Public service announcement: how to set up your own guitar/bass and not pay for others to do it...

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To start with, I'm not some asshat spouting off, but a guitar tech w/15 years experience. Not boasting, just saying...

Here's what you need, tool-wise.

1) small tape measure
2) set of feeler guages (available at most hardware stores/automotive stores)
3) machinists ruler
4) capo

Intonation: First, you need to know what scale length your guitar has. No idea? Don't worry. Measure (with the aformentioned tape measure) from the contact point at the nut to the 12th fret. Double this measurement = your scale length. Take yer tape measure and set the first saddle so that the contact point of your high E string (G for the bass players out there) is exactly this distance. Now, set your B string saddle so that the distance between the contact point of the first saddle and this saddle is the width of the second string. Repeat for the G string (wrt the width of the G string this time). Set the D string at the same contact point as the B (why, you ask? Because the core wire underneath the winding should be the same.) Set the A saddle back to the DIFFERENCE in thicknesses between the D and the A. Set the E back to the difference between the E and the D.

Bass players - do as above, but keep using the difference rule, because all of your strings are wound, right? OK.

Acoustic types - you don't have movable saddles, so you can ignore this part and hope that your guitar was built with this in mind.

This is the part where most people start objecting to the fact that we aren't creating perfect intonation at the 12th fret...bad news for y'all. Perfect intonation isn't possible on a multi-gauged stringed instrument w/o tempered tuning. What we're trying to do is mathematically average the overall intonation so that we are as close as possible across the entire fretboard, rather than perfect at the 12th fret and nowhere else...

Neck Curvature/Truss Rod: First things first - don't be afraid to adjust your truss rod. People (like me) that work in guitar stores tell you how dangerous it is to adjust your truss rod because it makes guitar adjustment seem like some sort of alchemical procedure best left to the experts, which it isn't. Here's the overall rule of consulting an expert when doing your own adjusments. If you have to apply significant force to tighten a truss rod, stop. If you loosen a truss rod to the point where it turns in a floppy "I'm not doing anything of use" manner, stop. Outside of that, you're fine. Remember, turning your truss rod clockwise equals tightening/straightening your neck/lowering your action. Couterclockwise? The opposite.

Now, here's step two. You place your capo at the first fret, and press your finger down at the last fret. Why? Because we're eliminating the nut and the string height at the bridge. If you still have problems after we finish all the steps there, you probably have a problem with your nut or your bridge angle, and we're going to skip those for now...

Now, take your feeler gauge and pick one of the following measurements according to the chart below (borrowed from my Fender setup guide, all credits due..)

Neck Radius

7.25" - .012" (0.3 mm)
9.5" to 12" - .010" (0.25 mm)
15" to 17" - .008" (0.2 mm)

Not sure what your neck radius is? Well, fuck it, use .010. It'll work for most...Ibanezy speed necks are generally .008, vintage stuff might end up being .012. Bassists, try .012.

Now, slide the feeler guage between the low E string and the 8th fret (still capoed and pressed down at the last fret, right? Good.) The feeler guage should slide between the two with just a bit of lift on the string, just enough to know that it's touched it. If it doesn't fit, turn the truss rod counterclockwise until it does. If it doesn't touch, go clockwise...

String height: Bored yet? At least you're saving money...and we're almost done. Take off the capo. Take your ruler and measure from the top of the the 17th fret to the bottom of the low E string. Raise the saddle until the distance here is 1/8" (If you are one of those fortunate enough to know what your radius is, cheat a bit high for the 7.25 vintage types, a bit low for the speed neck 15/17"ers.) Repeat for each string, realizing that as you cross the neck, the radius will be compensated by the curvature of the fret, so you don't really have to think...just measure.

Bass players: Use 5/64".

Ta-dah! Your instrument is now set up (within reason). The obligatory fine print - string guage and playing style will affect this...if you are getting buzzing, increase your truss rod/string height in small increments (retuning each time) until it works for you. Fingers bleeding? Lower until you are comfortable. Questions? Ask away.


John Justen (johnjusten), Wednesday, 13 July 2005 07:01 (eighteen years ago) link

two months pass...
I've got a probably quite dodgy way of doing this, and not knowing a great deal about guitars let me know why I shouldn't do it this way. Basically I have a chromatic tuner and just kind of work by trial and error, adjusting here and there until each fret is more or less correct.

Chewshabadoo (Chewshabadoo), Friday, 7 October 2005 10:06 (eighteen years ago) link

Hey, if it works for you, that's fine. Two reasons to give the way I described a shot.

1) It'll get you closer overall, even if it doesn't exactly nail the 12th fret...
2) It's really fast. Once you get used to it, it should take about 5-10 minutes to do a full setup.

John Justen (johnjusten), Friday, 7 October 2005 15:45 (eighteen years ago) link

you know who should post here? martin mushrush.

Roxymuzak, Mrs. Carbohydrate (roxymuzak), Friday, 7 October 2005 16:59 (eighteen years ago) link

When's the last time Martin posted anywhere on ILX?

k/l (Ken L), Friday, 7 October 2005 17:11 (eighteen years ago) link

three weeks pass...
I take really long breaks... sorry.

