How can I make my guitar brighter and easier to play?

Discussion in 'Acoustic Instruments' started by jonthomas83, May 6, 2016.

  1. jonthomas83

    jonthomas83 Member

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    This may sound like a stupid question, but I've listed my guitar for sale because I really can't get it to play and sound the way I want it to.

    However, things aren't easy to sell these days and I'm wondering, before I sell it, if there's a way to make it brighter and easier to play?

    The strings are new, I use D'addario coated bronze and I think they're 12 - 53 and apparently they're bright strings! But it doesn't sound bright to me.

    The whole things feels really hard to play. But these are "light" strings apparently and I'm afraid I'll lose tone if I go lighter. That said, to me, the tone isn't great anyway.

    It's a Yamaha AC3R, beautifully built and has rosewood back and sides. http://usa.yamaha.com/products/musical-instruments/guitars-basses/el-ac-guitars/a-series/ac3r/

    So, is it the guitar or is it the strings? Can this guitar ever change it's sound to suit me or should I cut my losses and let it go?

    Many thanks for your advice
     
  2. Lo Blues

    Lo Blues Member

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    You can play around with different string sets to change the brightness to some extent. To make the guitar easier to play throw a set of 10-46 on there. Beyond that you may or may not have some luck with a different nut and possibly a different saddle as well.

    But what you're basically saying is "I don't like the way my guitar plays OR sounds". Ouch. You may want to look for something else.
     
  3. jsm355

    jsm355 Member

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    Being the guitar has plastic nut & saddle you may want to replace those w/ bone if
    you like to attempt to make it sound better & if your budget or availability to
    some extra cash is accessible . Talk to your repair tech for replacement & overall costs.
    If not , try to sell it , recoup as much as you can & then save up for a higher quality guitar.
    All the best .
     
  4. kwicked

    kwicked Supporting Member

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    Might be a bit counter intuitive but a cheap experiment would be to try some 13-56 strings or at least 13 and 17 on your high b and e. If you can lower the action a bit it might be easier to play with the heavier strings too, although its always a balancing act with low action/buzzing. Many folks equate lighter gauge with bright but i just think thin. Doesnt matter much if you are plugging in, but for straight acoustic playing i think all guitars sound better and brighter with mediums (provided they are built to take them). If you are talking about the plugged in sound not being bright, you should be able to EQ that or grab a DI which may help. Just a couple thoughts, good luck!
     
  5. OM Flyer

    OM Flyer Member

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    String gauge is only a small part of the equation. Take it somewhere and have them look at the saddle height, nut slot depth, and neck relief. If your guitar is so uncomfortable to play that you're considering selling it, I can virtually guarantee that it needs some adjustments to its set-up. If the repairman says it needs something expensive, like a neck reset, then you can weigh the cost/benefit of replacement.
     
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  6. mrpinter

    mrpinter Supporting Member

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    There are some good answers here: the nut and saddle are obvious things that usually can be improved upon. Having them worked on or replaced will also provide an opportunity to get a lower action as well, which is probably at least part of your problem with it being hard to play. A set of 12's on an acoustic shouldn't be THAT hard to play. One thing I did to make my acoustic play easier was to have it re-fretted with jumbo frets. Why don't more people do this with acoustics? Don't know, but it did wonders for my guitar.

    EDIT: I just reread your OP and noticed you saying "the tone isn't that great anyway". If you already feel the tone of the guitar is inferior or not to your liking, you're not likely to find anything to really change that situation adequately. It sounds like maybe the best thing to do is cut your losses and sell it, after all. New nuts and saddles or new frets would likely be a waste of money in your case.
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2016
  7. H. Mac

    H. Mac Member

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    DR Sunbeams are the brighter than the coated D'Addarios, and have less tension. If your guitar is hard to play, it needs a professional set up.

    By the way, the "bridge pin thing" can be a slippery and expensive slope, but if the pro who does your set up has sets of a few different materials and will let you experiment, it can be a way to make a guitar brighter (or darker, louder, etc.) for little cost.
     
  8. jonthomas83

    jonthomas83 Member

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    Thank you all for your really helpful replies. I've yet to make a decision on this. Although, my first thoughts, after reading is that there's definitely something tonally that I'm not gelling with. I'll give it another playthrough tonight and will make some decisions. I have a good guitar tech that I can take it to, and may ask him about some of the points you've all made. Thanks again!
     
