December 14, 2019

Guitar care with David Taylor

By: George Ellzey

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As one of the most played and popular instruments of all time, the guitar has made a huge impact on the world of music. Originally from Spain, the guitar has evolved from a small wooden “four course” figurine to a powerful and popular instrument that comes in various shapes and brands. In keeping with this month’s theme, it was fitting to focus on guitar upkeep. I had an in depth conversation with the newest member of the Music Garage family, David “Dave” Taylor. With his years of musical experience combined with his time spearheading guitar repair at Dr. Fretgood, David Taylor is our resident expert on guitar care.

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Music Garage: When did you begin your musical career?
David Taylor: I’ve been playing for a very long time. I began playing the piano at a young age. One day I saw some people in a middle school talent school playing a guitar. I thought to myself, “If those guys can do it, so can I.” After I learned guitar, it really complimented what I was doing on the piano.

MG: What lead you to guitar repair?
DT: I began guitar maintenance at a studio I was working at. I taught guitar lessons there. The owner asked if I could do basic guitar service and they took me on. I started with restriping. I was there 5 years and I learned everything from re-fret to restringing. I’ve done every type of guitar repair several times.

MG: What are basic maintenance tips every guitar owner should know?
DT: As far as maintenance goes, continence or frequency is probably the best thing. You can go in every 6 months to get basic maintenance. When I do a set up, I look at everything. For example, if the volume nob on your stret is loose and you ignore it, you can either tighten it right then or can just let it jiggle. Then something gets disconnected then you have to pay a hefty price for repairs.
Just like going in frequently and staying on top of things, having basic environment awareness for your guitar is key. During the Chicago winter bring the guitar inside when it’s 10 degrees or vice versa. You don’t need to get a humidifier (it helps for certain acoustic guitars). Also, keeping your guitar in the case is helpful especially if it’s acoustic.

MG: What about live performances? How should one prepare their guitar for the stage?
DT: For live performances there are two extremes. The first is having a guitar that is barely playable. You have a hard time keeping it in tune. The intonation is not right. The strings are old. Poorly maintained guitars will affect your performance. It will affect your confidence. In those scenarios it’s hard to distinguish between whose fault it is. Is it the guitar or yours? On the flipside. Your guitar sounds great. You play one tone and that makes a contribution to that moment of music. Being on both sides, when you have both of those items

MG: Are you for or against customization or “pimping out” guitars?
DT: I don’t do really fancy stuff to my guitar. I do basic maintenance. I come from an extreme school where I will buy a base instrument. I’d buy a $120 basic Squire Stratocaster and rebuild certain things such as the machine head, frets and add some pickups. For guitar customization the results will vary. If you get the base instrument, anything you do to it will improve it. Then you get to a cut off and it’s a point where you can do more and more to the guitar and it won’t make a huge difference. There’s a point where it’s not practical anymore. Unless, you are really hearing it and it makes a difference for you and your performance.

MG: Do you recommend every guitarist continue to learn about his or her instrument?
DT: When I’m teaching lessons, I include guitar repair knowledge. I think it will make for a better musical experience knowing how to repair your guitar. You can change your guitar strings overnight instead of paying someone else. Having awareness of your instrument will make your experience that much more positive.
My playing changed when I knew the anatomy. At first the guitar was a mystery but when I took things apart and put them back together, I played with familiarity with the instrument and I felt more comfortable. I don’t think every student needs to know everything about the guitar, but if they are aware and have basic knowledge they will have a positive experience. Continue learning about the guitar.

MG: What are some of the worst guitars you’ve ever had to repair?
DT: One guitar I repaired the owner spent about $600 to $700 and it came weathered. The parts had rust and the pick guard was warped. I recommended that the owner buy a basic Stratocaster and play till it’s weathered. The second nightmare guitar was 12 string acoustic guitars. It was in pretty bad shape. There was so much tension with the 12 strings that the stem looked like it was going to break. It’s hard to make it play well. Also, vintage is not necessarily good thing. People think it’s cool to have old hardware because it’s vintage; but it’s obsolete. There is a big market for vintage. Old doesn’t necessarily means it is timeless.

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David Taylor’s guitar services are available 7 days a week at Music Garage and can be accessed at the Front Desk, or by emailing David directly at david@musicgarage.com.