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Is This Beautiful (looking) Guitar Worth Saving?


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Hi --

I'm absolutely new here, and I can't play guitar (God knows I've tried!) so please bear with me if I'm not familiar with terms and practices.

I have a ca 1986 Cort Strat copy (It's NOT a Cort Stat II, with the truss rod neck). For whatever cosmic reasons, I could never wrap my brain around even the rudiments of playing (though I DID work out how to do the intros to REM's "Letter Never Sent" and The Replacements' cover of "Black Diamond"!). Anyway, I used to noodle around with this thing, but haven't in many years. At the ditzoid age of 58, I've decided I want to learn to play guitar before I die, which could be any minute. I have a couple questions for the forum:

1. Is there a REALLY good DVD/PC (Mac, actually)/book/whatever learning tool for the rank beginner?

2. This Cort I have seems to me (and you already know *my* knowledge level!) to be relatively well made, though I recognize at least a few of its possible inadequacies (like the switches are cheeeep, and the neck is a bolt-in with no truss rod -- though I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing). I've enclosed what I hope is a viewable image montage of the exact type of Cort I have, the only difference being that, having done a little more research, it is probable that the body of my Cort is basswood, rather than the maple I assumed it was because of the matching finish of neck and body -- it's truly a beautiful guitar. What I want to know is how one would go about making it a little better mechanically and sonically without breaking the bank.

3. I'm told the Cort has a fairly narrow neck, but my stubby sausages still have a tough time wrapping around it -- is there a thinner neck that will still be stable?

CortFinal.jpg

In the photomontage, I *should* have said "maple *color*," as I'm pretty sure the body is really basswood. The headstock is maple on its front face, too -- there's no paint at all anywhere on the guitar, just clearcoat.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks

Bart Brown

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Ummm... first off you've got a couple things wrong. The pictures shows that the neck has a truss rod... as does ANY electric guitar that the builder hopes to be play-able. Also, yes, the neck looks maple, and basswood is a cheap wood common in many guitars, so there's no reason why it couldn't be. I would SERIOUSLY doubt the body was full on maple because 1- itd be a bit heavy, and 2- it'd sound REALLY bright especially with a bunch of single coils in there. So I can pretty much garantee you it's not a maple body.

As for "fixing" it. Someone just needs to do a checkup on it. Adjust action, truss rod, saddles, etc. And if the electronics are faulty those can be replaced for like $20-$30 from store.guitarfetish.com

HOWEVER doing the check-up and electronics replacements are probably gunna cost you around $100 if you don't know how to do them yourself (guitarcenter WAY over charges for that kinda thing). And judging by your post I don't think you know how to go about doing that. SO... that said you can go ahead and do that, maybe even buy some nicer pickups while at guitarfetish (for their prices they CANNOT be beat those GFS pickups). OR all this right now is getting up near $150+.... you could always just got buy a new squire strat for that much which is a perfectly fine learner guitar, and I know for a fact guitarcenter offers free set-up/check-up on any guitar you buy from them for like ever!

Chris

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1. Is there a REALLY good DVD/PC (Mac, actually)/book/whatever learning tool for the rank beginner?

3. I'm told the Cort has a fairly narrow neck, but my stubby sausages still have a tough time wrapping around it -- is there a thinner neck that will still be stable?

No software or book will ever replace a real live teacher. A good teacher will allow you make more progress and faster than any book or video or whatever. A teacher will be able to spot where you're going wrong and set you in the right direction, so you don't lose time on a bad habit you could have avoided. Also, the simple fact of knowing that your teacher is going to be watching you play ever week is a damn good motivation for practice.

The 'stubby sausage' feeling will go away. Then it'll come back. Then it'll go away again. Then it'll come back again, but feel like it lasts even longer. Sigh.

As for the guitar, I'm sure it's a fine guitar -- Cort makes pretty good stuff. Take it to the shop, have them put on a fresh set of strings and do a setup.

