Why do some necks feel stiffer than others with the same strings?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by 6stringjazz, Jul 23, 2008.

  1. 6stringjazz

    6stringjazz Supporting Member

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    Given the strings are the same guage and brand, and the necks are the same scale length, and the action is set the same, I have noticed some necks just feel stiffer than others, meaning that the strings are just tighter feeling. Is it the height of the frets? What other factors would be different to make this neck feel stiff and that neck feel easier to play?
     
  2. Radagacuca

    Radagacuca Member

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    maybe the wood of the neck?? i noticed this too and found the less flexible a neck is the stiffer it feels. f.e. i had a les paul artisan that had a very soft flexible neck while my r6 has a very strong unflexible neck... same strings and setup but the r6 feels more stiff. the artisans neck yould be bend while playing and do good vibrato´s when bending the neck instead iof the strings :)...
     
  3. buddastrat

    buddastrat Member

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    Lots of factors, finish, frets, break angles, neck stiffness, etc... Do a search as there's so much on this. And in the end, it is what it is. Very hard to change what the guitar wants to be. But if it's a strat, a neck swap makes a huge difference. I love strats.
     
  4. Rock Johnson

    Rock Johnson Member

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    Action makes a huge difference, as well. You can try this on your own guitar. Loosen the truss rod so the strings come way up off the neck, then see how much "stiffer" the strings feel.
     
  5. buddastrat

    buddastrat Member

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    I've not found action to be a factor. If the strings feel unusually taut for their particular gauge, it will be noticed even as you fingerpick the open strings. Of course, a higher action will make the guitar physically harder to play for the left hand. But the extra perceived tightness seems to be a separate thing. Because even the slinky playing guitars, feel slinky with higher action.

    OTOH, even when the action is very low, those stubborn guitars play tight. Look at the EJ strats. .010's feel like .011's to most people. A lot may be due to that thick quartersawn neck.
     
  6. stucker

    stucker Member

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    The angle the string makes when crossing the bridge makes a big difference in how stiff the strings feel. With a Strat, if the saddles are closer to the body the angle will be less (measured from an imaginary line as if the string went staright across the saddle to the end of the body) and the tension will be less. If the bridge is higher from the body the angle will be greater and the tension will be greater. Both the examples assume that the neck angle is such that the action is same on both guitars.

    Some guitarist greatly prefer the tone of a Strat with a greater angle (stiffer feeling). I own examples of both and think the difference is subtle. With identical low action and neck releif one bends a little better but the other has slightly less string buzz and is better for slide.
     
  7. DavidH

    DavidH Member

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    Some other factrors i think play a role that haven't been mentioned are the age of the strings and hence their grip on your fingers and friction between the string and fret when bending.sometimes slippery new strings feel a lot stiffer.The height and condition of the frets has an effect on this friction as well,ie drag on the board and frets.
     
  8. uOpt

    uOpt Member

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    The amount of string past the nut (towards the tuner) and past the bridge plays a major role. The longer this way, the easier to bend (note that the longer the scale, the more difficult to bend, but this dead space make it easier).

    I recently measured that comparing a Les Paul and my late Explorer, same strings and both tune-o-matics, and indeed the Explorer's high E string takes 10% less force to bend two halftones. The string from tuner to tailpiece is a total of 10% longer (even though the scale is the same), so everythin fit.

    Furthermore, necks give much more way on bending than people often assume. Just use a tuner to see how much an unbent string goes down when you bend a different string.
     
  9. RockStarNick

    RockStarNick Supporting Member

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    I assume that naturally, if the truss rod is tighter, then the wood of the neck is doing less work, and the strings will feel more solid. When you hit them, the neck won't be giving at all.

    I've picked up some epiphone les pauls at GC that, despite being made of mahogany and being 24.75, feel light years different than my two USA LPs. They feel just downright difficult to play. Oddly tight yet sloppy at the same time. And i'm not talking about fretwork. I'm talking about the feel of the string tension.
     
  10. uOpt

    uOpt Member

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    If you go back, try to see how much the tuning goes down when you turn the guitar face down while a tone is ringing. That allows you to quickly estimate how much the neck gives way when applying force. Maybe the nut is so tight that it holds on to the string while you bend.

    I also think that cheap frets with rough surfaces can make the guitar feel hard to bend, as do porous fretboards.
     
  11. mooawk

    mooawk Member

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    Maybe the shape of the neck as well?
     
