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Tinny Sound on Guitar String on High E?

Updated on September 12, 2016

Those dreadful dust balls!

What the Heck is Wrong with my Guitar

I have been playing guitar since I was a teen and have owned both acoustic and electric models. One of my favorite past time activities is to walk into a music store and "kick tires" Now that may sound like a car dealership experience but seasoned guitar players know what I mean. Most stores will only allow one to take an instrument from the racks if a salesman is present. I understand this is to keep down on those who may in some way damage an otherwise good instrument. rendering it unsalable.

My personal choice is the Martin guitar and between me and my son we own four Martins. Mine is the HD 28 Herringbone and a short while ago when I took it out of the case to tune, the high E had a horrible sound even though my Intellitouch tuning machine told me it was a perfect 440 pitch. In layman's terms it sounded as if I had barred the strings with my index finger to achieve a chiming effect like many banjo players often do when playing the B part of Grandfathers Clock.

I was not a little discomforted and began to investigate the cause of the distortion. As it turned out when I removed the string end pin at the saddle (mine are fossilize ivory) a great big old hairy dust ball was attached to the silver ferrule. In fact, that sound killing woolly booger fell right into the center of the guitar box. Mine is a 1991 model and this represented the accumulation of almost 11 years of dust, fuzz from the case lining, and a few of my own hairs that must have fallen into my guitar when I was playing some hot bluegrass licks.

Caring for your guitar isn't rocket science but it does pay to take a little extra time after jamming to wipe the ebony fret board down with a soft cloth to remove any dirt or perspiration which may have accumulated while playing. Every person has different levels of acidity in their "sweat" and the higher the acidity the more necessary to wipe those strings to insure longer life and tone. Below you will find some useful tips taken and pasted from the web with a few remarks of my own that will insure insure you won't have a similar experience with dust balls.

  • 1

    Wipe your strings with a clean, dry cloth anytime you finish playing your guitar and are about to put it up. This helps to remove excess oils, which can dull the sound of the strings.

  • 2

    Wipe off any perspiration with a clean, dry rag during playing, as perspiration can damage the finish.

  • 3

    Wipe down your entire guitar with a warm, damp rag anytime you change the strings, which usually should occur every few weeks to every few months.

  • 4

    Wipe off any liquid spills or food smears immediately with a warm, damp rag. This also applies to other substances that may come into contact with your guitar, such as insect repellent or hairspray. It's a good idea don't drink and play at the same time and if you chew or dip keep your spittoon a safe distance away to avoid those nasty dribbles. By the way nicotine does damage your strings, play in a smoke free environment.

  • 5

    Dry your guitar thoroughly with a clean, dry cloth anytime you've used a warm, damp rag to wipe it.

    Wishing you you pickers everywhere lots of picking and grinning and please handle with care. A good instrument represents a sizable investment for most of us but the good news the investment will page huge dividends in enjoyment.

Me playing Little Rosewood Casket on my Martin guitar joined by the barber shop gang.Son Gary on mandolin.


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    • Fiddleman profile image

      Robert Elias Ballard 5 years ago from Zirconia, North Carolina

      Thanks PenMePretty for visiting my hub and commenting.

    • profile image

      PenMePretty 5 years ago from Franklin

      Amazing what those dust balls are capable of doing. I play guitar and relate. Well done. Thanks for sharing.

    • Fiddleman profile image

      Robert Elias Ballard 5 years ago from Zirconia, North Carolina

      I am the one playing guitar as the video begins, my son Gary is playing mandolin, our friend Jess Nelson on banjo and Cas Haskel on banjo

    • profile image

      digenes 5 years ago

      I anjoyed that! Which one is you?

      Cheered me up on a dismal British winter morning