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I think Fender Neck Angles are Slightly off, anyone else notice this??

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by Yamariv, Sep 23, 2017.

  1. Yamariv

    Yamariv TDPRI Member

    Age:
    37
    31
    Feb 25, 2017
    Ottawa, Canada
    So this will be a bit of a long post, I'm hoping to hear from Guitar Tech or Luthier's or members who really now guitar set up to see if my theory is correct. I guess I've proven it to myself twice now with both my Strat and Tele and want to spread the word a bit in case someone else is having the same issues as me.

    So, a bit of backround.... My 96 American Strat always played great with Ok action and I never really had an issue with it until I bought my first Gibson which was a LP Standard. I had it professionally set up by an actual Luthier (this was before I did my own set ups..) and the LP came back with crazy low action, played like butter with no buzzing (unless I really hammer the strings). I started to pick up my Strat and tried to get the action low like the Gibson. The more I played with it I couldn't get it anywhere near what I thought it could be. It would buzz all over and the higher frets would buzz but the action was very high at that end. Now, I had a properly cut nut, neck relief around .10 and the frets on the Strat had recently been levelled. It thought this doesn't make sense cause I've modified every variable to be like the Gibsons but I can't get the action nice and low without buzzing...WTF!?? The only other variable on the Strat is the Micro Tilt adjustment so I decided to play around with the neck angle, after all why would it be put there by Fender. I posted on another forum for advice and everyone said the neck angle was only to be used if you run out of saddle room and nothing else.... I disagreed and went ahead anyway. Well, with a little bit of Micro Tilt adjustment I was able to get my Strat super low like my Les Paul with playability all over the neck. Super happy with the result for sure!

    Ok, so now enter my 2017 American Special Tele. Really great set up from the Factory, nice fretwork by Fender, I added a nice cut bone nut but I couldn't get the action nice and low like my Strat or Gibbies without having bad buzzing in different spots of the neck. And yet again, the strings at the higher frets were buzzing even though the action was high... WTF, can a simple neck shim fix this like the Strat?? YUP, you guessed it!! I ordered a .25 shim from Stew mac and installed that on the Tele to experiment.. Surprise, surprise, after some relief(.11) and saddle adjustment, I now have crazy low nice no buzzing action across the whole neck. What a different guitar!! Very happy!!

    Just wanted to pass this one in case it helps anyone else turn their favorite Strat or Tele into an ultimate playing beast!
     

  2. xafinity

    xafinity Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Dec 24, 2015
    my Mom's basement
    No secret checking and shimming neck angle is part of every setup.
    You discovered this and life is good. You can find factory installed shims many years after assembly.I think too many people just adjust this and that willy nilly with poor results. As you know a methodical check of every aspect during setup can make a huge difference. I was slow to find the patience to learn proper techniques but once I went step by step it began to make sense. Just like car repair.
    Two of my guitars have always played 'just well enough' to escape full setup so Ive been lazy about doing the proper job on them. You have inspired me.
     
    Yamariv likes this.

  3. Asmith

    Asmith Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Age:
    21
    Nov 27, 2014
    Morley, England
    Have you thought about taking a tele or a strat to get set up by a professional. I personally find tune-o-matics easier to set up, there's just less mess with 2 thumb wheels instead of 12 screws to set action, intonation is simple too. I have wondered sometimes if scale length has a say in this argument, maybe a string on a longer scale vibrates at a larger amplitude (just speculation of course). I do firmly believe that neck angle has nothing to do with lowest potential action, if you tilt the neck up then all you have to so is move the saddles up, the strings will still be the same height off the fretboard.

    And are you using the same guage and brand of strings on your gibsons and fenders?
     
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  4. Yamariv

    Yamariv TDPRI Member

    Age:
    37
    31
    Feb 25, 2017
    Ottawa, Canada
    Glad I've inspired you, take the time, it will be worth it! TBH I LOVE the sound of the Tele but after a few weeks of playing it with Soso action it ended up sitting on the stand because my Gibbies played so much better. Hated having it sit there cause it sounds great and looks amazing. After this, it plays as slick as my two Gibbies, I'm wanting to pick it up just as often as them now ;)
     

  5. Yamariv

    Yamariv TDPRI Member

    Age:
    37
    31
    Feb 25, 2017
    Ottawa, Canada
    Thanks for the reply but I'm wondering if you fully understood what I was trying to get across, maybe I explained it wrong but I've found the solution to the issue with both my Fenders.:) I now have the action as low and as well playing as my Gibbies so there's no need to take it to a Tech or worry about what strings are on it etc. Also, before I messed with the neck angle on my Strat, it was fret levelled and professionally set up by a Luthier. I'm going the extra mile saying that I thought I could get it to play even better than a pro set up. Just wanted to pass along how I did it in case it can help someone else out.

