Buzz Feiten and Alembic Log Out | Topics | Search
Moderators | Register | Edit Profile

Alembic Club » Dreaming... for now » Archive through October 06, 2007 » Buzz Feiten and Alembic « Previous Next »

Author Message
jorge_s
Intermediate Member
Username: jorge_s

Post Number: 104
Registered: 8-2002
Posted on Monday, December 11, 2006 - 5:38 am:   Edit Post

Are there any guitarist in the group who have modified their Alembic with the Buzz Feiten system? Or perhaps compensated the brass nut in any way? I know Alembics have great intonation as they are but I was just curious.
georgie_boy
Intermediate Member
Username: georgie_boy

Post Number: 157
Registered: 8-2005
Posted on Tuesday, December 12, 2006 - 3:40 am:   Edit Post

Buzz Feiten System????????
Can you tell an ignorant Scotsman what this is?
I've never heard of it before---but then again, there are lots of things I've never heard of or seen before.
Goes to show, if you want to learn about musical ideas and innovations, Come to the Alembic Club site!!-
G
adriaan
Senior Member
Username: adriaan

Post Number: 1175
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Tuesday, December 12, 2006 - 4:06 am:   Edit Post

From what I've seen, it's basically a matter of moving the nut 1 or 2 mm (about 0.1") towards the first fret. (Not the same as a zero fret, which is in the same position as a regular nut would be.)

You also need a tuner that supports the Feiten system to set the intonation - apparently the old-fashioned way causes a mismatch.

They have patented the design, so you need to get a license to sell instruments with the feature.
georgie_boy
Intermediate Member
Username: georgie_boy

Post Number: 162
Registered: 8-2005
Posted on Tuesday, December 12, 2006 - 4:49 am:   Edit Post

Still none the wiser Adriann?
Are there any pics/links to help me?
George
keith_h
Senior Member
Username: keith_h

Post Number: 633
Registered: 2-2005
Posted on Tuesday, December 12, 2006 - 5:31 am:   Edit Post

George,
Here's a link I found.

Keith
adriaan
Senior Member
Username: adriaan

Post Number: 1176
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Tuesday, December 12, 2006 - 5:41 am:   Edit Post

Here is a graphic of the replacement nut they have on offer, which extends over the fingerboard:
Buzz Feiten nut
jorge_s
Intermediate Member
Username: jorge_s

Post Number: 105
Registered: 8-2002
Posted on Tuesday, December 12, 2006 - 9:44 am:   Edit Post

Sorry, I should have put the link myself. I have it on an electric guitar and on an acoustic. I find a tremendous difference on the acoustic especially. The only bad parts are that you do need a certain tuner and the effect is dimished if you use a capo.
pace
Advanced Member
Username: pace

Post Number: 289
Registered: 4-2004
Posted on Wednesday, December 13, 2006 - 1:27 pm:   Edit Post

The local luthiers I've talked to only reserve the Feiten system for "problem" guitars.

I dont think that a compensated tuning system is required for instruments tuning straight up in 4ths. Depending on the guitar, strings 3 & 2 (G & B, major 3rd) can be problematic. Strumming a Fender 25.5" at the same time as a Gibson 24.75" can be rough sometimes, same goes with pairing a guitar with a piano, or horn section.

With pedal steel guitar there are two camps of players. Those who tune straight up and those who use a Just or Tempered chart..... man those discussions on the steel forum can get heated sometimes!

FWIW, Buzz is credited w/ guitar work on Dylan's New Morning. Does anyone know of any other album credits he has?
cozmik_cowboy
Junior
Username: cozmik_cowboy

Post Number: 49
Registered: 10-2006
Posted on Wednesday, December 13, 2006 - 1:52 pm:   Edit Post

Buzz was with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band for "Keep On Moving" & "Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smilin'" (and was with them at Woodstock), the Rascals for "Peaceful World" & "Island Of Real" and Full Moon for "Full Moon" & "Full Moon Second". He also spent time in Mr. Mister - don't know about recording. I think he's done other stuff, too - used to be a biography page the B.F. Tuning System site, but it seems to be gone.