But anyways I'm back.

martin m. (mushrush), Thursday, 3 November 2005 21:29 (eighteen years ago) link

John, i found a similar thing on the internet a while back and it works well. you've added a load more stuff on top on my (very basic) setup which just about gets me away with it for recording. i try to sort out intonation but don't fine tune the action - not a virtuoso player you understand - my action is ok and playable for me.

within the bounds of your advice and proceeding carefully, if you do make a mistake and go a bit over with a truss rod adjustment are you gonna do any permanent damage?

when i get my jaggy (reissue, relax) i'm gonna have to get a lot more detailed on this. at the moment my main is a semi which doesn't have a truss rod.

but shit, thanks for this.

John Clarkson, Thursday, 3 November 2005 22:08 (eighteen years ago) link

truss rods should have enough room on both sides that if you adjust it too tightly it shouldnt be a problem. just make your changes gradually, giving a bit of time for the wood to adjust if you're going to go a long way or back and forth.

AaronK (AaronK), Friday, 4 November 2005 13:51 (eighteen years ago) link

Yeah, the only really nasty possibility is loosening it too much (when the truss rod gets floppy) because in some cases you can actually fully unscrew the rod from the nut and then have a very difficult time getting it back into the threads. Of course, if you are on the other end of the spectrum (and I'm talking two handed banging the truss rod wrench with a hammer stuff here), you should probably not proceed any further.

John, how old is yer semi-hollow? Seems odd it wouldn't have any trussrod unless it's a 60's Harmony, Kay, or the like. Let me know what it is, if you get the chance, just to satisfy my curiosity.

John Justen (johnjusten), Friday, 4 November 2005 19:57 (eighteen years ago) link

nothing vintage i'm afraid John.

2002 Dean Electro Jazz Stylist. about £500 new. fat-bodied, lovely sound, wiped the floor with similarly priced epiphones and such in the shop. does bluesy filth just perfect, humbuckers, feedback, right up my alley.

i might be being dim but i've looked everywhere for the truss rod nut and i can't find it.

john clarkson, Friday, 4 November 2005 21:57 (eighteen years ago) link

No cap at the top of the headstock? Does it have a center soundhole, or f-holes?

I'm thinking there must be a truss rod somewhere...I'll do some research when I get the time.

John Justen (johnjusten), Friday, 4 November 2005 22:48 (eighteen years ago) link

one year passes...
bump. everyone should read that. great advice, cheers john!

george bob (george bob), Tuesday, 30 January 2007 10:22 (seventeen years ago) link

There's a rod there, dude.
Gotta be.

Lukewarm Watery G. Tornado Is Sicker Than You (The GZeus), Tuesday, 30 January 2007 17:13 (seventeen years ago) link

Re-reading that post, I realized that I kept thinking that you were referring to a "Dan Electro", not a "Dean" "Electro Jazz Stylist", which would explain why I couldn't find the damn thing anywhere.

Everything I find seems to indicate that the truss rod adjustment should be under a truss rod cover up at the headstock, but I haven't found absolute verification yet. This is only useful if you're still reading this out there somewhere, I suppose.

And, George Bob, thanks, and I'm glad it helped.

John Justen waitin to get his W2s back so he can file his tax and ball out (john, Wednesday, 31 January 2007 23:43 (seventeen years ago) link

one year passes...

brief addendum to clarify something that a guy who linked to this mentioned to me.

If you have a tunematic style bridge, it is likely that the 3 low strings will have the saddles reversed (angled side towards the neck). if this is the case, you can't do the setup described above. I'm going to go out on a biased limb and suggest reversing those saddles, at which point you will be able to do proper intonation. (note: this can be a pain in the ass at times. also, don't lose the little wire they use on the vintage style ones, you need it to hold the saddles down in position.)

also, remember that if the tunematic is angled, you have to figure that into the mix, so your saddles may seem to not follow the standard double stairstep in spots, because the angle creates more distance wrt the nut.

SHOT INTO A FAN LIKE A CHRIS ROCK ROBOT (John Justen), Monday, 22 September 2008 17:32 (fifteen years ago) link

B-b-but John, what about teh Buzz Feiten system?

Retrato Em Redd E Blecch (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 24 September 2008 02:26 (fifteen years ago) link

I just got a new guitar (copy of a tele thinline by this company called Xaviere and it is really awesome and really incredibly cheap) and this thread reminded me to finish setting up the action/neck. A few days ago I had put a different bridge plate on and just eyeballed the saddle placement for the time being. Checked the intonation, sounded dead on to my muck ears. Tried measuring nut to high E like John recommended, holy shit, EXACTLY 25.5"!!

RabiesAngentleman, Wednesday, 24 September 2008 09:50 (fifteen years ago) link

So no helpful hints on adjusting the nut? I mean they never come set up very well from the factory, I always set em up myself. Then again that involves irreversible filing and is a little less DIY.

RabiesAngentleman, Wednesday, 24 September 2008 09:52 (fifteen years ago) link


RabiesAngentleman, Wednesday, 24 September 2008 09:52 (fifteen years ago) link

not as irreversible as you think. bumping to remind myself to finish that thought once i get to work.

