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Did our vintage Fender heroes just use higher set-ups?

MikeVB

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
7,518
I understand that 7.25" fingerboards fret out on bends up the neck unless the action is sufficiently high. It's just physics. I just ordered a used Road Worn 50s Strat, so I'm just curious.

So, were the set-ups just higher back in the day on the vintage Fenders played by Clapton, Gilmore, Garcia, Beck, SRV etc, etc. as opposed to average set-ups since the 80s? Those dudes certainly shredded up the neck and rarely seemed to have intonation issues which is a problem I've noticed with higher actions.

I've always used a little higher than other players as I have trouble grabbing the strings for bending if it's too low. But I feel like I'm leaving a little shred'ability on the table if you will. I'm in a rural area with no practical access to legitimate luthier talent.
 

Tone_Terrific

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
32,176
Some had work done to install larger frets and flatten the radius.
Perfect frets and a good setup can retain decent playability.
Try you preferred action and see if you have a problem.
 

VaughnC

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
17,756
You have to consider that Strats came out in 1954 and bending strings wasn't much of a consideration. So we adapted as best we could...and I still prefer 7.25...but I'm not a crazy bender. But I think bending is overdone...it should be the icing, not the cake.
 

tamader74

Member
Messages
3,679
You have to consider that Strats came out in 1954 and bending strings wasn't much of a consideration. So we adapted as best we could...and I still prefer 7.25...but I'm not a crazy bender. But I think bending is overdone...it should be the icing, not the cake.
THIS,...I also prefer that good old 'feel' of the 7.25 radius...as when I play certain songs that require some traditional made note's to get the/'That' sound/tone that the Barre chord for it 'just ain't good enough',...I find, on my Stratocaster's for sure, 7.25 id simply more comfortable to me,...

...I know it's because I've been playing forever, and 'Old Dogs' like me don't take to certain new tricks very well may have something to do with it,...AND/OR I play Telecaster's a ton more than my Strat.'s, which when I play Country, Classic or Southern Rock I do tend to 'bend' a tad more, and that good 7.25 radius is as prefect as hot Milk gravy is to Biscuit's as my Grandma & pa used to say when something was just,...

...'Right'. I have 4 Fender guitars with this radius, 3 Tele.'s and a Strat., I WAS going to find one more before they get priced outta' sight coming shortly, then I thought about it and told myself to settle down (LOL), if Fender 'smells' they're losing a piece of that profit (or to much of a piece I should say), they will find a way to make a 'Special Run' to get a piece of the 7.25 market.

VaughnC is right in his assessment of there being way to much 'bending' on most modern song's performed not only by certain recording Artist,...but Damn near every Cover Band (one of the things Jack Black was attempting to make a point about in his Movie 'School of Rock',...that and extending Solo's past anything known as Common Sense...LMAO with that one and Shallow Hal),...

...I've even started to change my Sirius station when a new Brad Paisley song comes on...a guy that SO wanted to be a Rock Star. Tom
 

MikeVB

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
7,518
I appreciate your contributions to the discussion fellas. But I was more interested in the set-ups of the guitar gods mentioned in my OP when they were playing vintage Strats in the late 60s and 70s. Maybe I missed some sarcasm, but complaining about "too much bending" makes me wonder if you listened to and played the kind of music I'm referring to above. Gilmore, Clapton, Beck, etc were certainly bending the hell out of everything all over the neck waaay before these modern whippersnappers came along.
 

billyguitar

Member
Messages
5,224
I first saw vintage guitars in about 1971. I could never figure out how anyone played the 7.25 radius guitars so I never bought any. I think the first new electric guitar i ever bought was my Travis Bean that I bought in 75 or so. Flat radius. That's what I still want, as flat as possible.
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
37,782
So, were the set-ups just higher back in the day on the vintage Fenders played by Clapton, Gilmore, Garcia, Beck, SRV etc,
SRV was a good 15 years later and kind of an outlier as far as setups were concerned (modding his strats for big frets, using ridiculously big strings)

as far as i can tell the '60s/70s british rock guys mostly just used really thin strings, like 9s or even 8s, so slightly higher action and the small frets of those vintage (just "old" at the time) guitars wasn't an issue.
 

HTSMetal

Member
Messages
1,319
I understand that 7.25" fingerboards fret out on bends up the neck unless the action is sufficiently high. It's just physics.
I don't agree with this at all, and I hear it all the time. My favorite Strat has smaller, vintage-sized fretwire and a 7.25" radius, and with action lower than most of my other modern guitars it doesn't fret out at all. Not even with step and a half bends! If the frets are properly leveled and crowned and the guitar is setup correctly from nut to bridge, there's no type of technique that won't work on a neck with a 7.25" radius with quite low action.
 