Peter

(Message edited by Cozmik_Cowboy on December 13, 2006)
dfung60
Advanced Member
Username: dfung60

Post Number: 218
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Wednesday, December 13, 2006 - 4:54 pm:   Edit Post

Two years ago at NAMM, I heard Buzz Feiten playing in one of the demo booths (the featured artist was a drummer, Buzz was a sideman). He was definitely a very talented guitarist.

I've participated in extended discussions on the Feiten intonation system on other message boards. Personally, I would put it in the "snake oil" catagory.

The system is patented and has two main components. The first is a displacement of the nut toward the bridge. When you press the string down at any fret, you aren't just stopping the string, you are displacing it downward as well. That has the effect of making the string a tiny bit shorter than it would be if you could stop it at the fret without pushing it down. That tiny error will cause the fretted note to play a tiny bit sharp relative to the tuned open string. So, the nut adjustment is compensating for that. This doesn't matter much on a bass or guitar that you play barre chords on, but the Feiten system is originally intended to improve the intonation of acoustic guitars where, in many styles, you would play with more open strings. As soon as you fret the string anywhere, the benefit of the nut change goes away, since you must cause the downward displacement to fret anywhere on the neck. A capo'ed guitar shouldn't exhibit this intonation problem and it should be less noticeable with a properly set zero fret.

The other part of the Feiten system is a set of modified intonation setups that try to improve the overall sound of chords that are commonly played on the guitar. Although you often get into a discussion of alternative tempering and favored keys here, this isn't really what Feiten is doing. When you set the intonation on your instrument now, what you're doing is compensating for the stiffness of the strings. A big fat, stiff string doesn't vibrate freely at it's ends and acts as if it's shorter than an ideal string. But the harmonics of this same big fat string are affected differently by the strings stiffness (higher harmonics are less encumbered by the stiffness). So, in a normal setup, you will tend to move the bridge piece away from the nut to make the fundamental's effective vibrating length longer and bring it into better tune with the harmonics. As you know, it really makes a difference because the string stiffness really causes non-ideal motion. The way intonation is normally set is to compare the 12th fret fundamental pitch (1 octave up from the open string) with the 12th fret harmonic and adjust until they match.

If you think about it, that makes the adjustment work great if you play at the 12th fret a lot, but for most of us you're playing well below that on the neck. And for that area, setting the intonation traditionally is way overcompensating relative to where you want it to be. So, that's the other part of the Feiten system - it's a set of offsets, specific for each string, that you set up to that should lead to better normal chord intonation. Again, if you play folk-style chords low on the neck, this should make a significant difference. When you play a solo high up on the neck, it matters less since you're playing single notes (or partial chords). If you were playing chords high on the neck, they actually may be less sonically pleasing that a traditional setup, but in that case, you wouldn't really want to be setting up with Feiten (it doesn't claim to fix everything).

The way that you actually do a Feiten intonation setup is that you tune the instrument to normal open pitches, but instead of adjusting the 12th fret harmonic to match the open (or 1st harmonic pitch), you adjust the string length per the Feiten adjustments, which generally are a little flat. It helps to have a (licensed, of course) electronic tuner to help you hit the targets.

Both these elements actually do make a lot of sense - it's not totally bull, although it also really doesn't matter to most players. And the system is licensed by a number of really elite luthiers like Tom Anderson and Mike Tobias. I don't know Tom Anderson, but I do know that Mike Tobias well enough to know that he's not paying anybody any money for nothing.

But there is a kind of bogus general flavor to the entire thing as well. The problem is that he's the system is a thinking man's solution to a complex problem that's hard to explain and difficult for most people to get their minds around. So, rather than try to talk about the real virtues of what they're doing, there's a lot of hand waving and mumbling. And, rather than actually figure out a mechanism for calculating what your targets are (which would NOT be patentable), the Feiten system calls out a specific set of intonation offsets and a specific nut displacement (which you can patent).

