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PostPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2018 1:02 am 
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The patient: an Ammoon Stratocaster style electric kit.

I was playing today (no new parts) and realized that at and above the 17th fret, my bends are not choking out exactly, but they are buzzing. Around 17 it's just on the really big bends (1 1/2 steps, or 2 steps). From 19 on up, it buzzes even on whole bends. A straightedge reveals that the fingerboard is falling away in this region, which should be helping rather than hurting as far as buzzing goes, though intonation may suffer.

Just what can I reasonably expect to achieve with the cheapest kit on eBay, one where I had to heat and stand on the neck to remove a back bow just to make it capable of taking a setup at all? Am I simply expecting too much, or should I keep plugging away and try to get rid of the buzzes? I have the action set (as best I can tell using feeler gauges until my proper tools arrive) around .062" (4/64) at the 12th fret on the plain strings. The low E is closer to 5/64, and the A and D gradually taper down toward the G at 4/64.

If it's relevant, I've tried going lower than this just to see if it's happy with a lower action. It's not, buzzes start creeping in all over the place when I do that. The saddles are set right in their butter zone too, neither too high nor too low. I'm pretty sure this is how it was intended to be set up, and I'm fine with it being right on spec, but want to do David Gilmour style bends on it. I just want to figure out if this is a holy grail worth chasing, given what I started with.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2018 6:02 am 
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What I don't know about setting up an electric guitar would fill volumes, but a couple things come to mind. Which side of the fret point is the buzz coming from? That is, is the string between the fret point and the saddle causing the buzz, or the string between the fret point and the nut? Given the reported back bow problem, I suspect the latter. The higher frets falling away are another issue that would tend to cause a buzz between the fret point and the nut.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2018 8:17 am 
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To find which fret(s) is giving you a problem, fret each string up the neck. Start at the first fret, and play the string. Continue to fret 2, then 3, etc, playing the string as you fret. When you get to the point that the buzz disappears when you fret and play the string, that fret will be the culprit. Do this on each string. If you find yourself correcting multiple frets over and over again, you should check your action height. It might be too low, or you may need to level your frets.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2018 10:59 am 
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I think I may be getting misunderstood.

Every note on the instrument plays just fine (though not necessarily in tune, especially way up the neck on the low E and A strings) all the way to the 21st fret, although I did have to block the bridge slightly forward from the flat position because it just doesn't like having the bridge lying flat on the wood. It is only when trying to bend that I get issues, and it shows up as a "zing" at some point in the bend. Up to the 16th fret, I can whole-bend without a zing. At the 17th, sometimes I can and sometimes I can't. Past that, I'll get a zing on pretty much anything more than a half bend. This does not seem to be sufficient to kill the note, although obviously any sound has to be getting its energy from somewhere and that would mean my sustain has to be suffering. I'm reasonably certain the buzz is not coming from "behind" the bend, because I'm using a claw grip with either two or three fingers on the string. (It depends on the specifics – I use three when time permits and it's not a stretch to get one finger per fret, but only two if speed is critical or if it's lower on the neck where that third finger would be sitting on a fret.)

As it turns out, I'm about to throw Hybrid Slinkys (9-11-16-26-36-46) on it to replace the 9-42 or whatever the heck it came with. This will almost certainly necessitate adjusting the setup again, and who knows if the problem will mutate at that time. I guess I'll report again then. Also, I haven't actually measured the action properly since blocking the trem forward, I just eyeballed it back to where it was before the blocking. (That's not to imply my measuring was in any way proper before the blocking.)

I no longer have a back bow problem. That got taken care of quite a while ago, by my cringe-worthy method of a fabric iron and body weight. The two lifting frets that resulted have also been taken care of. The frets have been leveled up to 16, though not yet crowned in the filed spots. Trying to level beyond 16 is a futile task because of the way they fall away (which actually starts at the 11th fret but only becomes a real nuisance at 16+). If I try to level up there, it will rock on every single fret and I'm just chasing my own tail. Besides, shouldn't this increase clearance when trying to bend?

Incidentally, it also has a problem I've oncountered on other instruments, that of being unable to optimize the intonation on the wound strings for both the 12th fret, and for the 17th fret. If I get the 12th fret to a perfect octave, they'll be about 5 cents flat at the 17th. Likewise, if I optimize the 17th, they will be about 5 cents sharp at the 12th. I've compromised and left them sharp at the 12th fret by just about one "minimum interval", or about 1.75 cents. I call it that because that's about the smallest interval I can reliably discern by ear. This just comes across as a slightly stretched octave, and is relatively inoffensive. I leave the bulk of the error in the even higher frets because (1) I really don't get past the 14th fret on the wound strings unless I'm playing from tablature that calls for it, and (2) it's a lot easier to pull a flat note sharp than to deal with sharp notes.

I have encountered this problem over and over, on instruments from "entry level" to "four figures", and the owners of those never seem to be that concerned about it either. It only affects the wound strings, while the plain strings remain properly intonated, so I'm guessing it's just a compromise chosen to optimize for the strings people actually play that far up the neck. If someone is shredding up there, a slightly flat wound string isn't going to be flapping around long enough for any beats to be audible. Besides, everything beats in 12-ET except the octaves anyhow. Since we've already accepted the (rather poor, IMHO – but 31-ET comes with a different set of problems and 19-ET doesn't actually sound that good to me) compromise of twelve equal intervals per octave, what's a few more cents among friends?


