Tony Rice model still has unresolved issues after 3 setups by several luthiers

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    • #828

      I have a 1998 Tony Rice model that has been an absolutely amazing instrument. As a professional musician, I have many nice acoustic guitars in my arsenal but I have played my Santa Cruz almost exclusively since I got it; I have 3 Martins and it really surpasses them all. It has been the livliest guitar, sounding like a cannon and requiring very little effort to play. I can’t tell you how many times I have used it in either a recording session or at a gig and have received comments on the tone and sustain.  As I play a lot of traditional and bluegrass music, it has really been the perfect instrument for me.

      I began to have issues with the action about seven years ago. I only use light gauge strings and the way the guitar was set up initially has just been ideal for the way I play. In the fall of  2011, I noticed that the action began gradually creeping up (I keep the guitar in its case at around 40-45% humidity). It began to be so difficult that I just used other guitars for a while. When I would take it out to check it every now and again the action would fluctuate between being just right and too high.  If I were to remove all of the strings at one time to clean the fingerboard (which is the only time I do this), the action would be totally different when I restrung it with the exact same brand and tension. Within five minutes, it would be drastically higher and almost impossible to play.  A couple of summers ago, I changed the strings all at one time and the exact opposite happened. It was as though it suddenly had the action of an electric and there was no way it was even playable. I took it to one of the vintage guitar shops here in Nashville and they did a set up. I played it for about a year and was still not totally happy and took it to the Santa Cruz dealer just outside of town where they set it up to factory specs.  It was better, but it was still not the same guitar prior to 2011. No sustain and not near the volume. I again played with it for a few months and took it to yet another well-known luthier here in Nashville for a set up. Again, the sustain was gone and the action was not much better than before.

      So here we are. After it has sat alone in its case for a few months, I played this guitar for a couple of days this week and it is back again to playing like a piece of barbed wire on a fence post and sounding nothing like its former self; it is simply not a pleasure to play anymore. I am at a total loss as to what I should do. Has anyone else ever had this happen or could it perhaps be some fluke? I am most perplexed at how it could be so awesome for many years and then suddenly change so drastically. All 30 or so of my instruments are kept in the same room in their cases and my SC is the only one I’ve ever had issues with. I have never seen an instrument do this before and I am open for any thoughts or suggestions. I love this guitar and want to bring it back to what I know it is capable of.

      And, if you have made through to this point, thanks for reading.


    • #830
      Richard Hoover
      Senior Moderator

      Dear Mr. Twangtown,

      I can help, call me.

      This may not be your story, though you’ve given us a chance to help others. The majority of players assume that the manufacturer of their guitar is the last place you would want to go for expert service.There is  some validity to this concern because the maker may be expert in manufacturing, but that doesn’t equate to expertise in diagnosis and  proper technique for restoration and repair. This is an art unto itself and one would be better served going to a practiced professional with an established reputation for these services. Some will rightly suspect that a large company will also do their best to avoid taking ownership of any single warranty claim out of concern for the potential accumulative financial obligation when making a couple hundred thousand guitars each year.

      We at SCGC are not manufacturing guitars. We are a custom shop of luthiers often doing one of a kind instruments that require a thorough understanding of how the guitar works and what makes them sound exceptional or can keep them from their full potential. This translates to only about 475 guitars each year with less than 1% service even considered as warranty repair.  We are also a staff of top notch repair and restoration experts capable of the most modern techniques, along with the knowledge and ability to bring priceless vintage instruments back to life while keeping the integrity and originality up to collectable market standards.

      For your Tony Rice, there is no one more appropriate than us to evaluate your guitar and recommend the proper course of action. One rule is to NEVER diagnose a problem without a physical inspection of the instrument, though heck, we have to start someplace! Your lack of stability could be structural, as in cracked or dislodged brace(s),  especially if the guitar was fine for the first 15 years or so of its life and only “a few years ago” begin to exhibit movement.

      This timeline points to some finite event that changed the guitar, rather than progressive effect of wear and tear over time. It doesn’t cost anything to talk about it and you will gain peace of mind beginning with our first conversation. Email at or better…call me or Carolyn at 831-425-0999 to explore a permanent solution for these aggravations. Until then…


      All the best,                                                                                                                                                                                          Richard Hoover




    • #833


      Thanks so much for your insight in your very prompt response.  I will absolutely get in touch with you and look forward to a conversation in the very near future.

      Thank you again!

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