#47: Guitar Setup And String Choice With Diego Casillas


Guitar Setup And String Choice With Diego Casillas

If you've listened to any of our episodes, you know how important new strings, proper tuning and guitar setup in general is, when it comes to making a record. It's become a running joke at this point, because we're preaching it all the time.

And this time you're gonna hear it not only from us, but from a specialist and true expert in this specific field.

Diego Casillas is a killer guitar tech, a very smart person, a really cool dude to hang with and now the first guest on our show! He's worked with bands like Underoath, Chromeo, SmashMouth or Buzzcocks, among many others, as well as with amazing producers, such as Colin Brittain for example. 

He helps bands set up and break down their live rigs and makes sure the right instruments are equipped with the right strings, perfectly set up, in tune and ready to go at all times in the studio.

So Diego really knows a thing or two about setting up guitars in general and also specifically for recording situations. And by the way, if you want to learn more about this after listening to this episode, Diego was kind enough to do an even more in-depth live webinar for my The Self-Recording Band Academy beta testers. I've added that to the course as a free bonus workshop for you and you'll get access to that, as soon as you join the program.

In case you're not familiar with the terms "guitar tech" or "guitar setup": That means setting intonation, setting action, muting techniques, setting relief, calibrating pickups, proper restringing technique, gauge selection, cleaning/repairing guitars, pick selection, tuning stability, etc. All absolutely crucial things if you want to get a great tone and feel.

For this podcast episode we focus on instrument selection, string selection (gauge, material, brand), as well as setting intonation, action and neck relief.

And on top of that Diego is throwing in so many stories, insights and knowledge bombs that you'll probably want to listen to this more than once, so you can catch all the little nuggets of wisdom!

This episode was edited by Thomas Krottenthaler.

Diego's Instagram:


String Tension Calculator:


Recommended Tuners:

Peterson StroboStomp HD, Peterson SP-1 StroboPlus HD, Sonic Research ST-300

Automatic Episode Transcript — Please excuse any errors, not reviewed for accuracy (click for full transcript)

TSRB Podcast 047 - Guitar Setup And String Choice With Diego Casillas

[00:00:00] Benedikt: [00:00:00] Giggle is guitar tech. We're going to talk about setting up guitars, choosing the right strain gauges, making sure that intonation is spot on making sure the actions, right. Why and how you all do 

Diego: [00:00:12] that. 

Benedikt: [00:00:13] That's what we'll talk about. 

Diego: [00:00:16] This is 

Benedikt: [00:00:16] the self recording band podcast. The show 

Diego: [00:00:19] where we 

Benedikt: [00:00:19] help you make exciting records on your own 

Diego: [00:00:22] wherever you are, DIY style, 

Benedikt: [00:00:25] let's go

the low and. Come to the self recording van podcast. I am your host Benedict time, and I'm here with my friend and cohost Malcolm owned flood as well as our guest today. Diego Cassius. Hello, Diego. How are you? 

Diego: [00:00:42] Good. Been a Dick. Thanks for having me on man. And a pleasure to meet you Malcolm. I've heard a lot about you and I'm real excited to be here today.

Malcom: [00:00:48] Likewise, man. Yeah. Thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate having you. 

Diego: [00:00:52] No problem. 

Benedikt: [00:00:52] So Diego is what I would call a guitar tech and an absolutely fantastic one. He's worked with bands [00:01:00] like under oath, corn. Alison Jane's. Day two, remember Papa Roach. He's done it live as well as in the studio, working for amazing producers and engineers like Colin Brittain, for example, he's a true expert.

When it comes to setting up guitars, choosing the right strings, choosing the right instruments, even breaking down, setting up rigs, building guitars, even all that stuff. Repairing guitars is a true expert in that. And as we all know, Guitar set up the right strings workflow, all that is so, so crucial when it comes to making records that we just had to bring him on.

Also, Diego has done an amazing webinar, a workshop, sort of a masterclass when it comes to setting up guitars for the self recording band Academy, our start to finish online course on how to make records on your own. Yeah, why style? And now Diego, I'm super curious to hear what you've been up to lately.

We first met at an audio conference like two years ago in Orlando, Florida, I think. And then [00:02:00] after that you did the webinar for my course. 

Diego: [00:02:02] Sure. And 

Benedikt: [00:02:03] now I'm so excited to have you back. Tell us a little about what you actually do. 

Diego: [00:02:08] Well, that's a fantastic introduction Benedict, and I really appreciate that.

Um, yeah, I mean, I, I would say my largest area of expertise is in the area of guitar setup and repair. Um, some people call, you know, my position, either a guitar tech or a Luther. Um, I don't really build guitars anymore, but I used to, um, that's what I would consider being a Lucier. Um, but I'm kinda more than that too.

Uh, my main. Role, I would say that I get paid for the most is what I would call a backline technician, um, in the touring world. That means that I can handle setting up and breaking down every day on the road for shows, um, guitar rigs in your monitor rigs, um, you know, uh, stage racks for mixers out in front of house keyboards.

Any instrument on stage I'm able to with some competency. Set them up and break them down every day so that the musicians [00:03:00] can simply walk on stage and play. Um, that includes maintaining the rigs. So I know how to fix cables, pass through patchbays anything like that with wiring. Um, I can install ever tunes.

I mean, anything you can think of with guitars, Riggs, keyboards, even drums, um, all of that synthesizers. I know how to set that up, optimize it. Um, save sounds yada, yada. Um, but beyond that, I also do a bit of playback rig operation. Um, what that means is when artists have backing tracks live, that they, you know, they hear a click in their in-ear monitors and they play with, you know, background vocals of people that aren't onstage to keep them all in sync.

And to kind of add a little bit of a background layer to the performance, I can design those. I can take your stems from a recording. Load those up into a session and then prepare those to be used as live backing tracks, which is a very different thing than just, you know, playing them over speakers at home.

Um, I can design that. I can set that up. I can build the rig. I do a lot of [00:04:00] different things in the live production arena, but what I've been doing lately really is really focusing on another big portion of my kind of work and income, which is studio guitar optimization. And that's a little bit different than guitar checking in terms of like owning a repair shop.

I don't just repair guitars. What I do is I kind of set them up. Um, you can kind of think of me as like a NASCAR pit tech or a pit repair crew, man, um, a mechanic, if you will, uh, I'm there to tune up your guitar so that it's con it can perform the best. Um, that it can for the performance and for the context, because, um, a lot of people are mystified about what guitar setup is.

It's basically just how your guitar is performing in a given situation. Right. And in layman's terms, and what I've been doing is I go in the studio. Um, and as you mentioned with my friend, Colin Brittain, whose birthday it is today, actually, 

Malcom: [00:04:52] if you, 

Diego: [00:04:53] yeah, if you guys want to go, wish him a happy birthday, feel free to do that.

Um, but, um, say Colin will bring me into a session. We actually just did [00:05:00] a big. New record with Papa Roach. Um, I'm not sure if we can say that, but I'm saying it. And so they had a lot of different tunings they were using, well, not every tuning is going to require the same thing of a guitar and not every parts can require the same thing.

So on a day-to-day basis, I was just restringing guitars. Even the same guitar for. Multiple different tunings from drop a to East standard. And that requires a lot of changes to keep them playing optimally with those different, you know, string gauges, string types, um, and for the, for the different part in the way that each player is going to play.

Right. So that's kind of what I've been doing a lot lately is focusing on just while there's no touring happening. Thanks to COVID-19. Um, bands just bring me into the studio with him. And I set up their guitars to play the best they can to get the best takes and recordings. Um, as well as just people will drop stuff off to my home shop here in Whittier, California, and I just do repairs and modifications and stuff like that.

Right now. Awesome. 

[00:06:00] Benedikt: [00:05:59] See you that way. That's why I was asking you to do the introduction for 

Malcom: [00:06:03] yourself a little 

Benedikt: [00:06:03] bit, because you can explain it so much better than I can. There's so much more to it, to what you do. Um, the proper Roach thing, especially, um, is really interesting to me because I saw, and I think you can talk about it because I saw a lot of pictures that call them posted on Facebook about the, the, the production there.

So it's I don't, yeah, I don't think it's a, it's a. It's a secret. Um, and that looked really red because I D I think you haven't been at a studio, but you rented like a mansion and, 

Diego: [00:06:32] Oh, you did the production there. 

Benedikt: [00:06:33] So I assume if you do something like that, I assume that the reason is besides COVID maybe, but the reason is that the band just one wants to feel comfortable.

They want to have an environment that's inspiring. They want to like, um, make great art and focus on what's really important. So that's why they also need good instruments ready to go at all times, I assume. So that's just part of the whole idea of doing it that way, right? 

Diego: [00:06:59] Absolutely. [00:07:00] I mean, you know, um, it was.

A pretty easy choice for them, I think, to make, just because of the budget that they had and things like that. Like instead of just going to a normal studio, say like NRG, right, where they've done a lot of albums previously in North Hollywood, you have to stay in a hotel nearby. So you're in a hotel you're not comfortable.

You, uh, are living out of a suitcase. And then, you know, you're in North Hollywood, which is pretty grungy, dirty place. Right. And then you have to walk every day to the studio versus. The mansion that we rented, which was down, um, kind of down in Southern California, out in a, in a more rural area, we were able to just wake up.

And a bunch of bunk beds. It was really a great set up and all the band members had their own rooms. I mean, this room, this house had 12, 15 bedrooms or something. It was unbelievable. Um, but you'd wake up in this like Scarface esque mansion. So you already feel like a baller. You feel like a rockstar, right?

That already gets you kind of in that vibe. It really does as cheesy as it sounds. And then the whole living room, we just immediately tore [00:08:00] the living room apart and made a massive control room. We had our barefoot monitors, our mains. Two huge racks, full of outboard gear that we had to assemble at the home studio and then transport it in a truck, which I was in charge of, um, all these instruments that we rented.

I mean, we had a really, really massive setup. We had a drum room and everything that was in a separate bedroom, and that really gets you into the creative flow because you can just wake up. We had a private chef, we just, you know, drink coffee, eat food that he makes for breakfast. And you just sit down on the couch, like you're going to watch TV and then you just start.

Ripping a record, you know, it couldn't be much more fun and easy than that, basically it's a massive home studio where everyone's living at for a month. 

Malcom: [00:08:41] Yeah, that's amazing. I love that 

Diego: [00:08:44] idea. It was absolutely incredible. I've never been part of something like that and it's, I, it was really, really fun.

Yeah. Wow. Sounds like it. Yeah. 

Benedikt: [00:08:52] So Malcolm, this is the first episode where I think I didn't ask you how you've been, because I 

Malcom: [00:08:57] see me just started talking to the 

Diego: [00:08:59] AAO [00:09:00] sort of for that. 

Malcom: [00:09:01] No, that that's fine. I, uh, I'm really captivated by that story. Any bands? I want to make a record in dimension. Yeah. It's got my number, reach on out.

I'm into that idea, especially if there's a private chef. 

Diego: [00:09:13] Right. Bring all of us, please. 

Benedikt: [00:09:15] Yeah, exactly. 

Diego: [00:09:17] So, 

Benedikt: [00:09:17] Mark, what do you think now that Diego has 

Diego: [00:09:20] explained 

Benedikt: [00:09:21] a bit of what he, what he does? What do you think are the most common issues or the most interesting things to our audience that, um, we could ask Diego now because I mean, We need to do as self recording bands, African musicians.

