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This book should save anyone who owns a guitar money and frustration. OK, except for the guitar tech you won't need nearly as often.
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How to Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great

A real money and frustration saver!

Author – Dan Erlewine

Review Text & photos by Tom Hintz

Posted – 12-27-2012

I have always been in the hands-on camp so when I returned to playing the guitar I also wanted to learn how to build and set them up. Considering that having a guitar tech set a guitar up can cost $75 or more the $24.99 MSRP (12-26-2012) for How to Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great seemed like a very good deal. After reading it I would realize how badly I had under estimated its value.

The author, Dan Erlewine may sound familiar as he has been around guitars since the 1960’s and has become a well-respected guitar builder and repair specialist. He built Albert King’s famous “Lucy” Flying V and at least one custom guitar for the legendary Grateful Dead front man Jerry Garcia. Along the way Dan has repaired guitars for players such as Luther Allison, Mike Bloomfield and the Wildman himself, Ted Nugent. All this is to say that Mr Erlewine knows of which he speaks and that is a good thing for readers of How to Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great.

Another key quality of Erlewine is his clear, easy-to-understand writing style that not only presents lots of important information, you can easily understand and apply it to your guitars. That easy-going personality also comes across on the included DVD where Dan demonstrates many of the key techniques covered in the book. These demonstrations make it even easier to understand the information and apply it to your guitar with confidence.

 

Lots of Subjects

The included DVD has so much information it probably could be sold as a separate title. Erlewine has an easy-going, easy-to-understand way of presenting the information.
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How to Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great really does cover a wealth of procedures that will show you how to keep your guitar playing correctly as well as making it easier to seek the perfect setup for your playing style. I love being able to try a new setting on my guitars knowing that I can return to a previous configuration accurately if need be. For many of us the fear of “screwing up” our guitars can be alleviated by reading How to Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great!

How to Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great includes sections on evaluating a guitar, working with the fretboard and buzzing, pickups and wiring (including soldering), adjusting truss rods, working with nuts and tuners as well as bridges and tailpieces.

The setup section has specific recommendations for Fender Stratocasters, Telecasters and Les Paul guitars. What is really nice is that specific setups used by some of our guitar heroes are listed so you can copy all of them or move your setup in that direction. Want to try your Strat set up like Stevie Ray Vaughan? No problem. How about Jeff Beck’s base setup? How to Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great even warns that Beck is a “tinkerer” and his setup probably changes over the course of a tour. Now your setup can change also and you can do it safely because of the extensive how-to info in How to Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great!

 

Tools

Throughout How to Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great, Erlewine looks at simple tools you need or can make yourself to properly adjust a guitar. I thought that Erlewine’s deep relationship with guitar parts and repair powerhouse Stewart-MacDonald (www.stewmac.com) could make this book read like an extended ad but it is quite the opposite. Erlewine favors minimal tool needs rather than you setting up a full-on guitar repair shop.

To further this minimalist theme you even get a set of heavy paper, die-cut radius gauges at the rear of How to Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great. They obviously are not meant to last forever but they will show you the importance of getting string saddle radius right as well as measuring fretboard radius accurately. I expect that many who read this book will order up some of the tools described but between Erlewine’s descriptions and the included radius gauges you can literally sit down with How to Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great and improve your guitar the first day.

 

Conclusions

These die-cut radius gauges (left) are both accurate and free as part of the book. You also get a bunch of setup spec from our guitar heros (right) like Stevie Ray Vaughan. You can use these setups as a starting place or as a goal to reach eventually.
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How to Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great is a well-written and soundly thought out book that provides a bunch of information arranged in a logical order. Most importantly is that Dan Erlewine presents the information in an easy to understand manner that makes How to Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great very effective for virtually any reader.

I also like the depth of the information as that means that you can improve your guitar today but everything you need to continue to refine the right setup for you is there. The included DVD is intended to supplement the text and photos in How to Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great but could probably be sold as a standalone title. It also is packed with understandable, usable information with no runtime bloating verbiage.

We do not often find a book that can save multiples of its cover price the first day you own it but How to Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great certainly falls into that category. If you own more than one guitar or just want to keep improving a single instrument How to Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great can make life easier for you and just might save a bunch of cash in the process.

If you play guitar you need to check out How to Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great – unless you are a pro guitar tech. In that case you will want to try and forget this book and all of the fees that are slipping away.

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