If you're enough of a gearhead to have gotten this far, then you immediately understand what the problem with the Feiten system is. Each string gauge, material, and design has different vibrating properties. You know this when you change string sets and have to reset your intonation. So, a standard set of offsets isn't really going to solve your problem - they are correct only for the exact guitar and strings that they were originally calculated for. Change anything, and you aren't really optimal anymore.

That said, if you earn your living between the 3rd and 9th fret, chances are a non-optimized Feiten setup may well be better than a standard setup.

This is kind of a financial thing. You can get a patent for the embodyment of an invention - in this case, you tweak intonation in a non-obvious way and get magically better results. In particular, if somebody copies your offsets without licensing your patent, you can go after them with the full force of the law. If Buzz had come up with at set of instructions about how to set up any specific guitar, he could get a copyright for the instructions, but there's no way he could sue a manufacturer who followed his instructions but didn't admit it.

So, the ultra gearheads who made it all to the end must be wondering if there's an "open source" solution to better intonation. And I believe that there is one that's pretty darn simple. You know that traditional intonation setup optimizes intonation in the middle of the neck. To get a perfect, optimized setup, what you want to do is set up your intonation in the area that you *actually* play in. For example, if you normally play around the 5th fret area, then your intonation procedure would be to tune the 5th fret harmonic (2 octaves up from the open string) is perfectly in tune, then adjust the bridge/string length until the open string is also in tune, repeating it incrementally until they match. Now, the intonation of notes fingered around the 5th fret will be more true and you'll get the benefit of improved sound with exactly your strings and instrument.

If you plug your traditionally-intonated instrument with fairly fresh strings into your tuner right now, hopefully you'll see that the open string and 12th harmonic match pitch. Now, play the 5th fret harmonic. Off by a couple of cents, right? And that's right where you play! This is the main problem that Feiten is trying to deal with.

If you play a lot of open chords, then there's no way to do the equivalent of the adjusted nut other than to have very low action across your neck. But again, the amount of nut shift really is dependent on the specifics of your equipment, not a fixed, cast-in-concrete shift per the Feiten system. I think this effect is fairly minor compared to the intonation adjustment.

Try it the next time you have some time. I'm not a good enough guitarist to notice the difference, but I am a good enough techie to crack the puzzle!

David Fung
bob
Senior Member
Username: bob

Post Number: 767
Registered: 11-2002
Posted on Wednesday, December 13, 2006 - 11:05 pm:   Edit Post

Great discussion, David, thanks. I've been wanting to say something here, but always a glass or two of wine too late... (but hey, why not).

I think you've touched on the key points.

Buzz gets slammed a lot on the patent issue, and my personal view is that it's a fair criticism. As an open source kind of guy, I'm particularly sensitive to patenting "concepts", or manipulating current US patent laws in a way that prevents (or leaches prohibitive costs from) other people trying to apply the concept.

It is not a magic, or perfect, solution. As you so clearly describe, shifting the nut position, differently for the various strings, helps with the intonation in some areas of the neck, but not all.

Yes, depending on what region of the neck you favor, you can simply adjust your intonation a little differently to make things sound better there. I'm not sure I've yet seen anyone describe this as well as you did, bravo.

It's also nice to see a reminder of the "end stiffness" effect, something that comes up here once in a while but quickly fades. As I believe you've mentioned before, it's particularly significant in regard to getting a good sound out of a low B string, but we never seem to really get into that.

The only thing I would add at this late hour, is that some of the Peterson strobe tuners offer a very slightly altered tuning, loosely based on similar principles (I believe they may pay a license fee to Buzz for this). You don't need a special nut, or even a different way of setting your intonation, but just by tuning a couple of strings *very* slightly sharp or flat, you end up with a much sweeter sound, especially on chords in lower positions with some open strings. I have only very limited experience with this (like an hour or so), but I think it relates to your last point. (I could be wrong, and they may advise a different intonation procedure, but I don't think so).

Thanks for your time in explaining this.
-Bob
lbpesq
Senior Member
Username: lbpesq

Post Number: 1871
Registered: 7-2004
Posted on Wednesday, December 13, 2006 - 11:14 pm:   Edit Post

David:

Thanks for the post. It's the first time I've read a coherent explanation of the Feiten system that wasn't steeped in voodoo and mumbo-jumbo.

