My Les Paul has really harsh high-end... Bridge replacement?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by Jschoi, Dec 5, 2017.


  1. Jschoi

    Jschoi Supporting Member

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    Hey all -

    I have a 2010 Les Paul Standard that was gifted to me by my brother several years ago. I've been gigging with it a lot lately and finally settled on a set of pickups that really matches the tone I'm going after. I have CTS 500k pots and Lollartrons in the guitar, and added a bigsby with a vibramate.

    But I've noticed that even though I replaced the pots/caps and pickups, the guitar still gets really harsh high-end and ice pick effects when playing higher notes up the neck.

    Now... before throwing up suggestions, please kindly keep these things in mind:

    1. I've run this guitar through several amps. It is not the amp that's the issue.

    2. I've tried dozens of pickups on the guitar. This is not a pickup issue. The only pickups that didn't have this effect was with Lollar Imperials, which were great, but I settled with Lollartrons - they get extra sparkle without compromising thick low-end I want in a Les Paul (great pickups btw... I highly recommend these).

    I've been reading up and researching steel or aluminum bridge replacements. I'm considering going with a steel Callaham bridge. Even though steel is supposed to be brighter, I've read that it reduces the unpleasant highs.

    Has anyone experienced similar issues? It's this unpleasant high-end ringing that comes out when playing high notes. You almost hear the ringing more than the guitar.
     
  2. SouthpawGuy

    SouthpawGuy Member

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    Sometimes certain pickups do not react in a good way to a particular amp or speaker combo. I had a similar situation with G&L MFD pickups and a Laney amp, it sounded harsh or brittle, but only with that amp, the same pickups through a Blues Junior or AC30 sound great.
     
  3. lemonman

    lemonman Supporting Member

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    How are the frets? I've had two Les Pauls where the frets were worn out and fairly low from multiple levelings, and they had a harshness that nothing could change; refretting them fixed it. You might need a level and crown, or a refret.
     
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  4. grumphh

    grumphh Member

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    Sell the guitar, get a new one.

    - whether the tone problems are real or imagined*, there is no way that guitar will ever sound good to you, because you have identified it as a "problem guitar", which can be seen from the fact that you have swapped hardware like others change underwear.

    Even an unobtanium bridge is never completely going to alleviate the problem - because somewhere in your mind the question "could it be the wood?" still will be nagging you.

    * Not trying to offend here, when i write "imagined problems" i mean the way you hear the guitar.
    I used to have an old Deluxe that i never found satisfactory sounding - sold it to an acquaintance and he just thinks it is great.
    Whether i imagined the guitars shortcomings or he is wrong about it sounding great, i can't say :)

    PS. - you say you have gigged it a lot, if neither the audience nor your bandmates complain about the guitar having to much high end, what would that say about the guitars tone heard with different ears than yours? ;)
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
  5. kev

    kev Member

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    I mean no insult to your intelligence when I ask, could you post a video of the harsh high end? Without that, I suggest a few free/inexpensive things:

    -lower the individual polepieces in slight increments, to see if that begins to eliminate the harshness
    -lower the whole pickup(s) seeking same result
    -have you tried pure nickel strings
    -change your pick/pick material (what do you use now?)

    -or- and I don't believe you are experiencing this, but...to my ears...generally maple topped guitars have too much harsh high end, again, to my ears. I prefer, in LP speak, a solid mahogany body by a large margin (but also, speaking generally, as I have played a handful of perfect-for-my-ears mapled topped LPs).
     
  6. Jschoi

    Jschoi Supporting Member

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    Thanks for the feedback so far.

    That's interesting. I've never heard of the frets causing harshness... If my memory serves me well, the frets should be in good shape, but I'll take a look when I get back home this evening.

    I hear you bud, but this guitar will not be sold. My brother purchased it for me as one of my first electric guitars, and it's a sentimental guitar to me. If we were just talking about tone, I wouldn't think twice about it before putting the guitar up for sale.

    And you're saying you're not trying to be offensive, but underwear just pisses me off man. Why'd you have to talk about underwear? =)



    But on a more serious note, I'm really just looking to tame the very unpleasant, harsh high-end. I've heard people having success by upgrading the bridge and tailpiece. Just looking to hear some feedback in a trusted gear community.
     
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  7. disconnector

    disconnector Supporting Member

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    I'd look at the Bigsby myself. I had a Gretch Electromatic that had a similar issue until I pulled off the Bigsby and stuck in a stop tail. That cleaned the sound right up.
     
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  8. Jschoi

    Jschoi Supporting Member

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    No worries - my intelligence is not insulted.

    I've tried them all =) And yeah, I agree with your assessment on maple top guitars. I'm just hoping to make this guitar something that I keep and play regularly for sentimental reasons.
     
  9. Jschoi

    Jschoi Supporting Member

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    Worth a try. I'll give it a whirl. Thanks for the feedback.
     
  10. Benz2112

    Benz2112 Member

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    I think strings would have a more profound effect than a bridge, for a ton less money.
     
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  11. A440

    A440 Supporting Member

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    Lower the pole pieces on the high E and/or B. Should reduce it.
     
  12. fast ricky love

    fast ricky love Supporting Member

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    Sell the guitar. You're starting with something that is already compromised. Keep digging it's worth it when you play a guitar that just has *it*.
     