SHOT INTO A FAN LIKE A CHRIS ROCK ROBOT (John Justen), Wednesday, 24 September 2008 14:35 (fifteen years ago) link

ok, so if you want to step up to recutting your own nut slots (yeah i know), try this:

1. capo at the first fret, use your feeler gauge and measure the gap between the string and the top of the second fret.
2. now, capo at the third fret and measure the distance between the string and the top of the first fret. the goal is for these two measurements to be the same. cut slot until this matches the gap from step one.

a few things - you need decent files to do this right. in a perfect world, they would either be sized to your string gauges, or you would be very good at using round and edge files. if you aren't, maybe think twice about attempting this. Also, if you end up notching deeply into the nut, you are going to want to sand down the top of the nut to avoid binding etc. (the string should sit so that half of it is above the nut surface). also, the nut slot should angle backwards toward the headstock. i can get into this in more detail if people care.

sound scary? well, it kind of is, and every so often, it will be a nightmarish pain in the ass. so don't tackle it unless you have a high frustration threshhold, or are fairly comfortable doing gradual, machinist-like tasks.

now, the good news i alluded to above. if you cut the slot too deep, all is not lost. filling a nut is easy, and odds are you already have the stuff to do it sitting around. all you need to do is fill the offending nut slot with baking soda. make sure it isn't above the top surface of the nut, and take the time to brush away any of it that is protruding from the sides of the slot. now, take liquid (NOT GEL) superglue and drop one drop onto the baking soda, and let it solidify. the glue and baking soda will form a substance that you can file, and that has the same structural properties as the original nut material (this doesn't apply to bone or brass nuts obv.) i'm sure i don't need to say this, but be careful w/the superglue, if you put too much on, it will run down the nut and glue the nut to the neck, which you do not want.

i'm sure i forgot a few clarifications there, but i'll get to them later.

SHOT INTO A FAN LIKE A CHRIS ROCK ROBOT (John Justen), Wednesday, 24 September 2008 16:10 (fifteen years ago) link

oh yeah, here's one - make sure that the string is up to pitched tension when you do the measurements for the slot cutting, and preferably not horribly out of whack setupwise.

SHOT INTO A FAN LIKE A CHRIS ROCK ROBOT (John Justen), Wednesday, 24 September 2008 16:12 (fifteen years ago) link

While you're at it, any recommendations for refilling screw holes? (have pickguard that fits, screw holes slightly off and too close to the previous holes...) I'm thinking of trying a similar thing to your nut fixer (lol) with glue and fine sawdust.

RabiesAngentleman, Wednesday, 24 September 2008 16:15 (fifteen years ago) link

that can work (as with all things guitar related, i'd use elmers white glue, not wood glue). Normally I just use dowels for all that sort of jazz, just size it to the screw hole, cut to length, sand the tip to a blunt point to get into the end of the screw hole, sand the sides to rough the contact points, skin with glue, and insert.

SHOT INTO A FAN LIKE A CHRIS ROCK ROBOT (John Justen), Wednesday, 24 September 2008 16:20 (fifteen years ago) link

problem with the sawdust/glue thing is that if you mix it too sawdusty, it's hard to get it packed in there witout ending up with voids, and if you mix it too glueheavy, well, you're basically filling a hole with glue.

shouldn't matter for pickguard screws though, it isn't as if they're load-bearing or under any real tension, so i'd do the sawdust thing because it's easier. when yer filling strapbutton holes, it starts to get a little dicier.

SHOT INTO A FAN LIKE A CHRIS ROCK ROBOT (John Justen), Wednesday, 24 September 2008 16:23 (fifteen years ago) link

two years pass...

bump because goole and i were talking about this so now he can find it

O_o-O_0-o_O (jjjusten), Wednesday, 10 November 2010 18:32 (thirteen years ago) link

it was useful!

though i ended up having to half-ass it a little. the bridge pieces are off-center (the string runs over the right side of each at about the 1/3rd mark, not directly through the middle) so each one is pulled a little at an angle which makes measuring harder. plus the height posts and length screws on my saddles are old and pretty rusty. and the hex-size was even smaller than the wrench you gave me. it must be 1mm? or something? anyway i had to stick an eyeglass screwdriver in there to turn them and probably stripped a couple irrevocably. but, it plays better now.

i need to think about a new bridge, and getting the electronics looked at (mad buzzy) and at that point it's probably worth thinking about a new guitar altogether.

goole, Wednesday, 10 November 2010 19:29 (thirteen years ago) link

i know a guy

BIG MUFFIN (gbx), Wednesday, 10 November 2010 19:30 (thirteen years ago) link

i have heard of that guy and that guy sucks

O_o-O_0-o_O (jjjusten), Thursday, 11 November 2010 21:17 (thirteen years ago) link

three months pass...

i set my guitars up this way and it seems to work well enough but i get wonderin'. in the intonation portion above, why is there no need to compensate for the thickness of the first string when determining it's position? why would the distance on the first string of a 25.5" scale guitar, hypothetically, be exactly 25.5" regardless of whether my first string is .008, or .013, or a spider web, or a brake cable? or because we are talking about just a single fraction of a millimeter on most guitar strings, the effect is negligible? or is it all somehow just relative to whatever the hell the first string happens to be? this sorta thing i assume will be explained to me with some amount of rigor once i begin school but i need to know now. there's probably just some weird hole in my thinking/understanding as to theoretically why that is/how that works.