If there's no real problem with the electrics, then there's no problem. If the switch doesn't work, replace it. Otherwise, leave it alone.

Don't change the pickups. Don't change anything. Don't listen to these guys--we hang out in this forum because we like to tinker. You don't want to get started in that --you'll end up spending more time building than playing.

If you really feel there's a problem with the neck or the guitar, then go to the music store and try out a bunch of guitars until you find one that feels right. At your age, you might as well treat yourself to something you REALLY like. If only because it will give you even more motivation to pick up the guitar and play.

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Thanks for a couple of great replies, I really appreciate the advice. Let me clarify a couple things:

1. I screwed up with those pics -- I didn't even notice (old eyes) that the Cort I put up the pix of had a truss rod. Mine definitely doesn't, and I have a feeling it's not something that's easy to achieve, and would certainly require a new neck.

2. I'm a small-time (I mean SMALL-time!) retailer, and the only free time I really have is late at night and Sunday, which is why I was asking about "electronic" courses. I just don't have any other choice...

3. I love to tinker -- for me, that's at least half the joy... I've been considering building my own git-box. I'm an ex-experimental machinist, wood shop manager, and NASA-certified solderer, so I'm not without the necessary skills.

4. However, should I choose to give myself a break, I may either just string up this old trussless-neck box and start banging away on it (never had a problem with fret buzz or anything like that), or get something like a Squier '51, which I just love the look and sound of.

Thanks again!

Bart

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Trust me... your neck has a truss rod. It most likely has the adjustment at the butt end of the neck. IE: if you take the neck off the guitar it'll show up :D

It'd be INSANE to build a guitar without a truss rod... it just doens't work like that (exception= classical guitars with thick ebony fingerboards, and guitars with special new carbon fiber laminates they didn't use back then [ala Kritz guitars]).

Chris

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Thanks for a couple of great replies, I really appreciate the advice. Let me clarify a couple things:

1. I screwed up with those pics -- I didn't even notice (old eyes) that the Cort I put up the pix of had a truss rod. Mine definitely doesn't, and I have a feeling it's not something that's easy to achieve, and would certainly require a new neck.

2. I'm a small-time (I mean SMALL-time!) retailer, and the only free time I really have is late at night and Sunday, which is why I was asking about "electronic" courses. I just don't have any other choice...

3. I love to tinker -- for me, that's at least half the joy... I've been considering building my own git-box. I'm an ex-experimental machinist, wood shop manager, and NASA-certified solderer, so I'm not without the necessary skills.

4. However, should I choose to give myself a break, I may either just string up this old trussless-neck box and start banging away on it (never had a problem with fret buzz or anything like that), or get something like a Squier '51, which I just love the look and sound of.

Thanks again!

Bart

The truss adjustment is at the other end of the neck, under the pick gaurd. Given your background, I suggest you take it apart and have a look. There is plenty of info on the web about doing setups, read them, then do it yourself.
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3. I love to tinker -- for me, that's at least half the joy... I've been considering building my own git-box. I'm an ex-experimental machinist, wood shop manager, and NASA-certified solderer, so I'm not without the necessary skills.

Well, in that case, you came to the right place...you'll be starting to plan out your first build in, oh, another day or two. Depends on whether you've been through the projects in progress section yet.. :D

Anyway, it just seems strange to me that any guitar from the 1980s wouldn't have a truss rod...maybe from the 60s, but the 80s?

I'm betting it's just that the truss rod is mounted Fender style --the nut is at the heel end. You can find out by taking off the pickguard and looking under the hood.

Anyway, you only need a truss rod if the neck is out of line. If the neck is okay, and the action is okay, then you're okay. I still say take it to the shop.

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1. Is there a REALLY good DVD/PC (Mac, actually)/book/whatever learning tool for the rank beginner?