We need to do a lot of that stuff on our own or all of it on our, on our own. And it's, um, it's kind of challenging for people because everyone just wants to make art. Everyone wants to move fast and, and record it, get creative and no one or not many people really think about all the preparation and take the time to do it.

Right. So [00:10:00] what do you think, what are the most common mistakes or issues? 

Diego: [00:10:04] Uh, 

Malcom: [00:10:04] the most common mistake and, and it being a mistake implies that they tried, um, in a way because they did something, but they just kind of messed up. And that would be, uh, I think like missing the intonation step of changing strings.

Um, especially if they're going to new strings, which I often might request of them like changing gauge. Um, 

Diego: [00:10:26] and then 

Malcom: [00:10:26] it just shows up and the guitar is not set up 

Diego: [00:10:28] well. 

Malcom: [00:10:29] Um, especially with that new tension and, and new string gauge. So. I think maybe we could talk about string gauge as like a good starting point.

Does that seem like a good starting point to you guys? 

Benedikt: [00:10:39] I mean, Diego, what do you think? What, from your perspective, what's like the most important thing or where would you start? Because I think as well, like choosing the right strings for me is that that's where it starts from for most people. 

Malcom: [00:10:52] One more actually would be that, uh, the, uh, what I would say is a misconception that your guitar [00:11:00] is the guitar for the job.

Were the, the guitar that they gig with is the one that they're going to record with. And that is so often not the right guitar for the part or, or song or whatever. Um, so maybe, maybe pre-production starts a little bit further in guitar choice, but it's hard to do that. And when you're not in the studio, 

Benedikt: [00:11:16] Yeah, 

Malcom: [00:11:16] you're guessing until you actually get the shoot them out.

Benedikt: [00:11:19] Yeah. 

Diego: [00:11:20] I would absolutely agree with that Malcolm. I think that's actually interesting. Cause I had kind of overlooked that with Benadette because we had a call the other day before this to kind of see what topics we wanted to cover. Um, I would say absolutely. Let's start with guitar selection. Maybe we can touch on that briefly.

Cause I have three other topics that I think are more bang for your buck. Um, but that is an incredibly important one to note. And I will say that during the, um, recording process and in many times when I've been in the studio, um, the band brings their own guitars, of course, but the producer also has their own guitars.

Right? I mean, you guys have your collections on display right now. Um, oftentimes the producers have much better guitars, uh, [00:12:00] including ones with Everett tunes. I see that Jericho back there with the attitude. 

Malcom: [00:12:03] Um, you need some love, 

Diego: [00:12:05] Oh, I will, I will fly out there. I will help you out. I got to 

Malcom: [00:12:08] blanch it. Come on.

Diego: [00:12:10] I think that, you know, that's such an important thing. I mean, Do you have the right number of strings? Maybe you want to do a seven string part and you don't own one, right? Maybe the producer has one. Maybe this would sound better on a baritone, right? Maybe we'll rewrite the song in a different tuning. Um, maybe this one has, uh, you know, a traditional tele three saddle bridge and it has that Twain and it is a little.

and that's kind of the vibe, right? We want more of like a rolling stones thing. Right. So I think picking the right guitar absolutely is so critical. And I think having even tracking multiple of the same parts, right? So you're going to quad track using a different guitar for each part. A lot of people don't know that that's allowed, right.

Or that's a possibility or, or that you could tune down a drop a on a three 35 Gibson hollow body. Right. Well, you absolutely can. There's no rules to anything. So [00:13:00] kind of thinking outside the box, I think is something people should really start to do. Hey, why am I using this guitar? What sound am I chasing?

Um, for instance, that new loads record, do you guys know the band lobe? 

Benedikt: [00:13:12] I know, I know them. I know them. Yeah. But I don't think I remember something specific about that record, but I know the band. Yeah. 

Diego: [00:13:20] Yeah. So it's, it's this new band that George, um, I'm a huge fan of his productions. Um, and he's, he's talked with Kevin and I, and Colin he's, uh, he's in our kind of circle a little bit.

Absolutely phenomenal producer, um, that band, they all use. I mean, well, first of all, they're playing very heavy kind of deaf tones, um, sleep token, very, very heavy, modern metal. That can be very melodic at times. They're using. Gretsch guitars and like Telecaster, like standard Telecasters with like three saddle setups.

Like they're not using the typical RSD Strandberg, like modern metal guitars. And that [00:14:00] lends them a very unique vibe and sound. And they purposely did that because they want to stand out. Whereas everyone else would just grab, you know, an ESP with, you know, some bare knuckles off the shelf and consider themselves done because, but then that's the same sound everyone else has.

So why not try something different? And get a little bit of a different vibe with like low game pickups. How does that sound with my 51 50, right? 

Benedikt: [00:14:22] Yeah. No, absolutely. That's interesting. Yeah. Um, I like that what you said about that, there are no rules because that's something in the audio world in general that.

Like people read something and they, they view it as a law and they think you always have to do it that way. It's the same with the accusing EQR compression or whatever. It's the same with choosing guitars choosing strings. So there are no laws there's no right or wrong. And, um, you gotta be, but that's something we've been preaching on this podcast.

A lot that you got to make bold decisions and you gotta be willing to fail as well, because sometimes it just won't work, but it's worth a try. So. 

Diego: [00:14:58] Absolutely. I think that [00:15:00] dogmatic thinking, um, and there's, uh, uh, I mean, whatever you think about audio, there is so much more dogma and like, Out of the prejudice, I guess, against certain ideas in the guitar community, like guitar setup and repair committee, there's like, you know, this is law, this is all there is.

And there's so many, so many ways to achieve X, Y, Z, that you want to do. I mean, there's really, there's no problem. As long as you get that end result, it doesn't matter how you got there. You know, that's always the way I think of it. What is the result that we're achieving? It doesn't matter. I love that 

Benedikt: [00:15:32] a hundred percent.

Okay. Let's, let's dive into these bullet points that we've prepared today. Um, let's, let's, let's talk about choosing the right strengths, the right strain gauge, and then about intonation and, uh, action. So the things you actually can do yourself pretty easily, if you know, why and how, and, um, if you've got, if you do it in that, in a systematic, purposeful way.

So. When it comes to choosing the right strings for the job, 

Diego: [00:15:58] what would 

Benedikt: [00:15:59] you [00:16:00] say? W w w where should people start like learning or what, what is there to know for us? So when we, when we start, um, picking the rights kind of strings or the right brand, so materials, whatever. 

Diego: [00:16:12] Well, I would say, I mean, almost any string brand that you see at the store.

They're going to be just fine. Uh, there's a lot of worry, I think. And a lot of, again, this is one of those things where there's so much dogmas surrounding this topic and any topic in guitar player that people are kind of afraid. I'll demystify everything here for you today. Just strings. They're all built.

Just fine. Right. They're not going to break right out of the package. That's it companies wouldn't be able to last that way. Dr. D'Addario Dunlop. They're all made by machines that have been tuned over hundreds. Well, not hundreds, but all Mami, maybe hundreds, maybe hundreds of years. I mean, people have been making guitar strings since the 17 hundreds.

Right? So we have it down, right. There's machines that are computer controlled that make the strings, they're all going to be. Quality-wise [00:17:00] fine. The main differences that you're going to see are string life. Um, the string sound, which is based on the material that the strings are made out of and gauge, that's really all it comes down to.

Right? So I will say right off the bat, um, Ernie ball strings sound phenomenal out of the gate, but they die extremely quickly in my experience, right? I've seen players play, you know, a low tuned part on a base with Ernie ball strings it'll die within two takes, and then I have to swap it again. So Ernie ball, they don't last that long, but they sound great.

Uh, sorry. Uh, who's the other one brand, uh, D'Addario I was going to say Dunlop. D'Addario one of my favorite stream companies in the world. If not my favorite, they have the most consistent sound. They have the biggest factory. They make the most strings. Um, and they last, the longest, in my opinion, the NYX sells I've used a set for three months before, right.

I mean, not in a studio context, but even then I've used, you know, the same set in the studio for a whole day's worth of takes before I had to change them. So that's another [00:18:00] thing to keep in mind for. Economy, right. You don't want to be spending a bunch. 

Malcom: [00:18:04] I want to go on the record and say that the idea is totally my brand of choice as well.

Diego: [00:18:08] Yeah. I was about to say, 

Benedikt: [00:18:09] I was about to say that as well, and 

Diego: [00:18:11] I need to, 

Benedikt: [00:18:12] uh, just real quick here, because I really need, 

Diego: [00:18:15] need people to 

Benedikt: [00:18:16] remember that you just said. They last long and I could get a whole day of takes out of them that, to us, that that sounds reasonable. And like, it's actually pretty long, but I know that for some listeners they might go like, what I mean, am I supposed to change?

Just change strings more often than that, like a day is like, A pack a day. Seems a lot to me, you know? So, uh, we all know that you need to change strings frequently and that, yeah. Like, I, I just, I just know that it's not the case and that for many people and they are not aware of this. So 

Diego: [00:18:50] when 

Benedikt: [00:18:51] does it usually happen?

Usually happen. And how do you notice it? When, when string school dad, when do you know, how do you know that you need to change them? 

[00:19:00] Diego: [00:19:00] Fantastic question. I would say it. If you're recording in a good environment and you're able, and you have a pretty critical ear, or if you're with an engineer that has a critical ear, um, you'll be able to hear a difference in the high end and the attack.

That's really where you're going to notice the deadening of the strings. It's not as drastic as say you left a set on for a year and then now they're completely dull. Right. But if you even just unplug your guitar and then you just hear it acoustically in the room, you'll hear that from when you put them on.

So when you're playing now, say maybe five takes later with sweaty hands. You'll hear that the high end, they don't sound as clanky. They don't sound as shiny. Um, if you're using an analyzer, you'll see maybe a little bit of a, you won't see as many transient spikes around like 1.5 to 4k, which is where the attack of the guitar lives.

Right. You want to hear that? Um, kind of sheen. Um, and then it'll just sound a little flubby. You won't have as much of like a. Uh, a [00:20:00] really strong transient pick attack. It'll just sound a little bit flubby, if you will. It's hard to quantify these things because I mean, it, depending on the guitar and the tuning, all these things live in different frequency ranges, but you'll just start to hear and feel that the guitar is no longer.

Um, specifically, if you're doing like a little bit of a heavier part, you won't hear that pick attack. That's really where I find that you're going to be like, Oh, these are dying. Now. It just sounds kind of like, what will, what versus Cacaca. Not as progressive. I think that's a great way to think about it.

Benedikt: [00:20:30] Yeah, I agree. Um, you said you are, so you're also a D'Addario guy. Do you like, how do you like pro steals on base? Like, not just the, I mean, we all use Nicole wilds for guitars most of the time, but on, on base, I really love the pro steals. They don't last long at all, but I just love how they sound. So. 

Malcom: [00:20:50] My a music store doesn't stock them.

So I actually have never tried them out, but honestly, I've got like this weird mutant P bass thing over here, and it, it sounds angry as hell with just the [00:21:00] nickels. So I've, I've been totally, totally stoked on that. But one day I will give it a shot. I'll get to the next city over and grab some strings there.

Benedikt: [00:21:07] Awesome. Well, yeah, I mean, that's, that brings us to the next point here with like materials. So you said that how they sound and how long they last depends on what material they're made out of. So what, what is there to, to say about that? 

Diego: [00:21:21] Well, absolutely. I mean, so, um, in simplest terms, again, there's so much mystery around this kind of thing, but.