(i was bored today and going totally stir crazy and was trying to figure out, on that regvlvs bass i posted in that one thread one time, how deep into that metal coned bridge cover the bridge might approximately be by copy/pasting the string length up to the 12th fret, and, weirdly, it got ~nowhere near~ the bridge cover. and then the question dinged.)

arby's, Wednesday, 2 March 2011 03:50 (thirteen years ago) link

nb i'm home sick and haven't left my bed in nearly 30 hours except to eat or piss. i think i'm losing grasp on reality already. @_@

arby's, Wednesday, 2 March 2011 03:52 (thirteen years ago) link

I will totally attempt to respond to this tomorrow when I am not birthday shitfaced btw. But now is def not the time

O_o-O_0-o_O (jjjusten), Wednesday, 2 March 2011 06:17 (thirteen years ago) link

three years pass...

Now, set your B string saddle so that the distance between the contact point of the first saddle and this saddle is the width of the second string.

I've used this thread as a reference for years - bought all the feeler gauges and everything - and I've had the stupidest problem when it came to the intonation section. When following the sentence above, I was trying to measure the string with a ruler and then try to set back the contact point on the bridge again using the ruler. It was so frustrating. I mean, it's a great ruler, but the difference between 0.014 inches and 0.018 inches is kinda tough to discern with the naked eye! So I just now realized that you should use a section of the string itself as a measurement device.

how's life, Thursday, 11 December 2014 13:46 (nine years ago) link


a strawman stuffed with their collection of 12 cds (jjjusten), Thursday, 11 December 2014 20:20 (nine years ago) link

one year passes...

I've got two g&l tribute models: an asat classic and a fallout. According to the guitars by Leo forum, the necks on these guitars should be swappable, as far as their specs go. If both of the guitars are currently well set-up, should I expect to set them up again after changing the necks out?

how's life, Wednesday, 27 January 2016 01:32 (eight years ago) link

Possibly/probably. But just minor tweaks in both cases I'm guessing.

a strawman stuffed with their collection of 12 cds (jjjusten), Wednesday, 27 January 2016 04:36 (eight years ago) link

hot damn. thread bookmarked for future use. thanks mr. justen!!

lute bro (brimstead), Wednesday, 27 January 2016 04:42 (eight years ago) link

I can sort of kind of follow the original instructions here but as someone who still knows dangerously little about his guitar, is there a video or webpage with some diagrams that illustrates the setup steps as jjjusten described them?

its subtle brume (DJP), Wednesday, 27 January 2016 05:18 (eight years ago) link

three weeks pass...

Correction (my bad) on the question from how's life re:the neck swap - the answer is absolutely yes and possibly quite a bit because the radius on the two necks is different. So mainly the saddle height thing, possibly some truss rod stuff, but probably nothing intonation wise.

a strawman stuffed with their collection of 12 cds (jjjusten), Tuesday, 23 February 2016 15:03 (eight years ago) link

Yeah, I still haven't done that yet, but good catch. At the moment, I'm trying to sell the ASAT, so I may never find out.

how's life, Tuesday, 23 February 2016 16:07 (eight years ago) link

OK, so I decided to keep the ASAT and give this a try, but I've run into a couple issues with the neck swap. I should probably be asking this over at the G&L forums, but I figured I'd check in with you first.

Initial pic of both guitars:

1. I moved the Fallout neck over to the ASAT, but there is a pretty prominent gap at the bottom of the neck. That can't be good, right?

2. The ASAT neck doesn't fit into the Fallout neck pocket. I've seen some talk online about giving the neck pocket a couple passes with sandpaper. Obviously, it's gonna be tough to tell from pictures, but any idea if this is pertinent in my situation?

I'm doing this because I really like the ASAT's maple fretboard and satin finish, but prefer the pickups on the Fallout as my main guitar. Planned on using the ASAT for alternate tunings or something idk. I just got the idea to cobble this together out of Tribute models because my budget isn't ready to get my own choice of USA yet. Should I just reattach the necks to their original bodies and enjoy what I have?

how's life, Saturday, 5 March 2016 14:06 (eight years ago) link

oh shit. sorry if those are displaying as huge as they are for me.

how's life, Saturday, 5 March 2016 14:07 (eight years ago) link

Update: Managed to patiently and gently wiggle the ASAT neck onto the Fallout, but the damn screw holes didn't line up (which makes sense considering how the Fallout neck fits on the ASAT.

how's life, Sunday, 6 March 2016 01:16 (eight years ago) link

Had a revelation and realized that the Fallout neck does in fact fit onto the ASAT without a gap, but then the screw holes don't line up. So what I'm looking at here is maybe plugging and redrilling the screw holes on the necks. Going to dive into how-tos I guess. Dicey business, but after seeing both necks on their opposite bodies I'm even more determined to do this.

how's life, Sunday, 6 March 2016 17:41 (eight years ago) link

Have reached out to a local luthier as well, because it seems like so much could go wrong if I attempted drilling on my own.

how's life, Sunday, 6 March 2016 18:25 (eight years ago) link

one year passes...

do i need to get one of those special made files for fret ends or can i use something similar from hardware/art supply store

am0n, Tuesday, 6 February 2018 19:01 (six years ago) link

two years pass...

hey, semi-related question: anybody know if this stuff actually makes any difference, or is it snake oil?