I don't disagree with the assessment that there is no substitute for a live teacher BUT

you asked for rank beginner stuff... I remember reading an article years ago in a guitar magazine (I think it was Joe Satriani) who suggested that you have a basic knowledge of open chords before going to a teacher. To that end, you may want to look into something basic like You Can Play Guitar! from Homespun Tapes. The songs are kind of hokey but you do actually start playing chords and making some music. It's a start and the instructor is accessible and you clearly see what he's doing. Just a thought.

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Thanks again for the findly replies and valuable info. Over the weekend I took the whole guitar apart, and discovered that yes, there IS a truss rod in the neck:

trussrod.jpg

It wasn't visible until the neck was completely out of the body. Live and learn!

I'm also taking the sound advice of starting out with a nylon-stringed classical guitar, a Yamaha C40-C. I'm hoping I can avoid the bloody blistered finger syndrome that always interrupted my previous attempts at learning.

Meanwhile, I'm going to put this more-impressive-than-I-first-thought Cort Strat copy back together with some better machine heads (suggestions welcome!), pickups (ditto), and a new, unrusted, bridge/trem (double ditto).

Thanks again to all who replied. If anyone's interested, I have pix of the guitar whole, and in pieces.

Bart

Cort.jpg

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I'm also taking the sound advice of starting out with a nylon-stringed classical guitar, a Yamaha C40-C.

Now, who suggested that?

Starting out on a classical guitar is okay if you want to play classical guitar. But it's really a much different instrument from an electric guitar and it's meant to be played much differently. They look the same, sure, and you can do some of the same things with them.

But otherwise, you're being steered down the wrong path. Especially since you've already complained about having stubby fingers.

If you're having a problem with painful fingertips on an electric guitar, it's because you're not using the right technique. That's why I suggest you go to a teacher. I can understand a folk guitar giving problems for a week or two, but an electric with light strings should be EASIER to play than a classical guitar. Much easier. Unless you want to play classical music, that is. And anyway, someone with your experience working with your hands should already have fingertips tough enough to play any guitar.

I'm starting to think that all this fussing about with your electric (which looks like a fine beginner's guitar with absolutely no need of alteration or modification) is just a way to avoid knuckling down to play the thing.

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It needs a *good* set-up, if you want to find out how well it really plays. It's a fairly safe bet to say that the nut action is probably too high, or low, the neck relief is not correct, frets are probably far from being level.

New bridge, pickups, ain't gonna solve the most important issues.

But, proper adjustment of existing bridge and pickups will be needed.

Trust me, the world is full of nice *looking* guitars that fool a beginner, because they think if it looks good, everything is probably ok with it. Then they give up trying to play it, because it takes a pair of vice-grips to fret a note, or something like that.

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I'm starting to think that all this fussing about with your electric (which looks like a fine beginner's guitar with absolutely no need of alteration or modification) is just a way to avoid knuckling down to play the thing.

I was guilty of this back in my 20's when I first attempted to learn guitar - I spent inordinate amounts of time tinkering and finding things that were "wrong" with my guitar setup. Now that I've finally focused on learning and less on the equipment, I'm actually making some slow and somewhat steady practice. Its part of the reason for my slow progress on my own project build - given a limited amount of time, I've been trying to practice. I've also been finding more and more that proper technique and position, good body mechanics and the reduction of stress levels (and the related tension in your muscles) all have a tremendous impact. The guitar that seems cumbersome and difficult can seem much easier to play when using the right approach. That doesn't mean that the guitar isn't important. It just means that there's a lot you can do regardless. Thus, my suggestion is to have a good setup done on the guitar, focus on playing guitar and take frequent breaks to minimize discomfort. There's no rush.

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Personally, I think everyone who's made a comment here needs to just give the guy a break. If you want to start out learning on a classical, go ahead. I did just because it was the only guitar I had--and I still had callouses form anyway. If you want to throw some new parts at your guitar and upgrade it, go ahead. It's your money and your guitar.