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2018 12:24 pm 
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Location: St. Louis area
The frets wer not leveled past the 16th fret and this is where the problem is. Sounds like you're bending into a plane where the bent string is encountering a higher fret. What else could it be?

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2018 12:48 pm 
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Joined: Fri Mar 03, 2006 7:09 pm
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Location: Hegins, Pa
post pics of your bridge
also with a fretted instrument you will not have perfect intonation on every fret so you have to pick your poison. On electrics you have a wider fret than electrics and one thing that will play havoc with intonation is pick ups
If you have the pick ups too high the magnetic fields can play with the strings and the further up the neck the more apparent this phenomenon stands out

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2018 7:21 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jan 02, 2018 1:51 pm
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Another thing to check is where the neck bows. Capo the first fret then fret the string on the last fret. At the mid point on the neck you should have .015 to .020 clearance between fret and string. Less than this your neck is too flat, more and you have too much bow. I do not remember where is read this, but over the years I have used it pretty successfully for electric setup.

Doug


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2018 8:27 pm 
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Joined: Fri Mar 03, 2006 7:09 pm
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Location: Hegins, Pa
when it comes to electrics assuming you have the frets leveled and the nut set up relief , this is one of the most important parts of the set up. To me .015 is too high. The more relief the more you bend the string and the more you influence the intonation.
Not all electrics are the same so lets look at what to look for. A good rule of thumb for most necks is to

A set relief
B adjust nut
C set saddle / bridge

so setting relief you can tweak the truss rod to the point of buzzing then back off the truss rod. I have a les paul that the relief is .006 . LP has a glued in neck and I check relief from the 18th fret to the 1st. I use a straight edge but you can use a string. The lower the relief the more a high fret will show itself.

Once you have the relief you can go through the process. The more you do this the more your confidence will rise but always be aware of your variables. If you really want to learn take your guitar and do a set up , the adjust the pick ups and see at what point the magnets start to become and influence to the set up. Just for fun try setting by going out of sequence and you will see that the ABC's are there for a reason.. Once you can see the reason why we do it this way you will soon see a bad set up before you lay it on the bench. Experimentation is a way of learning , even is you learn not to do something.

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John Hall
Blues Creek Guitars Inc
Authorized CF Martin Repair Center
president of Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans
http://www.bluescreekguitars.com


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2018 9:54 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jan 02, 2018 1:51 pm
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Thanks tippie, I can see it in me head now. .015 in height would give forgiveness for any fret sticking its head up

Doug LaFleur


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2018 7:50 am 
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Joined: Wed Jan 03, 2018 12:56 am
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Right now it's unstrung because I was working on the electricals again, but I can at least provide pictures of the bridge. It's your typical Squire-Strat style six-point tremolo. I'll be re-stringing with 9-46 rather than what seem to be 9-42, so that will change the neck load and necessitate tweaking of the nut on the wound string side. The three plain strings aren't changing gauge, though.

(Please forgive the mismatched knobs and the white switch tip, they're all stand-ins until the real ones arrive: knurled gold knobs all around, and a black switch tip. I couldn't find a blue one that wasn't stupidly expensive.)

I guess I'll try to finish leveling above the 16th then, it just seems like a pointless task when you can pick a fret -- any fret -- and it rocks because the entire fingerboard is falling away. I can't even imagine how I'm supposed to straighten out the wood up there, short of separating the fingerboard and filling underneath it. I'd be more inclined to put jumbo frets up there to offset the underlying fall of the fingerboard. This would amount to a slightly scalloped fingerboard, which makes bending easier, and I can't really think of any disadvantages.

The truss rod is barely engaged, and that only so that it doesn't potentially rattle. When I straightened out the neck, I straightened it out only just enough to get it flat without any input from the one-way truss rod. The neck relief is 0.008" at the eighth fret while holding the low E at both the first and 16th frets (actually holding at the 17th so it's sitting on the 16th). The neck pocket starts right at the 16th fret, so this seems like the appropriate place to stop the string for this measurement. However, now that it has started to rain, it appears that a back bow has reappeared in the 11-16 fret range that I need to attack with heat and pressure once again. This will almost certainly increase the relief.

It is not lost on me that the start of the problem and the start of the neck pocket are pretty much the same place. I just don't know what I can actually do with this insight. As I understand it, tighter radius fingerboards have more problems with bends up high, but I didn't think that was supposed to be a problem with a 12" radius. (Nonetheless, nicer guitars increase the radius further down for this reason among others.)

The pickups are sitting as low as they can without being below the level of the pick guard, because they just don't need to be that high. They're called Hot Rails for a reason. When I do get around to dialing them in, the goal is 1/8" clearance when the strings are fretted at the last (21st) fret, and I won't pull the neck pickup any higher than that. The others may have to be backed off from there for balance between pickups. Of course pickups can affect strings, that's the entire concept behind the Sustainiac (except it adds energy rather than tapping it).

The tremolo bridge is currently blocked in the crudest way possible: I put screws into the wood behind it for it to rest on. Yes, it clicks when I release the trem too fast. Yes, I expected that to be a problem. Yes, I have a solution in mind: nylon screws, or a sheet of PTFE taped to the wood. If those prove insufficiently durable, I'll resort to blocking it from the inside. It's just a lot harder to adjust if I do it from the inside.


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