Basic Guitar Repair

Glenn Sutton teaches guitar, electric bass, keyboard, theory and improvisation for over 30 years, he specializes in rock, blues, jazz, Latin, Brazilian, classical, country, and folk.

Service your Guitar Yourself and Save

Let’s face it, some guitar repairs are best left to experienced pros. A well-intentioned DYI job on a major service issue can often cause even more damage to your instrument, leading to more costly repairs or even the expense of a replacement. Still, many simple servicing jobs can be done by even a novice guitarist. In this article, we will go over some simple repairs that you can do at home. These do-it-yourself fixes will save you both time and money.

Before we continue, please be truthful with yourself: If you have any doubt at all about your abilities in this department, err on the side of caution and take your instrument to a guitar repair shop. This is especially true if you have a rare, vintage, or exceptionally expensive guitar.

Replacing a Broken Tuning Machine

This is one of the easiest repair jobs you can do. Tuning machines are cheap and plentiful, so it is better to replace one entirely than to attempt repair.

Take one of your old tuning machines off and bring it with you to the guitar shop. The part of the tuner that goes through the headstock varies in diameter between varieties and brands of tuning machine. Be sure to buy a replacement that is the same size or larger. If the new tuner is larger than the old one, you will also need to buy a reamer. If the new tuner has screws in different places than the old one, buy some wood putty to fill in the old holes.

  • Loosen or remove the guitar string.
  • Unscrew and remove the old tuning machine.
  • If the screw holes aren’t going to line up, fill the old ones with wood putty. Allow the putty to dry thoroughly before you continue.
  • If the hole in the headstock is too small for the new machine, use a reamer to carefully enlarge it. Do this a little at a time, and be sure you aren’t making the hole lopsided. The new machine should fit easily in the hole, without forcing and without wobbling around.
  • Install the new tuning machine.

Fixing Fret Buzz

Mute all but one of the strings and play each fret on the unmuted string until you get a buzz. If the buzz begins at one of the top frets, the problem is probably at the nut. If the buzz doesn’t start until you’re closer to the soundhole or the pickup, the problem is probably at the bridge saddle.

If the strings are buzzing at only one fret, the fret itself needs to be adjusted. This requires professional servicing.

If only one string is buzzing, you can simply take a small piece of aluminum foil or paper and fold it into a square. Then loosen the affected string, and insert the foil or paper between the string and the nut or the bridge, then tune the string back up to pitch. You may need to adjust the thickness of the paper to fix this.

If more than one string is buzzing, you can often fix this with a shim inserted in the same way. Use it only on the affected strings.

If the buzzing continues, this may indicate a warped neck. Do not try to fix this yourself.

Conclusion

There are many other minor fixes you can do yourself. Consult a repair manual to see what you can do.

 

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