Totally different head. Totally. (Austin), Monday, 17 August 2020 00:18 (three years ago) link

Years ago, I knew a shredder/floyd rose-dive bomber who would put graphite on the nut, but I don't know anyone who does this.

Elvis Telecom, Monday, 17 August 2020 04:42 (three years ago) link

i've heard of the graphite thing, too. it was from an employee at sam ash, so y'know, grain of salt i suppose.

Totally different head. Totally. (Austin), Monday, 17 August 2020 15:58 (three years ago) link

only reason i ask is not because i'm shreddy bendy guy, but i capo up and down the neck pretty frequently, so i find myself tuning up a lot.

Totally different head. Totally. (Austin), Monday, 17 August 2020 15:59 (three years ago) link

Out of longstanding habit, I usually do twirl a recently sharpened pencil in the grooves when changing strings. No idea if it makes a difference or not, but I also figure it can't hurt.

I would probably not ever buy a product called "nut sauce," though, just as on general principles.

all we are is durst in the wind (Ye Mad Puffin), Monday, 17 August 2020 16:03 (three years ago) link

two months pass...


i have found that my telecaster is having a hard time staying in tune. i have checked, rechecked, and readjusted the intonation and that seems fine — but when i try to play bar chords, everything just falls apart. like everything will seem fine but i'll hit a c major bar chord at the fifth fret and half the strings will be off, usually sharp. like i said before, i do play with a capo up and down the neck a lot; does that affect it?

Totally different head. Totally. (Austin), Friday, 23 October 2020 16:30 (three years ago) link

Are you retuning every time you put the capo on? It will bend each string on the fretboard in a slightly different way and put some of them out of tune.

Halfway there but for you, Friday, 23 October 2020 22:42 (three years ago) link

I agree that you should tune post-capo.

But there may be something else going on, Austin, if you're experiencing this even without capoing.

fretless porpentine (Ye Mad Puffin), Friday, 23 October 2020 23:11 (three years ago) link

Multiple strings seems like a nut issue - is it old / cheap /binding / slots too small?

joygoat, Saturday, 24 October 2020 02:45 (three years ago) link

yes, always retune after moving the capo.

i didn't even consider the nut being an issue until you said too small. i have flatwounds on it, so they are naturally heavier gauge:

Totally different head. Totally. (Austin), Saturday, 24 October 2020 03:00 (three years ago) link

so i'm still fighting with this and it's becoming extremely frustrating because it just sounds like everything i play is out of tune, even though it isn't (according to my tuner). it feels like the longer i let notes ring out, the more out of tune they fall, so playing chords or anything with delay is an exercise in frustration.

how does saddle adjustment work if i have these kinds of saddles?

also, my telecaster doesn't seem to have a place to adjust the truss rod. it looks like this.

please help, playing guitar is the only thing that keeps me from running through the streets naked and screaming at the sky.

Totally different head. Totally. (Austin), Tuesday, 27 October 2020 15:52 (three years ago) link

I don't love the three-saddle arrangement but lots of Teles work fine. Sorry bro but I really think a professional should look at. Do you have another guitar you can use for a week while yours gets looked at?

Fjord Explorer (Ye Mad Puffin), Tuesday, 27 October 2020 16:47 (three years ago) link

Forgive me if you know any of this already and correct me if I'm talking out of my ass here -

Those saddles can adjust the string height with the small allen screws, and can adjust intonation with the spring loaded phillips one. Tune up, fret at the 12th and if it's sharp you need back the screw out a bit and if its flat you need to screw it in a bit as this effectively changes the string length between the 12th fret and the point where the string hits the saddle.

The limiting factor with those is that two strings hit the saddle at the same spot, which means it's hard to get them both to be in tune at the same time at the 12th fret. You can get "compensated" saddles that have little ramps to tweak where each string hits and imo it's much easier to get everything intonated correctly:

As for the truss rod, you'll need to take off the pickguard at least and possibly the neck to access the adjustment which is at the other end of the neck. I have to do this with my p bass and it's a pain (IN THE NECK) because I live in a place with dramatic changes in humidity.

I still think it's most likely the nut; most fenders come with .10s so putting .12s means the strings are more likely to not fit exactly into the slots and will bind (though I don't know how flatwounds factor into this).