Going from the warmest sounding to kind of like the most metallic sounding, you have pure nickel strings, which are just a steel core, and it's wrapped in just a pure nickel wire. Those are typically used for blues. Those are gonna be a lot mellower, a lot less high-end, um, a lot less transient response and they're gonna, it's gonna sound pretty smooth overall smooth mids.

Um, Yeah, those are used for kind of more of a classic rock vibe, something where you don't need a lot of transient response. Um, [00:22:00] and those tend to last pretty long because. Anytime you have a metal string that, um, is very bright sounding. The brightness is what's going to die first, but they already don't have that much brightness.

So they're going to kind of sound good for a little bit longer in my experience, those are pure nickel strings. Um, then you have the normal nickel wound strings, which are like a nickel steel kind of thing. Um, those are going to be kind of the most, all around string. They'll have a fair amount of brightness, a fair amount of attack, good balanced, low end.

And then. They'll start to get a little bit warmer over time. They're going to lose that high end and sound more mid focused. Um, and then. I think the most unique ones are obviously pure steel strings, right? Stainless steel strings. And like you mentioned, the pro steals, um, those are absolutely phenomenal and have so much attack.

So steel because it's so much harder, uh, is going to resist. Anything impacting it, right. If you try to punch, you know, a cast iron pan versus a stainless steel [00:23:00] you'll feel which one's harder. Right. Even though they're both metal, one of them is obviously much, much harder. So with steel, because it has that resistance, not that you would do, right?

Malcom: [00:23:10] Yeah. Let us know your results in the community. Yeah. 

Diego: [00:23:14] Lots of approaches to this. But if you, if when you hit it, Steel, because it has that much more resistance. It's going to reflect a lot more of that impact back in terms of sound. So when you hit those, it has that metallic attack. And it's really bright.

I mean, they're super bright, in my opinion, some people hate them because they're too bright stainless steel strings, but, um, they're going to have so much transient response that you can just eat you out later if you want. And they sound particularly good on base. Um, and then those do die. Nah, I wouldn't say much quicker, but it's much more noticeable when they do die because you have so much high end and then as strings die, of course, and stretch and mold, and you know, you sweat on them.

They're going to lose a lot of high-end. So, and the other problem with stainless steel strings, despite [00:24:00] how amazing they are and on a guitar as well, there's two other, actually, two other issues that I'll bring up with those, um, is that costs, I mean, stainless steel is. Unbelievably expensive at times. Um, this is a Rob Hill building material, particularly now with coronavirus.

Um, and as a self recording band, when you're going to be changing strings relatively often. And if you're tracking a really complicated based part or just tracking a lot of bass parts, if you're changing. You know, a pack of pro steals every couple hours, you're spending $150 a day on strings easily, right?

Because these packs are 50, $60 depending on what brand, because I mean, it just costs more. The company has to make a profit, but you will get a desired result if that's the sound you're going for. So I would say, just be aware of what you're looking for. And that there is a bit of a cost prohibition in terms of stainless steel.

Um, and you can get pretty close with, you know, like NYX L strings, right. [00:25:00] Versus stainless steel strings on guitar. It, you're not going to get that much more of a benefit of that. 

Benedikt: [00:25:04] That's pretty, that's super, that's super interesting because here in a decent Germany, like the normal nickel wound based drinks costs exactly the same as the pro steals, just the Nya XL are much more expensive, so, 

Diego: [00:25:17] Oh, that's, that's interesting to hear.

Yeah. Yeah, I've seen, I've seen some of the, um, the stainless steel strings be, you know, a little more expensive over here. Maybe if it's a shipping thing, I don't know where we get our, our steel from. Um, 

Benedikt: [00:25:28] yeah. Well, th but it makes sense. So, 

Diego: [00:25:30] yeah, of course. And the other issue is that, so a lot of people don't think about this, but.

The fret material is what's actually touching the string, right? When you're playing a guitar and you play, you're touching the string to the front, not the front board. So those two metals are interacting in a certain way. Right? Well, most guitars have nickel silver frets, and like we said, Nichols, a little bit softer than stainless steel.

So if you're using stainless steel strings, On nickel frets, you're [00:26:00] going to wear into those frets a lot quicker because steel is harder. You're rubbing a harder material into a softer material by threading it. So if you play for a very long time and you only play stainless steel strings on say our particular base, you will wear down the frets much quicker.

I mean, and this is in the grand scheme of things of like a year and a half, two years, you will need to refresh that guitar and put new frets on, which is very expensive, laborious procedure. Um, much more often over the lifetime of the instrument. Now that's not that big of a problem, right? Because most people aren't using a stainless steel strings only on this instrument, but the opposite is true as well.

A lot of players now like stainless steel frets, which are very nice feeling, very nice, sounding, very smooth when you bend. But if you're using nickel strings on stainless steel frets, now you're rubbing a soft material into a hard material and your strings are going to die much more quickly. So that's just something to know.

I mean, um, most people, when they buy the guitar, they specify it, [00:27:00] Hey, I want stainless steel frets, and it's kind of a rare thing still, but it is in the mainstream to some degree, a lot of commercially available guitars have stainless frets. So if you know, you have stainless steel frets and you're going to use nickel silver strings just know that they will die, and this is much more evident.

They will die in about twice the time or half the time rather. Um, then if you're using steel on steel or nickel on nickel, 

Benedikt: [00:27:23] interesting. See these are those things that most people don't ever think about. Um, But 

Diego: [00:27:29] it makes so much sense. 

Benedikt: [00:27:30] So I, I bet that most of our audience probably doesn't even know what types of threats they have on their students.

I don't even know that the material of the frets on my instruments, to be honest. So, 

Diego: [00:27:39] well, an easy way to tell is just if you buy a guitar right. Almost a hundred percent of guitars, just that don't specify are going to be Nicholas silver standard, hardness frets, and it's fine. But when you see a guitar and it says, you know, stainless steel, French, a lot of like artists, signature models, like, um, I think certain Keith marrow signature models.

Um, and then a couple other [00:28:00] like imports from Ivan as they specify, Hey, these are stainless frets. Um, and then yeah, if you're using nickel on those, I mean, it just, and when you take the strings off, you see there's divots in the strings. It kills them because steel is, I think almost three times as hard as nickel silver.

So it's like, it's unbelievable what it does to the strings, but the fret sound great. 

Malcom: [00:28:22] That's really interesting. 

Diego: [00:28:23] Yeah, just, uh, you know, those little things that like, eventually that could cost you over the life of a record. If you guys are doing tons and tons of guitar tracks and you have, you know, you're wasting all these strings, well, not wasting, but you're using all these strings.

That's a cost to keep in mind. That's something to know, just so you're not surprised by it. And you can plan ahead. 

Malcom: [00:28:43] Yeah. Yeah. And the time factor of changing strings. It's also something to be 

Diego: [00:28:50] considered indie 

Malcom: [00:28:51] bands in the studio. The time can be costly. 

Diego: [00:28:54] Yeah. If you're not that adept at it. I mean, I have a power drill that I use that, especially for [00:29:00] this, I have a technique that I use.

I've been, I've set up thousands of guitars. I can change strings I've I've changed strings mid song for an artist who broke all their strings. You know what I mean? It's like, but other, other people maybe aren't are a little more timid and maybe there's only one member of the band. Who's that confident.

And then they have to stop and do it. And maybe they're the one engineering, right. So now you're losing time while the engineer has to stop and change the strings, and then he's also playing the part. So it can quickly add up in terms of a time, like you said, that's a great point, Malcolm. Thank you for bringing that up.

Very cool. I 

Benedikt: [00:29:31] just imagined you just, as you said, Like this, this pit stop crew that just like, you know, better of seconds, the strings are, are set and everything's ready to go. So again, you know, 

Malcom: [00:29:41] like I'll do it just don't even take it off his lap, 

Diego: [00:29:44] but it's still playing. It's like that sometimes, man, I mean, sometimes these bands don't have a backup guitar and I'm like, I see a string broken and I'm like, I have 30 seconds to get this new string on because we are on camera.

Oh boy. Yeah, 

Benedikt: [00:29:59] yeah, yeah. [00:30:00] That's so 

Malcom: [00:30:01] funny. 

Benedikt: [00:30:02] Yeah. Um, okay. So a little recap, you, you probably need to change strings every like for every song basically, or maybe even after a couple of takes. So that's just normal. Um, depending on the material used is gonna last a little longer. Also not every person is the same, at least in my experience with some players, they just last longer than others.

Like, I don't know why that is. Yeah. Yeah. It's like, 

Diego: [00:30:27] that's also a factor it's because people either have sweaty your hands, like Malcolm sat, uh, said the acid in your sweat. I mean, some people have very. Clean sweat, if you can call it that other people have very corrosive sweat. And especially if you smoke, um, if you drink alcohol, if you're, um, I don't know, just kind of like, if you didn't wash your hands that day, you will wear these strings down significantly faster.

Benedikt: [00:30:52] Yeah. Acidity. It's just, yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And then, um, and then we have the whole nickel versus [00:31:00] steel and everything in between. Cause sort of a conversation. Now, when let's say we, we know what street, what strings we want to have for the record or for the part or for the song. Um, what about the strain gauge how to find out what's the right string gauge for what I'm about to 

Diego: [00:31:16] do?

Well, this is absolutely one of my favorite topics and I consider it to be one of the things that I can offer uniquely to artists is I have a very keen understanding of string tension, right? So the easiest way, every pack of guitar strings is going to have, um, on the back or on the website, um, a readout of the tension.

Per string in a given tuning that tuning is always East standard with a equal to four 40 Hertz, right. Standard tuning. Um, and it will give you a readout of the gauge of the string, right. Measured in thousands of an inch. And then it will give you a equivalent tension. Now, I think right here, it's very important to demystify for people.

None of this, that I'm saying [00:32:00] that we're talking about today is like an absolute, this is a must, this is dogma. This is you have to believe this, but these are guidelines, right? This is kind of a general target area of this is what works. Right. So I'm going to read out right now, just based on D'Addario his website, a standard pack of D'Addario the, the orange XL pack, which pretty much everyone uses.

That's like the standard string, right? Yeah. In East standard on a normal scale length guitar, which is we'll kind of touch on that a little bit too. Um, th th the gauges are from high to low E uh, 10, 13, 17, 26, 36 46. Now, what does that mean? That's just how thick the string is. That's all there is to it, nothing more to say.

And then the tension for each string is 16, 15, 16. 19 1917. Well, what does that mean? Right. Long story short. It just means how tight the string is going to feel and how much effort it's going to take for you to press it down. And Fred, it [00:33:00] that's all, it means you don't need to know the units. You don't need to know anything.

Just know that that number is kind of a general, how hard is it for me to press it down? Right? How tight is it? And then the other part of that is how much force does it take for my S my pick. To make it move forward and backwards, right. If you have very floppy strings, right, then you pick through them, they're kind of just going to will blah, blah, blah, blah.

They'll just kind of push, like you're pushing a rubber band. Right. But if you have a very tight string, Which we'll talk about what that means. Tension wise. It's going to feel like you're kind of like hitting, you have to really dig into it to get it to move. And there's various reasons why we might want one versus the other.

Benedikt: [00:33:42] Awesome. Yeah. Um, so that makes sense, but 

Diego: [00:33:45] it also, 

Benedikt: [00:33:46] it depends. So it depends on the string on the thickness, but also like the instrument you're using the scale length that also. Um, is like one of these numbers in these charts. Right. You need to know, uh, [00:34:00] yeah. What instrument you're playing. So you get accurate tension numbers.

