Monthly Column May: All the Small Things
Today I’d like to discuss “All the Small Things”!
Don’t worry, I won’t review and analyse the 20 year old hit single by Blink 182, Rick Beato already has done so very adequately on Youtube.
While I was employed managing a guitar store and busy with guitar sales and repairs, I obviously had many conversations with guitar players about their instruments and experiences. The opportunity to often discuss the intent or expectations of a repair directly with the owner before I took the instrument in really helped me from a repairman’s point of view.
Funnily enough these conversations often resulted in a very different outcome or approach than what the owner had planned or asked for. At times this was caused by a technical reason I was able to spot, like finding out that a hard to tune guitar that was brought in for a new set of tuners didn’t need new tuners at all, but instead desperately needed a better adjusted top nut. But all too often I pointed an owner to a solution that didn’t even had anything to do with the workbench anymore.
And that’s where the Small Things come in. To me they are the many factors that are often regarded as unimportant or nit-picky but exert a very important influence on how a guitar plays and sounds. They can really determine whether a player loves his or her guitar or just can’t get along with it. The Small Things I regard most seriously in this respect are the strings and plectrums used: matching the material, gauge and style of these items well to a player can make a whole world of difference for both acoustic and electric guitars.
When players asked me to fix their guitar to improve on its clarity or definition I was often able to resolve the issue at least partly by suggesting changing the kind or gauge of strings. A player who often uses a lot of drive or distortion might benefit from using stainless steel or cobalt strings. Alternatively, a player with a more traditional sound looking for more detail or dynamic range might appreciate the effect of switching to Pure Nickel strings. I often advised owners of a nice vintage hollow body guitar looking for a more authentic sound to at least once try a flat wound set before modifying everything else.
But there are many other factors I regard as Small Things than just strings and pics. Especially while discussing pickup upgrades I regularly ended up suggesting trying a different overdrive/distortion pedal, use other settings or even trying a different amp. In the end, the electronic gear it’s plugged into is a definite part of the electric guitar as an instrument.
So why I am mentioning all this? Well, as much as I love getting the best from guitars by working on them on the bench, I prefer offering simple options or solutions a musician can try out at relatively low cost even better. Therefore I can only support to often discuss the Small Things with your customers and carry a wide range of them in your (repair) store!
Until next time,
Martijn Vink is TMA’s Product Manager Guitar SPA (Strings, Parts and Accessories). He has more than a decade of experience behind the work bench, performing setups and repairs on guitars and basses and communicating with his customers to get the best performance from their instruments. He managed a Dutch guitar store for several years and purchased, restored and traded vintage instruments worldwide. He enjoys playing lead guitar for The Maureens.