Bill, tgo
adriaan
Senior Member
Username: adriaan

Post Number: 1181
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Thursday, December 14, 2006 - 1:34 am:   Edit Post

Bob, I remember you mentioned tuning strings slightly sharp earlier on. On a bass, the quick way to tune is of course to match the 5th fret harmonic on E with the 7th on the A, until the wobbling goes away, etc. But after you've done the G string, the G string is slightly flat compared to the E string.

Harmonics just aren't perfect - perhaps caused by the "end stiffness". And it's more noticeable when you play chords. One thing I do notice is electronic pianos and fretted bass don't match up too well in the same range. Yes, I know - they work with heavily processed samples - but still ...
jorge_s
Intermediate Member
Username: jorge_s

Post Number: 107
Registered: 8-2002
Posted on Thursday, December 14, 2006 - 5:49 am:   Edit Post

David: Thank you so much for your post. You have very good points and thanks for explaining it so clearly. You hit the nail on the head when you state how this makes a difference primarily in the first frets where chords have a combination of open and fretted strings. I used to hate playing and A chord in the lower frets. It would seem that every other chord sounded ok except the A.

When I converted my acoustic to the Feiten system (a compensated nut, compensated saddle, and a Peterson tuner) I felt I could play any chord in tune. Snake oil? Placebo effect? Yes perhaps but I assure you I will not be putting the old nut and saddle back on.

I donít notice much difference on my electric. But like you stated, the pitch depends on string stiffness, action/set-up, and the amount of pressure used to fret the string.

The reason I even brought this up in the first place is that a short while back I purchased a guitar from the very fine luthier Ulrich Teuffel. His guitars are very unique. When I received the guitar I was pleasantly surprised that used a compensated nut. It is not something he advertises. Itís just the way he makes them. I do have an Alembic on order and I just wanted to know if anyone had inquired about this option before. (Or if it is even an option). Thank you again for your posts.
adriaan
Senior Member
Username: adriaan

Post Number: 1184
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Thursday, December 14, 2006 - 6:24 am:   Edit Post

Compensated nut - like the one on Music Man basses?

Yamaha came up with a short "bend" on a couple of the lower frets, underneath the G or B string, making the fretted note slightly flat or sharp (can't remember which way it was).
cozmik_cowboy
Junior
Username: cozmik_cowboy

Post Number: 50
Registered: 10-2006
Posted on Thursday, December 14, 2006 - 6:35 am:   Edit Post

As I understand it, Bob, the Feiten temper in the Peterson (and other) tuners is designed to go with the Feiten nut & saddle (or, for electric, intonation variation) - neither will work right without the other. Could be wrong, though - it's been a few years since I read his site.

Peter
bob
Senior Member
Username: bob

Post Number: 769
Registered: 11-2002
Posted on Thursday, December 14, 2006 - 10:45 am:   Edit Post

Peter, after digging out my manual, I think we're both right but I wasn't very clear.

Some Petersons offer a proprietary temperament called GTR (and a similar one called BAS), to be used with standard tunings, nuts, and intonation procedures, that "improves the 4th and 5th intervals and makes a sweeter sound when fretting chords". In this case they tell you to set intonation using EQUal temperament, then tune using GTR.

They also have separate sections about setting intonation, and tuning, when using either the BF or Earvana systems. In these cases, it is indeed a "package deal" as you say.

Lots of interesting stuff here. I also re-read the section on setting intonation (without special nuts or anything), in which they suggest an alternative to the usual "compare the 12th fret note and harmonic" - you instead adjust the bridge saddles until the notes (not harmonics) at the 5th and 17th frets are both in tune.

As fascinating as this stuff is, it just makes me happier all the time to not have frets...
tom_z
Senior Member
Username: tom_z

Post Number: 480
Registered: 7-2004
Posted on Thursday, December 14, 2006 - 10:52 am:   Edit Post

Here's another perspective on adjusting to the peculiarities of fretted instruments of equal temper.

http://www.guitarplayer.com/story.asp?sectioncode=7&storycode=11780

Peace
Tom
lbpesq
Senior Member
Username: lbpesq

Post Number: 1875
Registered: 7-2004
Posted on Thursday, December 14, 2006 - 12:34 pm:   Edit Post

I've always set intonation by matching the open string note and the 12th fret note. It sounds like I may be doing something wrong. Am I?

