Bass Guitar Setups London: Sadowsky Bass

I had a visit from Jean-Louis Locas.

Jean-Louis is the bass player with Cirque Du Soleil who are performing their show “Kooza” at the Royal Albert Hall.

Jean-Louis has in his arsenal of instruments a beautiful 5 string bass by Sadowsky. The bass was in need of a quick set-up and a little fret attention mid shows.


Sadowsky are a reputed workshop based in New York who make a fine array of 4 and 5 string basses

More about Shadowsky guitars here

Cirque du Soleil tour with a 5 piece band where the musicians double-up on instruments . It’s made up of bass, guitar, keyboards, drums, percussion and a horn section.

More about Cirque de Soleil here

Catch Jean-Louis in action at the Royal Albert Hall here


Circus of the Sun is in town!

KOOZA | Royal Albert Hall

Steve Earle Guitar repair: Further Mid Tour Crisis

Russ changes the strings on Steve’s Martin M-21 after ever gig. Also Russ uses a semi-liquid lubricant across the nut slots to stop the strings sticking in their slot and to ease tuning. All this may have caused the temporary repair to fail. After another phone call from Russ, it was decided that on the tour’s return to London, the next day, a new nut should be made and fitted.

Russ made his way over to the workshop in South East London on Wednesday morning and work was started on Steve’s guitar. On closer inspection I noticed that the top E string was very close to the edge of the fingerboard. This will cause the string to slip off the edge when played in certain positions.  On quizzing Russ about this he mentioned that Steve had had this problem. So it was decided to change the string spacing on the new nut to alleviate this. The recommended distance for the nut slot on the top E is 3mm. Steve’s was less than 2mm.

After about an hour the work was completed and the guitar strung up and tested. Russ was on a tight schedule as he had to get back to the Barbican Centre to prepare for the evening’s sell out gig.

As a special favour to me and for helping Russ out of a tight spot, I was given two complimentary tickets for the performance at the Barbican that evening, complete with back stage passes to met Steve after the gig.

I invited my good friend Cormac Heron along, who’s a great admirer of Steve Earle’s music.

Cormac took this video footage and also wrote an excellent review of the evening. Many thanks to Cormac for his input.

Guitar tech Russ Garett talks through Steve’s onstage equipment

Read about the temporary fix here

Steve Earle Guitar repair : Mid tour crisis

On Wednesday I had a long distance phone call from Sweden. It was Russ Garett, Steve Earle’s guitar tech. Steve Earle is currently on a European tour


One of the two guitars that is being used on the tour had developed a nasty buzz on the G string, could I help? On arriving in the UK could I make time available to make the necessary repair to Steve’s Martin M-21? The tour was scheduled to leave Sweden after the Malmo gig in the early hours and arrive in London Thursday evening. A performance is scheduled at the Fairfield Hall, Croydon on Sat 31st Oct.

So with an appointment organised and directions from the crew’s hotel in Knightsbridge, Russ headed off to the workshop in South East London on Friday afternoon.

Once on the workbench I was soon able to ascertain that the nut slot had been cut slightly too low resulting in the G string buzzing when the string was played in the open position.

Steve Earle’s Signature Martin M-21

Steve Earle’s signature Martin guitar was designed by Steve Earle and Matt Umanov, a New York  based guitar specialist

This type of string buzz can be easily remedied. There are two options available, to make a complete new nut or repair the defective nut slot. On closer inspection it was decided to make a repair to the nut.

Rebuilding nut slots can be achieved very successfully using bone dust (or baking powder) and superglue. The idea is to build up the faulty nut slot layer by layer until there was enough height to re-cut the slot anew.

Rebuilding the nut slot

This was done and the guitar was strung up and the rebuilt nut slot cut to match the other nut slots.

Whilst Russ waited for the repair to be finished he lucidly chatted about life on the road. He told me that he was a freelance guitar/sound technician and tours with many artists in the US and Worldwide

He mentioned that the Steve Earle tour has only a basic crew. Russ, an outhouse sound engineer plus one other selling Steve Earle merchandise.

Russ’s responsibility on this tour is to re-string the two Martin guitars after each gig and keep them set up to performance standard. Also he is responsible for the stage set up of  microphones, stands and monitors. Russ has to be on hand during each performance in case of any onstage eventualities. He also takes his turn in driving the tour bus.

Russ tells me that he enjoys the travel aspect of touring and enjoys exploring new places. His work as a stage tech has taken him to many cities in the US, Europe and the Far East.

