More about Bends + strap issues and my first guitar repair

I overcame my issue with bends about two days after my post grousing about them.  The trouble was I was treating them like slides. I learned with slides that you want to pluck and slide almost simultaneously, so I was instinctively doing the same on bends, which was absolutely wrong. It turns out the note needs to ring first, THEN bend. Once I learned that, I went from ‘wtf? this is impossible!’ to ‘oh, duh.’  Currently at 80% completion on the bends lesson on Rocksmith.  The remaining 20% is primarily the same newbie issue – that I’m still not so fast at switching strings and frets.  I am getting better at that, but not consistently. The second I pluck the wrong string, it mucks me up and I have a hard time getting back to where I’m supposed to be. Time and practice, though –  time and practice.

And on the subject of practice, I’ve also realized that Castle Chordead has levels, on account of having reached and (eventually) defeated my first boss. Moving on to level 2 – and a few new chords. Yay!

What I did notice in playing was that my shoulder strap got uncomfortable on my shoulder after maybe 20 minutes. I consulted my guitar guru on the subject (Thanks, Al) – and based on that conversation turned my strap around so the thick end was on my shoulder – my strap was clearly not designed to be worn this way, but I tested it out, and it really wasn’t all that much help.  Hmm…I wondered if, maybe, my strap was too long for me.  It was an awesomely studded levy strap, but being only 5’4 and it not being fully adjustable made me wonder if maybe it would be better if I could wear it a little shorter.

Onward to amazon to pick an inexpensive strap that still looks relatively well constructed.  I picked a Planet Waves strap that came with it’s own shoulder pad – I figured it was a 2 in one. If the strap still hurt, I had the shoulder strap, if the shoulder strap was cumbersome, I could take it off and use it as desired.
The PW strap was uncomfortable with the shoulder pad, which dug into the side of my neck and my collarbone, which I think it just the shape of my neck to shoulder, so I took it off and tested it with the old strap.  It did help that strap quite a bit, without the weird shoulder pad digging, but the strap was still too long, really. When I sit down, I can’t adjust it short enough that it doesn’t just fall off of my shoulder.  I can adjust the Planet Waves strap short enough though, and while it took some fiddling to figure out the right length, I think I may have figured it out now.  It does still eventually make my shoulder sore, but I realized it wasn’t the only issue.

In all this strap switching and adjusting, the strap button on the top of the guitar (closer to the neck) kept loosening. The screw kept loosening and once even slipped out.  Uh-oh!  Well, that’s what you get for $85 on ebay, right?  Google time!

I learned that this happens because the hole is partially stripped, and that you can fix it with…a toothpick. Seriously? A toothpick?!  So tonight I pillaged the house for toothpicks, only to find they were sitting in plain sight in the medicine cabinet. For once, I put something in an actual, sensible location – right next to the dental flossers! 🙂

So I broke my toothpick, shoved it in there, and screwed it back together (by hand, with the tiny little screwdriver that has become my guitar screwdriver and lives in the shiny new gig bag I got for Christmas.  (All of my guitar stuff. In one place = awesome.)  It feels very snug now.

Hoping the fully adjustable strap + the now snug strap button, will resolve the shoulder pain issue, but even if not – there is learning happening.

Added to my guitar collection over the holiday: 1 gig bag, 1 guitar strap (gift to self), a light tension grip master (boy, that’s hard with the pinky!), and Buddy Guy’s autobiography, which I am looking forward to reading…after I finish Amanda Palmer’s. 🙂

Until Next time, progress remains headed in a generally forward direction.

4 thoughts on “More about Bends + strap issues and my first guitar repair

    1. Yeah, I’ve seen this advice, and it’s actually not working for me. At all. I think that’s entirely the problem. There’s no advice for when this doesn’t work; so I just have to keep experimenting to find what does.

      There’s a two part reason for this, I’ve found. The first is sort of obvious, but awkward to discuss, so I’ll just be blunt about it: I have boobs. That swallows up strap length. And long story short, it means if I adjust my guitar strap while seated, it’s going to sit at an extremely awkward angle while standing, making this advice that is just not going to be quite realistic for some women, and require some adjustment to compensate. Lol.

      The other, less awkward, reason is that my arms are long for my height, so when I adjust the guitar this high, it jams up my strumming hand as I have to compensate for that. I need the body a little lower so I can maintain a proper range of motion in my strumming hand.

      So, I don’t have a solid answer of the best strap length for me just yet, but I do know what’s not working. I just practice standing up, since that’s how I’d most likely be playing anyway. I’m not having a problem with the bass, really, but the guitar is significantly heavier than you’d expect from a squier knockoff, which makes proper strap length that much more important for comfort. I’m still fiddling with it.

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      1. Aside from strap length, the angles that you keep the guitar or bass at are also important. There are 2 different ones to take into consideration. The first is basically the X or Y axis – like, if you were a clock, where do you position the instrument if it were a clock hand that’s comfortable and easy to reach. The 2nd is the Z axis, so how far away from your body (shoulder, head, etc.) do you keep the headstock. Both of these affect the wrist and fluidity – especially for your fretting hand.

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      2. Yeah, I’ve noticed that. I just haven’t locked on the perfect angles for me just yet. The two things aren’t entirely disconnected, as strap length affects what angles can be comfortably achieved. I’m getting closer, but still tweaking. The bass is fine, but the guitar I feel like I’m trying to find an angle and length that best distribute the weight, which is making it a bit harder to pin down.

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