Diego: [00:34:04] Absolutely. So I think before we even dive into that, I will say the easiest way to demystify this for the self recording band is just, there are many, many string calculators online. And I know you've mentioned that before to, to, to the, uh, to the members of the group. Um, but don't get too hung up on certain things, as long as you just know that.

A certain couple values and maybe I'll make a video actually to accompany this just how to use the string calculator. But I think the easiest way is just go to, I use string tension pro on Dede Arias website, just Google string tension pro it's a basic calculator. And the easiest way to do it is just, you just have to enter your tuning.

You just entered the scaling of your guitar, which you can easily find. You just find the model number of your guitar. You just look it up online on Sweetwater. It will tell you what the scale length is. That's just how long the neck is from the nut to the bridge. That's all it means, right? How long is that?

And then you [00:35:00] just type in, um, you know, what gauges of strings you have, or you want to use, and it'll spit out how tight those strings are going to feel, which is the tension, right. Um, And then you can mess around with it. You can be like, Hey, I want to enter now the tension I want to feel, which is great because that's a great way to work.

How tight do I want these strings to feel? Then it'll spit out what gauges you should buy. And then you can kind of maybe buy two packs and pick what gauges you need that are closest to that. It doesn't need to be exact, just get close. Right. And then. You can even buy single strings and assemble your own set.

Right. But here's, let's, let's dive into that a little bit now. So let's say we have a string calculator, which I have up right now and let's say I want, um, These strings to feel a little more balanced, right? Because like I said, I have, you know, 16 pounds up top and then it kind of gets like light in the middle, like 15 pounds.

And then it gets like heavy at the bottom. And then the lowest string is really light, right. So I have, [00:36:00] uh, 18 pounds, 19 pounds, and then 17 pounds on the bottom. It seems a little weird, but I I'm playing a part. And this is important to note. Why, why would we choose different cages? Well, Say I'm playing a part that requires me to pick very hard and I want to sound very aggressive, but I'm finding that the low string, because it's so floppy is now coming out of tune very easily when I'm picking hard.

But the other strings aren't. Okay, let me swap just the low string to a heavier gauge. So it feels tighter. So it requires more force for me to move it. Then it won't do that. Wham, wham. I'm sure we've all had that. Where for picking a hard part, it goes where, on where? Right. That's because the string is too light and we're picking hard.

So all I have to do is in my calculator right here, I click on string properties and then I can go and I can change. I can increase the tension. To match the strings above it, because I know that those don't do that. Wow. Wow thing. Yeah. [00:37:00] And now it tells me that in standard tuning, if I want the same feel as the string above it, I need a 49 of 49 gauge string.

So now I just go to guitar center or Toman or wherever, and I just say, Hey, I need a 49. And then they're like, here you go, single string. You put that on. And then that's it. That's all there is to it. Right. 

Benedikt: [00:37:23] Awesome. So you're saying you can actually mix and match different packs of strings. You can buy individuals because people are afraid of that as well.

And I get that question a lot actually, where they say, well, whatever pecker strings I enter into this calculator, it never seems right. Some strings always off. Should I mix different sets? Or why the hell is that? So you can absolutely do that. Right? So there's no. 

Diego: [00:37:42] Absolutely. I mean, there's, there's no problem at all with mixing and matching.

I mean, most people end up doing that in the studio. Anyways, I do that all the time. And we'll say, for example, we're recording a part in drop D and if you take a normal set of strings and you drop the low string to D let's actually do that. I mean, we're, [00:38:00] we're losing, you know, just from the normal, um, 46 gauge, which is 17 pounds attention.

Again, don't get hung up on those values. It's just, that's just what it is. Um, but if I dropped the tuning down, Let's see, I'm gonna drop down to D two here. I'm just doing this in real time. That's going to end up giving you a 13 pounds of tension now. So you'd lost three pounds of tension. It's going to feel super floppy to a point where if you're kind of coming below 12 pounds, again, this is just a general guideline.

It's going to feel almost unplayable in my opinion. Because when you try to pick the string, isn't resisting the pic and you're not getting a note. It's just pushing right through. It's like, it's like trying to, um, punch a piece of paper. It's just gonna punch right through it. Nothing's going to happen.

You won't get a sound that lets go flow. Right. Or like trying to like throw a feather, like it's just gonna Fu nothing's going to happen. Yeah. So I think if you're having at least 16 pounds of tension on [00:39:00] your strings, You're going to be in a pretty good ballpark. 16 to 20, anywhere in there is going to feel good.

16 is like a little floppier. 15 is a little floppier. 20 is really tight and just play around with that. And there's no, you don't have to worry about decimal values. You don't have to worry about, you know, am I too close? But as long as you're somewhere in that range, you're going to be absolutely fine and feel free to experiment.

Like, like Benedict said, you have to be willing to try things and fail. And if you're going for a heavier gauge string or a lighter gauge string for more bending and it doesn't sound good on other parts, you can even change strings just for that part. Yeah. Right. 

Benedikt: [00:39:38] Yeah. Cool. Thank you. 

Malcom: [00:39:39] Yeah, very cool. 

Benedikt: [00:39:41] Not feeling what's next.

Um, on our list. So. 16 to 20 as a ballpark number again, no hard rules. 

Diego: [00:39:49] We know what the well 

Benedikt: [00:39:50] values mean in the calculator. Um, we've picked the right material. Um, what, what's next? What what's going on? What we're going to do now. 

Diego: [00:39:57] I 

Malcom: [00:39:58] want to bring up a YouTube [00:40:00] video that was discussed recently and I can't even remember it was about string gauges.


Benedikt: [00:40:07] Oh, I know what you're going to bring it to you kind of. I don't see what Michael is doing right now, but I assume to bring up the Rick. 

Malcom: [00:40:14] Yes, Rick, Rick, Peter, 

Diego: [00:40:17] I didn't, I didn't know. That's how you said his last name. I thought it was, maybe it is. I don't know. I have no idea as well. I've never watched any of his videos.

I am aware of him though. 

Malcom: [00:40:27] All right. You got to watch this video eventually and see what you think, but essentially people have watched it and then started. Believing that, uh, it doesn't really matter which string gauge you use for tone, I should say. 

Diego: [00:40:41] Um, 

Malcom: [00:40:42] and, and maybe that's even, I dunno, I didn't really agree with the whole thing, but, but 

Benedikt: [00:40:47] his argument, his card, his test was flawed.

That's what 

Diego: [00:40:50] I think it was too. 

Benedikt: [00:40:51] Yeah. We can't really say if he's right or wrong because the test itself was flat, but go on. Yeah. 

Malcom: [00:40:56] But it's, what's happened. And I went into my music store and they told me about this before I had [00:41:00] even. But heard about it at all. And they were like, everybody's buying eight, like crazy eight string gauges, like eight as the, the, you know, everybody goes by what the thinnest string is like eight gauge.

We sell tons of those now because of this video and they're easier to play and they sound just as good. And I was like, okay. No, they don't 

Diego: [00:41:20] absolutely do not. 

Malcom: [00:41:23] And like, you're gonna break them. They're they're gonna your hands going to push them out of tune. Uh, that there's just so much wrong with that in my opinion.

So I'm, I'm very into. Thicker is better, but I wanted to get your thoughts on why go for certain intentions. Um, and if you had any preference for leaning heavier or, or softer, and in those departments, 

Diego: [00:41:46] I, you know, I'm a big fan of just. It depends. And I know that's a little bit of a cop out answer, but it really does.

I mean, for certain players, certain players have a very light touch, you know, I mean, toasting a bossy, right? My, uh, [00:42:00] my roommate jive, he actually works for them. He's a, he's their live and touring tech and cool. They use actually much lighter strings than you would think him and Javier, they use much, much lighter strings.

I mean, we've worked on some of their guitars together at the house. And the reason for that is that they have a much lighter touch when they're playing. So they don't have the problem that a lot of players have of, you know, what I called monkey pieing or monkey gripping with their reading. So hard. That they're pushing the strings out of tune, because the harder you fret, I mean, you can hear it.

If you just strum a guitar and fret and Fred Hart as possible, you will hear it go weak. It'll come out of tune. Yeah. But more experienced, more finesse players, especially lead players and maybe kind of more blues, classical leaning. Um, they prefer lighter strings because they don't have that problem.

They play, they they're all about playing with a very light touch. Right. And trying to play fast and with very low action. So I think just. As a player, you should know yourself. That's my first tip is no. How do I [00:43:00] play and improve upon that if you need to. And what is the part required? That's always what we're after.

Cause what, what are we doing here? We're making art this isn't, you know, a standard like, Hey, I'm playing live. I want to jam now we're making art. Right. And so there's kind of we're we're. It's a little bit different, right? It doesn't have to be one way the whole time we can piecemeal it together. We're like making like a movie almost.

We need to set up a shot for this scene when to shut up. Let's set up a shot for that scene. So why use the same camera for the whole movie? If the scenes is supposed to look different, right? If we need different shots. So the same thing for music let's. Put on heavier strings for part where I need to pick really hard, but it needs to stay in tune cause more tension equals less prone or less a proclivity to rare Brown come out of tune like that.

But if we need a part where I needed sound maybe a little bit more slinky, then why not put on lighter strings? And if we want to bend it harder, but I don't think like, like on that topic, I mean, just briefly, like, I don't think there's really that big of a difference, at least when it comes to [00:44:00] guitar. As far as the gauge of the strings influencing the tuning in general, the more material you have on a string, the more base response you'll have and the less high end you'll have.

Um, so when it comes to bass strings, if you're playing like a two 10 on a low F sharp, it's going to sound much bass you're in general than if you were to use like a one 85, right? Because there's just so much more mass that is dampening the vibration of the string. That's physically what is going on, but to say that.

Any gauge sounds better objectively. I am so opposed to any kind of thought train that leads to absolutes because music is not absolute. There are physical processes at play, but it's just, it's so negligible that it's not, it's not even worth discussing in my opinion. Okay. 

Benedikt: [00:44:49] Interesting. But I think one thing that matters still is not that the string is on its own would sound different, but I think that to achieve a [00:45:00] certain sound, you have to pick a certain way.

So let's assume even if you have a light touch on the left hand, but you really need to dig in really hard with your right tan to get the pick of tech, to get a certain sound that comes from the playing. And if you do that with lighter strings, even with the light touch, you will just push them out of tune, basically.

So, um, I think it's right that you say, of course, you've got to know yourself and how you play, but some styles and some, some sounds just won't happen if you play very lightly, very soft and you would have to do that with very light strings. Right? So that's my, my thought process is always why I, especially with heavier styles, why I recommend.

Heavier strings when in doubt, because I know that if we want to achieve that tone, that clarity, that, um, definition, the attack that we want, that we need to dig in a little harder 

Diego: [00:45:49] and that we 

Benedikt: [00:45:50] need to use a little thicker strings in order to, to be able to do that. At least that's how I'm thinking. So, 

Diego: [00:45:56] Oh, I absolutely, I absolutely would agree on that front.

I was just pretty much [00:46:00] trying to shoot down the idea that like eight gauge line of strings that like the totally sound better. But I, I don't, I don't, I think that's nonsense because I think like you're saying like, If you need to pick harder, like that's gonna sound better. Like if you like, it's all in, like how you play the guitar, because time really is like in the performance and your hands.

