Grateful Dead Music Forum

A place to talk about the music of the Grateful Dead 

 #136787  by mgbills
 Tue Feb 18, 2014 2:27 pm
BTW...I am also a firm believer that there is a positive tone change with the raise in action.

A low action setup would typically start by lowering the nut until a string fretted at the 3rd would barely clear the crown of the 2nd fret. I've seen them less than a 64th. From than fixed point there would then be an inclined plane to the saddles. In a low setup it would be raised until no buzziness would be heard through the amp. This also means that it can buzz like crazy in your hands.

Too wierd for me. I play acoustic as well, so if it's easier than my Taylor with 13''s easy.

The Garcia setup if I remember starts at 0.030" over the 1st fret, between the fret crown and the bottom of the string. It needs a little firmer grip & more hand strength for a Bb bar chord, but it's not bad by any stretch. 0.125 at the 24th and you're good to go. This provides wonderful string oscillation with no compromise to intonation.

For you slide players...and this is how I think about it, not gospel...there is scarcely any depression of string when you play slide. I think it's always beneficial to have a 2nd guitar setup for slide. Think about a lap steel. The strings are way off the fretboard and the strings are not radiused. Most Strats have a substantial fretboard radius for ease of bending. The Irwins were pretty flat, which is likely why Jer played so many iterations of semitone bends. Not exclusively, but also not a tone of big bluesy full tone (+) bends.

What I'm getting around to is that if you tried to fret a nice slide setup, you'd never be in tune. I'm not sure that the benefits of hauling just one guitar outweight the intonation compromises. Again...this is my informed opinion. I'm willing to be wrong or accept a missed point of geometry or logic.
 #136788  by mgbills
 Tue Feb 18, 2014 2:28 pm
I guess the other relevant point is that minor tuning issues are always being warped by a slide. Like a cat on qualudes.
 #137035  by tatittle
 Sat Feb 22, 2014 6:53 pm

I haven't tried this guy's compensating techniques on the nut, but I have found everything he states to be true re: problems with intonation. For some reason the issue with the G string being sharp seems far more pronounced on Strats I play these days than I remember with my LP Custom back in the day so scale length may exacerbate.
I bought one of those axemasters brass nuts and found the seller to be extremely nice with great service. The compensation is not the same as this website suggests, and I didn't find it to be any noticeable advantage. Im just starting to mess around with this stuff seriously though, so theres a high likelihood I miss things.

Funny I just measured the Strat I changed pups in and the action measures almost exactly what Waldo stipulated for Jerry lol. It has an ABM bridge though. The relief is too large at the moment too.
 #137325  by tatittle
 Fri Mar 07, 2014 2:28 am
Im a bit perplexed by all the talk about how 7/64" etc is pushing unplayability. Its almost exactly where I tend to set-up my guitars naturally. Depending on the relief/frets if it gets a lot lower bending strings can become impossible without using the ladies tee (.009's and below); bc I cant get under/leverage on the next string(s) over, and with 7.25" radius the dreaded fret out becomes an issue. Granted I am eyeballing the distance not using a caliper; and I have long pulled the springs off of regular strat saddles; and intonation gives me fits (especially at the 1st fret) :drink: I cut my nuts very close to the 1st fret (holding it at the 3rd) to try and minimize the intonation issues. If I recall correctly above the 12th fret my problem is flat, not sharp---sharp occurs at the first few frets in my experience, just as the link I posted explains. I just read SRV used 7/64" at the low E 12th fret (and 5/64" high E).
 #137346  by mgbills
 Fri Mar 07, 2014 10:57 am
Everything you describe is exactly what happens with 7/64" at the 12th. The G & Low E tend to be the issue. Pete & I pulled the springs out of his Strat and it helped some. He loves him some high action. I personally don't like the tonality, intonation and spongy-wierdness when you get above the 17th. If you're at 0.030" at the 1st fret, that means you're almost at 0.250 at the 22nd. In what universe is a note in tune when a string is lengthened to that degree (when fretted).

Also...get some calipers at the Ace hardware for $15.00, or the string gauge from Stewmac. When you get to measuring this stuff regularly, and then you look at the Irwin guitars, Moriarty guitars, Scarlet-Fire'll see...They're just isn't 1/4" of freeboard at the 22-24th fret! Tiger & Rosebud (I believe) have something like a 1.5 degree neck angle. Almost flat. Not much more than a stock Strat. You're eye won't lie to you.

I like my Strat set up with about 0.025-0.030" neck relief. I do my own fret work, and I also like to push the action threshold upward. Fender recommendations are all over the place, just like their setup work. Most players want the strings on the deck. 0.012 is not uncommon. So the Gary Brawer setting of 0.030" is just fine. I prefer the action set to 5/64" to 3/32". It helps de-spongify the upper frets, and bring the G & E intonation to within 3-5 cents with a Peterson Strobe (and GTR temperment). Your personal fret work can wonk this a bit.
 #137351  by milobender
 Fri Mar 07, 2014 1:48 pm
+1 on the Stewmac tools... I use the string action gauge as well as the nut slotting gauge with the dial indicator (one of the best investments ever!)