  13. Jschoi

    Jschoi Supporting Member

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    This guitar is not going to be sold. My brother bought it for me as one of my first electrics. For sentimental reasons, selling the guitar just won't happen.

    If it didn't have that value, the guitar would have been listed long ago.
     
  14. Thwap

    Thwap Member

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    Where's your palm?

    When you palm mute on a guitar equipped with a Bigsby vibrato tailpiece, odds are that rather than pure silence after the mute, you hear a metallic ringing. That is because while you’ve successfully muted the strings between the bridge and the tuning keys, the strings may still be vibrating behind the bridge, which can cause the Bigsby to ring out.

    Since the space between the bridge and the Bigsby doesn’t contribute to the vibration of the strings across the neck, you’re free to keep that area permanently damped. You can use any kind of cloth, fleece, felt, or other fabric and either wrap it around the strings between the bridge and Bigsby or stuff it between the strings and the body. This will dampen the strings without affecting your tone when playing, and the material is soft enough that it won’t affect you using the Bigsby.

    Even if you're not palm muting, you could be ringing behind the bridge.
     
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  15. grumphh

    grumphh Member

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    Sorry, t-shirts then ... :)


    Idk - if i had to do this i'd probably look at setup/action height (raise the strings), and pickup height as well as pickup balance (pickup height under top strings vs. height under bottom strings - adjusting the pickup to high under the bottom strings (for that low end roar) may make the bottom end to overpowering and will necessitate that you'll have to raise it under the top strings as well (which can give you muddy lows and harsh top end). String gauge might be a factor as well. Look at the stuff you can do with just a screwdriver and limited expenses before going the mod way, is what i would say.
     
  16. kev

    kev Member

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    more spitballing:

    -could the break angle be causing a metal/to/metal contact via the strings on the backside of the bridge?

    -How 'high' is the bridge on the posts...ah, which also may lead to another thing...if you have the bridge high up the posts, you may try adding a second thumbwheel to each post (for stability's sake at least, and for more 'mass'...which sometimes leads to mellowing out...as PRShimself is known to say "everything affects everything")

    -cap values in the circuit?

    -the 'extra sparkle' you like, is that when playing in the lower registers/chords?

    -what kind of headstock tuners do you have on the guitar (see the PRShimself quote)...serious question
     
  17. Drew816

    Drew816 Supporting Member

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    It's a guitar you're going to keep, so this issue must be solved; period. I get it. So try a Callaham Bridge, it's worth a shot and I think you'll find it will likely tame the tone a bit. It's amazing what a bridge swap can do. That being said that alone may not cure the problem. I have a Strat that I will never sell and I struggled with for years as it was ice picking, bright, harsh and I tried everything, minus a bridge swap. Once I did that the guitar came back to life. I was convinced years before to do a bridge swap to a higher quality unit and it killed the guitar, the original Fender bridge sounded significantly better across the board but in my "youth" I figured "higher quality = better tone" and in that case it did not!

    And if Lollar Imperials worked put them back in, the Lollartrons may have a bit more of that "jangle" you're looking for but at the cost of making the guitar an Ice Pick it's not worth it. Of course you could ping Lollar and let them know what's up and see if they'd recommend a custom wind on a Lollartron to try and cure this issue. But that can become a very expensive game (pay, wind, swap, no work, start over do not pass go). But maybe they'll work with you on this.

    Good luck!
     
  18. Jschoi

    Jschoi Supporting Member

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    Wow - first of all, a HUGE THANK YOU for this community. Time and time again, I'm finding that this community to be incredibly helpful with a wide range of knowledge and experiences. So seriously, thanks again for everyone that's chiming in. It's greatly appreciated!

    Thwap - this sounds like a really good experiment to narrow down the issue without taking everything apart. I'll have to give this a whirl... That metallic ringing you described sounds exactly like what I'm hearing. I'll give it a shot and report back tomorrow evening (since I'll be swamped this evening with household duties).


    Thanks, mate. The t-shirt metaphor instead of the underwear is going to help subdue my rage!! =)

    Unfortunately, I've adjusted the pickup height in every way possible and it rings at every height imaginable. However, I did not try changing string gauges. I swore by medium strings for 10+ years and haven't entertained the idea of switching string gauges, but this is definitely a cheaper solution than a bridge. I'll give it a whirl and report back soon!

    I did hear about adding an extra thumbwheel on the post. Haven't tried it, but will definitely entertain that option before spending bucks on a bridge.

    The "sparkle" I like that high end clarity without harshness, and low-end zing without muddiness. Hopefully that helps.
     
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  19. Jschoi

    Jschoi Supporting Member

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    Thanks for the feedback! It always helps to have someone who has gone through something similar with the harsh high-end. I've been eye-balling the Callaham bridge for a while now. It might be time to pull up my pants, bite the bullet and pull the trigger.
     
  20. Drew816

    Drew816 Supporting Member

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    I should have mentioned I have one on my vintage 335 with Bigsby, it's a great item and made an improvement in tone and sustain over the original '70 bridge that was collapsing. Bill knows what he's doing. A 335 isn't as "bright" as a LP, I get it, but at least you'll have checked that box off if you have to keep working on pickups to isolate your tone.

    Seriously, call Lollar. Or Fralin and crew, I've had Lindy wind a few customs for me over the years and these guys always have good ideas and suggestions.

    Good luck!
     

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