What do you do when you have a 7 string, need a thick .080" string on the low side, tuned down 2 full steps to Drop F, and setup before the weekend? Needless to say, I couldn't find a suitable string without special ordering - this is the next best thing. Take a base string, cut off the excess, expose the inner wrap and you're in! Finish it with a quick solder for additional durability.
So what's going on? Did the neck shift? Was it adjusted correctly? Or was it just done poorly? I actually get these jobs all the time. In this case, the guitar above had a couple issues- so we decided to correct them best that we could.
1) The neck is too straight.
It's a fine line between where it feels best and having adequate relief. After measuring the relief I found much more on the treble side than bass side, suggesting a twist. I'm talking like .005" difference but that's ample enough. So first, set the minimum relief to the bass strings. Then adjust the string height.
2) The nut slots were cut too wide/deep.
You can see in the first picture quite clearly how wide the slots are. Likely cut with a v-shaped file but still overly done. Nut slots should only be wide enough to allow the string to pass through it without binding. A few thousandth's of an inch wider and the string will not only lose tone but also vibrate within the nut slot, creating an unpleasant buzzing when the string is played open. Which was happening with this guitar. So after carefully cutting the lacquer around the nut, I knocked it out and made a new one.
Since it was in the shop, we also changed out the pickups and tremolo.
It's good practice to check that the new pickups work before installing them. Best way to do that is to test the impedance with a multi-meter. This also gave me assurance that it was a matched set and that the bridge pickup was indeed slightly hotter output. When swapping pickups, just replace the old wires with the new. Going one for one you'll never forget which goes where on a mess of a circuit like this.
Finished 'er up and the buzz has minimized and it's feeling much more solid all around. Learn more about these methods at one of our upcoming setup classes!
Yeah I get it. But you just can't quite dial it in, right? So what are you missing?
If you have had this guitar playing beautifully, than it probably just needs a couple tweaks (unless the neck has warped while in your possession....).
Hopefully it's not as bad as the slug player above, but here's what you do.. in order!
1. Check the neck- Look for any twists, humps or dips. If there is nothing evident, you need to dial in the relief (a.k.a. neck bow). There is an earlier post all about neck relief and truss rod adjustments here http://www.learn-guitarsetups.com/repair-blog/how-to-adjust-your-truss-rod. Give it a read and come back for the next step.
2. Now you have your neck relief set, with just a tad of relief, right? Now let's look at your string height at the saddles. Because I have no idea what kind of guitar, string gauge, tuning, or technique you possess- I'd first suggest to set your string height to the manufacturer's suggestion, and adjust from there. Give it a google search. Guitars with 2 post bridge adjustments (Tune-o-matics, Floating Tremolos, etc), it's as simple as raising or lowering each post until you are happy. If it buzzes, raise it until it stops. I'd suggest a little higher on the bass side since those strings need more room to play out without buzzing. Guitars with individual saddle height (strat, tele, etc), it's a little more involved then that- To correctly adjust string height, each string must measure off of and follow the fretboard radius- That may sound confusing, so I found a great video to demonstrate. There's a plethora of others out there as well worth checking out.
If you're still having trouble after these adjustments, consider bringing it into a pro. Or If it's never gotten a setup, that's exactly what is needed! Pickup our easy guide and have it covered in an afternoon or join us at one of our Precision Guitar Setup Classes!
Do you have this problem as well, perhaps on another guitar? It's good one day, but terrible the next? What's going on here?
If your guitar feels/ plays differently from one day to the next - and you aren't changing the tuning - chances are, the neck bow (a.k.a neck relief) is fluctuating.
What is neck bow/ relief and why is it fluctuating?
Neck relief is the amount of bow (or lack of) in the neck itself- as best show in the diagram below.
The diagrams show the differences you may encounter with the amount of relief in your neck. With most guitars, you can adjust the amount of relief by tightening or loosening the truss rod. The truss rod is a steel rod or set of rods that are set in and run the length of the neck. There is often an adjustment nut at one end or the other. Ideally, your guitar will have just a slight bow in the neck - to accommodate string movement with your particular setup- and to minimize buzzing while playing. How to adjust your truss rod is covered in an older post at http://www.learn-guitarsetups.com/repair-blog/category/truss%20rod.
So why is it fluctuating?
My first bet is that the relative humidity in the air is fluctuating, and the neck- being sensitive to the changes of humidity- is quick to respond. From small gap (good), to no gap (buzzy and bad), to big gap (high string height and out of tune)- there are guitars out there that will fluctuate through these extremes on a weekly or even daily basis. Being that every piece of wood is different, some guitars are more sensitive than others. So if you have one that is misbehaving, fluctuating humidity is likely the reason why (unless you have a mischievous child or two in the house....).
Learn all about guitar setups in our book "How To Setup Your Guitar Like a Pro: An Easy Guide For Beginners", available through Amazon.com or with the Kindle version through Amazon.ca.
Hey everyone, last classes of the year coming up fast! Visit the registration page or contact us for more details.
Oct. 18, 2015 Edmonton @ Avonmore Hall: Electric Guitar Setups w/ Nut Filing (optional)
Nov. 7, 2015 Saskatoon @ Aden Bowman Collegiate: Electric Guitar Setups
Nov. 8, 2015 Regina @ Lakeview School: Electric Guitar Setups
Nov. 14-15, 2015 Calgary @ University of Calgary: Fretworks (*LIMITED SEATING LEFT)
Nov. 28, 2015 Calgary University of Calgary: Electric Guitar Setups w/ Nut Filing (optional)