for a gig he had coming up. A good part of my evening was spent re-oiling the fretboard because it’s still super dry, re-positioning the nut, cleaning up the strings, tuning it back up, making sure it has a fresh 9V to power the Isys+ pickup and wiped the hardcase clean.
I like working maintenance on my guitars and if I could, I would do it more frequently. While I find it relaxing and in a sense therapeutic, that only goes as far as preparing the guitar. In most cases, I am quite averse having to loan out or have people borrow my gear.
Tonight, I want to talk about this and what I think should be good etiquette when it comes to gear.
Nowadays, there’s a lot of people who’re into borrowing gear. Be it for a gig, for practice – almost every imaginable reason that you can think of, it had been laid down in the name of borrowing gear. While this isn’t exactly a bad thing every time, there are times that it gets too annoying to hear. The guy who borrowed my acoustic tonight had been constantly borrowing it for his gigs. Now of course, he’s a good friend, an even better guitar player and since he is more pro than me (in the sense that he’s paid to do this and I’m not) I’d always felt that I should lend a hand whenever I am able. But this becomes too cumbersome at times, both for him and for myself.
I think this is now fairly common with musicians as far as borrowing goes. Sometimes, our gear breaks down in the middle of a gig and we’re forced to borrow from someone. That happens to everyone, although thankfully it hasn’t happened to me – yet. In the few times that technical difficulties arise, I am fortunate enough to have my wits with my friends and cooperative techs helping me while I am onstage. It’s not like I can get off the stage mid song just because I have to fix something.
Of course I dread the day that a piece of my gear (like a pedal or more horrifyingly, my power supply) gets busted mid set that I have to borrow from someone. Although I have done my fair share of borrowing – I think I’d gone on a gig that I’d left a cable and had to ask a favor from someone to borrow theirs. During my younger years, I borrowed stuff like effects pedals and other things. One thing I never really borrow is the actual instrument, although I have gone that route as well.
But friends, this shouldn’t always be so. While I believe that many people are kind and generous, and should always be so towards others, I also believe we have to put some of the work in as well. In my part, I should’ve been more responsible in checking my gear and making sure everything is packed in the car before I even left the house. However, it had become a fairly pervasive attitude to just depend on others to borrow stuff.
I’d gone on numerous gigs wherein band members (mostly the ones we do not know personally) would show up at a venue and then someone – usually a bassist or a guitarist, would come up to random people to borrow cables, effects, straps and in some cases, the guitar itself. These bands are usually kids, I think in highschool (when highschool was actually a thing here) or college or something. Fairly understandable given that instruments can’t quite be had on a fixed allowance. However…
I think this is unacceptable as a long term habit.
How the hell can one be a musician, be in a band, playing gigs and not have their own gear? I just don’t understand it.
I place part of the blame with local rehearsal studios that loan out various pieces of gear for those who do not have their own. It’s a good business model in a sense so that anyone who wants to walk in can tinker and play some, albeit with mostly crappy rental gear. I think these kids (they mostly are, and I’ll cover that in a bit) simply came together to learn a few songs while not having their own stuff, secure in the knowledge that the rehearsal space will lend them the gear they need. They are following Dave Grohl’s famous advice to go out and play and suck and all that.
They go to find gigs and sign up without a single piece of gear on them (thankfully, the good lot are able to at least shell out a pick) and go “bahala na” (come what may) and borrow from random strangers. Usually, these kids would hound you after a set going “good job!” or “nice set!” and then lay out their predicament (this is getting scarce nowadays since etiquette had become a rarity) and borrow. Some are courteous even if turned away, yet some have the gall of getting mad if not allowed with their request.
But children, listen to me – how can you be a musician without an instrument? Effects, I can kind of understand because they’re expensive. Cables and straps, sure you could be careless enough to leave them at home. But a goddamn guitar? A goddamn set of cymbals or even frickin sticks?
You can never be a musician without your own instrument. Of course you can learn by borrowing an instrument, which is a very common practice among those starting out. As time goes on though, it is but natural that one acquires his / her own gear to work with and improve on. There’s simply no going around it since technical and mechanical skill in music requires a lot of time invested in terms of learning and actual practice.
You could have the requisite skills, you could have the chops to outshred everyone. But if you don’t have your own guitar to shred with, you may as well be playing air guitar solos while the crown looks on.
So children, invest in your gear. If you don’t have your own gear, don’t go out getting gigs. You don’t have a place in that venue, and as a performer if you don’t have anything to perform with and you’d best be in your bedroom not getting in the way of anyone. People may say that this sounds all harsh and hard but it’s the damn truth.
On a more personal note, I very rarely borrow stuff. When I was younger and had no income, yeah I was into borrowing but only to try things out. I remember clearly the times that I borrowed a good friend’s Korg AX1500G (when it was still new so you guess when this was) just so I can experience it, and record a song with it. I only borrowed it for a night and after I was done with it, I made sure to clean it up and brought it right back to the guy. It just happened to be the case that that friend of mine is sort of well to do and his folks give him the stuff he needs. Sure, not everyone (myself included) is not that lucky. However, I was lucky enough in the sense that my old man owned an electric guitar and bass that I was able to learn with. After some years of working with his stuff, I was finally able to get my own stuff with my own money and the rest is history.
If you’re borrowing stuff, take good care of it and make sure to return it promptly. One of the reasons I do not readily allow people to borrow my gear (unless I very personally know them) is because I’m afraid my gear will come back and either be damaged or have some issues that were not present when I loaned it out. See, I’m very particular in that manner – I like my gear to be in tiptop shape and be in as good a condition, aesthetically, as possible. I mean yeah, I get the rage with relic stuff and I’m currently having my Kramer Striker go that route, but for most other pieces of gear, I want them spic and span.