As a well earned break from this tour, Russ has an evening off (Fri) and is going to see Jack White of the White Stripes fame. His new band The Dead Weather is performing at HMV Forum London.

Meet Russ Garett, Steve Earle’s guitar tech. He mentions “When on tour the main thing is to get your laundry in”

Click for what happened next

Gibson Guitar Repair: Therapy?

The Rock group Therapy? are just about to go back on tour. They are scheduled to tour the UK and Europe starting mid October until December.

Stevie, their guitar tech, came in yesterday to collect a Gibson SG that was in the workshop for a neck repair.

The SG had arrived back from the band’s previous tour of Russia in a bad state.

When Andy Cairns removed it from it’s case and strummed a few chords he noticed a very unusual tuning (that slack snapped headstock tuning). It had been mishandled by the carrying airline and suffered a broken headstock whilst in transit.

Click image for more snaps

The guitar was successfully repaired and is now back as part of the Andy Cairns’ armoury.

This lovely old SG, which has a crazed black finish that has just gone that way over time, is one of 6 SGs that tour with the band.

Stevie is responsible for their maintenance, upkeep and performance. Part of Stevie’s brief, when on tour with the band, is to re-string each guitar every other day. Check their action, intonation, electrics and generally keep the set-up of the guitar up to performance standard that befits a top band. Each of the SG’s are strung with heavy gauge strings and have different tuning: C, E, A# and D.

Meet Stevie, guitar tech for Therapy?

Stevie emailed this pic (below) of the SG ready for action. All 6 guitars have different drop tunings.

Stevie says, “I use Rotosound blues 10 – 52 on the E tuned SG and Roto custom 13 –
56 on the C and D and other dropped tuned guitars”

The SG’s first gig will be a recording at XFM London on Friday 9th October.
Listen out for the show or better still catch them on tour.

Guitar Repair London: 1968 Gibson 330 Semi Acoustic: The Dilemma

This lovely old Gibson ES330 Semi Acoustic guitar dates back to 1968.

It has been well looked after and cherished by its owner (one of my regulars).

Simple Problem

What had started out as a simple problem soon turned into a long and complicated repair.  The jack socket had come loose and when the owner tightened it up all the electrics stopped working. This is a common fault with many types of jack sockets because the connecting cables often break if the jack socket is allowed to rotate. This was the cause of this jack socket failure.

To repair this faulty jack meant stripping the guitar down, taking out all the electrics through the pickup cavity and making the necessary repair.

A Convoluted Scenario

Due to the guitar’s age the wiring had become rigid and brittle. Any slight movement to the components or the wiring resulted in a minute fracture in the wiring circuit resulting in an intermittent fault.

The Dilemma

The value of a vintage guitar is determined by several factors

  • The make
  • The condition
  • The functionality
  • The authenticity

To remove and replace all of this 330’s electrical wiring and components would detract from its authenticity and therefore decrease its value. However, it could be argued that parts have to be changed and upgraded for the guitar to function properly. Should all the working parts on a valuable vintage guitar such as this one (including the wiring) be continually maintained and repaired?

Take part in the poll.

Vote functionality if you think that it is more important to change and replace parts as necessary for the sake of functionality.

Vote authenticity if you think that a vintage instrument should retain all of their original parts and remain completely authentic.

Vote now!



In this instance the guitar was repaired using its existing wiring and components. It was painstaking work as any slight movement, tugging, pulling or distortion in the wiring would lead to another failure in the circuit.

I am happy to report that the guitar is now fully functional, playing beautifully and remains completely authentic, but for how long is yet to be determined.

Comments Please

Should an old vintage beauty such as this one be kept completely original, even if it becomes very labour intensive and costly to do so?

Or should all faulty parts (such as perishable cables etc) be replaced to keep the guitar in tiptop functional condition?

At what point should the old be replaced by the new?

I would be very interested to read your views on this so please feel free to make a comment.


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Electric Guitar Repair: Gibson Les Paul Special

Here’s a 10 year old Les Paul Special. It never left the bedroom in all that time and then on its first gig took a tumble when it was hit by a flying mic stand. It was on loan from a careful owner who had never gigged it. Then after just one gig the guitar had a cracked headstock. Ooops!

Click on the image to view the case study.

Guitar Repair: Fender Strat Refret

This Fender Strat was in need of a re-fret and its lacquer was beginning to peel.

More on  re-frets here…