I mean, to the same guitar, same, everything is going to sound completely different between two people, at least to a more trained near like, like ours, but I mean, yeah. Um, I would, I would definitely agree with that in general. I would prefer in the studio at least to go thicker because you can always just kind of, um, learn to play a little bit better in the studio versus you can't really pitch correct.

A chord that you picked and is completely out of tune. It's not really possible with bass. You kind of can, but I mean, we try to stay away from that as much as possible, you know, just like get the, get the string to act the way you want. And then don't have to fix it later. Yeah. 

Malcom: [00:46:56] Yeah, definitely. It's, it's a similar train of thought for me with [00:47:00] the extremes.

I'm trying to remove variables pretty much. And they like now, now their hands aren't strong enough to bend it out a tune. They have to pick hard to get it to like feel right. And it kind of forces them to in my mind, play a little bit better rock. 

Diego: [00:47:12] I absolutely would agree with that. I 

Malcom: [00:47:15] also, now, maybe this is a misconception, but it's something that I've always thought was true.

Is that thicker strings last longer? And I wanted, I don't mean break. I mean, they sound better for longer. 

Diego: [00:47:26] Um, I think, I think I would agree with that as well. I haven't really ever paid attention to that too much in the studio. I think I actually am planning to do a lot more deep dive testing on this stuff.

I'm cool with rigorous methods to try and dispel some of this stuff in my mind. That does make sense. I don't have any conclusion on that as of yet, but that does make sense to me because the more material there is the less. It's going to wear out. Right. And then like the thicker. It is the more durable it is.

I would agree with that on first thought. I I've actually, surprisingly, I've never really kind of thought about [00:48:00] that, um, in that way, because I'm just usually I'm changing strings every day, every couple songs anyways. Right. I don't think I've reached a point where I saw diminishing returns. To that degree where I'm like, Oh, I need to, I need to cause these are die or these are dying much slower than that as we generally just change them just as a kind of a habit in the studio.


Benedikt: [00:48:20] I think what could also lead to that impression and also the fact that we think it sounds better. Sometimes is that they are, when there is more material, I think they are more magnetic. Right. So you should have a little more output and you should have, right. In theory, I mean, yeah, maybe I'm wrong, 

Diego: [00:48:34] but I think you absolutely will.

Yeah, you definitely will 

Benedikt: [00:48:37] because it's all about how now take them. That's how pickups work, you know, and I think if the strings, if you have more material, more steel, especially it's gotta be more magnetic. And maybe the, the, the increased output that we get. Um, also adds to that impression. So it sounds a little more, a little different, and it also maybe gives us.

A little higher output and more clarity for a little [00:49:00] longer time because you're starting with more basically. So that, that's what I'm assuming. 

Diego: [00:49:04] Yeah. I, I would agree with that. I mean, I think it's, it's not so much a function of the magnetism of the material as it is, um, the size of the physical object, the string, right?

Like it's not the closer to the pickup. Right. Well, it's not only closer, but, um, it's, it's a bigger object. That's disturbing the magnetic field. Cause the pickups are just projecting magnetic field that is then disturbed by a wound coil, which causes a current to be inducted. Right. It's it's a, it's a Magneto or a solenoid it's I might have that backwards, but, um, it's basically.

Pushing that magnetic field and the bigger object you have disturbing that magnetic field, the more increased output you're going to have. So I think, I think that does contribute. I think you're getting a little more power out of it. Um, you're just getting a bigger sound, I think. And I think that's always bigger is always better when it comes to recording, because you can always track, but you can't [00:50:00] add something that wasn't there.

You can't make something that was out of tune. On a guitar in tune later in posts, it's just not possible. Right? So you have to really, when, when you're doing this string selection is so important to have the right material, the right gauge, because you're only going to get that one. I mean, you're not going to get just one take, but you're gonna try to get it right at the source because you can't fix it later.

And then you'd have to retract later, which is just, I mean, don't, you don't even want to do that. 

Benedikt: [00:50:29] You get one take or else you get hit with a stainless steel pan or whatever 

Diego: [00:50:34] you have to put, you have to punch a cast iron pan. Exactly. 

Benedikt: [00:50:38] Yeah. Uh, do you notice how amateur we sound when we talk about things like that, compared to that?

Yeah. Talks 

Diego: [00:50:45] about things like that. 

Malcom: [00:50:46] It's just going to say Diego, I'm so glad that you existed and people like yourself that just. Can, you know, you'll go do some tasks. I'll find out the result. And then that's what I'll say in the pocket. 

Diego: [00:50:56] Exactly. Yeah. Just, just wait for me to tell you what to do, [00:51:00] but don't, but don't take it as gospel.

Never take any of this as gospel. That's always try your own thing. Try it out. 

Malcom: [00:51:06] Yeah. I appreciate how you question everything and think about it. Yeah. 

Diego: [00:51:09] That's cool. Awesome. Let me touch on one more thing before we get out of strings. Just very briefly. I think one thing that players are really missing, um, when they change strings is string stretching.

And I don't know if you guys have, have. You know, talked about this on the group before, but basically, you know, when, once you put strings on, let's say we've picked our gauges, we picked our material, everything's ready. We know we're going to XYZ when you put them on and you string them on and we'll have some of the accompanying videos for how to string the right way and all that.

So we won't get into that. But once you put them on stretching them in before you record is absolutely tantamount. To your success or paramount rather, um, you have to stretch them and there's lots of videos online and I'll, I'll probably just make an [00:52:00] accompanying video to, uh, to illustrate how I do it.

But basically you can just pull on them from the 12th, right. And you just kind of gently pull on them. Don't break them. But you know, you can hold them at the first fret and just kind of yank on them a little bit. Just tune up to whatever tuning you're gonna use. Yank them up one at a time. Just give them a couple yanks retune.

And then do it again, yank them and see how much they keep. Detuning. Usually you just have to like tune it up to say we're doing it in the standard. I stretch each string. I find that I'm like two steps flat. Cause they stretched physically. It's like a spring they're stretching. I tune back up to E I stretch again.

They're now the only half-step flat. Then I tune him back up and then they don't really go flat at all, except for me actually, physically pulling on the tuner. Um, and then there'll be good. But that's going to basically ensure that they're in, like they're broken in and that they're not going to change after the first couple tapes.

Cause that will happen. They're going to start to de-tune faster, no matter how good your everything else is. If the strings aren't [00:53:00] stretched, they will stretch by you playing them. And you can get that out of the way, right off the bat by just stretching them three times, four times. And then you won't have to worry about tuning stability.

You won't have to worry about, um, intonation cause a big problem with people say my guitar is not staying in tune is the strings are not broken in, not right. That's one of the biggest problems I see. Yeah. 

Malcom: [00:53:21] Interesting. I now question for you. Stretching the string. What do you have? Like a technique you'd like to use?

I've been told all sorts of stuff. I've been told that like bend it as if you were playing it, you know, like just bend at the 12th fret or pull away from the, you know, like pulling away from the guitar. So it's not pulling into your knot or anything that 

Diego: [00:53:40] that's, that's definitely number one is pull up.

You don't mean. Adding excess wear on your guitar. I mean, it's going to be negligible, the amount of where you're adding, but it's just like you could on the low string, if you pull it too far back, you could break off the nut. I've seen it happen, especially on base. I mean, there's very little material there, so, um, but I'll make a little video.

It'd [00:54:00] be kind of tough to explain right now, but long story short is I kind of like. Pull up with these fingers while I pushed down with my thumb as I go along the string. So I'm kind of like, uh, but, but, but, but, and I just kind of, and I'm, I'm not very delicate about it at all. I mean, I I'm very rough with my guitars cause they're, they're not going to break.

I mean, if you break a string, just toss another one on and for you to doing this break your string, I mean, you were. Your hands are strong and I've, I've never done that before. That's insane. So don't just people listening to this. Just shouldn't worry about if I stretch too hard, don't be delicate with it.

It's metal. It's, it's a piece of metal. I mean, how strong are you that you can snap it like that with one hand? I mean, you know, you'll, you'll you'll know when you're gonna break it. Yeah, 

Benedikt: [00:54:47] that's funny. 

Malcom: [00:54:48] Awesome. 

Benedikt: [00:54:49] Okay. So, um, Yeah, break them in absolutely important. And also I think that you said you need to do three, four times until they don't go, um, they'll go flat [00:55:00] anymore.

I think many people stop after the first attempt and then they think stretch them. And that's, that's really a mistake. Yeah. Yeah, totally. Okay, cool. So we've got the right strings. We got the red string gauge. We broke them in now, intonation 

Diego: [00:55:15] and, 

Benedikt: [00:55:16] uh, and set up 

Diego: [00:55:17] what you do. 

Benedikt: [00:55:19] Or what, what, what's the order basically?

What do you do? Do you like put on the strings and then stretch them and tune them and then you mess around with the intonation or what's like, how 

Diego: [00:55:30] so basically, you know, um, So if we're just talking about these three topics, strings action, intonation, that's the order you put on your new strings that you've picked out.

You set the action, right? And the neck relief, I kind of I'll lump those together just for convenience sake. And then you set the intonation and that's the order. So strings. NEC relief action intonation. And those are, I'm not saying that those are the same thing, neck relief in action. I'm saying neck relief, comma action.

Those are two wildly different things [00:56:00] and should not be confused. So, um, we'll dive into that next, whatever the neck relief and an action. I mean, so what, what questions do your viewers typically have about that? And how can I demystify that? 

Benedikt: [00:56:10] Well, first of all, with the, I didn't even think about the neck relief because, but, but it's important.

Neck relief is one of those things. And we we've been talking about this in the webinar that you did for our chorus. Um, people are afraid to touch the trust, right. And to mess with it because they think they will break the neck and you shouldn't do that. And they are afraid of doing that. So many people think that they can't do themselves and you need to, to bring a guitar to a shop.

To, to have that done. So that would be the first thing I want you to, I would want you to, to demystify here. 

Diego: [00:56:41] Well, let's, let's think of it this way. I mean, Of course, like, you know, you have this rod in the neck and like, what if I break it? Right? And then now you can fix it because it's inside the neck.

That's a very logical fear, but here's another logical way to refute that if your neck was able to be broken with just one quarter [00:57:00] turn of the nut, I mean, your guitar was kind of. Garbage to begin with. Right? I mean, if you could break it so easily with a small motion, I mean, your guitar, it also probably would have broken when you dropped it that time off the stand, right.

These guitars are made out of particularly like imagine a, a quarter sawn maple neck. That's what they make baseball bats out of. I mean, you ever tried to break a baseball bat it's unbelievably difficult and near impossible for a mere mortal to do that. I mean, when, when you see, I was actually just watching a video of, um, Billy Joe Armstrong from green day when he had that freak out at the iHeart radio thing and he was slamming his, uh, his Gibson.

On the ground, it took him about 10 tries to even break the guitar. And what broke was not the neck, the neck joint came unglued. It didn't even break. It just came out of the pocket. So the neck should have snapped in half, right? No, because they're reinforced with carbon fiber. Or graphite and they're made with a [00:58:00] steel rod in the middle and the wood itself is unbelievably strong.

So I would say don't fear anything about the neck by the time you were to get anywhere close to the threshold of breaking that guitar. You would alarmingly see the shape change? You would see the backbone be highly visible or you'll see the under be unbelievably like, Whoa, you would visually be able to see, this is not a subtle thing.

Like you'd be like I am so, and you'd be cranking for 2030 turns. There's no way any person off the street is going to break one of these things just by adjusting it one or two quarter turns. That's actual impossibility. 

