My new (old) guitar won't stay in tune...

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by Gasp100, Oct 7, 2008.

  1. Gasp100

    Gasp100 Silver Supporting Member

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    I might need to find someone who can work on guitars and not cost an arm and a leg. I just bought an '81 Tokai Breezysound off of ebay and it was pretty dingy. But, I think the neck is great and it's definitely resonant and sounds sweet unplugged (it's possible the strings on this were around 30 years old TOO!).
    She was fretting out in the upper registers so I tweaked the trussrod (50's style, pita with the screw at the bottom of the neck). It was super tight, so I opened it up and then slowly brought it back to a taught position. I also screwed around with the bridge saddle height to find a mix between useable string height and no fretting out.
    So, the guitar has promise for sure and I think it's worth upgrading pups and possible the innards. I'm not sure if a prewire control plate would fit correctly on an MIJ Tele though. (They fit on Fender MIJ's, not sure about this one).
    Anyway... it tune her up and start playing an invariably something goes out quick. It could be a mix of intonation, bad nut, old assed tuners, etc... Any ideas? The strings do "ping" a little sometimes while tuning up -- is it a nut issue? If so I'll have to take it to someone.
     
  2. reeced

    reeced Member

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    Aug 30, 2007
    First of all, if the guitar was fretting out on the upper registers (above the 12th ?) then it's not a truss rod problem. The truss rod has the greatest effect around the 7th - 9th frets. If the frets are OK and the action is not set too low then the usual cause is the inclination of the neck i.e. it is angled too far back. Yes, you can reduce fretting out by raising the action high enough, but ideally you should check that the neck is at the correct angle. Whilst you may consider this a job for a luthier, you could first check the neck bolts by slightly loosening and then tightening them up. If you feel inclined to do a correction, then a very thin sliver of wood (shim) placed forward in the neck pocket will correct the angle.
    The pinging whilst tuning does point to a sticking string and probably at the nut. If you haven't changed gauge, then the nut slots will need cleaning.
    Easy check for sticking nut - play open 1st string, and whilst it's ringing press and release gently on the string behind the nut - the note should rise and fall. Repeat for the other strings.
    One other thing - if you have been adjusting the truss rod then the neck should be allowed to settle for a good few hours before testing the tuning.
     
  3. Gasp100

    Gasp100 Silver Supporting Member

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    Wow, I think I'm better at this than I first thought :banana
    I can attribute most of the issues to horrendous intonation (actually, lack of intonation). This has a pretty neat bridge which each string has it's own slotted saddle (probably aluminum or something though, not brass) just like G&L ASAT's. There was a lot of room to screw the saddles for intonation and this is the first time I've been able to actually set intonation correctly all the way.
    I did tighten down the truss rod (closer to where it was originally to give LESS relief) and then I also shimmed the neck in the back/middle area with a small piece of sandpaper. Surprisingly, this did help and I still have more than enough screw length left per saddle to raise up and clear out most of the fretting out.
    I still get some pings tuning G -> high E, but everything else is MUCH improved. I also readjusted the pickups heights to get some more omph and get their volume close as well.
    A little bit of time and elbow grease with some tools and a tuner and this one is starting to play really, really nice. I think I'm going to stick with this bridge and saddles for now. I may replace the pups, but they do have a cool character and they are quiet as well.
    I would like to learn how to do nut replacement/filing one of these days, but I just don't have the time. I might upgrade the nut to bone and the pups on this, that's about it! Oh yea, the knucklehead put an 8 screw blackguard on this 52 Tele, so there are extra holes off center and stuff. I'll need to get a real 5 screw blackguard for this...
    Man, feels good to get this dingy guitar springing back to life... 27 years old, nice guitar!
     

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