Post Number: 40
|Posted on Friday, January 16, 2004 - 7:31 pm: |
When do you know you need new frets? I have my neck pretty straight(slight bow) and my G string will fret out at 12th and up. The A and D strings are riding high and the E is good.
Post Number: 123
|Posted on Friday, January 16, 2004 - 11:28 pm: |
I should probably stay out of this one, since I don't have frets...
But I used to play "regular" guitar (you know, the one with the funny tuning?), and just last week I looked at the neck under a large magnifier. I happen to have one of these cool things on a flexible arm, with a large lens and circular fluorescent light, which I was using to cut down the nut slots on my bass.
Anyway, I was astounded to see that most of the (original) frets on my '63 guitar were almost totally flat - really flat, like a 1/16 inch flat spot on the lower ones, and only the 24th still looked round. The funny thing is, it still plays like a dream, presumably because the wear is nice and even. I don't play it much anymore, but I have a friend who comes over and after the first few times he stopped bringing his own new Telecaster.
(Keep in mind that it's late, I'm feeling talkative, and just making this up as I go along. I'm sure others will chime in with more practical experience.)
In theory, I can imagine that the advantage to having nicely rounded frets is that if they do happen to come into contact with the strings, there will be a smaller surface to generate buzz. But it seems to me if they are all nice and even, and your neck is accurately set up, then flat or round isn't likely to make much difference. Then again, some people seem to be into jumbo frets, or mandolin frets, so there's undoubtedly something else going on here that I don't comprehend.
But nevertheless, point one: use a magnifier or something and look at them closely. If they have obviously flattened tops, or look chewed up or uneven, then it might be time. On the other hand, if your frets don't look grossly different on the G side, then you may have a different problem...
Point two: it might be your neck setup, and not the frets. I can't quite tell how you're comparing the A/D to the E, but I could interpret you to be saying that the G is bad, A/D okay, and E great. That might suggest that the neck is slightly twisted, and you need more relief on one side than the other.
Somehow or other, I stumbled onto some setup instructions by Gary Willis the other day (I'm not sure I even know who he is, but let that go). I'd never heard this before, but he suggested that to test your relief, just lower the bridge a little. Then,
- if you get buzz only above the 12th fret, you have too much bow.
- if you get buzz only in the first five frets, then your neck is too straight.
- if you get buzz evenly up and down the neck, then your relief is set right and you should just raise your bridge again.
(I believe that nut height also plays a role in the first few frets, but I don't think he mentions that.)
I've not yet experimented with this technique myself, but it makes some sense. In your case, it would suggest that you should tighten the truss rod on the G side a little - try an 1/8 turn tighter and see what happens.
And/or maybe just raise that side of the bridge a tweak. Might postpone a fret job, who knows. But the simple answer is, take a close look at your frets, if you want to figure out whether they're worn down, especially on one side.
Post Number: 25
|Posted on Tuesday, January 20, 2004 - 10:44 pm: |
The short answer is that you need new frets when your existing frets can't be machined to give you the action you want.
The longer answer is that getting proper action is a balance of your strings, your neck, your truss rod settings, the fingerboard, and the frets. Your strings apply tension that will bow the neck; your truss rods allow you to compensate for that tension. In a perfect world, the fingerboard should have been levelled in such a way that the frets would all be the same height both from fret to fret and across the fret from high string to low. In practice, it's rare that the fingerboard is that perfect, but those imperfections can usually be compensated for in the frets. If the fret levelling was done right, then the surface presented across the tops of the frets should be just perfect.
If a high area developed in a part of the fingerboard or neck, you can definitely fix the problem by pulling all the frets, releveling the fingerboard, refretting, and redressing the frets. If the problem wasn't that serious, you might be able to have it corrected by having frets in the high zone filed down to give the proper resultant height (as if the neck problem weren't there). Obviously, that costs less and is less intrusive. But these filed frets will have less "meat" remaining, and if there's excessive string wear in this area or the bump gets worse, you may not have any fret left to correct the problem. Then you need to refret.
Bob's advice is pretty good; I think you need to make sure the neck setup is right before addressing the problems in the frets. The test for straightness and action would be to fret your G string at the highest and lowest frets, then look at the space between the string and the fret tops. There shouldn't be any contact between frets and strings. You should strive for a small gap that's biggest at the 12th fret and grows progressively smaller out to the ends. If you have contact with the frets on the G side, but not the E side, then you need to loosen the G side truss rod slightly (bob mentions tightening that truss rod which will make the problem worse). If the gaps aren't even then you really do need to have the frets milled, but this won't necessitate fret replacement.
