Argh! Can't decide what I'm trying to do! - Setup for slide.

Discussion in 'Other Guitars, other instruments' started by cowboy rob61, Jan 6, 2020.

  1. cowboy rob61

    cowboy rob61 Tele-Meister

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    I've been setting a chappy Les Paul copy to use for slide. What I can't decide is whether to jack the action up to avoid fret noise or keep it moderate so that I can still fret, which will mean a more refined technique. At the moment it's set at 6/64s at the 12th fret and 3/64s at the first fret, which is great for slide but it won't intonate for fretted notes.
    Should I forget about fretting and just hit it with the slide or work at sliding on a lower action so I can still fret. I can't decide.
     
  2. PlainAllman

    PlainAllman Tele-Afflicted

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    I’d go with the lower action and better technique. It’s worth it in the long term.
     
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  3. Ricky D.

    Ricky D. Doctor of Teleocity

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    Tame that left hand, you can do it. You won't regret it.
     
  4. cowboy rob61

    cowboy rob61 Tele-Meister

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    Thanks. You've convinced me. I'll take the action back down and reduce the shim under the nut.
     
  5. Mad Kiwi

    Mad Kiwi Friend of Leo's

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    I dont know how or why but with normal action I have a few guitars that make a lot of fret noise (particularly banging with the slide on the frets) and a few that dont. Of my two Gretsches the TS 6119 sounds terrible but the 6122 II sounds great.

    My Baja Tele is sort of in between but my Vintage v52 relic works great. 2015 LP Standard is terrible but Framus Hollywood awesome......

    There is no doubt my technique is beyond bad but some of these guitars work pefectly for it and the others don't....

    I did long ago buy one of those metal over the nut under the string spacers but couldn't get that to work ata ll, always ended up beinbg ridiculously high.

    As I say, my techinque is crap but I started with slide on third finger but the past few years, to play Black Crowes stuff moved it to the 4th so I could fret chords as well, as per Rich Robinson. So a normal action is necessary.

    My biggest issue is getting a vibrato that is slightly better than something I laugh at, just emabarrassing :)
     
  6. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    I play slide on almost everything I own but I have a couple of guitars (acoustics) that are fine tuned for it. However all the slide stuff that I play (delta blues, lots of John Fahey/Leo Kottke stuff) has fretted notes too. If I am setting up a guitar for this kind of mixture I will keep the relief the same (0.004 or so), first frets the same (0.014 to 0.018), raise the 12th fret action maybe 10 thousand and try to flatten the strings as much as I can at the bridge (I prefer 16 to 20 inch radius necks for my slide guitars.

    Since I mostly tune my slide guitars down to open D or G or sometimes open C I'll bump the string gauges up at leas one normal set and often go even heavier on the first and second strings. On dedicated slide acoustics I'll sometimes change the wound third to a plain one.

    You have to decide whether to compensate a slide guitar and if so, how much and which strings. On my acoustics I don't worry and run the normal compensated bridge, however many dedicated slide guitars have no compensation. You aren't stretching the strings and you have the ultimate compensator on your pinkie.

    I've experimented with lots of slides but mostly like either a broken wine bottle neck or a ceramic slide.

    My two dedicated lap slide guitars have uniformly high action (3/8 inch) and no fretboard radius as well as no compensation.
     
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  7. WingedWords

    WingedWords Friend of Leo's

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    Last edited: Jan 6, 2020
  8. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    That depends on a whole lot of things, mainly what tunings you wanted to use and what the ratio of fretted to slide notes will be.

    A lester with 10's at concert will have a bit over 100 pounds of tension. 12's at concert are close to 165, 13's will be about 175 pounds.

    If I tune DOWN to open D, the 10's will be at 90 pounds, the 12's at 145, the 13's at 168. 168 pounds is about the same as an acoustic with lights (12's) at concert - that would be my choice if I was setting up an acoustic (normally what I do is put mediums (13's) on my acoustic slide guitars, but substitute a 14 for the first string. That works very well for acoustic slide with big full barres across all the stings and still allowing me to play lead on the first two.

    Electric slide is another can of worms. First, some players play slide in standard tuning - your pentatonic scales work just as well with a slide as with your fingers. I don't play in standard tuning so I really can't comment here - however I would think I would want to go up to something like 12's to get a little more feedback from the strings. Remember that as your tension goes up it gets a lot harder to do bends - mostly that is what the slide will be doing instead of your fingers.

