Guitars, Biscuit Cans, and Champagne

Restringing my guitars has always been my least favorite thing about being a guitarist, especially when the guitar is a 12-string. It's not only time-consuming, it's stressful. It can even be dangerous. On my personal anxietyometer it scores even higher than opening a biscuit can or a bottle of champagne.

You know. Those biscuit cans by Pilsbury. The ones that require you to peel the paper label off and you never know when the cardboard can is going to pop open. Sometimes they do, if the pressure is higher than usual, and sometimes they don't and you have to press the edge of a spoon into the seam to force it open. Used to be, they never opened until you banged the can on the edge of the kitchen counter, but these days nothing's consistent.

Champagne bottles are the same. Most corks won't pop out until you twist the bottle a bit. (I learned the trick to perfect bottle openage from a pro years ago: tilt the bottle 45 degrees, cover the top with a cotton dish towel and twist the bottle, not the cork, slowly, and gently ease it out, allowing the pressure to escape a little at a time, thus, no spewing, no waste, no mess.) But sometimes, the cork will go flying the second you loosen the bale. I've seen this happen any number of times—the ceiling of our house on James Place probably still bears the mark of one cork and on another occasion I saw a friend receive a black eye from one. And on her birthday no less.

Life is dangerous, people. Shit happens.

Yesterday, I got a new set of Martin Silk & Steels for my Luna 12-string. It being my first time to restring this beauty, I had no idea what to expect. The scariest string is the 6th string—the octave G, which is actually just an E tuned up to either F, or, in my case, G. That's a lot of pressure to put on the most delicate string of the 12. I can't count how many times in the past, on other guitars, this string has snapped while I tuned it up. I used to buy an extra just in case, but this being a high-quality, custom instrument, I exercised a little faith. The only real mishap was when I removed the old 10th string (octave A) and the curly bit that came off of the tuner lunged into my thumb like a fish hook. No matter what I did, it wouldn't dislodge and my thumb is still bruised. After putting a Band-Aid on it, I got back to work and everything went really well.

My usual method of restringing a 12-string is to remove and replace one string at a time so as not to  release too much pressure on the neck; a 12-string bears up to 200 lbs. of tension and if a string snaps, it can do a lot of damage if it connects with a sensitive body an eye. I start with the bottom strings—the heavier ones, E, A and D of which there are two each, one high and one low—then go to the top E and B (also two each, but the same gauge), saving the Gs in the middle of the neck until last. I don't know if this is the right way or not, but it's always worked for me when the time came to confront that tiny little 6th string.

They all went on great and they all tuned up smoothly with little to no slipping beneath the pegs, but to be safe I decided to tune it to D and let it sit overnight before taking it on up to E. Because of the superior truss rod in the neck of this guitar and the fact that the strings I bought are light gauge, I don't foresee any problems. Luna makes excellent instruments. Pilsbury, as well as a couple of champagne labels, could take a few lessons.

1 comment :

  1. I had no idea restringing a guitar could be so difficult or dangerous.


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