KGWagner

Member
Messages
3,241
If the frets are properly leveled and crowned and the guitar is setup correctly from nut to bridge, there's no type of technique that won't work on a neck with a 7.25" radius with quite low action.
I can believe that. The older guitars that would have that radius were often not set up well at all. Fender has never been a high-precision builder, and even on newer units with better QC there's a surprising number of players who never have their necks done properly. Doesn't take much to get strings boinking out, and the tighter radius certainly doesn't help that.
 

kimock

Member
Messages
12,524
I understand that 7.25" fingerboards fret out on bends up the neck unless the action is sufficiently high. It's just physics. I just ordered a used Road Worn 50s Strat, so I'm just curious.

So, were the set-ups just higher back in the day on the vintage Fenders played by Clapton, Gilmore, Garcia, Beck, SRV etc, etc. as opposed to average set-ups since the 80s? Those dudes certainly shredded up the neck and rarely seemed to have intonation issues which is a problem I've noticed with higher actions.

I've always used a little higher than other players as I have trouble grabbing the strings for bending if it's too low. But I feel like I'm leaving a little shred'ability on the table if you will. I'm in a rural area with no practical access to legitimate luthier talent.
I don’t think it’s a “vintage fender hero” issue so much as a practical matter of having a guitar that works onstage wrt dynamic input sufficient to pulling a sound from the guitar.
You can’t have Super-low/super-light action without sacrificing something in the trade-off.
Some of that will be restricted dynamic range, some of it will be be restriction in how far you can deflect the string.

It’s more of a technique issue than anything else as far as bending the strings is concerned, the diff in action height between playability with no issues and hitting a wall wrt to right hand input or extent of deflection isn’t much, if anything.
I remember very clearly struggling to set my guitar up to allow bending a whole step from the 5th or 6th fret on the high E when I was 20 years old with an .009.
Fast forward forty years, it’s not an issue.
Same strings, same action, same guitar, if I want a minor third from the 2nd fret I just play it, in spite of it being unimaginable to my youthful self.

It just took a while to learn to hold onto the string.
Set-up and/or string gauge regardless of radius vs efficiency of technique.
It’ll beat you up to a point, and then eventually you beat it.

One of my fave guys on TGP, WalterW, who is awesome btw, has the notion you can’t bend a wound third a whole step. Just as matter of physics, it’s stupid, and he’s kinda right but somewhere along the way I’ve figured out how to bend a .028w on a Strat scale length a whole step.
I can bend a wound 3rd a whole step at concert pitch on fretless guitar at this point, which is kind of pointless but it would have been an unimaginable move 40 years ago.

The point is the relative playability of the set-up, whatever it is, is a function of technique, and your technique will develop over time to do whatever’s required.
Heavy strings, light strings, radius, action height, whatever, stick with it and keep trying and eventually you’ll get what you need regardless.
It’s not the guitar, it’s you. That’s ok. Just have to be patient and keep putting yourself in situations where you have to make it work and eventually you’ll make it work whatever it is.

I really don’t think it’s the kind of thing you’d ever accomplish sitting home shredding, but if you’re in “pants down around your ankles” mode in a rock band onstage, believe me it’ll come sooner or later because you don’t really have a choice. You have to figure it out.

Do this to accomplish that type trip. That’s what you’re hearing with the “Fender hero” guys, it’s just technique sufficient to overcome technical obstacles as a matter of necessity.
Anybody could do it if that's what they needed to do.
They did. That’s all you need to know, so can you.
 
Messages
652
One little secret on the subject of action and radius is that you can get the action a tiny bit lower on a floating trem bridge than a hard tail or blocked trem!

How so?

When you bend a string, and the bridge tips forward, it effectively raises the saddle a little, giving some extra clearance!
 

MikeVB

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
7,518
I don’t think it’s a “vintage fender hero” issue so much as a practical matter of having a guitar that works onstage wrt dynamic input sufficient to pulling a sound from the guitar.
You can’t have Super-low/super-light action without sacrificing something in the trade-off.
Some of that will be restricted dynamic range, some of it will be be restriction in how far you can deflect the string.

It’s more of a technique issue than anything else as far as bending the strings is concerned, the diff in action height between playability with no issues and hitting a wall wrt to right hand input or extent of deflection isn’t much, if anything.
I remember very clearly struggling to set my guitar up to allow bending a whole step from the 5th or 6th fret on the high E when I was 20 years old with an .009.
Fast forward forty years, it’s not an issue.
Same strings, same action, same guitar, if I want a minor third from the 2nd fret I just play it, in spite of it being unimaginable to my youthful self.

It just took a while to learn to hold onto the string.
Set-up and/or string gauge regardless of radius vs efficiency of technique.
It’ll beat you up to a point, and then eventually you beat it.