You can get someone to reslot the nut where they will use special tiny precisely sized files to make the slots large enough for the thicker strings. Or you can buy expensive luthier quality or cheaper possibly terrible quality nut files and do it yourself, or you can do what I did and file teeth into the sides of six feeler gauges and and now you have two tools in one even if one of them is kind of shitty.

joygoat, Tuesday, 27 October 2020 17:13 (three years ago) link

The limiting factor with those is that two strings hit the saddle at the same spot, which means it's hard to get them both to be in tune at the same time at the 12th fret.

...which is why I am leery of them, vis-a-vis the individually adjustable Strat-style.

I also think that there's a more pressing issue, which is that Austin needs to play guitar to stay sane, and tuning issues are making that difficult. A pro would almost certainly want to keep it for a week.

Hence: Austin, could you rent or borrow a different guitar locally for a few days? If it made any logistical sense whatsoever I would (totally serious here) offer to FedEx you one of my spare guitars.

Fjord Explorer (Ye Mad Puffin), Tuesday, 27 October 2020 18:01 (three years ago) link

ahh man, you guys are the solidest!

after work, i'm going to tinker with it a bit more specifically and see if i can make any headway. i still have my acoustic and i can run that through all of my pedals and make my weird noises that way for now. it's not quite the same, but it'll do. i'm just not sure where to take it. i mean, there's guitar center, but idk. . .??? are they usually any good at this sort of stuff? guess it depends on who they have on staff.

Totally different head. Totally. (Austin), Tuesday, 27 October 2020 19:02 (three years ago) link

one of my guitars (a charity shop epiphone) never stays in tune on certain strings and i'm pretty sure it's the shitty plastic nut on it. will probably take a file to it at some point, but i was wondering what the dangers of making the slots too wide would be? weird sympathic resonance from the strings betond the nut or something?

kites aren't fun (NickB), Wednesday, 28 October 2020 17:44 (three years ago) link

*probably not all plastic nuts are shitty btw but this one definitely is

kites aren't fun (NickB), Wednesday, 28 October 2020 17:46 (three years ago) link

You’re most likely on the right track, tubing issues are far more often due to the nut than the tuners. Three suggested steps: get a lubricant such as graphite (from a soft pencil) into the slots; use offcuts from strings as impromptu files to gently shape the slots (ALWAYS angle downward toward the tuners, don’t want to deepen the fretboard side edge unless you know it’s needed); get a set of welding torch tip cleaners ($2) as cheap files to do the same thing.

assert (MatthewK), Wednesday, 28 October 2020 20:12 (three years ago) link

*tuning issues

assert (MatthewK), Wednesday, 28 October 2020 20:12 (three years ago) link

It’s also possible (and a good idea if you get it right) to file off the top of the nut until it is barely above the strings. The thin strings need a mm or so of depth but the thick strings can be sitting above the nut - as long as the slot is at least half the string thickness deep.

assert (MatthewK), Wednesday, 28 October 2020 20:15 (three years ago) link

This looks good :

assert (MatthewK), Wednesday, 28 October 2020 20:17 (three years ago) link


na (NA), Wednesday, 28 October 2020 20:41 (three years ago) link


assert (MatthewK), Thursday, 29 October 2020 12:14 (three years ago) link

thanks matthew! won't be replacing the nut with a bone one for vegan reasons* but maybe if i can't get it fixed i'll look at some of the synthetic ivory ones you can get. am slightly tempted to whittle down a bit of foraged box or holly or similar hardwood though after reading that article. wonder what physical property it is that makes bone the preferred material for nuts?

*i know that e.g. the johnny marr signature jag has a plastic nut for similar reasons so i'm not the only crank out there

kites aren't fun (NickB), Thursday, 29 October 2020 14:23 (three years ago) link

Wasn’t actually suggesting you remake the nut - it’s not that hard but it’s a bit of a process. Just the advice around how deep the slots need to be etc. A half- pencil line can be usefully diagnostic if you are having issues though (strings too high makes playing feel stiff and chords can be out of tune slightly, too low and you get buzzing).
Bone is used because of its dense crystalline properties coupled with ease of shaping (i.e. it doesn’t usually chip or crack) but there are lots of great synthetic options: Corian, Tusq etc., as well as brass. If you want to replace it, blanks which suit your type of guitar are the easiest place to start altho they’re more expensive than starting from the raw material.

assert (MatthewK), Thursday, 29 October 2020 18:25 (three years ago) link

i'm just not sure where to take it. i mean, there's guitar center, but idk. . .??? are they usually any good at this sort of stuff? guess it depends on who they have on staff

Austin, you're in Orange County right? Let me know...

Elvis Telecom, Friday, 30 October 2020 09:44 (three years ago) link

I bought a new Epiphone SG a few months ago, they seem to have pretty good reviews everywhere, but I ended up with a lemon. It goes out of tune very quickly, like after 1 or 2 songs, and I break strings on it *constantly*. I broke every string on it within a few weeks, and some have broken multiple times. They all break on the bridge/saddle apart from the B string which has snapped twice immediately after putting a new string on, as I'm tightening it up, it's snapped twice at the tuning peg.