Post Number: 131
|Posted on Tuesday, January 20, 2004 - 11:57 pm: |
Nice to see you back, David, it's been a while (and I owe you a big thanks regarding ebony neck lams, but we'll get to that another time).
I don't in any way mean to sound defensive here - we're all trying to learn, sometimes our writing isn't as clear as it might be, and so forth. You're right, of course, that if he has buzz on the G string above the 12th fret, and simply tightens the truss rod to make the neck straighter on that side, it's going to get worse. Absolutely.
However... suppose he tightens the truss rod on that side, and then also raises that side of the bridge just a tweak? (I didn't say that, of course, but it was sort of implied by the Willis method.) If he's really not getting any buzz below the 12th, then it seems to me that he must already have a fair amount of relief, and he's getting the buzz as it "comes back up" on the higher end of the neck.
Or to take a more experimental approach, first raise the G side of the bridge a little and see if the upper fret buzz goes away. If so, then see if you can get away with straightening the neck on that side a little, and you'll end up better overall.
Does that make sense, or am I just further confusing the issue?
Post Number: 40
|Posted on Friday, January 23, 2004 - 4:26 pm: |
I had to do major adjustments to my SC Deluxe because I bought it used and it had not been properly cared for. It is a beautiful bass - no damage just some neglect. I can offer the following:
1. Make adjustments in small increments and let the neck settle out before deciding if it was enough or not.
2. In my experience adjusting only the truss rarely fixes a set up issue. it is almost always required that you adjust the bridge as well because the string height will change when the truss is adjusted.
3. The procedure noted in a post above (the Gary Willis method for checking neck bow) does work and is a very easy and quick way to determine which way your neck is out. It is particulary handy method for Alembics because you can raise and lower all strings with one bridge adjustment.
4. Another rule of thumb is to use a standard Fender heavy pick as a feeler gauge. It should slip between all frets and strings with contact but no resistance. A credit card is fairly close as well.
I have managed to get my bass neck almost perfectly straight with just a hint of forward bow. This is important because the straighter the neck the more accurate the notes are in tune for the whole neck. The tuning is impacted if there is bow one way or the other. either the tuning above the 12th fret will suffer or the reverse will be true if bow is backward. The tuning will always be off ever so slightly on frets 1 and 2 due to the mathmatics of the note spacing. This is undetectable to everyone I know as long as the neck is properly adjusted.
The one thing that had me a little concerned when adjusting my bass neck was the 2 truss rod setup. I was concerned about getting the same torq on both rods. It is a matter of feel. I was concerned about introducing a twist in the neck. Again, make small adjustments. I ended up having to put almost 1.5 - 2 full turns on each truss - but the truss nuts on my bass were completely loose to the point of rattling.
It is worth the time to make the adjustments. In my case I made the adjustments over a 4 or 5 day period.
(Message edited by musikill on January 25, 2004)
Post Number: 26
|Posted on Wednesday, January 28, 2004 - 12:50 am: |
bob - Sorry I blurted something out and disappeared... With your additional posting, I understand what you were getting at with regard to the reducing relief. First off, as both you and musikill mention, I would also agree that bridge height adjustment is a part of the regular setup routine. Because Alembics are through body instruments, I think it's pretty rare for the bridge height to be something you'll be tweaking at any time outside of initial setup, while (for me at least) relief is something that I would check/trim on every string change, like checking intonation.
The role of the relief in a guitar's neck is quite simple - when you hit a string, the greatest amplitude of motion of the string will always be halfway between wherever your fretting and the bridge. If the neck is perfectly straight, then for most notes on the neck (up to the 18th fret on a 24 fret instrument) that point of maximum motion will be over the fingerboard and frets. If you always pluck your strings so they vibrate exactly in parallel with the face of instrument, then relief is not an issue. But most humans don't play exactly parallel to the instrument, so there's some component of the vibration that brings the string closer to the frets. The purpose of the relief is to allow a little extra clearance for this non-parallel string motion. I play pretty hard, so I will need a fairly pronounced relief to not buzz.
You can affect the action with a bridge height adjustment, but these changes are not equivalent. The kind of coordinated change that you mention (reduce relief, raise bridge height) will work for a small range of adjustment, but as you raise the bridge more, you will increase the height of the action across the neck (especially in the high register)and also cause the playing height to increase as you go higher on the neck, both changes that may reduce the playability. If you can make the proper relief changes in the neck, then you want to set the bridge height such that the playing height is roughly the same anywhere on the string.