Bill, tgo
bob
Senior Member
Username: bob

Post Number: 771
Registered: 11-2002
Posted on Thursday, December 14, 2006 - 12:52 pm:   Edit Post

No, Bill, that's the usual technique (and all I've ever done).

This other technique was suggested as perhaps offering better results, but being a real pain to accomplish. In theory, you end up with two areas of the neck that are really close, instead of just one that is essentially perfect. I just thought it was interesting, not particularly tempting.
bigredbass
Senior Member
Username: bigredbass

Post Number: 1089
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Sunday, December 17, 2006 - 10:39 am:   Edit Post

OK, so I read all this and later I change strings on the BigRedBass. Shine up the frets, lemon oil, the whole drill. String it up, double check the neck relief, bridge height, etc.

So at the end I'm checking the 12th fret harmonic/fretted note comparison, get that synched up . . . and then, well let's double check it at the 24th fret. Geez . . . these need to be fine tuned as well! I had no idea.

Now, it sounds MORE in tune than I remember. Am I hearing things?

J o e y
davehouck
Moderator
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 4633
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Sunday, December 17, 2006 - 5:49 pm:   Edit Post

David wrote "if you're enough of a gearhead to have gotten this far". In my case it's more because I just enjoy reading your posts!
bob
Senior Member
Username: bob

Post Number: 775
Registered: 11-2002
Posted on Sunday, December 17, 2006 - 10:12 pm:   Edit Post

Joey - after you did the 24th, was the 12th still good? I'm guessing the answer is yes, and the 24th just helped you fine tune it a little, but I've never tried this.
bigredbass
Senior Member
Username: bigredbass

Post Number: 1091
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Monday, December 18, 2006 - 6:53 pm:   Edit Post

Actually Bob, I DID think to go back to the twelfth after I did the 24's (and not all of them were 'out'). Two of them required touching up. I then began chiming the third octave harmonic only to realize . . . there was no fretted note to compare . . . dduuhhhhh. But if I EVER get a 36 fret bass, it's at the top of my list.

J o e y

J o e y
bob
Senior Member
Username: bob

Post Number: 776
Registered: 11-2002
Posted on Monday, December 18, 2006 - 10:23 pm:   Edit Post

Not to drag this out interminably, but...

I'm skeptical about the value of checking the harmonic/fretted at the 24th, because (a) it is very difficult to fret up there in an accurate and repeatable way and (b) any possible inaccuracies resulting from fret spacing, true scale length, bridge height, blahblahblah, are going to be exaggerated up here, and not terribly relevant to playing in more normal positions.

If it did help (which I can believe), it may be more that it encouraged you to listen more carefully and spend a little more time at the 12th :-)

My guess is it would be more effective to find some harmonic you could use to compare with a fretted note closer to the 5-7 fret range. But I can't ever remember which harmonics are "off", and I'm too lazy to investigate (especially since I don't have any frets).

However, I will say that the Guitar Player article referenced above was quite interesting, and I'm intrigued enough just to train my ears that I may pull out my old guitar and run through the exercises.

-Bob
811952
Senior Member
Username: 811952

Post Number: 949
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Tuesday, January 16, 2007 - 6:44 am:   Edit Post

In my opinion the Buzz Feiten tuning system only works on instruments that are otherwise poorly setup and/or played ham-fisted-ly (a new word?). ;) Unless you're playing everything in the same key, equal-temperment is your friend. You've got the power to play the notes *in tune* right at your fingertips. That's why the best "blue" notes are the ones that took some bending to reach (as opposed to simply fretting them). I cringe at the notion of having my choice of preferred key built into the instrument any more so than it already is...

John (I'll be nicer after I've had some coffee)

Topics | Last Day | Last Week | Tree View | Search | Help/Instructions | Program Credits Administration