    Fww, my post is also saying that neck angle "does" have an effect on the action at the higher frets contrary to the belief that you and many others have. I've proven it twice with my own two fenders getting the same results with both. This belief is leading to many misconceptions of what a shim does and when to use it. Not sure how to explain it over text but I'll try I guess. If you're playing your guitar and looking at the strings from above, imagine the strings as a perfect straight line. If you highest frets are very far from the strings and your relief and nut are set to the right height then adding a neck shim will bring the neck more inline with the strings and thus make the neck more parallel with the strings the whole way down resulting in better action up high.
     

  6. Asmith

    Asmith Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Age:
    21
    Nov 27, 2014
    Morley, England
    I'm glad you've found a solution that works for you but if you change the neck angle to be more in line with the strings you do realise that lowering the strings brings them more in line with the neck, maybe there is something else obscure at play such as angle the string leaves the saddle. This is just my experience but I don't have an issue with getting my bolt on necks set up as well as angled set necks other than because I use a lot of bends the action needs to be slightly higher on smaller fretboard radi. It's a limiting factor which is one thing you can't overcome unless you go for a flatter board unless you like the sound of chocked bends. ;)
     

  7. dsutton24

    dsutton24 Poster Extraordinaire Gold Supporter

    Dec 29, 2010
    Illinois
    Somebody has discovered that after building guitars for 67 years that Fender is doing it wrong. 'S why I love the internet.
     
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  8. Yamariv

    Yamariv TDPRI Member

    Age:
    37
    31
    Feb 25, 2017
    Ottawa, Canada
    Yes you are right, I did notice a bit of choke out on really high bends due to the different radius compared to the Gibson. I tried to balance that with the now low smooth action and think I've found a nice happy medium. Either way, can't put my Tele down since the adjustments. I love the bridge single coil sound of a Tele through a Marshall! :D The Tele might even make it's first appearance at my next band practice....:)
     

  9. Dacious

    Dacious Friend of Leo's

    Mar 16, 2003
    Godzone
    You're noticing two things: difference between Fender and Gibson scale length. Not only is the Gibson action able to be slightly lower without buzz but less effort is required to fret cleanly because the strings tuned to pitch are not stretched so much. Plus - PAFs are higher output for any amp setting (louder) meaning you pluck or strum softer and it seems to 'play easier'.

    And the flatter Gibson neck makes getting fret dress and setting action lower is easier. On a Fender vintage or even 9.5" radius neck you have to have just a tad more relief, both so the strings don't buzz when you hit them hard and don't fret out on bends.

    And -if you put your Les Paul down and take up your Strat and/or Tele with singles you notice it seems 'harder to play'.

    Hence all those players who suddenly discovered Les Pauls/SGs/hummers for virtuoso rock in the late sixties.

    As you've also noted - not only the pickups but the difference in dynamics makes for different tone that's desirable. Strat neck, Gibby hummers, Tele bridge. All very desirable options in the tonal pallette.
     

  10. Jupiter

    Jupiter Telefied Silver Supporter

    Jun 22, 2010
    Osaka, Japan
    It's interesting and kinda fun that electric guitars, which seem to be pretty simple devices, actually have a lot of variables in play when it comes to set-ups. I've shimmed both the front of the pocket and the back of the pocket with different guitars.

    Ya kinda gotta take em one by one.
     
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  11. flyingbanana

    flyingbanana Poster Extraordinaire

    Interestingly enough, since 2008 or so, I haven't encountered one single guitar that needed a shim. All were sorted out with a good fret level and dressing, and the other usual suspects like nut slots and saddle adjustments.

    Hmmmm.....
     
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  12. Yamariv

    Yamariv TDPRI Member

    Age:
    37
    31
    Feb 25, 2017
    Ottawa, Canada
    Very well explained!
     