From an intonation standpoint, I would agree (theoretically) that a neck with proper relief won't be as accurate as a dead-flat neck, but the difference is so miniscule (1/16" relief in a 34" string) as to be undetectable. By the time that intonation was getting affected in an audible manner, you'd have to be talking about a fairly ridiculous amount of bow. One of the foundations of the Buzz Feiten Tuning System is a set of tuning adjustments that supposedly are compensating for string action and neck relief. I have a hard time believing that this makes any difference at all, but you should take Mike Tobias' word over mine (all MTDs have Feiten setups).
Gary Willis' music is definitely not my cup of tea, but he's well known as a technical player and clinician as well as musician. He plays very light strings, with very low action and a very straight neck, so his mechanism of intonation check doesn't suprise me. I definitely can't play on a setup like this. If you've seen instruments with a wooden "ramp" that basically raises the space between the neck pick up and neck pocket to pickup height, you're looking at another Gary Willis bass mod.
I should have been more clear in my original posting. To check relief and fret height, hold down the string at the first and last fret *simultaneously*. This is the easiest way to visualize the neck relief and basically what the Willis link you cited says to do.
I'm surprised at the suggestion to lower the bridge. You will have to do this a significant amount to create the effect he describes (it will only happen when unfretted), which will throw the playing action setup completely off from where you were. Again, he's playing with a super-low action, but I'd be surprised if he could cause buzzes to appear without many turns of the bridge height adjusters.
Finally, musikill expresses some concern about balancing torque on the dual truss rods. Although radically different tensions will cause a twist (and horrible playability), matching the number of turns certainly doesn't matter, as you're just offsetting the tension of the strings which may not be matched across the neck anyway.
Post Number: 978
|Posted on Wednesday, January 28, 2004 - 1:18 am: |
long time no see!
Great info again here (again a proof of relativity in names: you are junior and I am almost retiring LOL).
About plucking strings so they vibrate parallel with the neck.
I dunno if that is technical possible but I noticed a weird difference in my playing that reveals the existance of that influence. Thanks to you, Bob, Joey and so many others I managed to set Bonnie on a fairly low action that suits me well (some people will call her "unplayable". Brother Jan the River one had some problems when he played her at the First ABC-meeting. There was quite a difference in playing his Marylin and my Bonnie).
Now about this weird thing: when I play standing up there is a minor and controllable/acceptable fret buzz, when I play sitting down and hold Bonnie more "laying back" there is a hellufa buzzing. So I guess this has to do with bass-position, ergo playing hand position, ergo string amplitude direction.
Paul the bad one
Post Number: 137
|Posted on Thursday, January 29, 2004 - 12:12 am: |
The simple answer for you, I think, is that when you sit down, lay back, and play, you are probably wrapping the bass around your body. That straightens the neck, and since you already have it close to unplayable, you get more buzz.
No matter how solid these things feel, and despite the thru-neck and fancy laminates, the neck still bends. In fact, if you are getting really fussy about setting up for low action (a good thing, in my mind) you need to be quite conscious of this. For instance, if you lay your bass flat on a table and use your feeler gauges to measure the relief, you'll probably get a different number than if you measure it while sitting upright in a stand, or in playing position.
When it's laying on the table, is only the body supported (neck hanging in space over the edge)? Or do you prop the neck up with another pad of some sort, to be more secure and avoid scratching? I can easily measure a difference of 5-10 thousandths of an inch of relief between these two cases. And since I'm shooting for a relief of less than .010, that's a big deal. But as long as you understand that - and you're consistent - then you can manage it.
Another problem (or maybe it's a good thing?) is that "gravity sucks". If you have a really sensitive tuner, you can hold your bass by the body with the strings parallel to the floor, and if you rotate the bass so the strings are either on top or on bottom, they'll go sharp or flat - just from the weight of the neck and peghead causing the neck to sag.
But I doubt that you're laying flat on your back... Most likely, when you sit you have the body securely wedged between your leg and your arm, and if you lean back just a little the natural tendency is for your fretting hand to pull down on the neck. You can figure this out by experimenting for a minute or two - sit up straight and be careful to only "squeeze" the neck between your fingers and thumb, instead of pulling on it, and see if that makes a difference.
I think we both have a pretty clear understanding of how this works, and I generally agree with everything you've said.