Benedikt: [00:58:39] Cool. Thank you for that. So, yeah. And then, and then how do we do it or what can we do ourselves?

What, what 

Diego: [00:58:45] should we do? 

Benedikt: [00:58:47] Um, and what's the systematic approach to all of this. So. 

Diego: [00:58:50] Well, this is, this is tough because I I'll have to, um, refer to the companion videos that are going to be part of this. Um, I'll, I'll show you, uh, I'll have a resource or [00:59:00] I'll make resource, um, with just a quick way, but one quick way is you can just kind of like look down the side of the neck, um, and just put your guitar on your foot, but the actual body of the guitar on the foot or base, and then just kind of close one eye.

I like to close my left eye and I just kind of look. Down the side of the neck and just look at the general curvature of it. Does it look crazy? I mean, does it look like, you know, is it backbone? Does it look like a curve up? Is it is a convex or concave, right. As long as it's concave to some degree, you're probably going to be fine.

Um, and the only other. Like way to indicate that you need to change your neck relief is just how much buzz am I getting and how many dead notes am I getting around the 10th to 12th fret and beyond now. Here's why, so if you have a neck, right. And it's, well, it's hard to say, but let's say it's curved, right?

As I get deeper down into the fretboard. And then, um, I'm trying to play notes that are a little higher up. Well, If I have a curve and I'm [01:00:00] playing in the middle of the fretboard, now my strings have to go up the curve and there's less space. So you'll start to get a little bit more, um, string buzz and like even dead notes.

But even that, like, that would be pretty extreme. Um, if you were able to, if you had like, uh, the whole fret board beyond the 10th, right. Was dead, noting and fretting out that, I mean, you would already be able to visually see. So I would say functionally for most people, you're not going to have to adjust your neck.

Like almost never, like, it's probably fine. If it's been sitting in the same room, it's not significantly hotter or more humid than the next day before these things happen very slowly over time. And when the guitar is exposed to a new environment suddenly, and even then those changes are subtle. I would say the idea that you need to be constantly be watching your trust rod in your neck relief and all that.

As long as the neck is just slightly bowed. It's functionally. You're going to be fine until you start getting, you know, fretting out and stuff like [01:01:00] that. And then we'll, we'll, it's too much to explain right now, but we'll refer to the video as far as how to adjust that, but you functioning, you almost will never have to adjust your neck unless you're adding significantly heavier strings.

Yeah. Cool. 

Benedikt: [01:01:14] That's about it. Well, about, about those videos, um, let's do it that way. I mean, uh, Diego has done a webinar for our course, for the self-regarding band Academy. Where we talked about this on the recorded zoom call like we do now, but with video and you did a, basically a whole set up from start to finish with a guitar.

And, um, yeah, we are about to include these videos in the course as a bonus sort of, um, yeah. Bonus module of the course. So you get the webinar and the accompanying videos that Diego keeps talking about. And I think we could just, you could just do that. And we could just give them out for free for, to listeners of this podcast or to subscribers to the email list or the Facebook group or whatever.

So you don't have to do them twice. So we could have them as an accompany material to this [01:02:00] episode as a download. And they will also gonna are also going to be in the, in the chorus because otherwise you would do we'd have to do them twice. And I think this would be very valuable for our listeners. And if you are generous enough to do that, we could just.

Give them. Absolutely. 

Diego: [01:02:15] Absolutely. And I think, I think it's just helpful coming, like, you know, with some of these topics, it's like, how do you visualize that? But this is just a ground framework to think about. And then the videos will explain everything just because, you know, I think the mindset is what really needs a lot of demystifying for people and kind of like that, um, uh, confusion and fear about like, why are we doing this?

How do we do this? The, how is easy though? The why is to me a little bit more important and you know, like not being so stuck in like, uh, this is why I have to do this. So that's, I think that's what this talk is important for. 

Benedikt: [01:02:47] Okay, awesome. So then we are off to intonation and, uh, and action. So things you can do pretty easily, depending on the guitar you have with some it's more complicated than with others, but I'm assuming that [01:03:00] the neck relief is right.

What about intonation and action? Well, 

Diego: [01:03:05] so let's dive straight into action. I think, um, action is just. One of those things. Again, people are like very, very mystified by, but what is the string action? It's simply how far off the fretboard vertically your strings are? How much distance do you have to press down to touch the string to the fret?

Right. And that's kind of part of how hard is it for me to fret and play? My guitar high action is going to require more force to fret low. Action's going to require less. That's all there is to it. That's all it is. How high are my strings? Easy. And there's many ways to adjust it. Most guitars have on their bridge.

Um, either if it's a Les Paul tone, pro-style bridge, you have two little Flathead screwdriver slots that you just crank down. Righty, tighty lefty loosey always. Um, or you have six individual saddles on most fender style guitars, um, that [01:04:00] have a little, um, two, two sets of sorry. Um, a set of two. Um, height, adjustment, uh, threaded machine screws in each saddle that just take a 1.5 millimeter Allen wrench, and you just turn them righty, tighty lefty, loosey, and you know, that's all, but the trouble is that, you know, on the Les Paul style guitars tight means that you're bearing the bridge into the body because it's threaded into the body.

Whereas on fender righty means that you're screwing the screw further into the block, which pushes the block up. So they're kind of opposite in that way, but you'll quickly see what's going higher or lower. So don't even try to memorize that. Just look physically, visually, and physically at what you're doing.

And am I bearing the bridge lower higher? Um, and I would say the only thing that people can really improve upon as a self according band to like get started doing this grabbing action reward. There's tons of them, music nomad, who I am endorsed by, but I am not, this is not an affiliate link at all. [01:05:00] Um, but, uh, they just came out with a really fantastic action ruler slash gage, um, that are gonna be started shipping.

I think this month, um, Stu Mac has one, which is a site that makes lutherie tools. D'Addario makes one cruise tools. Everyone makes one of these just look up string. Action ruler or string action gauge. And it's a little steel card that has just some little ruler marks on it. And all you do is you just place that against the fret board while you're sitting in playing position.

That is important to note, you have to be in player's position because with the guitar on its back versus on its side, gravity actually will affect what you're reading. And you always want to be doing any adjustments while you're sitting in the position you're going to be playing in. Even like, if you're having the guitar kind of more vertical versus more horizontal when you're playing, however you're going to be playing it.

That's how you should work on your guitar. Absolutely. Because that's the real world situation. Right. And [01:06:00] gravity does affect it, but I digress. I digress. Um, you just have to measure, there's a little lines that show you in either millimeters or inches, how high those strings are. And you measure at the 17th fret.

On electric guitars on basis, you measure it the 12th, that's just like a general like industry shorthand. It doesn't have to be that way, but that's where we do it. So on electric guitars, 17th fret. On acoustic guitars and basses measure with that little ruler at the 12th fret. Now ballpark measurements, most guitars are going to perform the best in any string gauge mind you besides like extremely thick bass strings.

Um, Four 60 fourths of an inch, which I don't know, the millimeter conversion offhand. Um, uh, every string, if it's four 60 fourths of an inch above the 17th fret in player's position, that is more than fine. That's the factory settings. For every Gibson for every [01:07:00] fender, for every IBNs for every guitar ever made that is the factory standard setup because it feels the best.

In my professional opinion, it does sound and feel the best. And if you go higher than that, It can accommodate a heavier string. Sure. But it's going to be harder to fret. And then when you, you have to press harder to fret, you start to get those tuning problems. So, and if you go any lower than that, if you go much lower than that, you start to fret out because the string has very little space to jump over the next fret in front of it.

Right. So if I'm fretting at the 12th fret, now I have like a micro meter of space. You know what I mean? It's, it's, there's really no reason to deviate very far from that measurement, in my opinion. Every record, I've worked on every live guitar. I've set them all to the same measurements. I have never had a client and be like, I need this lower or higher.

Not even once. 

Benedikt: [01:07:50] Awesome. That's so interesting because it used to be not anymore, or I think, but when I started out, especially with very unexperienced bands, it used to be such a hot [01:08:00] topic and everyone would like 

Diego: [01:08:01] talk about, I 

Benedikt: [01:08:02] want those strings lower because I want to play faster. And then the other one would say like, no, I put them up very high because I want to avoid Fred burrs at all costs.

Then there's all sorts of. Philosophies and things and discussions going on about this, and everyone seemed to be doing it completely differently. And you are basically telling us that there is one setting that should work for 90% of all people. 

Diego: [01:08:23] And absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. There, there is. I mean, and this is from me, you know, I'm a guy who's done the legwork, I've set up an innumerable amount of guitars.

I mean, for every player I've done gigs for, you know, machine, gun Kelly, all the way down to, you know, Jimmy down the road, like. Every player is pretty much stoked. And I haven't really had someone to be like, this plays terrible. Gave me my money back. I want to, I want to change it. Um, I will say, I mean, there's, there's some play there.

I mean, you can set, I would say the range, [01:09:00] you should be aiming to set your action in, depending on your strings should be from five 60 fourths of an inch. Two three 60 fourths of an inch, just one 64th of an inch on either side of that. And again, that's the height of the string off the fretboard. Um, you're going to have great results, right?

If you have a thicker string, maybe go a little higher towards five and you can be in between, you can just like eyeball it. You don't have to, there's no precise measurement. You don't have to get down to one 28th of an inch. It doesn't matter. Just is it is the string, the very bottom of the string touching the top of that line on the ruler at four 60 fourths.

It's at four 64. It's cool. Do I want it higher? Cool. I just go right above the line for five, or I can go in between whatever feels better for that part. If I'm getting a little fret buzz on, say a 70 gauge string and drop a right and like a very thick string, I will raise that up a little bit. And it feels great.

It's still gonna feel fine. And if my high strings are kind of hard to fret, I will [01:10:00] lower them. I'll lower them to three. It's fine. You know, like if the, if the player feels more comfortable, but I usually won't go outside of that range. Um, in fact, almost never. 

Malcom: [01:10:08] Right. And again, this is just with the action on the Brattle or in the saddles themselves.

This is not the neck, 

Diego: [01:10:15] not messing up the neck. That's an, that's a very great, um, topic, Malcolm. Um, I will say so many people I've talked to have said my action feels weird. I'm going to adjust my neck relief. Absolute. No. The fact that your neck relief is affected or sorry, your actions is affected by the neck relief.

Changing is merely a byproduct of what's actually happening, but that's not actually what you're adjusting. That's a complete falsehood. So if people ever are in the studio, you know, thinking, Hey, my action feels weird. Let me adjust my neck. Absolutely not. Don't touch it. Don't think about it. It's only governed by your saddles.

End of story. That's it. 

Malcom: [01:10:57] Yeah, I would say that's probably a [01:11:00] misconception that I. I used to work at a music store. And, uh, I was, I did some of the tech, but like, I'm not like you I'm, I'm the guy that wasn't afraid to turn a trust rod, but I didn't know anything else. But, um, but that was definitely a big misconception.

I saw all the time, like, Hey, you got to tweak my neck. And it's like, 

Diego: [01:11:16] Hey, I, I, they come in, I tried to adjust my neck, uh, to change my action. And I'm just like, no, no, no. I was always dispelling that one. But yeah, I mean, action is really just a function of your saddles. How high is the bridge, right. And that changes how high the strings are.

That's all it is. And I keep it around those measurements. 

