Frustrated with a Dead Note? Is it a Suhr? a PRS? a j.custom? Here is the ultimate check list / template

pinfloi

Member
Messages
387
I've had 3 guitars with unbearable dead notes (a note decaying too soon and abruptly, sometimes emitting a nasty harmonic as it dies)

- Ibanez Prestige Saber
- Ibanez J.Custom
- Suhr Modern Satin

Every time a dead note is discussed at the forums, people kindly suggest different actions to solve the problem. It is common that the same suggestions are repeated many times, because it is hard to follow the entire thread. Surprisingly, there are also dead-note deniers out there

Here is a list of the things I have tried that did not solve the problem of the dead note. It can be used as a template for others, so they do not have to go through endless discussions at the forums.

I hope that yours is solved with one of the easy steps

Verify fret leveling with a rocker, or try the next step
Re-tune the string to different pitch to see if the dead spot moves to a different fret (if it moves, that discards a high fret)
Raise the string action. Raise the saddles
Verify vibrations on saddles, bridge, etc
Swap a saddle
Verify the intonation
Use higher gauge strings
Use a Fender Fat-Finger at different locations of the headstock
Lower the pickups
Slightly tight/loose the truss rod
Completely block the floating trem
Replace the trem block with a bigger one
Add mass, weight, clamps, a metallic rear plate…
Play the note harder
Play the note even harder
Apply vibrato
Apply massive SRV vibrato
Increase the volume of the amplifier
Use a different amplifier, speakers, etc.
Slightly lose/tight the neck screws
Swap the neck
Swap the neck with a thicker neck
Bring the guitar to a professional luthier.
Stop the ceiling fan (I don't have one, but someone at TGP said that it could be the cause :facepalm)
Someone suggested to use a wounded G string. But my dead notes were at the first, second and third strings (same note at all the strings). And even if only the G string, it would be nasty to bend.



And the things that eliminate the dead note:
Touch a wooden table or door with the guitar body or headstock
Attach a small speaker or a vibration driver to the guitar
Press the note with a metallic G-Clamp
Return or sell the damned guitar

Here are some pics that illustrate my frustrating adventures with dead notes:

Replace the neck of the j.custom with the thicker neck from a RG
1659581120603.png

1659581164308.png


The Fender Fat Finger did not solve the issue, but attaching a Vibration Driver or a small speaker to the guitar solves the problem.
1659581349162.png
1659581382751.png


A brass block did not solve the problem at the j.custom
1659581552616.png

... and neither at the Suhr Modern Satin
1659581819935.png


Totally blocking the floating trem. No luck.
1659581617223.png


Playing the damned note with a capo slightly increases the sustain
1659581673634.png


Playing the damned note with a G-Clamp the dead note is gone. Really long and nice sustain! I need Iron Man gloves!!
1659581739689.png
 
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jwguitar

Member
Messages
6,693
I've had 3 guitars with unbearable dead notes (a note decaying too soon and abruptly, sometimes emitting a nasty harmonic as it dies)

- Ibanez Prestige Sabre
- Ibanez J.Custom
- Suhr Modern Satin

Every time a dead note is discussed at the forums, people kindly suggest different actions to solve the problem. Surprisingly, there are also dead-note deniers out there. It is also common that, after several days of discussion, someone says something like "I bet you it is a high fret" or "lower the pickups" because it is hard to follow the entire thread.

Here is a list of the things I have tried that do not solve the problem of the dead note. It can be used as a template for other people that has this problem, so they do not have to go through endless discussions at the forums.

Verify fret leveling with a rocker, or try the next step
Re-tune the string to see if the dead spot moves to a different fret (if it moves, that discards a high fret)
Raise the string action. Raise the saddles
Verify vibrations on saddles, bridge, etc
Swap a saddle
Verify the intonation
Use higher gauge strings
Use a Fender Fat-Finger at different locations of the headstock
Lower the pickups
Slightly tight the truss rod
Completely block the floating trem
Replace the trem block with a bigger one
Add mass, weight, clamps, a metallic rear plate…
Play the note harder
Play the note even harder
Apply vibrato
Apply massive SRV vibrato
Increase the volume of the amplifier
Use a different amplifier, speakers, etc.
Slightly lose/tight the neck screws
Swap the neck
Swap the neck with a thicker neck
Bring the guitar to a professional luthier.
Stop the ceiling fan (yes, someone at TGP suggested that it could be the fan)
Someone suggested to use a wounded G string, but my dead notes were at the first, second and third strings (same note at all the strings). And even if only the G string, it would be nasty to bend.



And the things that eliminate the dead note:
Touch a wooden table or door with the guitar body or headstock
Attach a small speaker or a vibration driver to the guitar
Press the note with a metallic G-Clamp
Return or sell the damned guitar

Here are some pics that illustrate my frustrating adventures with dead notes:

Replace the neck of the j.custom with the thicker neck from a RG
View attachment 679041
View attachment 679042

The Fender Fat Finger did not solve the issue, but attaching a Vibration Driver or a small speaker to the guitar solves the problem.
View attachment 679045 View attachment 679047

A brass block did not solve the problem at the j.custom
View attachment 679049
... and neither at the Suhr Modern Satin
View attachment 679057

Totally blocking the floating trem. No luck.
View attachment 679054

Playing the damned note with a capo slightly increases the sustain
View attachment 679055

Playing the damned note with a G-Clamp the dead note is gone. Really long and nice sustain! I need Iron Man gloves!!
View attachment 679056
Thank you for the check list. The first thing I always look for when the is a dead spot on the neck is if the string has gotten bent. More often than not that is the issue. Of course if that is the case just change the string and you’ll be back in business!
 

pinfloi

Member
Messages
387
And the most important tip: If you care about this, take your time to check before you buy.

