Q: I’m coming back to playing guitar after a long hiatus. What are some good exercises for getting back in shape quickly? –Jim B, Beaumont, TX
A: You know I will say practice, right? There are always those squeeze gizmos they sell at music stores, something like a Thighmaster for your fingers. However, the more you play, it will come back.
Hey, at least you already know how to play! There are a lot of great exercises in most of the guitar magazines (Guitar Player, Guitar World, Acoustic Guitar, etc.) every month. If you’re really serious, I’d make sure to pick up a copy or copies every month when and follow their recommended drills. Also, there are a lot of exercises and training that can be
Q: Why is the B string so hard to keep in tune, even on many better guitars? Any tips for dealing with this other than to just keep tuning between songs? –Brian B, Riverside, CA
A: This is a problem that has plagued mankind for centuries. Through a mysterious combination of cosmic events, the position of that note on the guitar’s scale, the string gauge, etc., it just wants to be a pain.
There are steps you can take to minimize your suffering. Remember, the lighter the string gauge, the harder it is to stay in tune, especially when you rock hard. Use a heavier
gauge string set, if for the simple reason that they sound better.
A nut and saddle lubricant can help with string slippage by eliminating the grabbing friction at those string contact points. That stuff can also help reduce string breakage.
Keep rockin’ and someday you can hand it to your guitar tech offstage and let him worry about it!
Q: I play both electric and acoustic (with built-in pickup) guitars and I’m looking for one decent amp to use with both guitars, so I can travel really light. What do you recommend? –Sharon S, Homestead, FL
A: Electric guitar amps and acoustic guitar amps are usually “voiced” for their respective application. While electric amps can have one speaker, acoustic amps have multiple speakers, in various sizes, to more faithfully reproduce the wider, and more delicate sonic spectrum of an acoustic instrument.
This is just like the fact that bass amps have larger speakers to deliver the low-end. For you personally, I’d recommend trying out some small amps you feel comfortable carrying around, and see what sounds decent with both.
I fired up an Epiphone Valve Special tube amp that has built-in chorus and reverb, which are usually found on acoustic amps. I turned the bass down a bit and cranked up the
treble and got a sweet warm acoustic sound. So even though it isn’t designed for such, something like a tube or regular solid-state electric guitar amp will do the job for amping an acoustic and it will certainly honk with your electric.
I think trying to run an electric through an acoustic amp would sound pretty weak,
so I didn’t even want to try it.
Q: I enjoy playing with the “drop D” tuning and some other alternate tunings. Are
there any books or other resources you can suggest for learning more about these different tunings? –Sara K, Burlington, VT
A: You know I love the thought of a chick playing “drop D”, that’s hot!
Hal Leonard (publisher) has a nice book, which is fairly easy to find. The title is
Hal Leonard Alternate Tuning Chord Dictionary by Chad Johnson.
There are also various Web sites that discuss it. Run a search using the keywords guitar
alternate tuning. There’s a lot out there now on the subject, so anyone can play
Dr. Epiphone is the alter ego of singer, songwriter, and guitar expert Will Jones. If you have a music performance — related or semi-related question, you can e-mail Will at firstname.lastname@example.org.