  12. carbz

    carbz Supporting Member

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    This is something I've always wondered myself. The action would clearly be a factor but sometimes even with the action set the same there is still a difference. Bizzarly I find the neck shape to be a factor but I think the fret height is the biggest factor. I only have a few guitars but the ones with lower frets clearly feel more stiff which is one of the reasons I much prefer big frets. I like the strings to feel like rubber bands.
     
  13. hunter

    hunter Supporting Member

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    I'm curious as to how you measured the tension and established you had actually bent two halftones. This is the reason I ask:

    When bending, the string may feel a little slinkier (may) but the overall effect would be to increase the tension required to reach a given pitch by bending. When bending, two things happen. The tension in the string increases and the length of the string increases. That has two effects. The increasing tension increases the pitch and the increasing length decreases the pitch. Since the rise in tension is much more dramatic the overall effect is increasing pitch (sorry for stating the obvious). However, the ability of the string to stretch behind the bridge slows the rise of the vibrating string tension. The string must be bent further to get the same tension in the vibrating length. Bending further lengthens the string more. The result is the final tension required to reach a given pitch would actually be higher since the string is longer. A small effect for sure but it is there.

    Since you were measuring two different guitars, it might be useful to measure the actual scale length of each for comparison. Also did you measure the two halftone bend based on displacement or based on actual pitch? If based on displacement only the tension would definitely be less but the bend wouldn't have caused the string to reach a pitch a whole step higher.


    hunter
     
  14. uOpt

    uOpt Member

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    A pencil with flat ends braced against a kitchen scale.

    I have a longer thread about this experiment over at seymour duncan forums. Don't remember whether I posted photos.

    A digital tuner.

    My measuring isn't precise enough to see really small effects.

    I was just interested in the ballpark. 10% more total string length at same scale = 10% less force to bend.



    I don't have that Explorer anymore, but the scale length is certainly the same. It was a very vanilla 1993 Gibson Explorer with stop-tail piece.

    I also noted the exact distances between tuner, nut, bridge and tailpiece on some piece of paper. If there was a scale screwup I would have noticed.

    I measured the force required to hold the high E string on the 12th fret in a position where the note became F# according to a digital tuner. I didn't use any kind of distance for anything.

    I repeated this several times and I was careful to use the same angle on the pen and the scale. I also made sure the action was the same. Both guitars have the same nut and bridge spring spacing and both had Dean Markley 009-046 Nickelsteel strings at the time.

    I'm pretty confident that I got the right ballpark there.
     
  15. mcgriff420

    mcgriff420 Member

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    :agree +100 on those EJ's.. I usually like 10's but no way on that guitar I have to use 9's
     
  16. uOpt

    uOpt Member

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    In the case of the EJ Strat I think it rather has to do with the V-neck that people aren't used to and the 12" fretboard radius that isn't very common with Fender scale instruments.

    If you don't have a wife to fight with, get a Strat :)
     
  17. buddastrat

    buddastrat Member

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    I don't see how a soft, barely noticeable V could have anything to do with strings feeling taut. I happen to love soft Vs and the EJ's neck is a killer. A 12" radius will allow nice lower action which might make it feel more playable. But again, the strings perceived tightness can be felt simply fingerpicking open strings, and that simply takes all that out of the equation.
     
  18. GuitslingerTim

    GuitslingerTim Member

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    The guitars I have with the stiffest action all have rear-loader bridges. My theory why rear loaders are stiffer, is when the point of resistance is the ball-end of the string, the action is stiffer than when the point of resistance is the middle portion of the string, which might break over a ferrule, or a trem block. The reason top-loaded Les Pauls have slinker action is due to the string breaking over the tailpiece, changing the point of resistance, which would normally be the ball end of the string when strung through the tailpiece the traditional way.
     
  19. 6stringjazz

    6stringjazz Supporting Member

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    Seems to me the ball end of the string is going to have the same resistance no matter which way you string it. It's still the same amount of force terminating at the end of the string, which is the ball. I think it's more likely the amount of downward pressure on the bridge being less or more depending on which way you shoot the strings through the tailpiece on a Les Paul that causes a variation in the feel of stiffness. I have no scientific proof of any of this. I don't think anybody else does either
     
  20. bmutlu

    bmutlu Member

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    I can say about EJ Strat ,shallow strings hole and staggered tuners make more string tension.
     

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