Nirvana's Gear

Josh X's Frequently Asked
Guitar Questions

I get all kinds of questions about all kinds of gear. I can see why. I have alot of gear, I've been playing for quite a long time. I've been building and servicing guitars and amps for a while as well. I've seen it all, so to speak. So here are a list of some of the more frequently asked questions on the guitar forum of our dear old NFC.

Q: I have a question about Kurt's gear...

A: All questions regarding Kurt's gear should be answered here.

Q: What pickup is right for me?

A: That's hard to say. It's all dependant on how you want to sound. All I can do is give you suggestions and tell you how much it might cost to put in. The pickup you want is dependant on how you want to sound. You don't know how many times I've heard "I just got this pickup and it sounds terrible, but the company won't let me exchange it, what do I do?" So there are a few things to consider before getting a new pickup. For instance:

-Style. Do you play heavy, hard, slow, fast, light, quiet, loud, etc. Most pickups have a certain volume they operate best at. Some pickups have more high end than others. I wouldn't recommend coming on the Nirvana board and asking what pickups you should get. Most of the people there will all say the same thing- either a Duncan JB or a DiMarzio Super Distortion (you'll see why in a minute), and that might not be the right choice for you. In fact, you may hate it.
-Tone. Do you want more high end, midrange, feedback, bass, distortion, etc? Most pickups have a certain peak in the frequencies, meaning they'll either have too much bass, too much midrange, or too much treble for you. Some pickups have a certian way they feedback and distort.

I would recommend calling, writing, or e-mailing various pickup shops, and requesting a catalog. This is usually free. If you don't want to wait for a catalog, check out the web sites of the big pickup companies. Here's a few links to places that carry pickups (and while you're looking around, request a catalog for good measure).

http://www.seymourduncan.com/ Seymour Duncan
http://www.dimarzio.com/ DiMarzio
http://www.fralinpickups.com Lindy Fralin
http://www.riograndepickups.com Rio Grande
http://www.stewmac.com Stewart-MacDonald
http://www.lrbaggs.com/home_html.html L.R. Baggs (mostly acoustic pickups)
http://www.emginc.com EMG
http://www.bartolini.net Bartolini
http://www.musiciansfriend.com Musician's Friend
http://www.americanmusical.com American Musical Supply
http://www.joebarden.com Joe Barden
http://www.agi-lace.com/indexi.html Lace
http://www.kentarmstrong.com Kent Armstrong
http://www.billlawrence.com Bill Lawrence

(Note: there is another company called "Lawrence" that sells pickups that are very similar to Bill Lawrence's, and they're available through Stewart-MacDonald)

I would recommend writing every one of these companies or visiting their web sites before buying anything. You'll thank yourself later.

Q: What's the difference between the JB and the Super Distortion?

A: Since these were the two pickups favored by Kurt, this is one of the more frequently asked pickup-related questions we get. The difference between the two is how they handle high volume and distortion. If you play them at lower volumes, you won't notice much of a difference. But turn them up, and you'll see it immediately. The DiMarzio Super Distortion will develop more midrange, and distort alot easier, with less harmonics. The Seymour Duncan JB (Jeff Beck model) will have a much cleaner distortion and a more balanced tone, with more harmonics.

Q: How much is it going to cost to get my (fill in the blank) fixed/installed?

A: Most shops have a minimum charge for any repair that's more than a simple restring or setup, usually around $25. Here's a rough estimate of the more common repairs most shops do. Your shop will charge more or less, but this is average. Finish work especially is best left to professionals, because even if it sounds easy, it's not. If you want a job done right, then have a pro do it. You'll be glad you did. And get to know a tech in your area on a first name basis. If you bring in alot of work for him, you may be able to get a good deal on alot of the below.

HOURLY LABOR CHARGE........$20 - 40
RESTRING AND TUNE..........$10 - 20
INSTALL STRAP BUTTON.......$5
WRITTEN APPRAISAL..........$25

ADJUST AND SET UP
ACOUSTIC...................$15 - 25
ELECTRIC...................$20 - 30
FLOATING TREMOLO...........$15
ADJUST TRUSS ROD ONLY......$10 - 20
RESET NECK.................$150 - 250
NEW NUT....................$35
NEW SADDLE.................$30

FRETS
DRESS (INCLUDES SETUP).....$75 - 100
REFRET.....................$125 - 175
BOUND FINGERBOARD..........ADD $50
MAPLE FINGERBOARD..........ADD $50

GLUE JOBS - CRACKS
TOP OR BACK................$20 - 60
RIB........................$30 - 90
PEGHEAD CRACK..............$50 - 200
BRACES.....................$20 - 50

BRIDGES
REGLUE.....................$50 - 80
MAKE NEW BRIDGE............$100 - 200
FLATTEN TOP................$100 - 200

ELECTRICAL / PICKUPS (Installed)
ACOUSTIC PICKUP............$30 - 100
ELECTRIC PICKUP............$20 - 30
WITH ROUTING...............$50 - 100
REPLACE SWITCHES OR POTS...$20 - 40
PRICE OF PICKUP............$30 - 100

FINISH WORK
TOUCH - UPS................By estimate
BOLT ON BODY...............$225 - 300
BOLT ON NECK...............$100 - 150
CUSTOM COLORS..............ADD $50
AGING OR ANTIQUING.........ADD $50
STRIP AND PREP.............$75 - 100
NECK THROUGH...............$350 - 400
ACOUSTIC...................$500 - 750


Any amp repairs depend on what exactly is wrong with your amp. In most cases, amp repair will cost around $35-$75, but if you get a big overhaul, and you want quality parts, you might hit $100 or more easily.
Broken effects, if you can find someone who will actually work on them, will cost about $25-$30 to fix. If it's a vintage pedal that requires specialized parts, such as a Fuzz Face, then it may cost $50 or more, depending on the work done.