I'm really pretty fed up with it, but I know v little about guitars and don't really know what to do about it. Now every time a string breaks I try and sand the saddle a bit because apparently this can be caused by sharp edges, and I've switched to using a 0.5mm plectrum instead of 0.7 or 1, and it seems to have got a bit better, but I really hate that it's put me off playing it. I usually just end up playing my old battered Squier strat, which has plenty of its own issues (fret problems where certain frets just go dead if you play a bend on them, loose connections in the electrics etc) but at least I can strum that without all the strings breaking.

CP Radio Gorgeous (Colonel Poo), Friday, 30 October 2020 11:38 (three years ago) link

I would switch the bridge for something nickel plated. Often the cheaper hardware is chrome plated, and chrome being harder than steel, can provide a nasty break point.
Before that, try the welding torch tip cleaners or a tiny round file, or even a piece of sandpaper folded into a vee, just a few strokes in the notch of the saddle until there’s no sticking.

assert (MatthewK), Friday, 30 October 2020 12:49 (three years ago) link

Gah, Colonel, life's too short. Trade that puppy in.

The stores and online sources are full to bursting with production-line guitars that will work perfectly right out of the box.

Sorry, unless it is a unique vintage instrument or something with a lot of sentimental value, I would not run about fashioning tools and ordering replacement parts and doing weeks of trial and error and seeing what works to get a stock Epi basically playable.

Today's affordable guitars are light-years beyond what was available when I was a lad. Nowadays even a $300ish Squier just... works. It does not need to be a battle.

Just my opinion

Anaïs Ninja (Ye Mad Puffin), Friday, 30 October 2020 13:33 (three years ago) link

What causes guitars to go out of tune quickly, does that mean the tuning pegs are duff or something? Sorry I am a complete ignoramus.

CP Radio Gorgeous (Colonel Poo), Friday, 30 October 2020 13:34 (three years ago) link

Have thought about selling it and buying something else, but obviously I wouldn't get my money back on it and then I'd worry I'll get another shit guitar that sucks, because I did research a bit before buying that, and all the reviews said Epiphone SG 2020 range is really good.

CP Radio Gorgeous (Colonel Poo), Friday, 30 October 2020 13:35 (three years ago) link

I have owned, I think, three Epiphones and they were all perfectly good right put of the box. Sorry you got a lemon but I think it's a freak outlier.

Your tolerance of work/expenditure may vary, but personally I would not waste more time on an instrument that has something fundamentally wrong.

Anaïs Ninja (Ye Mad Puffin), Friday, 30 October 2020 13:57 (three years ago) link

Austin, you're in Orange County right? Let me know...

― Elvis Telecom, Friday, October 30, 2020 2:44 AM

yes, very far south tho— near capistrano.

Totally different head. Totally. (Austin), Friday, 30 October 2020 20:04 (three years ago) link

Counterpoint: doing a modest amount of work to rectify a problem is less wasteful and builds knowledge for dealing with other issues. And having a bridge with rough saddles isn’t something fundamentally wrong, it’s just a dud component of an assembly line product. I wouldn’t toss a car because the seat didn’t adjust properly.

assert (MatthewK), Friday, 30 October 2020 20:14 (three years ago) link

And CP tuning stability problems are due to something which allows the string to slip in tension after tuning. In rough order of likelihood:
- really cheap strings
- tuning down to pitch instead of going lower and tuning up
- messy or excess winds on the tuning post (not holding string in tension while winding on, and letting wraps jumble over each other)
- insufficient winds on tuning post
- not properly locking the string off against itself when putting it through the post
- strings sticking in nut slightly
- ball end of string not being snug in tailpiece/string hole/bridge hole
- intonation wrong (tunes successfully but feels out of tune playing other things)
- tuners mechanically unstable (heavily depends on instrument age and quality)

assert (MatthewK), Friday, 30 October 2020 20:24 (three years ago) link

I'm using Ernie Ball Super Slinky. I did buy some Cobalt strings because they are supposed to be stronger - put one on the B string - it broke immediately when I was tightening it up, at the tuning peg.

not doing any weird tunings, just standard.

I may not be winding it enough? or locking it properly? but I don't have this issue on my strat, which is 20 years old, battered to shit and cost £150 new.

it may be to do with the guitar not being set up actually? seems to sound out of tune further up the neck iirc? I may not rc.

CP Radio Gorgeous (Colonel Poo), Friday, 30 October 2020 20:29 (three years ago) link

If it hasn’t had a setup including intonation it will sound more out of tune the higher up the neck - just hold a barre chord and try it at higher and higher fret positions. There are good YouTube videos on winding strings onto tuners, and good ones on intonating, depending what kind of bridge you have. Several phone apps give good tuning accuracy to allow proper intonation.
One other possibility is that the action is too high, so you’re having to press strings down further to reach the frets - this can lead to pitch being sharp which affects some strings more than others.
Getting a setup isn’t that expensive, but learning to set up is good investment if you can master the skills.

assert (MatthewK), Friday, 30 October 2020 20:50 (three years ago) link

can you guess what my hobby is?

assert (MatthewK), Friday, 30 October 2020 20:50 (three years ago) link

I think the action is OK, in that it seems easy to play? or have I got the wrong idea about that - I assume if it's too high you have to press down harder and I don't get that impression when I'm playing it

thinking about it I'm not sure it is the intonation, it usually sounds OK playing barre chords anywhere just after I've tuned up. so maybe for some reason this guitar is more susceptible if I don't wind the strings round enough, I usually just wind round twice, but that's always worked OK on my other guitar

CP Radio Gorgeous (Colonel Poo), Friday, 30 October 2020 21:02 (three years ago) link

someone I asked on a forum suggested I just buy a new bridge and some locking tuning pegs, which is annoying that I'd have to do that, but may cost less than selling this guitar for a fraction of what I bought it for then buying another guitar. so I might have to do that, but will see if sanding the saddles when a string breaks makes any difference first. I'm just doing the fold sandpaper into a V thing atm.