I don't like my setup quite that high either... I usually have the nut height from .024 (low e) to .018 (high e)... I use the string action gauge for the bridge setup, usually .08 (5/64) high at the 22nd fret on the low e, and about .06 for the high e... As far as the relief goes, I'll have to measure that... I set that by 'just a little movement' when pressing against the 1st fret and the 22nd :smile:
 #137365  by tatittle
 Fri Mar 07, 2014 9:48 pm
Interesting---I hadn't known about higher action causing sponginess up high. I still relatively new to Strats, and I had been associating sponginess with the trem (even blocked). I do know that I was much more comfortable/satisfied playing up high on my old LP Custom than I have been with any Strat (especially on thicker strings). Part of that may be I used to play Boogies too (usually on lead channel), which are far more forgiving than vintage Fenders. Ill have to lower my action and look at this closer..maybe increase the relief (maybe even nut?) to allow leverage for vibrato bends. Perhaps even try a shim.

The low E and G string are definitely where my intonation issues are noticeable. The link I posted suggests this is primarily because the distance between notes is not exactly the same (uniform) mathematically though. So that in a perfect world the frets would not be straight lines but jagged--there are even guitars that have been built like this for this reason I hear. The varying width of string cores also plays some role according to him. All the adjustments serve to compensate for these discrepancies.

I love the nut files I got from StewMac. I have a Maple strat body that I bought 2nd hand which was described as StewMac that is a bit blocky and sketchy looking in places, but I haven't equipped it yet. It is impossible to eyeball 1/64" accurately--I was using a business card with a scale on it lol, so I could easily be 2/64"' off. I couldn't sleep without my Petersons...I adjust intonation for every new set of strings. Its amazing how much they can vary, even with age it seems to me. If I can cut back on my obsessive intonation adjustments that would be worth some trade off I suppose.
 #137383  by mgbills
 Sat Mar 08, 2014 3:44 pm
To be clear…when I say "Sponginess" I'm using the term to describe a string that needs to be depressed a considerable distance to sing. Rather like an old steel framed cot from Camp WhereEverYouWent.

I also have an Epi Les Paul that AO converted to a Tiger guitar. It has a harmonica bridge & custom tailpiece. Since the guitar was originally setup like the Fretless Wonder LP Custom of the late '60's, it is totally intolerant to higher action. It plays nicely as a low action guitar. In fact it frets almost effortlessly. It has a high fretboard radius, so bending is different than on a Strat. I had it built long before I was studying all of this stuff. I would call the string action on this "Crisp" or "Direct" vs. Spongy. It's a nice bright guitar for a 24-3/4" scale length. You can't dig too deeply into the LP. The 3+ degree neck angle also means the pickups are pretty high as well.

My preference is for the middle ground. The guitar intonation must be as close as possible, while still pushing the upper boundary of action, without getting Spongy. Spongy then becomes an indicator that it's time for a truss rod adjustment. My wife & I live in the Pacific Northwest. We've got a cool log home, and burn wood in the winter to avoid the Gromulous Gloom. The wood stove dries the normally moist air, and by February my Strat is getting grumpy. A little truss rod tweak, and the Sponginess is gone. Then when Spring hits I adjust it again at the first sign of buzz.

I'll paraphrase Leo Kottke …"The guitar is an imperfect instrument by design. It's all about keeping it out of tune in the fewest number of places." …or something like that.

 #137385  by tatittle
 Sat Mar 08, 2014 5:16 pm
Thanks for the clarification; I was thinking spongy tone (vs. crisp).
 #140693  by TI4-1009
 Sat Aug 02, 2014 10:12 am
Kimock post on TGP with his view of "higher action". Real good stuff. You see Jerry using his side-to-side vibrato almost constantly- this helps explain the "above and below pitch concept.

" If all it allowed for was greater variation or range in picking hand articulation that'd be enough as attack is the number one determinant of timbre.

What y'all are missing is raising the action from the pickup's perspective is LOWERING the PU's in first position and progressively raising them as you go higher on the neck.
The PU's output response to proximity isn't linear; a little closer isn't "a little louder", it's a LOT louder.
Your amp's response to that increase in voltage at the input isn't necessarily just volume tho, within that voltage swing you're also increasing gain.

As a result you can get nice clean lower position rhythm sounds and dramatically louder and/or more colorful high register single note sounds just by changing position and taking advantage of the string's increased excursion and proximity to the pickup by hitting it harder.

Also, as you raise the action, in the high register you're normally driving the intonation flat, picking up progressively more distance to compensate than the geometry allows.
Leaving the high register a little flat allows you to use more vibrato and/or a more aggressive attack without driving the string immediately sharp.

That combination of greater variation in attack and articulation, greater dynamic range, better fundamental, increased range of control of preamp color, and improved intonation for the singing melody type playing stuff is what you gain with progressively higher action.

What you lose is a guitar you can't hit that gets progressively weaker and sharper as you go up the neck.
So the high action thing is obviously a "lead guitar" strategy.
I leave the action low and kinda tight for dedicated rhythm guitar, and low and loose for some higher gain rock/blues styles, but overall, getting the action up enough to take advantage of the additional control it allows for single note color and gain vs. clean rhythm playing without having to resort to pedals and the improved intonation/expression of the high register is why you'd say it "sounds better".
It does. It just works better.
If you can play.
If you can't play, it just makes it harder.

There's no right way or better way to do anything set-up wise on the guitar.
It's all just trade offs.

Again, if anybody needs convincing: show up with your guitar and let's play.
I'll walk you through it, you'll say "oh yeah", and then do as you will.
There's a whole nuther bag of vocabulary that's super useful with the action up even a little that's worth investigating."