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

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by MikeVB, Jun 8, 2018.

  1. SamBooka

    SamBooka Member

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    I have a roadworn 50s strat and 50s tele. I like to bend. I dont like high action (high E 3or4 64ths at the 12th fret). Here is what I do (pretty certain someone in this forum suggested it to me a few years ago).

    1) Fret rocker to pick any rogue high frets. Love my rw strat but getting the frets seated and stable and lever was a pain in the arse
    2) Truss rod as straight as you can get it. I dont even measure.. if I cant see a gap but hear a click when i press the string down at the 7th fret then I am good.
    3) action to taste.

    This allows me to do a 2 step bend on the high e at the 12th fret using nyxl 1254. I didnt mention the importance of having your nut slots set correctly because that is just good housekeeping.
     
  2. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    the idea is just that there's a lower limit to height if you want wide bends with no choking, and the sharper the radius the higher that limit. once you're over that limit than it doesn't matter, one radius will allow just as much as the other.

    i find that i don't run into a problem with anything flatter than the vintage 7.25", even the modern fender 9.5" is flat enough that i can get the hi E string as low as i want it (2/32" @ 17 with almost no relief and very low nut height) and still have full bending range. on the 7.25" radius with the same straight neck and low nut slots i end up needing that hi E to hang at like a 64th higher at minimum, and even then sometimes the note will start to "zing" at the outer edge of the bend.

    if you're rocking 3/32" action on that hi E than radius is likely not even gonna be on your radar, it won't matter at all. this also lets you get an easier grab on that string for wide bends if the frets themselves are little.
     
  3. Fireball XL5

    Fireball XL5 Supporting Member

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    Add to this that a LOT of Fenders have some degree of hump/rise in the fingerboard where the neck bolts to the body making bending on a 7.25" radius (as well as a 9.5" radius) with anything remotely close to a low action even more difficult. It doesn't take much here to cause major bending issues either.
     
  4. MikeVB

    MikeVB Supporting Member

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    Isn't that just where the trussrod, and thus the relief, ends rather than a hump.
     
  5. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    no, sometimes there's an actual "kink" or rise in the profile, right where the neck transitions from round to flat in the back. also, the rod typically goes through that part, ending right at or very close to the body.

    tightening the rod will induce backbow further towards the nut while not removing that kink. the guitar will never play great until that kink is removed via fretboard leveling, heat-bending, whatever.
     
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  6. redgold

    redgold Supporting Member

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    What are your views about introducing fall away during leveling and crowning of the highest frets?
     
  7. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    i like to do a little of that, barely more than just a few passes of the sanding beam with a little extra "english" over those highest frets, like from 19-20 up on the high side and like 17 up on the bass side (y'know, the frets that don't really get played).

    something like this

    [​IMG]
     
  8. Multi Angle Vise

    Multi Angle Vise Member

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    If I understand what you mean, the floating bridge actually gives more in raised action than it takes away in increased bend travel. (There might be some outlier Strat geometry where this doesn't hold.)

    Do your three semi-tone bend without plucking that particular string, and pluck one of the other strings instead to see how much they detuned. They don't go down much. Take a note of how much the bridge deflected. Release the bend, deflect the bridge yourself, then play an unbent note to get a rough idea of how flat the the string would have gone during the bend. Have a look at the next fret clearance as you deflect the bridge to see how that changes (e.g. if you fret 12th, check 13th fret clearance).




    (Changing topic slightly but almost on topic.) Playing around/through choking - you can manipulate next fret clearance a little with your fretting hand. (Apologies if this was assumed knowledge.)

    Fret the low E at the 3rd fret. Check clearance at 4th fret. Modulate pressure on the 3rd fret. Watch the 4th fret clearance change as the string break angle changes. Lower say the B string saddle so that it chokes more easily. Bend until it just starts to choke, then press harder - choke clears. Of course this may not always be possible if the finger is wider than the fret gap. You can perform a weird effect of choke, no choke, choke, no choke.