Personally, I think it'd look pretty bitchin' with some good locking Schaller tuners, a black pickguard, some red DiMarzio HS-2 pickups, and a Wilkinson bridge. Those '80s Japanese guitars were some good foundations for upgrading.

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Personally, I think everyone who's made a comment here needs to just give the guy a break. If you want to start out learning on a classical, go ahead. I did just because it was the only guitar I had--and I still had callouses form anyway. If you want to throw some new parts at your guitar and upgrade it, go ahead. It's your money and your guitar.

Personally, I think it'd look pretty bitchin' with some good locking Schaller tuners, a black pickguard, some red DiMarzio HS-2 pickups, and a Wilkinson bridge. Those '80s Japanese guitars were some good foundations for upgrading.

Well, why stop there? He might as well replace the neck with one from Warmoth, and as long as he's shopping there, he can get the matching body too....oh. :DB)

The thing about the classical guitar...the guy has already made it obvious that's not the kind of music he's trying to play.

And yeah, I'm guilty of finding excuses for not playing. In fact, I'm doing that right now. :D

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Personally, I think everyone who's made a comment here needs to just give the guy a break

Please, no worries about ANY kind of input -- I LIVE to learn, and the more I hear, the more I know! I'm deeply grateful for everyone's efforts to help out a stranger. The amount of talent and knowledge in this forum is obvious and staggering, so please, no reticence or concerns about putting me off -- at my age I'm happy when ANYBODY talks to me!

Just to show how fate often steps in to make decisions for us, I happened to be noodling around on eBay last night, and saw a slightly used Squier '51 up for auction. I'd read a bunch of mostly highly-complementary reviews about it in the last few days, had downloaded some very impressive video of somebody playing one, and the one on eBay was the color *I* would have chosen. The auction ended unusually early in the morning, so I thought "what the hell," and put a fairly lowball bid on it. When I checked "My eBay" this morning, danged if I hadn't won the thing, by a BUCK, for $79 (plus $24 shipping from GA, so I really saved only about $50, but what the hey...). So I'm not sure where I picked up the advice to start with a nylon-stringed guitar to save my sausages, but that's off the table for now, as my wife says I can only buy one guitar a week (I was looking at those "Esteban" git-boxes, but all I REALLY wanted was the hat and black silk shirt). Anyway, I'm now the proud owner (Lord willin' and my 9-year string of good luck dealing on eBay doesn't go down the crapper on this deal) of what looks and sounds like a very interesting guitar.

Squier-51.jpg

Personally, I think it'd look pretty bitchin' with some good locking Schaller tuners, a black pickguard, some red DiMarzio HS-2 pickups, and a Wilkinson bridge. Those '80s Japanese guitars were some good foundations for upgrading.

I gotta say, since tearing the old hoss apart, I'm more impressed with it than ever. I actually bought it 20 years ago on the advice of my guitar teacher, with whom I suffered nowt but performance anxiety -- I HATED going to lessons, as I never practiced, and I was always embarrassed to fumblefinger in front of him. That's the second reason I decided to try learning with a non-traditional computer-based system (the first reason being time), and I DL'd a relatively inexpensive proposition called "Jamorama" by Ben Edwards. I'd been reading some reviews (I'm a sucker for reviews!) of guitar-teaching programs and methods, and while "Learning and Mastering the Guitar" was certainly very highly rated by many experienced folks, it was more than I was willing to fork over, and "Jamorama" had also received a great deal of praise and cost a LOT less, so I thought I might give Jamorama a go, and if by some miracle I could actually stick with it long enough to feel I was actually getting somewhere, I might give the Big Daddy program a go. Or cut the soles of my shoes, learn to play the flute, and hang out on the beach for the rest of my life. So far, that's my retirement plan.

At any rate, I like the idea of learning more about the hardware, and gradually building my "Vintage Cort" into a push-pull coriolis-effect roll-rate-sensing coil-tap humbuckin' hammer!