The other reason I don’t like having people borrow my stuff is that as a musician, I feel like my instrument is a very personal piece of property. Not a lot of people think it to be so, especially for the casual musicians. But for those who’re more seriously into it, instruments are almost like family.
Keep all this in mind the next time you want to borrow an instrument or a piece of gear from someone.
Cars bog down, kitchen appliances break, knives dull…hell even people get worn down with all the trappings of modern life.
And if you’re a guitar player, even your beloved guitar will eventually wear down.
The modern electric guitar is no exception – use it frequently enough and the paint will wear, the wood will darken (especially maple fretboards), your strings will inevitably break, your electronics will start sounding like a bowl of shit and your frets will wear down. That’s just the way it is, and unfortunately, there is no going around it. While some people may like the look and feel of a well worn guitar, it’s not going to be in top form if the frets are worn down. This depends though, some people might actually find use for this kind of situation. Worn out frets will cause dead spots, buzz and a lot of unsavory sounds that will make even the best made guitar sound shitty.
For the longest time, most guitars come stock with nickel plated frets. It works, and for as long as anyone electric guitars have been on the scene, nobody really made a fuss about it wearing down. However, frequent use will wear it down, resulting in trips to a luthier to get the guitar refretted, causing down time which is not desirable for anyone, especially those who use their guitars heavily as in the case of professional musicians who depend on their instruments to make a living.
That was the case with nickel frets until someone decided to put something harder and came up with the idea of stainless steel frets.
Stainless steel you say?
It’s not an entirely new concept and had been around for quite a bit. Some higher end guitars have come with it oe (original equipment) as I was told. Warmoth makes replacement necks with jumbo frets made of stainless steel.
Why go with stainless though?
There are a variety of reasons why people choose to go stainless when they go for a re-fret. Let me point out some of the pro’s and cons of going for stainless steel. Back in November 2016, I decided to try the stainless steel route and sent off my then newly acquired Kramer Striker 100ST. When I got the guitar, it was still wearing the factory nickel frets which were already fairly well worn and already beyond salvation via leveling. Another reason I decided to send it off under the knife is that while I absolutely love it due to its paint job, it was still not as precious to me as either Hanna or Yuri. There are lots of people offering stainless steel refret jobs but I opted to bring the 5150 to my trusted guitar tech Mico.
Below are some of my observations that I collected and learned over the past year and a half. While Yuri is still my beloved and mostly go-to superstrat that I can pick up for session work, gigs and what not due to it’s surprising versatility, the 5150 is fast becoming a favorite, if not already on part with the main girl.
My 5150 hangs from the first position on my guitar tree so it’s always within reach. While I don’t practice so much daily nowadays, I still use it regularly enough to start wearing down the frets. Up until now, there are absolutely no flat spots anywhere, even along my favorite string positions. By comparison, Phoebe (Telecaster) started showing wear within a year of the same amount of usage. I think it’s fair to say that the frets will last a long time before they begin to show signs of wear.
Regular nickel steel frets can be polished smooth like stainless steel ones. However, stainless keeps its shine and sparkle far longer than nickel steel. I haven’t polished the frets off my Kramer as of today, but it still feels very smooth. By comparison, whenever I polish my other guitars with nickel steel frets, the shine tends to go away after a couple of months or so. It could be that because they’re always exposed to the air in my room but hey, so is the 5150’s.
The smoothness lends well to bending and overall control, although for the uninitiated, this may lead to some awkward out of tune bends and some may even find themselves unintentionally slipping. Even now, I can still have some occasional slips.
I had my fret ends finished hotdog style and needless to say, it helps my hands glide better over the neck.
Alright, this is one of the more hotly contested debates about the matter. Truth be told, I didn’t spot any substantial increase in sustain with it although the guitar obviously sounds more bright, and sparkly. Stainless steel did not make my guitar any more “toneful” than it was when it had nickel steel frets. If anything though, the guitar sounds much more responsive although it could also be argued that this could be the result of the set-up job as much as the frets being changed out.
But yes, not much in the way of tonal changes. At least not much to my ears.
To close this rambling entry (which I actually started writing last year, and kept editing and saving), I would recommend it to everyone! If you’re a heavily gigging musician, you will definitely find this useful since you won’t have to worry about wear so much. Even if you’re a casual musician (as long as you don’t mind paying for service) then go for this.
Lastly, shameless plug – if you want a good refret job, go to Papi’s Guitar Shop in Quezon City. Mico does a really swell job with each and every refret he does, and I have yet to hear someone who’s not sold into his work.
I’d been checking my stats these past few days and I found that while I have been fairly silent here, views are quite booming along.
For some odd reason though, I’m getting a bunch of hits from the Philippines, which while I don’t mind, is not something I am used to seeing. Actually, this had been the trend for quite a while now and I have no idea who takes the time to visit this godforsaken corner of the internet.
In case some of you regular readers are wondering why I am not very active nowadays, it’s a mix of many things. My kid is growing up fast and most of my waking hours are spent chasing his ass around the house. I spend maybe two to three hours asleep either in the mornings or afternoon and it kinda takes away from my creative juices.
I’d been dealing with a few things and I’m still in the middle of either trying to find solutions to a bunch of life issues and questions, or just sitting back and letting time do its thing. I’ve 37 drafts that I’ve started and stopped on because I keep getting distracted from finishing them. It’s like I have so many things I want to write about in one moment then run out of juice in the next moment.
If any of you would be interested to know, I am now more active on IG than FB. I’ve been fairly successful at avoiding the dolts that are on my FB feed and I am on my way to weening myself off it. Follow me there my dear readers!
In any event, thank you anonymous viewers and readers .