Malcom: [01:11:35] What about the, the height of the nut 

Diego: [01:11:38] now is a much more advanced topic. Um, that is something that is. I, I actually would consider that the most crucial aspect of a professional setup versus a more basic one and one that does require lots of attention.

The problem is the real trouble here is that, you know, [01:12:00] you will get so much benefit from doing that. But I think once you get to that point of like being able to fix your own saddles and everything, like you're already at. A point in your career where now you're just doing this alone. Like, you're just gonna, you're just gonna spend so much time getting your handle on that.

You're just not even gonna be making music anymore. Um, I think in the easy way to diagnose nut problems is, um, if you are having a really hard time fretting at the first fret, versus if you're fretting at like the second or third fret, um, you can kind of see if you, if you fretless the first fret. And then kind of, um, tap the second fret and see like, how does that feel?

Right. Where, what you're doing there is, you're kind of like, um, Kate bowing at the first fret, if you will. Right. And then you're seeing, how does, how does that feel? Okay. If that's a much smaller distance, like a much smaller difference than fretting from zero open to the first string, then you might have to bring down the action at the [01:13:00] nut.

Right. Um, and we call it the nut action, right? Like how high is the nut, but in, in general, most people aren't going to really have to touch that. Um, if you're putting significantly heavier strings on, you might have to file open the. The opening of that nut slot to accommodate the width of the string. But you can just do that with the string itself.

So you don't need to buy a nut files and all this, you certainly can. And that's, but that's a much more advanced and you can get yourself into a lot of trouble doing that. Um, where. If you file too low, the open string will always be buzzing and you're basically gonna have to go get a replacement nut, and you've just kind of boxed yourself into a corner with that guitar.

Um, so I would say for most people you get factory guitar shipped with a lot of, uh, excess height on the nut, but not so much that I think that you're going to be deterred from getting a good recording. Um, Right off the bat, you know, and I think most people have enough where in their nut slots where they've [01:14:00] kind of alleviated that to some extent, um, and you probably won't need to touch it.

And if you do like, you know, you're going to need to dive deep into some videos and get some experience. Cause you, you can, and I've still to this day have made that mistake where I filed just slightly too low and it happens so quick. And then you have to either fill it or make a new nut, right? Yeah. So you want to avoid that?

Malcom: [01:14:23] Cool. Awesome answer. Thank you. 

Diego: [01:14:24] Thank you. 

Benedikt: [01:14:25] Yeah. So that's basically what we, what we need to know for now about about action. And the last thing would be then, uh, the intonation and I mean, that's pretty straightforward, but still. Worth talking about for a little bit. I mean, this is already a long episode, but it's worth, it's worth doing it and giving people the whole thing, because these three things that things that we talk about today are, are the most important ones.

And we can, we cannot stop without talking about intonation. So 

Diego: [01:14:52] no, definitely not. So I would say, um, when it comes to intonation, a lot of people, the main misconception that I hear is that, um, [01:15:00] well, first of all, what order it happens. And like we said, Change your strings cleaner, clean, clean your guitar, change the strings, set your neck relief, set your action, and then you can intinate.

Now here's why, because the action has an effect like we were talking about just a couple of seconds ago, um, with how in tune you're going to be playing when you're fretting, right? I mean, if you have to press significantly. Harder or further, rather if we're gonna have to push that string further, it's going to bring it out of tune.

Um, but if you have your action set now what intonation is at that point, you're just kind of microscopically adjusting. Um, the relationship of the string to the fret board. So that's like the final little, like sauce that you add on your dish to just get it. Absolutely perfect. It's that little final adjustment action will have arguably a greater effect on your tuning.

Um, but intonation is just as critical, but it's a much more fine adjustment. That's a way to think about it, but let's talk about what, what it [01:16:00] actually is, right. The long story short of what intonation actually is, is it's just how Intune is every note along the fret board, right? If you were to design the perfect guitar, it would basically just be a piano, right?

Because. If you want to play in every key, every note, you need to have a specific string of a specific length for every note. Like if you look in a piano, the low notes have extremely long fixed strings and the high notes have very thin short strings, a guitar. We can't carry around as a piano, right? So unless you're playing guitar, which is sick, but if you're, if you want to make a guitar, which you know, they wanted to make it compact, you have to have certain.

Design compromises. So the, again, the long story short is that a guitar is always going to be slightly out of tune, right? In order for it to play all these notes that we want on the fretboard. So what we're doing is we're kind of compromising a little bit [01:17:00] with these little adjustments where you're bringing the saddles back or forward a small amount to get it somewhat close.

To how it's supposed to be. So the low strings on a guitar are long and thick, right? So we kind of move the saddle back slightly. So it's a little longer than the others. And then the high strings are thin and they're supposed to be shorter, but we just adjust that saddle and bring it slightly in. So you'll typically see, like, you know, uh, I guess from this camera view in saddles, you'll have, um, The closest one is the string to the nut, the farthest in, towards the pickups.

And then they kind of zigzag down or otherwise it's exactly down like that. And that's all we're doing is we're just trying to get them to be slightly more, uh, or slightly closer to the length that they're supposed to be. And what that does when those frets are just dividing the string into a certain length to get a note to be produced, right.

But those relationships are wrong. [01:18:00] Um, like we set according to, like, these strings are supposed to be much longer and much shorter depending on their, on their, on their note that is supposed to produce. We're just trying to like shift those relationships so that they're kind of in tune. And, and the end result is that when a guitar is perfectly intonated and this is the meat of what I'm saying, if your guitar is perfectly intonated, every note you play on the fret board will read in tune on a tuner.

But if they're not intonated, if all the saddles were in the same order and the same exact length you're low, he might play in tune on every fret. But then your high III would read flat in certain spots or sharp in certain spots. And so that leads us to, most people know how to insulate by. They've seen a video press down on the 12th, fret tune that, and then tune the open string.

And then you just adjust it either in or out until those are the same. And that's, that's correct. That's how you do it. But that's the reason why is that? You're just adjusting these [01:19:00] relationships. On a very small level, so that every note on the fret board plays in tune. Otherwise you could have chords that are in tune when you fret down here, but if you fret them an octave up, if you want to like a cool layering part, those will be horrendously attitude, but on a perfectly intonated guitar.

You can play a chord in both octaves and it will sound exactly the same except one octave up, because there'll be perfectly in tune with one another. You basically tuning the two octaves of the guitar behind the 12th fret and above the 12th fret to be perfectly in tune with one another. That's what intonation actually is 

Malcom: [01:19:38] cool.

I like that way of thinking about it. That's awesome. 

Diego: [01:19:41] Yeah. Sorry if that was a little long winded, it's a bit of a heady topic, but at its core, it's just making sure that guitar plays every single note. As in tune as every other note, it's all it is. But, so how do, how do we adjust that? Right. So, I mean, what, what, what are your students have trouble with conceptualizing [01:20:00] or understanding about.

You know how to achieve that. 

Benedikt: [01:20:03] I mean, the basics are, are clear with this, I think so that you, you, there's usually a screw at like, on your guitar that you can easily adjust and you just move it in or out and you increase the distance, uh, from the knot to the bridge, basically, that's where the saddle basically.

And then, um, the, the 12th fret should be the exact center of that distance. And, uh, I think that's what we're aiming for. And, um, so that's pretty clear, I guess, so that, that you can adjust that what's I think at least in my experience, two things come to mind. I think one thing is what do I do if I have like the low E let's, let's say the East drain the low East.

Perfect. The 12th threat. That is perfect. But then I've read the fifth fret and it's not a perfect a what's what's going on here. 

Diego: [01:20:55] Oh, that's a wonderful, wonderful topic. So w when you're asking is [01:21:00] if the rest of that string plays in tune perfectly on every Fred, but one fret is out and weird, for example.

Benedikt: [01:21:06] Yeah, exactly. 

Diego: [01:21:07] Okay, great. So what's happening there is, um, likely your fret itself. Has an issue because each Fred is a small little half dome. Right. But there's an extremely thin flat spot along the top and it's called the crown. Right. And that's where the string actually rests is on the crown. Now what can happen is in these large factories, right?

Where I've worked in several, um, building these guitars, I mean, they have to move so fast that maybe one of those crowns, the tops of the frets might have gotten. Shifted to the left of the right. Right. Because they use a tool to make that flat spot and to shape the fret the right way. If they kick it either way, the flat spot might be longer like wider, or it might be non-existent and they might've actually made the whole thing around and [01:22:00] eliminated the crown, which is a problem.

Or the crown is shifted to the left, to the right. And so you might have that microscopic intonation problem just on that one fret, because when we're, intonating, we're relying on the idea that every fret has the same shape and is in the same location in terms of its crown along the top of the surface, because that's where the string is actually being divided up.

To produce those notes. Right? Imagine it's like, it's like cabling. If like, if we're fretting, we're basically cabling in real time. Like every single note. But if our nut, our KPI's in like the wrong spot, it'll sound out a tune. Right. So that might happen just on one fret. That's actually very, very possible.

And I have seen that before. Um, but that's a situation where I, if, if it's possible to do for that part, I would punch that in. And I would just tune that note to that part, because what else can you do in that situation? I mean, functionally, I'm not going to take it for a [01:23:00] refresh or a level of crown and Polish right then and there, or you can just switch to a different guitar, you know, that's, that's what I would do in that situation, but it isn't, it's important to note that like, if everything else is fine and just that one Fred is off, it's probably just that fret, you know, Yep.

Benedikt: [01:23:17] Yep. Awesome. Thank you. And then the other thing that, and sometimes, or at least like people run into this issue is that they want to adjust, um, the settle. So say, um, the, the lower East. Perfect. And then they fret the 12th fret and they, they try to tune it and then it's way sharp. So they try to increase the length between the 12th fret and or the, the bridge and the settle.

And they, um, Yeah, they turned the screw and then it doesn't go any further and it's still sharp. So you, you hit the limit of what you can do with the settle and it's still not there. 

Diego: [01:23:50] What do you do? And how can that happen? And I mean, that's, I I've, you know, this is still one of those things where, you know, I'm, I'm no laboratory engineer and [01:24:00] scientist, but I have seen that happen and I still am not entirely certain why, because I've had that happen on guitars.

You know, with theoretically the right scaling, theoretically, the right string gauge, and maybe I've even done the setup before with a different set of strings that are the same gauge, but just different pack and is intonated fine. And then on this pack for whatever reason, my process is the same. It doesn't work.

Um, I would say maybe first try swapping, just that string. If you have an extra around, sometimes the string is the problem dump. Let's not be, you know, let's, let's, let's get that clear. The string is the problem in most cases, right? Just changing the strings will alleviate a lot of problems, but if it's really that much of a problem we have to look at, okay, am I trying to put this in a tuning that is simply too low for this guitar where I would need to internet or too high or whatever?

Um, That leads us back to guitar choice. Like, okay, maybe this isn't the guitar for this part. Right. [01:25:00] And I would say a way to know that ahead of time is look at, if you look at each bridge, if you look at each, um, model of guitar, you can see just by the screw length, how much intonation room do I have? How much it's kind of like headroom, right?

How much room do I have to work with here on fender style, single saddle guitars, you have a much longer screw in general. So you can kind of get away with tuning much lower than standard because you have all this room. Right. But on certain other guitars, like a lot of like traditional Gibsons with like what we call the Nashville bridge, like the traditional Gibson, like three, three fives and all that.