  9. crimson on pink

    crimson on pink Member

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    Not sure if you use a pick, but i take 3 different ones when i record. Fender extra heavy, medium, and a thin. I use the extra heavy for rhythm stuff so it's full bodied and the other two for brighter overdubs. The thin pick really makes nashville tuning overdubs pop put.
     
  10. Irving Pye

    Irving Pye Member

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    OM flyer said it all! Don't forget the frets too.....they may need to be crowned!
     
  11. bayAreaDude

    bayAreaDude Member

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    A shop that can do a good acoustic setup is rare in my experience. So rare and expensive when you do find one that I just learned to do it myself and now I can make any guitar play like butter. It's not that hard and a great skill to have for a guitarist. Experiment with different materials for nut, saddle, and bridge pins as well.
     
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  12. AcousticDude

    AcousticDude Member

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    A correctly cut nut and shaped saddle of bone will make a huge difference in the tone with correct action on the neck for playability, even with the worst guitar. The question is whether it's worth the money. Figure at least $200.
     
  13. mrpinter

    mrpinter Supporting Member

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    Wow, I thought L.A. was expensive. I just paid $75 for a new bone nut and saddle on my acoustic, with a GOOD tech. Shhh... don't tell anyone. (maybe I got a great rate because I give him a lot of work, but still...)
     
  14. AcousticDude

    AcousticDude Member

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    My guy is a well known luthier who is Martin authorized. I'm sure you can find cheaper, but he has worked on each of my Martins over the years, and yup, I coughed up the $200 because they played so much better to my liking when he was done. Btw, he also did little odds and ends if the guitar needed it.
     
  15. mrpinter

    mrpinter Supporting Member

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    My tech is better than other guys I've used who DID cost way more; I guess I'm lucky, because I'm very picky as well and I am willing to pay for quality. But still, $200 for a bone nut and saddle is close to twice what it should be - "authorized" tech or not. I just looked up the rates that my old, more pricey tech charges and for that job it would be $120. Around here there is a lot of competition from all the musicians, maybe that's it. Anyway, you got a better playing guitar, that's the bottom line that matters.
     
  16. Teal_66

    Teal_66 Member

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    Here is something that might be out of left field...but...I was recording about a year ago, and I was about to do a take on the acoustic. I reached down and accidentally picked up the wrong pick (a Dunlop carbon fiber jazz pick). I am not joking when I tell you that it made the sound of the guitar 50% brighter, almost like I had EQ'd it. So, whenever I am recording, and I don't feel like changing strings, or I want a brighter sound, I use one of those picks. They are small, but you get used to it.

    http://www.sweetwater.com/store/det...iii&creative=12353302543&device=c&matchtype=b

    This is my opinion only, but if I wanted to sound brighter, I'd use a lesser gauge (9's). The thicker the string would seem to give it a fuller sound. The wood and soundboard also affect the sound. It can be a lot of things, as others have commented.
     
  17. kevmin

    kevmin Supporting Member

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    I have played a lot of that model guitar in the stores, and they always impress me. I would try a Tusq XL nut and a Tusq saddle, include a nice set up with a different brand of strings. To me, coated strings are always a little darker, but I like that. For me they are worth it.
     
  18. doc

    doc Member

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    I'd definitely try a set of uncoated strings - search around for discussions about strings and look for a set described as bright. The next step that should brighten it the most is a bone saddle - the problem is yours has an under saddle pickup, so it would be a bit more involved. A bone nut would also help, but not as big an effect. Also remember that in evaluating the tone of an acoustic, it sounds different out in front of the guitar than it does while playing it. Have someone else play it while you listen before deciding (or sometimes I play while a short distance from a hard wall and aim so the reflected sound is right at me). It may sound great to others listening. Oh, and those Dunlop carbon fiber jazz picks are my favorites!
     
  19. Stratobuc

    Stratobuc Member

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    Have your guitar properly setup and the neck adjusted to be straight. Install a set of Curt Mangan Phosphor Bronze strings of your favorite gauge.

    I just did this with my Larrivee LV-03R, and it plays and sounds fantastic.
     
  20. Avenger

    Avenger Member

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    My Taylor 410k became significantly brighter and louder when I replaced the worn out Tusq saddle with bone. I also replaced the ebony bridge pins with bone, but I don't think this had nearly as much impact as the saddle. I've grown to play almost all finger style on it, so the added volume and brightness have been perfect for me.

    Edit: ...and I did it myself. Sanding and fitting a bone saddle is super easy. If you like your current setup just make it the same size, drop it in and play.
     

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