Here at MayosMusic, in addition to offering great guitar, bass, ukulele, banjo and autoharp lessons, plus complete luthier services that include guitar, string instrument and amplifier repair/restorations, we are also a great resource service. The following article covers the care and maintenance special to the electric guitar and electric bass.
Note: See Acoustic
Guitar Maintenance & Care article. Most of it is the
same except the use of a guitar humidifier.
I. Cleaning Metal Parts
For electric guitars and basses which are kept clean and have
regular maintenance, you can spray a good guitar polish on a soft,
clean, natural fiber cloth or rag and wipe the entire guitar
clean. This applies to the finish and the metal parts.
For dirty and grungy instruments, such as those not stored in
their case, played with sweaty and/or dirty hands, or where the
guitar's post playing was not wiped clean and dry of sweat, then a deeper
more complete cleaning is necessary. Metal parts may be
cleaned with WD-40, or very light cleaning oil, or mineral spirits
Extremely grungy parts are best removed from the instrument
and disassembled for thorough cleaning, making sure to reassemble in
the exact same locations. Once removed and disassembled, the
parts (all metal parts only) can then be cleaned with a stronger
solvent (such as lacquer thinner, xylene, denatured alcohol, acetone,
etc.) as needed. If you choose to deep clean with a stronger
solvent, always follow it up with spraying the metal parts with a light
oil such as WD-40, then wiping dry before reinstalling onto your
instrument. This will help prevent rust and oxidation of the
metal parts. Be careful not to get any solvents or oils onto
the finish of your instrument.
Metal parts with rust or corrosion will need a more thorough
clean-up. Removal of metal parts, pre-cleaning, gentle rust
removal, polish as needed, then oil, wipe dry, and finally carefully
reinstall in the proper places.
Different styles of playing require different types of
Different types of guitars require the correct type of string (for
example, never put steel strings on a classical guitar).
A. Electric Guitar
- Nickel Wound
- Most traditional type, very good response with pickups
Steel Wound - More corrosion resistance than nickel wound
strings, but tone is different (less smooth).
- Coated Strings
- Designed to last longer against corrosion and wear, but tone is
slightly muted and dull.
B. Electric Bass
Wound - Most bright in tone, good cut, clarity and
- Half Round
(Ground wound, pressure wound, compressed wound)- Less bright and clear
than round wound, with more pronounced mid-range tone.
- Flat Wound
- Very mellow in tone, smooth feel, easy on the fingers, but feel stiff
and less flexible.
Wound - Most mellow in sound, minimal highs, thick and
Strings - Designed to last longer against corrosion and
wear, but tone is slightly muted and dull.
The larger the diameter of a given string, the tighter (higher tension)
that string will require to tune to pitch.
Wound strings have a core (solid or multiple), and an outer string wrap
which you feel when playing. Two strings of equal total (outer)
diameter, but with different size cores will feel different and sound
different. Larger inner cores will feel stiffer, and be brighter
and snappier in sound when compared to smaller core strings which will
sound mellower and smoother feeling.
Strings with smaller cores and larger outer wraps are easier to bend,
than larger core, smaller wrap strings, given the same total diameter,
and played on the same scale length and tuned to the same pitch.
Wounds third strings (such as a jazz set) are more flexible and easier
to bend than solid third strings. Though solid thirds are more
pronounced, with better snap and bite.
- Scale Length and it's Effect on Tension & Sound
(when using the same
gauge of strings and tuned to the same pitch)
- The longer the scale length the higher the tension, and thus the
brighter and snappier the sound due to the more spaced apart the
harmonic content of the string.
- Shorter scale lengths will have more tightly packed harmonics and have more warmth and thickness.
Experience since 1968
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