Just spent some time with the luthier and guitar wizard Michael DeTemple yesterday. He was looking over my Collings D-2H, as I am experiencing some fingering problems. Turns out one of the frets has lifted a bit. Michael also demonstrated to me some interesting stuff that, in all my years as a guitar player, I didn’t know. So I am immediately passing them on to you. This all has to do with stringing the guitar, electric or acoustic.
First of all, replace your strings one at a time, keeping essentially the same tension on your neck. Acoustic instruments have a tough enough time as it is staying in tune without sending the neck out of whack by clipping all the strings and then replacing them. Just think of what this must do to the neck...all that tension holding the strings back and then, POW, no tension at all. It can't be good for it.
Secondly, there is a little cylinder at the end of each string. This is obviously the end that goes into the hole in the bridge and held in place with a bridge pin. Well, it turns out that this cylinder is next to the wound area of the string (which loops thru the cylinder and then is wrapped around the string and then bound with the string winding. Is this clear?) Just look at the cylinder end of a string that goes into the hole in the bridge and you will see what I mean.
When you are putting the string into the hole, notice that there is a bulge where the string is wrapped around itself after going thru the hole in the cylinder. Make certain when you are stringing the guitar that that bulge is facing away from the bridge. Make certain it is facing towards the bridge pin. If you do this then you will not damage the bridge and have to have it replaced so soon. Bridges will last a long time if this is observed. If it isn’t, then this bulge end will eat into the bridge, because of the immense tention on the string and consequently the bridge. This will in turn, affect the action and also, at some point, introduce unwanted buzzing and intonation problems.
Secondly, when you are stringing your guitar, make certain that the wrapped end by the cylinder is not touching the bridge. If it is, then the holes in your bridge that accommodate your guitar string have worn down. You can have some expensive work done to replace that wood under there, or even have a titanium plate put in there, but there is a simple, inexpensive way to fix this problem.
When you take off the old string, clip that cylinder from it and put your new string thru the hole in the cylinder. Then put the new string in the hole and you will find that it is being held back by the width of the additional cylinder and consequently the wrapped area is not riding on your bridge and doing damage.
There is also some differences of opinion as to the type of bridge and nut you should have. Many people hold to the bone bridge and nut, tho Michael maintains that the walrus tusk does a much better job in terms of it’s affect on the tone. Bone can be a little brittle and plastic doesn’t convey the tone well at all, so look into having the ivory tusk of an animal that is not on the endangered species list put on your guitar. I suspect that you will hear the difference immediately.
There is one more thing regarding the replacement of the nut that I want to mention. Make certain that the first and sixth string are far enough from the edge of the neck, otherwise when you fret up the neck, you’ll find this string actually slipping off the neck and causing a sound that won’t make you happy, particularly during the middle of a performance. This is something that any good luthier will take care of, but sometimes, it gets overlooked, or something, so mention it on the way in to have the work done. That way, the luthier will be conscious of it, even tho he knows this, it helps to remind him. In a nice way, of course.
I am actually having a new nut installed on the Collings because of that problem. The sixth string is perfect, but the first string is a little too close to the edge. You can even see the difference when you look at the nut. Not only should the strings be equa-distant from each other, they should also be equa-distant from the edges of the neck.