Mr. Irizarry -- I have to say I'm VERY interested in your ergonomic guitar designs. I've always been a huge fan of Ovation Deacons and the like, and the Klein is just a knockout. I found this amazing (to me!) design while roaming the web -- it's a travel guitar by Aria with a detachable foam-rubber-cushioned aluminum bar frame and some kind of Super Unobtanium pickup in the body that you can plug headphones or ear buds into. It's called the Aria Sinsonido AS-100S:

AriaSinsonido.jpg

Well, sorry, everybody -- I DO have a tendency to ramble on and on and on and on and...

Thanks again for all your kindnesses. I'm *very* excited about the guitar all over again, and you've all helped.

Bart

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Gotta say; I think the cort should be left alone as they aren't "bad" guitars as is. Though both points are well made. It is your guitar, and your money. Tuners may be a good idea regardless though. I undertand mickguard as well as I tinker and build way more than I play. But that is because I enjoy it probably just a little more. Nothing wrong with that right? But Crafty's point of a solid platform to make a monster is true. Some of the older models are well build (and some not).

I think it comes down to what you want and what you want to play. I have a squire tele and damn me if it doesn't play like a dream. I love the thing almost as much as my strats. If I may be so bold, I would venture at your age you probably want to hear more 50s and 60s type music and that is personified and defined by the tele twang. Congrats on the auction.

R-

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Man, if I ever get one of those Squires (and I might, if they can be had THAT cheap), I'll try to make a new pickguard for it, out of aluminum, then make an attempt to get better at this :

http://files.photojerk.com/soapbarstrat/aluminum.jpg

The damascening (also called "engine-turning") doesn't look bad at all, but what gauge aluminum are you using, and what are you cutting the shape with? For what it's worth (I'm an ex-experimental machinist), I used to do engine turning using a hardwood dowel chucked into a drill press at pretty slow speed, using either valve-seating compound (for a rough finish) or Simichrome polish for a fine swirl. I'd cut the final shape after engine-turning with a very fine-tooth bandsaw with lots of Kool-Tool, then finish the edges with a small drum sander (about 120-grit) on a router table. After it was all done, I'd wash the whole piece with acetone, and clear-coat with Future acrylic floor wax...

Bart

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The damascening (also called "engine-turning") doesn't look bad at all, but what gauge aluminum are you using, and what are you cutting the shape with?

It's just a thin piece of aluminum scrap. Had it double stick taped to a piece of plywood. I tried all kinds of dowels, abrasives. Have yet to find one that seems ideal. Can't remember what exactly I used on that one in the photo. But, took a lot of notes off the internet since that attempt, so maybe the next will be better. Nothing would motivate me more to go at it again, than a Candy Apple Red guitar body that uses a pickguard.

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Ah yes, my other tried and trued method for avoiding practicing guitar....curse you ebay! curse you!

If the internet is the greatest time-waster in the history of mankind, eBay has to be about 87.335% of the time wasted (if you don't count porn, without which the internet wiouldn't exist)!

But I *wlll* practice, really! Uhhh... just as soon as I'm done here... really!

Bart

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Personally, I think everyone who's made a comment here needs to just give the guy a break

and I DL'd a relatively inexpensive proposition called "Jamorama" by Ben Edwards. I'd been reading some reviews (I'm a sucker for reviews!) of guitar-teaching programs and methods, and while "Learning and Mastering the Guitar" was certainly very highly rated by many experienced folks, it was more than I was willing to fork over, and "Jamorama" had also received a great deal of praise and cost a LOT less, so I thought I might give Jamorama a go, and if by some miracle I could actually stick with it long enough to feel I was actually getting somewhere, I might give the Big Daddy program a go. Bart

Let me know how that works out for you. I'm kind of in a rut right now and I want to expand my vocabulary beyond the typical first position and barre chords.

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