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Simple fixes to get a better sounding Maestro guitar

#1 User is offline   bigbike4 

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Posted 22 April 2010 - 12:11 PM

I had one of these given to me and am learning to play guitar on it. A decent enough beginners instrument, but there are some problems. Here I list the problems I have found with mine and some simple fixes I have done at home with a mini rotary tool and about one evening.

1)action to high as you go "up the neck" (toward the body of the instrument)-Solution-when you change strings this is a perfect time to take care of this-remove the saddle from the bridge. You will find it just sits in there and with your mini rotary tool and a sanding or cutting disc on it, sand off or file off a small amount-do this carefully and don't take too much off at a time. If you are afraid to sand off then I would cut some slots on the top of the saddle plastic and lower the strings that way.

2)No resonance or little resonance when doing hammer ons and pull offs. Well I replaced the nut (the white thing that the strings run thru up by the peghead) with a real bone piece and after carefully measuring and shaping the new nut to the old nuts specs(you will need a hammer and a drift as the old nut is glued in place) I no longer have that problem and actually have crisper tones and better overall tonal quality on the guitar. I also intend on replacing the saddle plastic with bone as well.

3)Factory strings too hard to push down. I put a set of D'addario lights on mine and find it much easier to chord. I beleve the factory is using mediums but don't really know.

Overall I can say my Gibson Maestro is a Spruce top and mahogany sides and back and am quite pleased with the unit. So far my costs have been 4 replacement bridge pins as the factory ones must have been put in too far and they cracked when I attempted to push them up from the bottom when changing strings, replacing the plastic nut with a bone one (about $5 for an unshaped one that I cut to the size I needed), and I will spend another few dollars for a bone saddle for the next time I change strings.

Overall I am pleased with the tone and quality of this $100 guitar-including bag, extra strings, learning dvd .
My current collection of instruments:
2009 Gibson Maestro black acoustic
2006 Gold Tone White Layde 5 string banjo
2003 Morgan Monroe MDX4 Apalacian 5 string bluegrass banjo
1895 S S Stewart 5 string banjo
1900's S S Stewart mandolin banjo
1890's S S Stewart 'taterbug mandolin
1920's S S Stewart 19 fret tenor banjo.
2000 O.S. 21 chord Apalacian CE autoharp
1 home made wormy walnut 4 string mt. dulcimer
1 acquired, maker unknown 3 string mt. dulcimer

I may not know what I am doing musically, but it sure is fun!

You can mess with my house, you can mess with my instruments, but TOUCH my motorcycle and you are dead meat!
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#2 User is offline   bigbike4 

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Posted 20 May 2010 - 12:52 PM

Well, it has been several months since I started this and I can now say that I have fixed all the "bugs" that were with the Maestro I was given.

I ended up as previously stated-cutting and installing a new bone nut-that replaced the lousy plastic one the guitar comes with. I just yesterday got a TUSQ saddle and bridge pins, and installed them. Yes I had to cut and shape the new saddle as it was sold as a "Slab",but since no slots have to be cut, all that needs to do is to trim it to length and sand it to the proper radius.

The darn bridge pins that come stock on the instrument are made of a brittel plastic and every one of them broke-and I am extremely careful about how I take them out and install them when putting on new strings. So it is not my technic, but the cheapo plastic that Gibson is using. Well anyway I guess You can't expect much out of a $100 (including the bag, dvd, extra strings, picks and oh yeah guitar) guitar.

The new nut, saddle and bridge pins have made the sound on this instrument into mid level quality. The guitar has crisp clear bell quality high notes, nice mid range and crisp deep low range. It is everything a guitar should be without being muddy sounding (which it was originally witht he plastic crap on it)Tonally it is now true intonation all over the neck, the action is low-it had been high from the 7th fret on. People are amazed that a $100 guitar can sound this good! And the total cost of the improvements I made? Bone from a butcher shop-free-about 1 hour to measure, cut and shape and then install. TUSQ saddle $10 from Music123.com Tusq bridge pins with abalonie inlays $17.00 (Music123) Again about 20 minutes to measure, shape, and install the new saddle.

Amazing what some time and a small amount of money will do. More seasoned guitarists have played my guitar and can not believe an entry level can be set up this well or sound this good. They have even started asking me to do some work for them on their instruments.