  13. Dacious

    Dacious Friend of Leo's

    Mar 16, 2003
    Godzone
    I'd ditto that. Microtilt imo was a response to a non-problem more related to basic build quality, when there was more dime-cutting and less care in the CBS era. I haven't seen a new Fender in ten years needing it to achieve good string break angles. New CNC tooling can replicate perfect parts like neck heels and pockets - my AV Strat had a small paint blob in the pocket slightly misaligning the neck - super easy to fix. That's the worst I've seen.
     
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  14. PJ55

    PJ55 Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 27, 2003
    Philadelphia, PA
    Been playing and setting-up Teles and Strats since I was a kid and I'm a lot older than that now. 60s & 70s Fenders, up until present. Sometimes you have to use the micro-tilt, if you have it. On my 70s Strat, my luthier had to work on the neck pocket to clean it up and adjust the angle slightly. Its a 7.5" radius and sets up as well (and as low) as any other guitar from any company's best. Sometimes Fenders need a little attention as to how the neck and body go together. That was the reason for the shims in the 60s and Leo's Micro-Tilt introduced in the 70s. I don't like using the Micro-Tilt, since it disconnects the wood-to-wood join of the neck-to body and substitutes a hex-screw. And, I feel that this changes the tonal qualities of the guitar. You can also change a neck and get a whole different result. It's just the nature of the design. If it really isn't comfortably playable, go to a good luthier who can spot the problem and make adjustments. I've only needed to do that once, in 15 or so guitars, but it does happen. It's just your "satisfaction" criteria is different from the factory's quality acceptance criteria. They probably don't have a quality check that accepts or rejects guitars that don't set-up to anything outside of their specs. And, your specs and theirs might be a tad different. That said, my 70s Strat is on its 2nd neck and it went together and set-up better than any Fender I have. But, it took a minor mod to get it right. When it's right though, a Tele or Strat are my favorite guitars to play. In that order. Doesn't get any better, IMO.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2017

  15. TimTam

    TimTam Tele-Meister

    209
    Jun 4, 2010
    Melbourne
    I've been thinking about the role of shimming too lately.

    Should we be distinguishing between titling the neck up and tilting it down (nut end tilted 'up' / 'down' when lying on its back) ? Which are used (rightly or wrongly) to address different issues.

    If the Micro-Tilt was used, the neck was tilted down right ? As you might if the action was still high despite saddles at the bottom of their range (also despite a good fret levelling, and relief).

    Would that really be expected to reduce upper fret buzzing ?

    Where that is the problem, again despite a fret levelling (on a straight neck) and correct relief, what about the role of 'ski jumps' / fall-away / roll off ?
     

  16. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Age:
    60
    Jul 18, 2010
    Western Connecticut
    Difference is Gibson's flatter radius. Sounds like you'd appreciate a compound radius on your Fender neck. You can either buy a compound neck, or a guitar with a compound neck; flatten the upper reaches of the board during a refret; or do the same to the fret tops during a fret dress.

    The only time I've ever needed to shim a Fender neck or body is when I put an aftermarket Fender-licensed neck on my AV body. I think the CNCs have mostly done away with the need for shims.
     
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  17. nosuch

    nosuch Friend of Leo's

    Apr 4, 2008
    Cologne
    I used the micro tilt adjustment in my American Standard to raise the neck angle so I could raise the saddles until I did not feel the saddle screws anymore. Super-feature!
     
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  18. Raimonds

    Raimonds Tele-Meister

    Age:
    46
    337
    Dec 1, 2014
    Latvia
    I think you are getting all neck shim/angle thing bit wrong. There is simple geometry:if you change the neck angle and adjust the saddles afterwards to get the string height the same as before shim, you will not gain anything, because relation between strings and neck will not change, so no changes in playability. I use neck shims when the saddles are too low (screws are grubbing hand) or too high, then I shim is used to correct that.
     
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  19. Jupiter

    Jupiter Telefied Silver Supporter

    Jun 22, 2010
    Osaka, Japan
    OR! OR, you could get shorter screws...

    UNLESS! Unless you have a certain height of strings off the body that you like. I prefer to have the strings a bit closer to the body, which is one reason why I like Tele/strat style bridges better than TOMs. You are also affecting the break angle over the saddles, which some folks care about.
     
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  20. nosuch

    nosuch Friend of Leo's

    Apr 4, 2008
    Cologne
    Sure, but it was easier that way. ;-)
     

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