    Edit: "action" replaces "relief".
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018
  9. MikeVB

    MikeVB Supporting Member

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    Ah, like the 14th fret hump we've seen in acoustics for decades
     
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  10. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    that's a good point! strings do bend up a little from being pressed down behind a fret, that's how they clear with low action.

    here, i even made a pic of the idea for talking about nut slot height:

    [​IMG]
     
  11. supergenius365

    supergenius365 Silver Supporting Member

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    I do not know about geometry, physics or even good set up technique, but I wanted to throw this out there: A friend just loaned me his grandfather’s 1962 Fender Esquire. If I had to guess, I bet the strings were never changed since 1962. With my caliper, the high E measured what would be a 13.5 gauge. I’m not familiar with guitar string history, but heavy strings had to play into the setups and playing of the players the OP mentioned.

    If I’m off base, just disregard this post.
     
  12. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    no, you're spot-on about the guitars, just not the players.

    electrics first came with huge wound-G string sets, that's just what there was. the builders expected that they were gonna be used to strum chords or maybe get crazy and do some jazz runs, but rock and roll kinda wasn't a thing yet.

    nobody was doing wide, bluesy string-bending and vibrato until later, when those players would do things like buy a set of those 13-56 strings, toss the low E, buy like a banjo 9 or 10 and move the rest over one spot.
     
  13. KGWagner

    KGWagner Member

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    I agree; compound radius is best of both worlds. Easy to play cowboy chords, easy to do lead. What's not to love? Somebody should've thought of that a long time ago. I vote we dig Leo up and spank his butt! ;)
     
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  14. KGWagner

    KGWagner Member

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    You keep reminding me of how old I'm getting ;)
     
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  15. Dana Olsen

    Dana Olsen Gold Supporting Member

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    If I understand you correctly, the floating bridge does not change the relief while bending - it changes the action. As the string pitch goes up when bending, a floating bridge tips toward the neck end of the instrument a little bit, effectively raising the action a tiny bit.

    I agree with Kimock that there's a point in the action where the strings clear the frets, and there's a slightly higher point where the string 'speaks' clearly - that there is my biggest problem.

    I love the way Strats sound, but only with that little bit of extra clearance that lets the strings, especially the D thru hi E, really speak. For me, that happens a little above 4/64 on those 4 strings, and nearly but below 5/64 on the low A and E.

    And that's too high for me to be able to play the way I like to play. I've become wimpier in my dotage, and I just can't seem to play like me with the action above 4/64, but I can't seem to SOUND like me with it any lower than that. Therefore, I've got a very narrow range of expression in my set ups on my own guitars.

    Or, I could sell my guitars and buy a dirt bike - LOL!

    Thanks, Dana O.
     
  16. Multi Angle Vise

    Multi Angle Vise Member

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    You're quite right, "relief" means something specific in the guitar context, not just "relief" from the problem. As you say - the floating bridge tips forward and raises the action when you need that extra push over the cliff. I'll edit it.

    Meandering off from there, the floating bridge actually decreases neck relief when you dump the arm (not the string bending situation discussed above). The neck/rod spring back when the string tension is lowered.
     
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  17. Dana Olsen

    Dana Olsen Gold Supporting Member

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    For fun, try this sometime. Place a Strat or similar guitar with a trem on to a table with the neck in a 'neck cradle'. Then hold the guitar very still and have someone depress the trem while you watch the peg head.

    You'll be AMAZED at how much the peg head flexes when you use the trem.

    Thanks, Dana O.
     
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  18. KGWagner

    KGWagner Member

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    It's true. Many folks don't notice that's what's happening, but necks can move around more than you'd think, and some more than others. Some players deliberately take advantage of the neck's flexibility when playing to get a vibrato effect when they don't have a vibrato bridge. I have a buddy who years ago snapped a neck off trying to play the intro to Heart's "Barracuda" using that technique. Hold the body tight, and press/release the back of the headstock. Worked fine if you didn't go apeshit on the thing, but that one time...:(
     
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  19. Jon

    Jon Member

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    Isn't it possible to dress the frets on a vintage radius neck so that, rather than follow the fingerboard radius exactly, they're dressed to be flatter in the centre of the neck, which effectively changes the radius to something more 'modern'?
     
  20. KGWagner

    KGWagner Member

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    Technically, yes. But, often older necks have smaller frets than are popular now, so you can have adverse effects on the playability of the thing. Make it difficult to do what you're trying to enable, which is bend the strings farther. With frets crowns closer to fretboard in the center, it gets more difficult to get a decent grip on the strings. If you have larger frets that could be re-radiused without causing that problem, then you effectively end up playing a flatter radius neck, so why have a 7 1/2" radius in the first place?
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2018

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