Q: My amp makes this annoying noise when I..."

A: Rule of thumb; if your amp makes any noise you don't think it's supposed to, or if your amp makes noises or hums that it didn't make before, take it to the shop. DO NOT try and fix it yourself. There are elements in an amp that can kill you just by touching them. I've seen it happen, to people who "knew what they were doing." The $50 you pay to fix your amp will be much less than the hospital bill you accumulate by electrocuting yourself.

Q: My pickups hum too much. Is this normal?

A: If it's a single-coil, yes. There's nothing you can do, that's the nature of single-coil pickups. They hum. Some more than others, but they always hum. You have two options. One, deal with it. Lots of players grow accustomed to the sound, and in fact love it. Two, you can get humbuckers. A full-sized humbucker would cost more, considering you'd have to rout the cavity bigger to accomidate it. I would suggest a single-coil-sized humbucker. These are available in a wide selection of models, each with its own tonal character. The DiMarzio HS series is very good at replicating a natural single-coil tone. On the other hand, if it's your humbucker that hums, you should probably get it looked at. A winding on the pickup may have broke, and that's fixable.

Q: I need tabs for...

A: There is a tab section for almost all Nirvana songs on this site. The only ones we don't have are probably the extremely rare songs that few people have heard. If you need tabs for other songs or bands, try one or more of the following. I would recommend looking through these sites before asking anyone on the board for tabs. A nice member by the name of Echo Flanger has on his own site the most correct Nirvana tabs I've seen anywhere.

http://olga.net/ OLGA
http://www.guitarnotes.com/tabs/ Guitar Notes
http://www.tabcrawler.com/ Tabcrawler

Q: What's the better distortion pedal...?

A: If you ask this question, I will guarantee you will get a hundred different answers, and half of them will be from me. Distortion pedals are like opinions, everyone has a different one. One guy might say a DS-1, I would say an Ibanez Tube King, and someone else might say a ZOOM multi-effects pedal would be the way to go. I say this- any pedal, used the right way, has the potential for mind-blowing possibilities. You might find that a DOD Grunge pedal (one of the most despised pedals by some of the members of this board) is the best pedal you have ever heard. It's all up to you. I would recomend that you go to your local guitar shop and try out as many as you'd like. You'll be sure to find what's right for you that way.

Q: I'm thinking about getting some new gear. What should I get?

A: I would always suggest upgrading your amp, especially if you are a decent player now, but still have the first amp you bought a few years ago. A bad amp will make a good guitar sound bad as well, while a bad guitar will sound much better played through a good amp. If you are already satisfied with your amp, and are interested in getting into effects, the best effects to start off with are the simplest- a distortion, a wah, and a chorus is good for most people's needs. If you are interested in getting a new guitar, it's better to go on your own. Get to some shops, and play every guitar they have hanging on the wall.This will give you a feel of the best guitar for you. Below are a few of the sites I would recommend for buying equipment online.

Q: How do I tune one half step down? One whole step down?

A (courtesy of Riley): tune 1/2 down(Eb,Ab,Db,Gb,Bb,Eb):
1. Tune the low E so the 6th fret on low E matches A
2. Tune A to match the 5th fret on E
3. Tune D to match the 5th fret of A
4. Tune G to match the 5th fret on G
5. Tune B to match the 4th fret on G
6. Tune E to match the 5th fret on B

tune a whole step(D,G,C,F,A,D):
1. Tune the low E so the 7th fret on low E matches A
2. Tune A to match the 5th fret on E
3. Tune D to match the 5th fret of A
4. Tune G to match the 5th fret on G
5. Tune B to match the 4th fret on G
6. Tune E to match the 5th fret on B

(It never hurts to use a tuner, either --Josh X)

http://www.musiciansfriend.com/ Musician's Friend
http://www.americanmusical.com/home.htm American Musical Supply
http://samash.com/ Sam Ash
http://elderly.com/ Elderly Instruments (excellent supply of vintage guitars)
http://ebay.com You can always find something up for auction here

When buying a new piece of equipment, try and spend as much as possible. I'm not saying get the most expensive item, or that a higher price equals better quality. But if you have $500 to spend on an amp, spend $500. This way, when you outgrow it or want to get something new, you'll have a more expensive piece of equipment you can use to trade in towards the price of omething better.

If you want to read some reviews on music-related equipment, try Harmony Central. They have reviews submitted by players all over the world, and there's always something about whatever you're looking for.

http://www.harmony-central.com/User_Reviews/ Harmony Central

If you have a question that wasn't covered in these FAQs, then don't hesitate to bring it up in the Sounds of Distortion forum. I'm usually around all the time, and if can't answer your question, then someone else might be able to. If you desperately need an answer now, or don't think anyone else can answer it, I can be reached by e-mail at joshx3@juno.com . Have fun, and enjoy the NFC.