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Finding The Right Guitar Tech

by Mary Sewell

So you’ve been saving your hard-earned dollars just waiting for that perfect guitar to come through the music store or get posted for sale online, and when the time finally arrives, your patience has paid off. You pounce on the deal like a half-starved puma. Beaming with delight as you bask in the glory of your newly found treasure, you quickly take it to your “guy” for some custom tweaks…..you do have a “guy,” don’t you?

If you don’t have a tech, one of the scariest experiences can be taking your favorite ax to a complete stranger for repair work or even a simple tweak. It’s kind of like trying to find the perfect doctor for your kid. You can read reviews and ask friends for suggestions, but when it comes down to it, you just have to take a chance and hope the person on the other side of the bench knows what they are doing. Here are some tips to help you find the ultimate guitar tech.

1. Ask around. Whether you are new to the scene or ready to take the leap forward, ask anyone you can. Post a question on Facebook or craigslist, and you’ll be amazed at the response you get. Plus, people can always private message you so they don’t have to worry about talking negatively about someone in the public eye. Go to the local music store and ask around. If a store has a repair department, they will definitely try to sell you on its service, so use the web and invite other players their thoughts on the store’s reputation and service.

2. Look for reviews. If you find the tech’s name or have a question about a store that offers repair, check it out. Google it…you will find out, good or bad, what people have to say about them. Just be sure to really read what a person is saying, whether positive or negative. “Dude, I can’t believe the tech told me I need to humidify my guitar…I’ve never heard of that bogus line! I’m never going back to those losers!” Ignorance can run just as ramped and knowledge online.

3. Don’t judge a book by its cover. So you walk into a shop, and the tech is at the bench, shop apron on, tools laid out like a new surgery room, big machinery all around, guitars in pieces….this must be right…right? Remember, anyone can load a shop up with the right tools; that doesn’t mean they know how to use them. Some of the best luthiers and techs I know I have worked out of cramped basements and garages with tools and jigs they have made themselves because it simply isn’t always cost-effective to run out and buy every device in the luthiers supply magazine.

4. Trust your gut. When you find a tech, talk to them about what they intend to do with your beloved instrument and why they are doing it. If they can’t explain in terms, you can understand the issue with your guitar or how they plan to fix it and why you better head for the hills pilgrim. Even if they can explain everything in detail, but you just get a bad vibe, move on. Some people just don’t have good chemistry. You want your tech to be a person you can truly trust and confide in.

5. You’re the boss. If you want something a certain way, make sure you deal with someone who will deliver. I’ve seen more than one tech ignore what the player wished to because they thought they knew what was best for them. “Maybe I want higher action…maybe I like higher action, maybe I play slide have of the time and need higher action.” It’s good to have a tech who isn’t afraid to give you options and opinions, but when it comes to the final decision, make sure you make the call, not them.

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