Strat String Heigth <8th fret high E and B strings

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by OscarDaGrouch, Jun 13, 2006.


  1. OscarDaGrouch

    OscarDaGrouch Member

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    I've always been dissapointed in my strat's setup. It seems my les paul and 335 copy just feel better for me. Turns out, I have really big hands and fat fingers. The strings just seem to slip under my bending finger on the E and B strings <8th fret, no matter what I do. Not a problem on the other guitars. I took it in to Jim at Texas Guitar and Sound in Coppell for a setup. He did an unbelievable job on my guitar....so much attention to detail. Anyway, I asked him to set it up as high as he could while still keeping the intonation correct. He did..and it is still too low for me to play it. My problem is really up high on the neck, not down low as the action gets higher down there. He mentioned a replacement neck that is much thicker for my hands, about as thick as a LP. Most of the time people are discussing getting the action lower on this forum, but I need to go in the opposite direction. Does anyone see a problem with raising the nut and the bridge proportionally? Otherwise, that guitar will be on the Emporium very soon....
     
  2. stucker

    stucker Member

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    Oscar,
    I think there are a couple issues to consider as far as the feel and string bending capability of the instruments.

    First, the Les Paul and 335 are both short scale instruments at 24 3/4" and the Strat is 25 1/2". So, the Gibson guitars will have a slinkier feel with less string tension than the Strat.

    Second, the Gibson guitars typically have wider and possibly taller frets than the Strat, which make bending easier.

    Here are a couple of options. I usually use a thinner gauge string on my Fender guitars than my Gibson guitars - say 9's on the Fender, 10's on the Gibson.

    Another option is to use larger frets on the Strat. I'm not a big fan of the low, narrow, vintage Fender frets. I prefer the 6105 frets which are narrow like the vintage but much taller for easier string bending (see the Dunlop website for fret sizes). Builders like Grosh, and Suhr (Fender too on some models) offer these Frets on their guitars.

    So, what you are experiencing with regard to bending on a Strat is not unusual and you have some options.

    Scott
     
  3. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    Are you sure that's right? The action is higher at the bottom end of the neck? If so, it's set up wrong. The action should never be lower at the top of the neck than the bottom, it should rise from the nut towards the bridge.

    Yes. Raising the nut too much will cause intonation problems in the low positions. It does sound like you certainly need to raise the bridge though.

    +1 on what Scott said about fret size and scale length, and I would add fingerboard radius as a factor too.
     
  4. OscarDaGrouch

    OscarDaGrouch Member

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    John, maybe I've got it mixed up. It does incline from the nut to the bridge. I guess I thought of as high as the nut...but you're right, high should be at the 21st/22nd fret. He said it needs a 3% incline from nut to bridge. I think the setup is fantastic actually. He polished the frets so smoothly and the intonation is dead on. I just feel like a higher nut would suit me better. If I were to replace the stock nut with a higher one and proportionatly raised the bridge, would that screw up intonation? My mind can't wrap around how it would, but I want to make sure before I get it done. I'll probably just ask Jim at TG&S, but I wanted to sound a little informed before I talked to him.

    Scott, I don't have a problem with the slinkyness...I'm running 11s on the Strat tuned down a half step, used to run 9s, then 10s. It's the strings slipping under my fingers because the action is too low when I bend. Maybe someone with thin fingers might not understand this. I thought I was doing something wrong for the first two years I owned a guitar and almost gave up until I bought a new guitar that was set up way high (like the usually do at the factory) and realised I COULD bend up by the nut.

    Anyway, thanks for your replies, I really appreciate it.
     
  5. stucker

    stucker Member

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    Oscar,
    When you bend you are actually sliding the string across the fret. If the fret is too low (like vintage Fender frets) you can't get enough of your finger(s) under the string to get good leverage to bend smoothly. I have the same problem so I use taller frets on my Strats and Teles.

    I grew up playing Gibsons and never bonded with Fender style guitars until I played one (a Don Grosh) with taller frets. Now, I rarely play my Gibsons. Good luck!
     
  6. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    I get what you were saying now, I just read it with 'conventional' terminology... :)

    You could try a little higher (you can always have it lowered again), but raising the nut screws up the intonation because as you fret the strings at the first few positions, you're actually then bending them sharp as you pull them down onto the frets. It will be especially bad with heavy strings tuned down, FWIW.

    It sounds like what you need are larger frets (Scott beat me to it again :)), and possibly a flatter fingerboard, which can be done at the same time as refretting.

    If you can, see if you can find a modern Strat (a Fender US Series will do to try) and see if it's any easier. That will tell you staight away if larger frets and a flatter board will help, before spending a few hundred dollars...
     
  7. OscarDaGrouch

    OscarDaGrouch Member

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    OK, now I get it as far as the larger frets go. I've always thought that when upgrading to "jumbo frets", that meant wider, not taller. But, I guess it is taller. That would allow my fingers to get under the string better. I guess this seems common sense to you guys, ;-) , but I get it now. Thanks for the explanation. Also that makes sense on the bridge and intonation. I am taking the strat back to the shop for larger frets, I'm excited I finally understand the problem. Thanks for the replies.

    Josh
     
  8. stucker

    stucker Member

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    Oscar,
    There are different styles of larger frets so try to play some guitars with different sizes, as John recommends. Also, check out the Dunlop website for different fret sizes. As I mentioned earlier, I like the 6105, more height but vintage width. The 6100 is also very popular. It's about the same height as the 6105 but a little bit wider. There are other choices too.

    Scott
     
  9. OscarDaGrouch

    OscarDaGrouch Member

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    The Strat I'm referring to is a MIM Sunburst, $404 I bought on MF. I'm sure a fretjob costs between $100-$200. That seems like a lot to spend on a $400 guitar when I could buy a used one with jumbo frets already installed. What is your opinion on that?
     

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