Fallaway / Falloff? Is it worth doing?

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by Wallaby, Sep 27, 2019.

  1. Wallaby

    Wallaby Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

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    I've seen information here and around the 'Net about building in fret height fallaway for the higher-numbered frets when dressing the frets, and it has me curious.

    The method I've seen mentioned is to tape the 12th or 14th fret with a layer or two of masking tape, and also to tape over a third of the leveling beam or device, and then lightly leveling the upper frets only at the slight angle produced by the layers of tape.

    Then crowing, dressing and polishing as usual I assume.

    I'm full of unformed thoughts about it, but I guess my questions are

    - does that method work and what are the fine points or gotchas?

    - is it even worth doing?

    - what does it mean for future fret leveling?

    I've only leveled and dressed a practice neck and am IN NO WAY experienced or accomplished with it, and of course didn't create fallaway. It seems like a pro technique and maybe a "last mile" kind of effort that might be nice, maybe really nice and delightful, but not strictly necessary. If it's something that I can do and expand my abilities with, why not learn how to do it?

    I appreciate your thoughts!
     
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  2. -Hawk-

    -Hawk- Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    I’m interested in this as well.
     
  3. Sea Devil

    Sea Devil Tele-Afflicted

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    It works very well indeed. Those frets typically don't get much wear, so there are no problems down the line. A slight flattening of the radius above the 14th fret is also helpful.
     
  4. Tommyd55

    Tommyd55 Tele-Meister

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    I only know this. I have a USACG custom neck and they say they build all their necks with "fallaway". How much do they use? No idea, you'd have to ask them. I would think they accomplish their fallaway by altering the dimension of the neck face not by shaping frets. But I don't actually know.
    That neck is far and away my favorite neck, comparing to a Mexican Fender neck and a Warmoth neck .
    I can say the upper frets on the USACG ring very true and clear. Easily sounds better than the other two necks. I am no pro and there are many here that know way more than I, but I'd say having fallaway engineered into a neck is a good thing if done correctly.
    jmo..
     
  5. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    It is very effective if you need more typical relief for strumming open chords low on the neck.
    With something like the Fender spec .012 relief and LOW action, the frets run downhill and get further from the strings from the first fret to around the 8th fret or so, then start running uphill so they get closer to the strings from the 8th to the top fret.
    You can't fret clear notes if the 16th fret is closer to the strings than the 15th fret, so you have to keep the action high enough to run higher than parallel with the upper frets.
    Grind some fall away into those upper frets and you can then lower the action.

    IMO creating fall away with tape on the beam creates another flat plane (or straight cone section), with one high fret where the change between one plane and the other happens. These planes are imaginary since the 1st to the 14th fret is not a straight line due to relief making it a curved line.
    But the idea is that the change from the flat leveled (before adding relief) section to the fall away section should not be as abrupt as a leveling beam with tape on the end will create.

    If you're going to do this sort of multi curvature to what is commonly leveled from end to end with a beam before adding relief with the truss rod, you need to really understand the geometry of what you're grinding off and what you're leaving.
    If you want to idealize the neck playability for lowest possible action with common relief, you really should include adding more relief under the low E side than under the high E side.

    While you can not understand the geometry and just follow a tape on the beam tutorial, when you encounter a problem you won't know what it is or how to fix it.

    Simply setting almost no relief will get you most of the benefits of fall away.
    The benefit it won't get you is the buzz free cowboy chords benefit.

    In general, players big on strumming cowboy chords spend less time on shreddy upper fret playing that is hampered by the action height required to get you hard hit cowboy chords and your upper fret playability without adding fall away.
    The higher action it takes to get two out of three is not really that high if your neck is well level in the normal fashion.

    IMO only shredder really need upper fret action that low, and shredders just don't tend to hammer out cowboy chords, instead using more triads and barre chords, along with using amp settings better suited to lighter touch with more smooth compression and sustain.

    So as a tech, IME very very few players really need all the benefits of fall away with the whole fret dressing package that a tech who does that sort of fret work generally provides.
     
    SecretSquirrel likes this.
  6. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I'll add that:

    1) Once you dress in fall away, you cannot simply freshen up the level with a beam, you have to repeat the same degree of two plane leveling.

    2) Once you dress in fall away or buy a neck with fall away built in, setting your relief more straight like many of us who don't strum cowboy chords prefer, will actually result in worse action than the same neck with no fall away.