    The second thing lots of electric player do is tune UP to open E or open A - same fingering as D or G but two semi tones higher. That works pretty well with normal strings (10's) and the nice thing is you can switch back and forth without doing anything else to the guitar. That is my normal routine with my electrics - if I want to play slide on the tele I just crank it up to E or A.

    I do keep one guitar strung with special strings for open C (lights on top, heavy on the bottom) and my dobro and weissenborn get their own strings - those are whole different critters.
     
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  9. jhundt

    jhundt Doctor of Teleocity

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    It might make a difference what kind of slide guitar you are trying to play. Electric blues is not the same as Hank Williams...

    I have a friend who plays blues-rock classic-rock. He uses very light strings and extremely low action, but he can play slide (in standard tuning) like nobody's business. I can't do that at all. I can play some slide, but I prefer to do open-tuning and hold the slide over the top, like you would with a lap guitar.

    You might try a few weeks with higher action just to work out where all the notes are in the various chord structures and patterns; then try lowering the action a bit at a time 'til you can play it without all the clattering noise.
     
  10. KC

    KC Friend of Leo's

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    a trick I've mentioned before here -- but it works: whatever set you're using, bump the high E string up a gauge. If you're using a .010 set, raise that one string up to an .011. In my experience, if I'm going to fret out anywhere, it's going to be on that string. Stiffening that one up lets me set a pretty flat action, at least across the top four strings, and not worry about my heavy-handed approach.
     
  11. jayyj

    jayyj Tele-Afflicted

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    Rather then shimming the nut, try just backing off the trussrod a little - the extra relief will buy you a bit of clearance over the lower frets but if you need to play an open chord it will still intonate properly.
     
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  12. richiek65

    richiek65 Poster Extraordinaire

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    I also struggle with vibrato!
     
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  13. richiek65

    richiek65 Poster Extraordinaire

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    I use a set of 11s on my open G slider, but I replace that 11 on the highest E with a 14 B string from a set of 10s
     
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  14. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    I don't play a lot of slide on my electric guitars (but I do on acoustics) so inspired by this thread last night I tuned my little tele clone up to open E and spent a couple hours sliding around. The guitar has 10's on it and has a nice medium action - 0.015 to 0.018 at the first fret, 0.060 to 0.080 at 12, relief is 0.004. Its a bit unique for a tele in that it has a 12 inch radius fretboard (the same as most Gibsons). Played with a fairly heavy ceramic slide was nice an clean - no bad fret noise or other rattles. I'm pretty careful about dampening behind the slide and I use my dampening fingers to help judge the amount of pressure I'm replying.

    I was actually pretty surprised how clean the barres were - I expected with the low tension that there would be more rattles. The other thing that was nice, was how easily fretted notes were - I play a lot of songs in open D/E that doen't use the slide (Little Martha, lots of blues, lots of Kottke/Fahey...)

    So, if I was going to optimize that guitar for slide I would bump the string gauges up one or two sizes but otherwise not touch a thing.
     
  15. Mad Kiwi

    Mad Kiwi Friend of Leo's

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    From above, is the clattering noise (slide on fret) mostly related to string tension?
     
  16. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    Tension, action, technique. Not necessarily in that order...
     
  17. Mad Kiwi

    Mad Kiwi Friend of Leo's

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    Come on, it HAS to be 100% hardware and not anything to do with me (lack of skill, practice etc.), this is the internet for goodness sake!! :)
     
  18. DavidP

    DavidP Friend of Leo's

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    +1 on this!!
     
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  19. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    One thing that helps my slide playing a lot is to use the fingers behind the slide (I wear it on my pinkie) to both dampen the strings AND as a little depth gauge to help me feel just how much pressure I am putting on the strings . If you don't dampen you will get a note sliding down as you slide up (or vice versa) which can be kind if cool (think the opening riff in Sleep Walk). But with my first two fingers on the strings I can tell where the slide is and put just the right pressure on.

    On a dedicate slide guitar I would definitely bump the string gauges up, particularly the first two. And when I play single note stuff on the first couple of strings I try to just use the end of the slide rather than tilting it too much (which can make it run into the side of the fretboard or the body).
     
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