They have a very, very finite, small distance. Where those saddles can move and they're all part of the bridge, right? They have a very, very short amount of travel. So on that guitar, you might say, Hey, maybe I won't pick this one for a low tuning because I don't have a lot of room to intinate. So it's kind of built to be around standard tuning and maybe drop D or D standard, [01:26:00] but you're probably not going be able to tune significantly lower without either remounting the bridge in a new location.

Or, I mean, there's nothing else you could do really, besides that. You know what I mean? Um, but so I would say guitar choice plays a big, a big part in that like, Hey, if I'm trying to too much lower than East standard, Um, I need a guitar that has a lot of adjustment length and is also already at a longer scaling cause most Gibsons are at 24.75 inches from the nut to the saddle.

Um, most fenders and more modern guitars that you can tune lower on are going to be from 25 and a half inches, um, up to 26 and a half inches. Right. And then you get into baritone. So like guitar selection does play into like how well will you be able to integrate that guitar? At the last step, any cause you don't want to go through all this.

And then at the last step, get caught off guard and be like, Oh wow. I can't even intinate this thing properly guitar selection will have a direct impact on how well you're able to [01:27:00] insulate that guitar at the last step. Absolutely. 

Benedikt: [01:27:03] Awesome. Thank you, man. So yeah, maybe it's worth, um, doing a little explanation before we wrap this up, what you would say, like how to, how to actually go about like the intonating, because I just assume people know how it's done and maybe you can explain it a little better than I can.

Just the real quick, just a real quick explanation of how. Uh, how to set the intonation because I assumed people know how to do it, but I know that some people are still afraid to do it and they would rather take it to a professional and don't trust themselves that they're actually able to do it themselves.

Diego: [01:27:34] Absolutely. Well, step one, you need the right tuner. Absolutely. So if you are not using a strobe tuner, Which is the type of tuner. Um, you will never have perfect intonation, or even in my opinion, serviceable intonation. The only reason you can get these things perfectly in tune is you have a tuner that's highly, highly accurate.

So my recommendations are get either one of these two [01:28:00] tuners. You can get either the, um, S T 300 turbo tuner. Which is, um, it's made by Sonic research, which is a company out here in Los Angeles. It's about $130. It's a very, very fast, very accurate strobe tuner. Now what that means is that it has a little dial.

If everyone's not familiar, that's spins right now. It's not just a little bar, like a cork or a boss tuner that has just six lights on it. How accurate can that be? Right. So it has a bunch of LEDs that spin. And the more in tune you are the slower it spins. And then when it's not moving, that note is perfectly in tune.

Now, no note will ever do that, but, um, and it'll spin to the right. If it's sharpened to the left, if it's flat, the reason that's important is you can see just by its very slight motion. How like microscopically in tune it is. And you can also track the behavior of the string, which is important. And I'll get to in like a half second here.

Um, so either the S T3 hundred stroke tuner [01:29:00] or the Peterson, um, Strabo HD, plus those are the two most affordable. Best bang for your buck, strobe, tuners available. And once you start tuning with these, I promise you your recordings, like this is the difference. This is the professional difference. Even if you were disregard all the other things, if you're intonation and like some degree, your action is perfect.

This is the professional difference. Having every string and every note in tune is the difference, right? So you have to get one of these two. So the Ste 300 or the Peterson stroke HD plus. Now once you have that tuner. Say you're in player's position. Like always you, your guitars perfectly in tune on the tuner on all the open notes.

Now you just hit your open note and with the stroke tuner, I just keep track of how does it behave? Of course, it's going to go slightly sharp on any gauge of string, but I want to see it settle in to being perfectly in tune and not flat. So I want to see it go a little sharp and [01:30:00] then tune and then stay after like a second or two, right.

So as long as you match that behavior, when you're fretting on the 12th fret, It will be intonated. So you pick the open note, you see on the tuner, how it's behaving it's in tune. Okay, great. I friend at the 12th fret and I hit it the same force. The same way that's important to picking technique must stay the same then I see.

Okay, now it's drifting flat on the 12th. It'll go with sharp the same way as the open note, but now it's drifting flat. And then it goes like me and you can, you can hear it too on an amp. So I fed it the open note, sorry. I hit the open note and then I find the 12th. If it's flat, when I Fred at the 12th, I will then, um, bring the saddle forward towards the nut.

I will shorten the string and then that will allow the 12th fret to play a little sharper. Because it was flat before I want it to sharpen, then I will test it again. I'll retune it and then I'll test it again until those are pretty [01:31:00] much exactly the same. The string is not intimated once the string behaves and tunes the same way at the open and the 12th fret, then it's intonated right.

And then you can test it with some chords, like on a guitar. I'll play an E chord at the first fret, and then I'll play a Bard, each chord. At the 12th fret. And if those sound about as in tune as each other, then I'm good. That's all there is to it. Cool. 

Benedikt: [01:31:27] Cool. 

Diego: [01:31:28] Thank you. But you have to have a strobe tuner you.

Absolutely. Number one thing. I've got. 

Benedikt: [01:31:34] Yeah, go, go on. Go on. Go ahead. Go ahead. 

Diego: [01:31:36] Okay. 

Malcom: [01:31:36] Well, I was going to say that I use my Korgs stroke tutor. And I want your validation that it's okay. So I don't have to buy another tuner 

Diego: [01:31:44] I'm actually not familiar with, is it the cord? What is it? It's not the  

Malcom: [01:31:49] the Kemper, 

Diego: [01:31:51] the theater people really, really liked the, um, the built air tuners on campers and ax effects.

Those are actually extremely accurate. [01:32:00] Um, I love those. The Kemper's tuner is phenomenal. 

Malcom: [01:32:03] Yeah, I love it too. So that's, that's the response that I was looking for. That's 

Diego: [01:32:06] great. No, no, you are perfectly validated. 

Benedikt: [01:32:09] Awesome. Yeah. And there is some, some plugins as well. That work fine. You already recommended now our webinar, the platoon plugin, not the, not the hardware.

I need to clarify that because people were thinking that I recommended that, but the plugin, the poly Toon plugin is really awesome for some reason. Um, And I think that still holds true. Right? It's not, it's not a stroke, I think, but it's still sort of accurate 

Diego: [01:32:34] relates that it, it sort of emulates that yeah.

To a degree. So I would say, like, I have found that tuner to be in a pinch, you know, if I just have my laptop, if so, like I recommended those two hardware tuners, but if you are really on a budget, um, you can grab. The TC electronics, poly tune plug-in version. It's a VST audio unit. Um, that is the most accurate digital tuner [01:33:00] I've used.

Um, and then that'll just monitor your DEI straight into the computer, and that is phenomenal bang for the buck and it comes for free. If you buy the TC electronics. Tune clip. There's a little paper in the box. Do not throw away the box. There's a free a code to redeem that plugin. And I think you can buy it as a standalone as well.

Um, but if you, if you cannot afford, uh, you know, $150 tuner, um, you buy that clip for, I think there's 70 bucks and then you get the free plugin as well. 

Benedikt: [01:33:31] Awesome. Thank you. Cool. And then one, one last question here. Um, you said the struggle plus HD. I just looked it up the Peterson. I always used and loved, uh, the strobe stomp, um, from Peterson.

Is that also recommended or do you, 

Diego: [01:33:47] is there a reason that you liked the Strobel plus? 

Benedikt: [01:33:49] Like the desktop thing. 

Diego: [01:33:51] I liked that strobe hopeless just because the, the readout is really big and bright. Um, and I liked the way the LEDs move on the screen. I think that one's really [01:34:00] nice. And it also has a feature which no one here is going to use, but it's a guitar tech feature, but, um, it's called sweeteners, which are like, they're microscopically different tunings than normal.

Um, and I use those for a bunch of other advanced things. Um, but for the end user, I mean, Any Peterson tuner, as long as it's marketed as a strobe tuner is going to be fine. Um, cause yeah, if you want to use it on your pedal board, I mean, you're, you know, like the stroke. Oh, stop. That's actually great because you can have it as your pedalboard tuner for life.

Um, as well as your studio tuner the strobe mode, the HD plus is like a very odd shape. It has like a little back kickstand on it. You can't really use it on a pedal board the same way. So, um, if you're looking for something that's dual purpose. Yeah. The Strobel stop is a wonderful option and they actually just came out with the new one.

Called the  HD stomp something or other yeah, that's HD. Yeah. Oh, that's the one. Yeah. Yeah. That's so 

Benedikt: [01:34:54] awesome because it's a huge display, super good readout and a super solid as [01:35:00] well. So I really liked, I really liked that. I was just wondering if the desktop thing is more accurate, they cost the same. So. I was just 

Diego: [01:35:07] wondering, no, they're, they're, they're built on the same technology.

The only difference is that the, um, as far as I know, the stomp doesn't have those sweeteners and other things, and I'm not sure if you can change the reference tuning on that one, which you don't need to do. You know, we're not tinfoil hats, know four 30, two Hertz crystals and all that, you know, flat earth thing, but.

Well polished all my flat earthers out there, but, uh, yeah, no, it's, it's, it's going to be perfectly fine to, uh, to use either one of those. Absolutely. 

Malcom: [01:35:37] Great. 

Benedikt: [01:35:38] Great. Well, thank you so much. I mean, um, any, any questions left? This was a master class dude. This was awesome. 

Malcom: [01:35:45] Yeah, that was, that was amazing. I feel like this is one of those episodes that I feel like it was for Benny and I and our, our audiences just getting like our scraps.

That was wicked. Thank you so much. 

Diego: [01:35:58] Of course, man, I just, I just want to say thank you [01:36:00] again to you guys for having me on the self recording band podcast. And this is really phenomenal. It's great to talk to you guys. And I hope everyone gleaned something from this. I hope I didn't get a little too technical with it.

I've tried to keep this very much like a straightforward here's what all you need. Don't worry about the rest kinda guide and, um, we'll have some of those videos and, uh, I think I'm also in the group still, so I'm absolutely a resource for anyone and you guys can find me on Instagram at Diego. Does audio.

And anyone can feel free to DM me anytime with any questions. Absolutely. Or hit me up on the Facebook group anytime. Great, 

Benedikt: [01:36:34] amazing. Thank you so much. I'll put all the links, the music, nomad stuff, all that stuff. Um, and the Peterson tutors and everything we've talked about, I'll be putting that into the show notes.

Diego: [01:36:45] Wonderful. 

Benedikt: [01:36:46] Uh, also the download the videos once they are, as soon as they are available, they will be in the show notes as well. And I highly recommend checking out the course. That we're going to put out very, very soon. It might even [01:37:00] be out when this episode comes out. I'm not sure about that yet, but it might be if you're listening now that the cruise has just launched and inside this course, Diego has done a masterclass for us, like a bonus webinar that goes even more in depth than today's episode.

So we've done like a video. Um, webinar thing where we actually get to see Diego set up a guitar from scratch and answer all sorts of questions so that, and the accompanying videos will be in the course as well. And, uh, yeah, I highly recommend checking that out. Maybe we're going to package that separately.

No, because it's so valuable. It's much more than the intended this class that we wanted to do initially. So we'll see what we do with that. Anyway. Thank you so much for your time, Diego. Um, And let us know if you have any follow-up questions, guys. If you're listening and we'll forward them to Diego or just hit him up, Diego does audio at Instagram or inside our group.

Thank you so much. 

Diego: [01:37:52] Awesome. Thank you so much, guys. Appreciate you. 

Malcom: [01:37:55] Yeah. Thank you again. Great, great goodness. Chat with 

Diego: [01:37:57] you. Awesome. [01:38:00]

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