Tips to get back on the road from Freya Guitars
If there is one thing we have learned over the past year it is that there are no guarantees when it comes to covid, but around the country, guitars are being tuned, lines are being learned and light bulbs are being replaced to illuminate stages that have been dark for far too long.
It’s looking like Ireland’s musicians can prepare to start gigging again…..finally!
Will you be ready? Even singers may have problems and will need to prepare – as Lyra mentioned about her rehearsals for the first post-covid pilot gig at Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, held on 3rd July, “Holy Mother! I can’t remember my songs, it’s been so long since I bloody sang them!” (of course we now know that she was brilliant at the gig).
Time to drag out your gear, check it over, make sure you still have all the cables, bits of PA and sundry other items you might need.
At this exciting prospect, your guitar may need a bit of TLC. After such a long layoff, your guitar should have a complete check-up, and a full setup to avoid any nasty surprises at your first gig.
Speaking for myself, even though they are stored in ideal conditions, I haven’t changed strings, cleaned or performed any maintenance on my gigging guitars, nor sang a song, since March of 2020. I’m fairly sure I can say that there are many more musicians like myself.
First off, if you still have the pre-covid strings on it – buy a new fresh set of your favourite guitar strings (here at Freya Guitars we sell D’Addario, Martin, Ernie Ball, Elixir & more). Before you put your new strings on, tune your guitar to pitch (with the old strings still on) and leave it for a day or two. This will allow the guitar to stabilize. Obviously, if you’ve always kept it tuned to pitch you can skip this step.
Then give it a thorough cleaning with a proper guitar polish. Get all the old gunk off (if you’re like me and have gigged your guitar for years you’ll find that some of that gunk has now bonded with your guitar, and is a permanent feature, lol!).
When it’s time to put your new guitar strings on, change them one at a time. This minimises any changes in the overall tension of your guitar. If you take them all off at the same time, you’ll have to wait for your guitar to stabilise again with your new strings on it.
Make sure your guitar is tuned to pitch again and stretch the strings GENTLY. Whatever you do, resist the temptation to pull hard on the guitar strings. If you do this to a wound string you will most likely stretch the windings apart where your fingers pull on them, and after that your string will never really sound in tune as the mass of the guitar string will be different along its length.
Check that your baby plays nicely, and that the action hasn’t changed. Seasonal changes in humidity will cause the wood in your guitar to expand or contract, and your setup may have changed. Unless you are REALLY familiar with setups & truss rod adjustments, leave these steps to a professional. Here at Freya Guitars (www.freyaguitars.ie) we provide a professional setup service that will see your guitar is serviced and set up to your own taste and we will get it back to you as quickly as possible (remember – all Freya Guitars bought new from us come with a free lifetime setup service for the original purchaser, you will only pay for strings and any other out-of-warranty parts, if needed).
Batteries: Replace every battery in every piece of equipment, no matter how little use it has had. Batteries discharge over time, whether you use them or not. Hopefully, you will have removed any batteries that were already in your guitar, pedals or other equipment before now. Battery leakage can be tough to clean out, and often causes permanent damage. I know some batteries say “leakproof” right on them, but my experience has been that these will eventually leak also, given enough time. Try not to use any battery that says “Heavy Duty”, this is a misnomer if there ever was one. Those are the cheapest and weakest batteries. Use Alkaline or other high-end quality batteries from a reputable manufacturer.
Cables: Check all cables (or leads) you have – microphone cables, guitar leads, speaker leads and any other cables you have – and clean the metal plugs on the ends also, as the plug-ends can corrode during storage. Usually a thorough and hard buffing with a clean rough cloth will do, but there are cleaners on the market for this if you need them. Throw out any dodgy cables, or have them repaired with good-quality ends. Note: a cheap soldering iron rarely gets hot enough to “flow” the solder. “Lumpy” solder joints are what’s known as “cold” solder joints, and will be noisy and will eventually fail, perhaps at the worst possible moment. Do it properly or have a pro do it for you. We provide this service at Freya Guitars, and we try to save cables if possible.
Amplifiers & PA systems: These should generally be good-to-go, however, set it all up the way you normally would, and make certain that it’s working properly, before your first gig. Plug in microphones, guitars and anything else you use, and give it a good workout. Remember to check your cables – see above. Sometimes, due to a period of non use, the pots (rotary & slider controls) in your amplifier can become noisy. Try rotating them through their full rotation (L&R or up & down) a few times and see if that sorts them out, nine times out of ten that’ll clean them. Annoying at best, if left alone this can shut off your sound at the worst possible moment. These can usually be cleaned with a proprietary cleaner, though best to leave this to a pro, as it can mean opening up your amp, and we all know what happens if you touch something we shouldn’t, especially on a tube amp, don’t we? A tube amp can store enough voltage to kill you (even weeks after its last use and unplugged at that time). That’s as in ‘Stone Dead’, electrocuted dead – so don’t go a-messin’ with it unless you’re qualified to do so.
Now you should be good to go gigging. Don’t forget to bring spare cables, strings & batteries, and of course your song list and song words……memories can be dodgy too.
For all your musical instrument needs, whether you just want strings, or need to replace any guitar or musical gear you may sadly have had to part with during this difficult period, or even just need advice – don’t hesitate to drop by our shop (located in Firies, Killarney, Co. Kerry) or call me (Robert) on 087-680-5214. I’m only too happy to help in any way I can.
At Freya Guitars both Anne & I have always believed that it’s our mission to support our musicians & artists at all times, and we are very aware of the difficulties facing all artists, especially at this challenging & demanding juncture.
Play Loud, Sing Proud – be prepared!