The only tools I have for doing this work are a bench grinder, a set of welding tip cleaners, sandpaper and a dial caliper for precise measurements.
My current collection of instruments:
2009 Gibson Maestro black acoustic
2006 Gold Tone White Layde 5 string banjo
2003 Morgan Monroe MDX4 Apalacian 5 string bluegrass banjo
1895 S S Stewart 5 string banjo
1900's S S Stewart mandolin banjo
1890's S S Stewart 'taterbug mandolin
1920's S S Stewart 19 fret tenor banjo.
2000 O.S. 21 chord Apalacian CE autoharp
1 home made wormy walnut 4 string mt. dulcimer
1 acquired, maker unknown 3 string mt. dulcimer

I may not know what I am doing musically, but it sure is fun!

You can mess with my house, you can mess with my instruments, but TOUCH my motorcycle and you are dead meat!
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#3 User is offline   TommyK 

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Posted 25 October 2010 - 09:56 PM

Sounds like you're on your way to being your own guitar tech.

However, I need to caution anyone about the saddle. The only way to lower the saddle is to sand off the bottom of the saddle. Do not cut slots in the top as this is counter productive. The strings need to wiggle a bit from side to side in order to sound good and have decent sustain. You should spend some time on Frets.com. It's a great site for budding luthiers and guitar owners.

I've been meaning to make my own home-made bone saddles and nuts for years. I've collected some ideas on the subject. Fresh bone is greasy and the grease must be removed to work properly and not get what it comes in contact with all greasy. Here are a couple ways I've read about doing this:

For both methods, clean and trim donor bone. Remove as much meat, gristle, and greasiness by scraping with a paring knife or pocket knife. Cut bone in half lengthwise like a hot dog bun. Scoop out and discard the marrow as much as possible. At some point remove the knuckles as good saddle and nut bones can't be made from this. Also remove any part that is spongy, as this is useless for this purpose as well.

Another fellow wrote that he gave the whole, fresh bone first to his dog to gnaw on for a month or so. Dogs can really lick the greasy off and leave no meat or gristle behind. Big beef leg bones are nigh on impossible for a dog to crush, so the big bone should emerge largely unscathed, but clean. After Fido has grown tired of the bone, take it back and go to work. If there's any soft marrow inside when you split it, let the dog have it. He'll love you for it.

De-greasing Method 1.
Place cleaned and trimmed bone parts in a sauce pan with water and dish washing soap. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Turn off the burner and let it all cool naturally, cooling too fast can cause the bone to crack. Inspect bone for, and remove any lingering gristle or meat. Discard the water, rinse the bone and repeat the boiling with soapy water a total of 3 times. Rinse and allow the pieces of bone to air dry before use. This is reported to work well.

De-greasing Method 2.
Clean fresh bone as above. Place bone in a container of gasoline for several months. Best if it is in a sealed, glass jar exposed to sunlight. Be extremely careful with the gasoline. Do not leave it in your home or where others may come in contact with it or near burn barrels, barbecue pits and other sources of fire. If you live in town with close neighbors or neighbor kids who can't leave other peoples' stuff alone, this might not be a good idea. Weekly agitation (swirl the gasoline and bone mixture a bit) is encouraged. After a month, and then periodically there after, remove one test piece of bone. Allow it to air dry in a safe place until the gasoline smell is gone. Check for greasiness. If still greasy, return it to the jar. Once the greasiness is gone, lay out all pieces to dry until they lose their gasoline smell. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator until needed. A museum curator says this yields a vintage looking bone fragment suitable for restoring vintage guitars. But remember gasoline is extremely flammable and where you store it is extremely important to not blowing something or someone up.


I have not tried either of these methods, but will some day. I'm guessing a fresh rump roast BEEF bone would yield suitably sized bone material. A fresh ham bone would be a bit smaller but may be big enough. You should be able to purchase a soup bone from a butcher, if you can find a butcher these days. Another source could be a bone from a pet store. They have big honkin' beef bones, but the ones I've seen appear to have been cooked, then 'gravied'. Cooked bones could have gotten hot enough to render the bones too soft, so try for fresh bone. But if a fresh bone doesn't present itself, try the pet store bone. It might just work.
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#4 User is offline   pfox14 

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Posted 27 January 2012 - 02:58 PM

Great advice guys thanks
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