One of my fave guys on TGP, WalterW, who is awesome btw, has the notion you can’t bend a wound third a whole step. Just as matter of physics, it’s stupid, and he’s kinda right but somewhere along the way I’ve figured out how to bend a .028w on a Strat scale length a whole step.
I can bend a wound 3rd a whole step at concert pitch on fretless guitar at this point, which is kind of pointless but it would have been an unimaginable move 40 years ago.

The point is the relative playability of the set-up, whatever it is, is a function of technique, and your technique will develop over time to do whatever’s required.
Heavy strings, light strings, radius, action height, whatever, stick with it and keep trying and eventually you’ll get what you need regardless.
It’s not the guitar, it’s you. That’s ok. Just have to be patient and keep putting yourself in situations where you have to make it work and eventually you’ll make it work whatever it is.

I really don’t think it’s the kind of thing you’d ever accomplish sitting home shredding, but if you’re in “pants down around your ankles” mode in a rock band onstage, believe me it’ll come sooner or later because you don’t really have a choice. You have to figure it out.

Do this to accomplish that type trip. That’s what you’re hearing with the “Fender hero” guys, it’s just technique sufficient to overcome technical obstacles as a matter of necessity.
Anybody could do it if that's what they needed to do.
They did. That’s all you need to know, so can you.
Steve, I always appreciate and learn from your posts as much as listening to your music. But I have to disagree a little, although we may hold the same core understanding.

I've played guitar for 40 years (and banjo, mandolin, bass, and some fiddle), gigged in a variety of genres and bands, and certainly recognize the importance of varied and constantly improving technique. But you can't escape geometry on an instrument. But, given the same input energy and vector of the right hand, if you have two identical guitars except Guitar R has less radius than Guitar F then you just cannot move a string as far laterally (or in pitch) on GR as you can on GF before the greater curve of the fingerboard gets in the way of the string. To say otherwise is like saying you've trained your eyes to be able to see the sunrise earlier because you've learned to see around the curvature of the Earth.
 

MikeVB

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
7,518
One little secret on the subject of action and radius is that you can get the action a tiny bit lower on a floating trem bridge than a hard tail or blocked trem!

How so?

When you bend a string, and the bridge tips forward, it effectively raises the saddle a little, giving some extra clearance!
Right. Given all else being equal it's basic geometry.
 

MikeVB

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
7,518
SRV was a good 15 years later and kind of an outlier as far as setups were concerned (modding his strats for big frets, using ridiculously big strings)

as far as i can tell the '60s/70s british rock guys mostly just used really thin strings, like 9s or even 8s, so slightly higher action and the small frets of those vintage (just "old" at the time) guitars wasn't an issue.
Yeah, SRV isn't a good example.
 

kimock

Member
Messages
12,524
Steve, I always appreciate and learn from your posts as much as listening to your music. But I have to disagree a little, although we may hold the same core understanding.

I've played guitar for 40 years (and banjo, mandolin, bass, and some fiddle), gigged in a variety of genres and bands, and certainly recognize the importance of varied and constantly improving technique. But you can't escape geometry on an instrument. But, given the same input energy and vector of the right hand, if you have two identical guitars except Guitar R has less radius than Guitar F then you just cannot move a string as far laterally (or in pitch) on GR as you can on GF before the greater curve of the fingerboard gets in the way of the string. To say otherwise is like saying you've trained your eyes to be able to see the sunrise earlier because you've learned to see around the curvature of the Earth.
Mike, you are 100% correct and I apologize for not making my point more clearly.

What I was trying to say is if the set-up’s light and low enough to fret out against the radius, it’s too low to avoid smacking the frets as a result of string excursion on the attack anyway.
You need a little clearance to allow the guitar to speak whether you’re bending the string or not, and the diff in action between a set-up that works well enough all around and one that doesn’t is negligible.

I always have one or two guitars set shred low and light to amuse myself with at home, they just don’t translate well on stage. A teeny bit more height or a gauge up and they’re back in the ballpark.
 

mike shaw

Member
Messages
2,212
But...... When you bend a string and the tremors pulls up, the pitch of the string flattens, so you have to bend more. This increases the angle of the string across the fret which causes more buzz.
 

aiq

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
10,141
To say otherwise is like saying you've trained your eyes to be able to see the sunrise earlier because you've learned to see around the curvature of the Earth.
Curvature of the Earth?

:D

Sorry, back to the real discussion.
 

stratamania

Member
Messages
3,364
On necks, I have or have had with smaller radii - bends above the 12th fret were OK usually to a tone to a tone and a half, but try to pull off a 2 1/2 step Jimmy Page style bend then it will choke out.

So if they are set up well with level frets they will work, but if you wanna release your inner 2 - 2 1/2 step bend a flatter radius is going to help. This is what I like about compound radius, you get the best of both worlds.
 




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