    So fall away is only beneficial if you stay in the bigger relief settings range, and you need to set up the whole guitar with fall away in mind.

    My summary of what player need which fretboard strategy:

    1) Cowboy chord player who does licks and fills and some lead playing but no fast shreddy playing: normal level and normal .010 relief.

    2) Shredder lead player using mostly distorted sounds and mostly barre chords or triads: normal level and almost no relief with ultra low action.

    3) Players who strum hard a lot of clean cowboy chords then switch to high gain high fret shreddy leads: go with both fall away and dressed in additional relief under the low E and A area.

    Note that shredders might generally not choose 7.25 radius and tiny vintage frets.
     
  7. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    True that fall away works for the right player, and true also that flattening above the 14th fret works on certain fingerboards, usually boards that are poorly suited to the player.

    For example a shreddy player with a 7.25 board and tiny frets can get better bending up high with low action, but fixing that poor neck choice problem by removing fret material creates other problems, namely lower frets up high where big bends are desirable.

    Back before shredder guitars and Warmoth compound radius necks appeared, lots of pre shred players were playing very fast up high on vintage spec Tele and Strats, so techs would do their magic to get more modern performance out of vintage guitars.

    Today we can buy guitars with neck and fingerboard suited to our playing styles, so flattening the upper frets is seldom the right way to go. A player who needs a shreddy setup but also needs a vintage Fender guitar with original neck would go with bigger than vintage frets so that after dressing in a whole different fingerboard geometry to the fret tops while leaving the poorly suited fingerboard geometry untouched, will still have plenty of fret height on all the frets, rather than upper fret half as tall in the middle as lower frets.
    You literally lose half the height of vintage frets on a vintage Fender board when optimizing with fall away and flatter upper fret radius.

    If a player wants all the shreddy playability including big upper fret bends and ultra low action from a vintage spec neck with a 7.25 radius and small vintage Fender frets, they will indeed need the flattening along with the fall away.
    But bending on upper frets that are only .017 high in the middle will be far from an optimum setup.
     
  8. schmee

    schmee Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    Not worth it. Your strings, when fretted, are already angled to the fret surface. That angle is already wider up high than it is down on the fretboard further. It's mostly an acoustic guitar thing AFAIK. Not sure when that started in some acoustics, but my '51 Gibson, my '38 Martin, my vintage Westerly Guilds etc never had any fallaway.
     
  9. Sea Devil

    Sea Devil Tele-Afflicted

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    I agree completely with the other posts above. Sorry if my very brief summary of the benefits was potentially misleading!
     
  10. Wallaby

    Wallaby Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

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    Great info - and a LOT of it.

    I'm going to need to re-read this a few times and ponder.

    I'm not liking what I think is a lack of repeatability with the tape method. I'm not sure about that, but it seems like tape thickness could vary, and watching the witness marks creep down the fret tops from 21 to 15 also seems a bit like trying to stop a gas pump at exactly $20, to use a crude analogy. Maybe I'm wrong about that.

    This seems like something to investigate on a long-term basis. I'll probably need more guitars to really develop a consistent basis for an opinion. :)

    Thanks!
     
  11. Sea Devil

    Sea Devil Tele-Afflicted

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    I never found it necessary to keep first-position chords from buzzing, just helpful when doing serious bends in the upper register. Not shredding stuff, mind you, just bends. And there are so many potential variables that there's no way to describe it comprehensively. I only ever absolutely needed to do it after an unsatisfactory refret that I knew could never be fixed by the guy who did it in the first place; otherwise, it's a very subtle thing that's more a matter of personal taste than anything else in most cases. Older hollowbodies, especially Gretsches with a partially "floating" fretboard extension, can be exceptions to that rule, but boy is it ever a case-by-case thing. Every guitar is different.
     
  12. The Ballzz

    The Ballzz Tele-Afflicted

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    Mr @Wallaby

    The last sentence of your post says it ALL! Spoken like a true scientist! :p

    einstein_on_guitars.jpg

    Just Sayin'
    Gene
     
  13. rangercaster

    rangercaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    I think fine tuning your guitar to suit your style of playing is an admirable pursuit ... For me, it seems a little much ...
     
  14. K-Line

    K-Line Tele-Holic Vendor Member

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    Fall away is great. I put a tiny bit in every neck.
     
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