Setting up an SG for drop C tuning with no buzzing


Here we have a newer Gibson SG standard belonging to Sam, guitarist for hard-punching local band Manrock. Everything feels and sounds pretty good on the guitar, but the bass strings have no sustain above the 13th fret.

Here we see why: Continue reading

Sick String on the road 2/13-2/28: follow here and on Facebook

Hello all–

I’ll be out of the shop for a couple of weeks starting the 13th working as backline tech for Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks (see dates and stops here). This should be a really fun trip and I’m looking forward to getting back on the road.

In the past I’ve really enjoyed writing some tour blogs, giving readers a look behind the scenes at the triumphs and tragedies of a stage tech, and I hope to have time to do a bit of that on this trip. You can check for updates here on the website, subscribe to our RSS feed, or follow along on Facebook. If I can figure out how to cross post to myspace I’ll try to revive that site for us too, especially if anyone comes forward and says they still use it 🙂 If you haven’t already, become a fan of sick string at:

I’m going to try to travel light and post from my phone. Hopefully this will mean more streamlined, but more frequent posts. Let me know if you have questions, tips, suggestions, or requests. Definitely be in touch if you know where I can play pinball in the cities I’m visiting!

Right now I am on track to have most projects wrapped up before I leave, and I’ll be straight back in the shop in march, so feel free to drop new work off for me while I’m gone and I’ll turn it around quickly. Lastly, if you’ve had a good experience with us, please leave a review on google, yelp, or what have you. Positive word of mouth is always appreciated.

More to come soon!

Brian Watson

Ibanez Musician Overhaul

This is a job I’m glad to have finished– my customer dropped the guitar off six months ago! It’s a cool old Ibanez Musician, but had a number of issues. Lots of uneven frets, a collapsing bridge, and a set of pickups that just wasn’t doing it for the owner.

The owner wanted to try something unconventional and was craving something that would give him decent humbucker sounds but also something brighter and more Fender-esque, and inquired about the Nordstrand NDC pickups. I’d never heard them, but after a phone conversation with Nordstrand we decided it would be cool to try them, and ordered a set. A series of personnel changes at the company led to several delays, but I used the time to get other parts on order and draw up a circuit that would allow the pickup coils to be wired in both series and parallel, with individual coil taps as well. Continue reading

Repairing a crushed input jack cavity quickly

This gretsch was in the shop for a setup and small finish chip repair, but no mention was made of the damaged jack area! With a show the same day, an extensive woodworking repair wasn’t an option.

The thin hollowbody side was crushed, with chips of wood missing, and the old jack holding on by wood fibers that wanted to give way, causing a bigger problem.

The solution: pull together as much of the old wood as possible and reinforce with an external jack plate. Continue reading

New Bass and Guitar Pickups Available for Order

Bassists especially, take note:

We are proud to announce that we are now a dealer for Delano Pickups and Nordstrand Pickups!

We’ve been doing a lot of work for bassists lately, and have frequently heard complaints that there isn’t much available for them in Portland besides the usual– Gallien Kreuger, Ampeg, SWR… and when it comes to pickups, Dimarzio, Seymour Duncan, and in the hand-built realm, Fralin and Lollar

Both Lollar and Fralin make excellent traditional passive pickups for Fender basses. What makes Delano and Nordstrand so cool are their innovations and offerings for bassists seeking something unique. In short: they make great traditional pickups, but also ask, why stop there?

Both companies offer active electronics; Nordstrand offers custom preamp configurations. If you’re considering moving beyond standard passive tone-shaping abilities to get more control and extended range from your bass, definitely consider these options– a great alternative to Alembic, Lane-Poor, Aguilar, Bartolini, and others.

Even more exciting to some might be some of the more unusual configurations that could fit a Music Man or Gibson EB series humbucker route– for one example, check out this Delano pickup that combines P and J bass-style pickups in one:

for another cool option in a more standard footprint, check out these Nordstrand hum-cancelling jazz bass pickups– a side-by-side dual coil!

Regardless of whether you’re looking for something specialized or adventurous, however, these pickups sound great, and are a really outstanding tonal improvement for most basses with stock electronics. I recently got to check out a set of the passive Delano JC 4 alnico jazz bass pickups, and they were simply awesome. Extremely detailed, remarkably balanced, and perfectly voiced for bass. Huge lows, crisp highs, and excellent string-to-string clarity. Full chords were rich and pianistic. They mated really well with a set of DR Jonas Hellborg signature strings, which use a single nickel wrap wire for a more even harmonic content. Both the pickups and the strings are most definitely worth checking out. If you have the chance, you can hear them in action by catching local rockers Sleepwalk Kid live– Nick also plays the only Soursound all tube bass amp currently out in the world.

One last thing I’ll mention that I’m excited about: DR’s new DDT “drop-down tuning” string sets. With players bringing me guitars and basses for low tuning setups on a weekly basis, I know these are going to be a really helpful addition in the shop. There are a handful of “drop-tuning” sets already available on the market (GHS, Ernie Ball,) and all leave something to be desired, as they are standard strings on hex cores in heightened gauges. The DR’s are hand-wound, and built using a unique process to stabilize the string at lower tunings. Not just a standard guitar string, but a string formulated from the core wire, to the wraps, with stable tuning and responsive feel at lower pitch in mind. I’ve already got several sets on the way, and if you play in lowered tunings, you should definitely plan to try them out. They might finally change all the compromises you’ve had to make to your setup to get a tight feel from your hybrid tuning setup!

Stop in or drop us a line to give some of this great new stuff a try! We’re always looking for ways to take your playing and tone to the next level, so be in touch.

Q&A: Will Taking All The Strings Off At Once Hurt My Guitar’s Neck?

I got an email from a friend recently asking this common question, and when I’d replied he suggested I re-post the info here, so here you go!

Q: My friend found this quote online and asked about it: “I have been using Dean Markley strings for over 20 years now. I’ve gone through all the popular brands like DR, Rotosound, GHS and Fender. I started with the Superwound series. I played those for years. I thought those strings were the best until I tried the Blue Steel series. I was completely blow away by these strings. They were very consistent from box to box. They kept their brightness and tone for a much longer period than the other brands. The thing I really like about them is their feel. Very soft. Other strings use a thicker core and that tended to be hard on my hands since I play so much and the fact that I play a lot of slap bass. Another benefit of these strings is that they come back great when you boil them. Well, I should say that I use to boil them, now I just run them through the dish washer. I have many vintage Fender Jazz basses and it is important to me to have a consistent feel from bass to bass. That is why I don’t mix and match. The only strings I use are Blue Steel – Light Gauge. Remember to only take one string off at a time when you change your strings. If you take them all off at once or if you put on a different gauge set of strings, the neck will check and throw off your action. Find the set of strings you like and stick with them. Your bass will be glad.”


Is that right? You should take the strings off one at a time — the above quote is from Anthony Vitti – Berklee Bass Guru – so I don’t doubt him but have never heard that before…. Continue reading