And if you buy online, ask the vendor to test it for you. For the last guitar I bought (a j.custom of the same model that had the dead note) the seller kindly sent me a video testing the first 3 strings at all frets.

I've noticed that some Reverb sellers from Japan add a "No dead notes" entry at their listings.
 
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goredho

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
266
I had a guitar with a dead note on the 12th fret of the first string. In my case, lowering the pickups solved it. I am sorry you’re dead notes were not so easily solved. This points to there potentially being multiple root causes.
 

CapnRex

Member
Messages
2,257
And the most important tip: If you care about this, take your time to check before you buy.

And if you buy online, ask the vendor to test it for you. For the last guitar I bought (a j.custom of the same model that had the dead note) the seller kindly sent me a video testing the first 3 strings at all frets.

I've noticed that some Reverb sellers from Japan add a "No dead notes" entry at their listings.

In Japan we have a week to return, ONLY if there is a defect. Dead notes should fall under that and I think I have seen something written to that effect.
 

pinfloi

Member
Messages
387
Have you looked into how cello players get rid of wolf notes? There are devices that clamp to the string itself either behind the nut or after the bridge and tends to fix the proboem

Interesting. I've googled "cello wolf note eliminator" and there is whole world out there. It is the same as what we call dead-note, but with a different response when using a bow. And to think that here we have dead-note deniers :D


I have said that it is the guitar body absorbing the vibrational energy of the strings at one specific frequency, but some say no. They say it is the neck, even after I have showed pictures swapping necks. However, the classical instruments experts say:

"It is an undesirable phenomenon that occurs in some bowed-string instruments, most famously in the cello. It happens when the pitch of the played note is close to a particularly strong natural resonant frequency of the body of the musical instrument" a result of the instability between the vibration of the body of the cello and the vibration of the affected string, which then serve to cancel each other out. The note has barely begun to sound when it disappears"

Of course, the neck is part of the whole resonance of the instrument, but not the main one. Replacing it, even with a thicker one, doesn't always solve the problem.
 
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Capstan Philips

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,803
Good list. IMO, this outta be step one, considering the myriad of suggestions relating to frets that these threads always attract:

Re-tune the string to see if the dead spot moves to a different fret (if it moves, that discards a high fret)

FWIW, my PRS had a dead spot. It was resolved by adding weight to the headstock - specifically heavier tuner buttons (significantly heavier - the stock buttons weighed almost nothing!). The dead spot did not simply shift, it was almost completely eliminated. A better result than I would have expected.
 

B-Harvs

Member
Messages
92
You must use Danelectro Vintage batteries at the fire detectors. Others will suck your tone, your sustain, and your cat.

View attachment 679131

I actually bought some of those (can't argue with 3 dollars VS 17 dollars for ultimate lithium) and set them aside for when my pedals died, but then they vanished and i realized my mom saw them and probably used them for the fire detector.
 

pinfloi

Member
Messages
387
This is why cello players use the term wolf-note or wolf-tone instead of dead-note:

Cello players call them wolf-note because of the howling sound of the overtone. All the dead-notes at my guitars died abruptly, followed with a nasty "howling" harmonic, not with a natural decay. Some of the temporary solutions, like the FatFinger, increased the length of that agony harmonic (the string kept vibrating for longer, but it was "wolfed")

When a cello player plays over a dead-spot she is still applying bow movement to the string. Therefore, that nasty overtone is extended for as long as the bow is moving, ruining the natural sound of the string vibrating in sync with the body.


If she plucked the string instead of using the bow, that note would decay faster than the other notes
 
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Fatty McAtty

Member
Messages
417
I've never had a guitar/bass with a dead note, but I did use a friend's early '90s Washburn bass (IDK the specific model) that had a dead E at the 7th fret on the A string.

We were broke HS kids and didn't have money for gadgets, so we just tuned down a whole step, removing that frequency from that node and whattayaknow? No more dead note.

He kept that bass tuned down a whole step after that.
 

MilwMark

Member
Messages
3,001
Does no one goto guitar shops with competent techs anymore?

Without fail, any time a guitar had a note that choked, died, didn’t sustain, had weird resonance, whatever, I took it in and they resolved within a day (more frequently a few minutes while I waited).
 

Brent Hutto

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
730
Does no one goto guitar shops with competent techs anymore?

Without fail, any time a guitar had a note that choked, died, didn’t sustain, had weird resonance, whatever, I took it in and they resolved within a day (more frequently a few minutes while I waited).
I do not know of any local place that I'd expect to be able to accomplish that.
 

Guitarmoog

Member
Messages
285
Great list!

Adding mass in some way is always mentioned, but I found I reduced (not eliminated) the effect of a dead A at the 14th fret of the G string of my PRS CE24 by swapping the metal tuner buttons for very light ebony ones, thus reducing the mass.

As I say, it hasn’t eliminated it by any means, but made it liveable with on a guitar that I love. It very possibly just moved the centre frequency of the resonance slightly so it was between notes. As I said, didn’t fix it by any means, but if you’re trying adding mass and can try reducing it as well without a lot of expenditure, it might be worth adding.
 
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