In particular, I suspect that the Willis method is better suited to players with a light touch, looking for really low action, and perhaps especially for fretless. As you say, the "coordinated change" of reducing relief and raising bridge height only works in a very small range - once you get beyond that range, then you would generally prefer to increase relief and not raise the bridge further. Agreed.
As I said, I just stumbled onto this approach recently, and since I play fretless and play with a light ("though deliberate", he says defensively) touch, I decided to give it a try last weekend, and it happened to work out very nicely. I ended up with slightly less relief, and the bridge was a little lower. I also feel like I got both sides of the neck closer to optimum than ever before. All of this was in addition to the fact that I had just filed down my nut slots by close to .005, which should have made things a bit more sensitive.
(However, let me be the first to point out that I'm still getting used to this instrument, my touch is evolving, and maybe I would have arrived at the same setup by other techniques.)
Until now, my approach had always been to start by setting the relief close to where I think it should be, and then playing around with both bridge height and relief until I was satisfied. Now, i have enough experience in doing this that it's pretty intuitive and usually goes pretty quickly. But at the same time, I recognize that if I have a buzz (or think I could safely go lower), then I have to make a decision about whether to adjust the bridge or the relief. The interesting thing about this approach is that you eliminate that conundrum, and do one first, then the other.
You are correct that you have to lower the bridge a *lot*, as I recall it was more than a full turn on each side of the bridge, maybe one and a half. This is way out of playing position, but it's also quite interesting when the strings are that close to the neck - I confirmed a teensy little high spot just above the 7th fret on the G string, and I imagine you could also get a good sense of how true your frets are this way.
Okay, I'll admit that when I was supposedly "done", I did go back and tweak one of the truss rods a tiny bit (less than 1/8 turn), but at least in my case, I'm encouraged that this is a generally effective method, and I'll definitely try it a couple more times.
So oujee, you started this mess... what's the story? We're not looking for you to say that anyone is right or wrong here - we don't even seem to be disagreeing - but I'm curious to know whether you've figured out your situation?
Post Number: 981
|Posted on Thursday, January 29, 2004 - 1:39 am: |
Moder Mica or Val, I think there will come a time that you Alembicians can edit a "how to take care of my new bass" handbook -coming with a new Alembic purchase- out of these threads.
Paul the bad one
Post Number: 109
|Posted on Friday, January 30, 2004 - 4:13 am: |
The Spoiler that I just bought second-hand came with very low action, and the neck is as straight as an arrow: if I press the string against both the first and the last fret, there is no distance between the string and any of the frets that you can see with your bare eye. However, if I slide one of the fingers towards the other, I do hear a nice chromatic progression, so the string isn;t being muted.
Sure, this setup produces plenty of rattles, but they are avoidable if you play with a light touch - and I find I can do some of those Mark King riffs that never really came out on other basses!
For normal use, the string rattles are just too frequent, so what should I do - raise the bridge, or loosen the truss rods a bit?
Post Number: 45
|Posted on Monday, February 02, 2004 - 5:25 pm: |
The action sounds to be a bit too low. I would loosen the truss ever so slightly as well as raise the bridge a pinch. you may also want to adjust the nut a little bit. I say again - a little bit. none of these adjustments should be dramatic - I would look at making all three adjustments but remember: Less is more and you are only off by a small amount in my opinion.
Post Number: 113
|Posted on Tuesday, February 03, 2004 - 3:41 am: |
Thanks for the suggestion. I was afraid it would involve making minute adjustments, so I'd better get a hold on some decent tools for this.
Next up will be my Epic, which I suspect has too little tension on the trussrods since it was defretted. The main problem on the Epic is that there's barely enough room between bridge and tailpiece to insert an inbus key to adjust the intonation. This may be due to the fact that the bridge is leaning over backwards, which seems a bit unusual (has been like this since the day I bought it in 94). The posts are definitely not bent: I can raise or lower the bridge without a problem.
Post Number: 47
|Posted on Tuesday, February 03, 2004 - 1:19 pm: |
All you will need is a couple sizes of allen wrenches, a small open end wrench, and a small phillips screw driver for the pickups in the event you need to adjust the height. I think all of the allen key adjustments can be made with the 2 allen wrenches. Take your time and make small adjustments. Truss adjustments should be made over the course of two or three days so that the neck has time to settle in to the new position. This of course applies only if you do not get the neck where you want it on the first small adjustment. It is easy to do and you will feel more confident making future adjustments after doing it once. You can save a few $ if you can do this yourself.