CP Radio Gorgeous (Colonel Poo), Friday, 30 October 2020 21:06 (three years ago) link

I also rolled a bit of sandpaper into a tube and ran that through the B-string tuning peg a bit, since that's the only one where a string broke at the peg (twice). hasn't broken there since, so maybe that worked? fingers crossed I guess

CP Radio Gorgeous (Colonel Poo), Friday, 30 October 2020 21:07 (three years ago) link

Sounds good. And locking tuners are bullshit, I have around 20 guitars ranging from cheap to pretty good, none have locking tuners, all are dead stable tuning wise.
Fender style guitars are typically more forgiving than Gibson style for setup and stability, because Leo Fender was an engineer with a very good understanding of mass production.

assert (MatthewK), Friday, 30 October 2020 21:23 (three years ago) link

it is quite lame of me that after 20 years I don't know if I'm putting strings on correctly. I asked my guitarist friend, but he'd never had any issues with strings constantly breaking at the bridge, so he asked me if I'm stringing them correctly, and I was like, is there a wrong way to do it?

CP Radio Gorgeous (Colonel Poo), Friday, 30 October 2020 21:30 (three years ago) link

It's really about maintaining tension while winding it up - after passing the string through the tailpiece and pulling it snug, I generally lock-off the string at the tuner by passing the free end underneath the winding string, with enough slack to hold the string about 2-3 inches above the fretboard, then hold tension while winding it on, and checking that the wraps accumulate smoothly underneath the previous. Ends up with a neat stack of wraps with the string emerging from the bottom side. The key is to keep it taut while winding so that everything is maintaining the tension set by the tuner.
This video is pretty helpful but I lock it differently, and would use a little extra slack than this person does (e.g. 1.5 to 2 tuner spaces).

assert (MatthewK), Friday, 30 October 2020 22:32 (three years ago) link

Fender style guitars are typically more forgiving than Gibson style for setup and stability, because Leo Fender was an engineer with a very good understanding of mass production

it's amazing how different the philosophies are between the two - gibsons are all carved tops, set necks, rear routes, transparent finishes, angled headstocks and stuff from old timey wooden instrument building and fender comes along and is like, fuck it, bolt the necks, use string trees, and route the top and cover that shit with a giant pickguard and a coat of paint.

anyway one other thing I've heard about tune-o-matic style bridges and string breakage is to try raising the tailpiece a bit so the angle from the saddle to the end of the string is smaller which can decrease the tension

as for notes fretting out on bends, ime this is from the string height being too low at the saddle (and depends on fretboard radius and such). i figured this out when trying to learn the solo from Helter Skelter which has a whole step bend on the 15th fret of the high e - i set the height just high enough that it won't fret out and do the same for the b, g, and d.

joygoat, Sunday, 1 November 2020 17:56 (three years ago) link

fender comes along and is like, fuck it, bolt the necks, use string trees, and route the top and cover that shit with a giant pickguard and a coat of paint

Also if you have a maple fretboard, it is quite literally just the topmost bit of the neck. The simplicity is attractive to me (though I have some guitars with rosewood boards as well).

Kabob Dylan (Ye Mad Puffin), Sunday, 1 November 2020 18:02 (three years ago) link

there are a couple of great Martin Guitar videos for on YouTube on changing strings that have been really helpful

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Sunday, 1 November 2020 18:18 (three years ago) link

one month passes...

elvis, we took the telecaster to the place in laguna you recommended. just got it back yesterday and, well, let's just say i'm a little tired this morning because i was up late enjoying it last night. thanks again.

Totally different head. Totally. (Austin), Thursday, 10 December 2020 16:27 (three years ago) link


Elvis Telecom, Thursday, 10 December 2020 20:59 (three years ago) link

also for anyone in the area that wants to check it out:

cool place, friendly folks. yeah.

Totally different head. Totally. (Austin), Friday, 11 December 2020 17:29 (three years ago) link

three months pass...

Weirdly or perhaps not because I was doing the right thing, not long since I last posted on this thread, my guitar started working. The strings stopped breaking. I guess I needed to work it in and keep sanding the saddles.

I did figure out a couple of months ago that the action was really high, and lowered, and that helped a huge amount, made it more fun to play, maybe that also helped to stop breaking strings, but the constant breaking stopped before I did that.

CP Radio Gorgeous (Colonel Poo), Saturday, 10 April 2021 01:05 (three years ago) link

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