Acoustic guitar tone

I have one steel string acoustic guitar. It’s a Martin GPCPA3 that I bought back in 2012 or so. I feel like the tone is not as nice as it used to be.

The top 2 or 3 strings just sound kind of awful. I spent a lot of time trying to record a finger-style part this weekend and finally realized that I maybe just don’t like the sound of the guitar. But I know that I used to, so I think it might need some kind of maintenance. The biggest issue is that the top 2 strings have some kind of intermittent buzz. It’s not fret buzz–it sounds like it’s coming from the bridge area. I took the saddle out yesterday and sanded down the grooves a bit, and I think it helped, but I’m not sure. The top strings are so harsh that I ended up with a pretty stupid fx chain trying to get a sound that I liked out of the recording.

Does it make sense that I might need a new saddle? Anybody have any favorite strings to recommend that aren’t too jangly? I wonder if I need to go to a heavier gauge… I think I have been putting lights on there to make it easier to play, but I always used to use mediums before that. Anything else you can think of that can effect tone?

My buddy makes guitars in my shop. Every so often he will get a guitar he has made back in and he does a whole set up thing on them. There are measurements to be made. Often he has to take some off of the saddle adjust the neck tension, and mess with the nut. The reason is because wood moves due to humidity and it takes a while for it to settle into place. sometimes even after it seems to be going well and then there is enough humidity changes you have to get it re-setup.
While you can do some of the work yourself it is better to get a pro to do it for you. I know some places hire luthiers to do there maintenance work. For example another luthier I know works at long and McQuade which is a big music store in Canada. So have a look around your area and see if you can find a luthier who does setup and maintenance it will breathe new life back into your guitar if they are any good.

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Definitely take it in and have it set up, especially if you really liked it’s tone. You can try out different strings too.

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Remember that the weather has been changing pretty drastically lately. Especially up in Ohio. You might be in a warm climate controlled house, but the humidity and airflow can seriously change things. I walked into the orchestra hall for a rehearsal Saturday and the 9-foot concert grand that I normally play was bitching a epic hissy fit because of the dry air.

I had a similar experience with the Martin M36 when I lowered the action. I didn’t think that less than an 8th of an inch would make a difference in the sound. I just wanted it to play easier, but when the neck was straightened and the saddle dropped, the volume threshold, dynamics and sustain fell right off a cliff. Same strings, same nut, same everything… just the height of that thing made it turn into a different instrument.

See if you can find a guy in your area that is Martin certified. I would call Martin directly and ask who their nearest authorized repair center is.

As for strings, I use Martin Tony Rice signatures on the Martin M36 and Taylor 814. Elixir mediums on the Larrivee JV05 and Tacoma dreadnaught.

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Would you trust Guitar Center to do a good job with this? I had a really nice place to go to when I lived in Seattle, but around here I think I’d have go to go Guitar Center for it.

I’m more inclined to try and fix it myself. I feel like it has lifelong value if I can do some basic tweaks to my own guitars. I’m more comfortable with setting up my electric guitar, but I haven’t done much with the acoustic. It would be nice if I could be present for the setup and learn something, but I don’t think that’s a thing.

If you find a luthier in the area they are very often willing to walk through the process with you so that in the future you can take care of it yourself.

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Absolutely not. I bought an SG from Guitar Center, the guy offered to do a setup for $60, he made it even worse than it was when it was hanging on the rack (how that’s even possible I don’t know). If I had it to do over I would have refused to pay them for it, it was THAT bad.

I think finding a repair tech is difficult, and you can only do it by trial and error. I would ask around, the pro players in the area are your best leads. Whenever I moved to a new city in the past, I usually had to hit the ground running to find a good guitar tech. The best way I’ve found is meet them at a gig, ask to see the guitar they’re playing at the gig, then see if you like how it feels. From past experience if they don’t play guitar, they’re probably not going to do a good job with a setup. If they do a crap job on their own guitar, they’re probably not going to do a good job with yours. And trust is important to me - another reason I like to meet them in person. But also in my experience, anyone who is a certified warranty and repair center for Gibson or Martin or Fender has usually done an immaculate job with my guitars. The certification process is expensive and it requires they have equipment that your average guitar tech doesn’t have either.

I would but I’m terrible with anything mechanical! lol.

I agree with Redworks… its certainly worth asking! The guy I work with had no issues whatsoever showing me around the shop and letting me watch him work. I found one really good Gibson/Martin/Fender certified tech and I’ve never gone anywhere else since. You might not be able to watch a full setup because if the neck is way off (and that’s whats causing other problems) you sometimes have to leave it there for four or five days while a machine they use straighten it out does its thing. But I think if you said ‘hey, I wanna watch you re-fret this guitar’, I think a good number of those guys would probably agree.

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As a counterpoint to Jonathan - it depends on the technician. I took a guitar to the “local” shop that was recommended to me by my son’s music teacher/musician and was not at all impressed and felt I was way overcharged. On other hand, the tech at Guitar Center did my bass and did a great job and for 2/3 the price.

Just check around with local musicians and see who they recommend.

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Ok - Sure! :slight_smile: I’m glad that worked better for you than it did for me lol.

I’ve never seen a good tech at Guitar Center, but that certainly doesn’t mean there aren’t any.