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High action?

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by csmatt45, Jun 9, 2013.

  1. csmatt45

    csmatt45 TDPRI Member

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    Hi there. Wanted to if anyone here has had similar setup results as me.
    I have had a few teles and strats over the years. I consider myself a pretty "normal" player. I use .010's, do a hybrid pick finger technique, like a nice clear tone, maybe dig into my strings a bit hard but nothing crazy...
    But here's the thing...
    Pretty much any fender guitar I've ever had, has had to have the action set like this to get a clear tone, and be free of buzz when I play:

    Measuring from the top of the 12th fret to the bottom of the string holding the guitar in playing position, no capo, just open strings my measurements almost always are:

    Bass side (low E, A, D respectively): 2.5mm, 2.2mm, 2.2mm
    Treble side (G, B, high E respectively): all 2.0mm

    Looking online and at other posts here, this seems to be way higher than most. Several of my guitars have had pro fret dressings and refrets, so I know this isn't just one whacky guitar. So my question is, how do most of you guys get away with such low action on 7.25 and 10" radius necks?
    I look at others who give their measurements and see 1.4mm, 1.2mm, even 1.0mm on some strings and I just don't get it. I can't get anywhere near that without buzzing all over the place!
    Any thoughts? Does this not seem that high to others?
    Thx!
     
  2. PJ55

    PJ55 Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    I use 9.5s on some Fenders, 10s on some others. In order to get a really low set-up on an 7.25" or 9.5" radius neck, a few things have to be right. And, not all Fenders are "right" out of the factory. The more parallel the lay of the strings (what Clapton asks for on his Strats), the lower the action can be set. This is why (I believe) Leo had shims made in the 60s & 70s and designed the Micro-Tilt mechanism. This brings the strings in the upper register, closer to the fretboard and (IMO) is what will enable a lower set-up. My Warmoth compound radius neck sets up better than any of the 20 or 30 Fenders I've owned over the years. But, it isn't a vintage radius neck, either. Only one of my Teles is shimmed (with a short length of business card @ .010") and it's the lowest, best set-up I have. So, if low feels better on a particular guitar, you might have to work at it a little. Or take it to a luthier. One of my Strats had to have the neck pocket flattened out a bit to get it to set-up right. So, I've always had to tweak a few to get them the way I like them. If you like lower, you can likely get there, with a little effort.
     
  3. csmatt45

    csmatt45 TDPRI Member

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    care to share your specs after shimming the neck?
    And did you mean you literally used a business card?
     
  4. PJ55

    PJ55 Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    Sure...I just raised this one a tad the other day, since it was too low when I got it back from my luthier, who dressed & polished the frets. It's a Nashville Tele, so it doesn't have the micro-tilt feature. I put about 1/2" tall piece of business card at the base of the neck pocket, the width of the pocket, a few years ago and it's been there ever since. After raising it, it's now 2.0mm at the the treble-side and 2.2mm at the bass-side, set-up with 10s (measured at the 12th fret). It's a 9.5" radius neck. I couldn't get a finger-tip under the strings before raising it, so for me, it was too low. I guess by your numbers, this isn't ultra-low, but it is to me and significantly better than when I bought it. I couldn't get anywhere near those numbers without fret-buzz. But, adding that .010" under the 21st fret-end of the neck, made a huge difference. I'll try to snap a photo of the neck/string lay as soon as I recharge my camera. Business card is a popular shim material, since .010" is about all you want to add and good quality card-stock won't degrade over time. Just make sure you're not using anything with raised letters on it, because that will add some dimension that you probably don't want to add.

    HPIM0350.jpg
     
  5. fenson

    fenson ---------------------------------

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    a lighter touch is what it is, its that simple.
     
  6. csmatt45

    csmatt45 TDPRI Member

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    PJ, your specs seem very realistic to me. Also, I feel like on pretty much any fender, .2 or .3mm can change from day to day depending on humidity so we're pretty much the same as far as action.
    I may try a shim. the luthier who just leveled the frets (it is a new Fat-TMO all parts so it needed some TLC to smooth it out), suggested that in the future, a shim might be good to try because the saddles are up pretty high as well. I know a shim would also help that issue.
    Ahhh the electric guitar... Such an imperfect machine. :)
     
  7. PJ55

    PJ55 Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    I learned about tolerance stacks-ups later in life. Much later than when I got my first Fender guitar in '65. A Red Fender Mustang. Every Fender I've ever owned is a little different. And, each one unique. They truly are a sum of their parts. Change a nut, a neck or a bridge and the whole feel of the guitar can change. Same is true for that small, thin piece of business card. But, after a lifetime of trying to understand the Fender guitar, I find that each one is a study all of it's own. But, I have fond memories of that first Fender. Wish I still had it. Thankfully, I still have the '70 Tele.

    Invaders.jpg
     
  8. Monotremata

    Monotremata Tele-Afflicted

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    Oh man I want that Ludwig black oyster kit!!!!
     
  9. PJ55

    PJ55 Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    And, I wish I still had that ReverbRocket-12! Cool amp. Can't remember what happened to that amp.
     
  10. antennahead

    antennahead Tele-Meister

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    I have the same issue. I use 9.5s on my Telly. The neck is very straight and I have just a hair of relief. Fender calls for .3mm on a 7.25" neck, and I think I am right there or maybe a hair less. The Factory spec for string height is 4/64" (1.6 mm) Treble side and 5/64" (2 mm) Bass side ............ mine is a hair higher than this. I still get some buzz when I play, but I also don't have a light touch ............. more moderate to agressive when I decide to "dig in" during a solo. I was going to seek out a pro fret dressing, but I'm beginning to think it's just inherent in the fenders with lighter guage strings and a less than light players touch. Did your fret dressings help at all?

    John
     
  11. jbmando

    jbmando Poster Extraordinaire

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    Fender factory string height specs are at the 17th fret. It might make a difference if you measure at 17 rather than 12.

    From Fender's online setup guide:
     
  12. Diagoras

    Diagoras Tele-Holic

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    These numbers don't look very high to me. My setup is pretty much exactly the same.
     
  13. Ricky D.

    Ricky D. Doctor of Teleocity

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    Sometimes I forget the bridge saddles only change one end of the string. :rolleyes:

    Check your open string action at the first fret. Should be 0.015" - 0.020". If yours is high, cutting those nut slots a little lower will have a big impact.
     
  14. musicmatty

    musicmatty Former Member

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    Yes, I would consider your action high. The measurements you gave at the 12th fret, are the measurements I have at the 21st fret.

    I use a flat pic with hybrid picking and using my fingers aswell.. usually, the bass E and A string will be suspect for buzzing with our picking styles if the action isn't set correctly.

    With regards to your neck relief, you should be able to slide a number 009 string under your D string at the 8th fret with that same string capo d' at the First Fret and the last Fret for this type of measurement..... but I'm sure you probably know all this already.

    It sounds like you and I have the same picking style so what I can add to this is simply this... I have 5/64ths as a measurement for my bass E & A string measured at the 17th fret and the other 4 strings @ 4/64ths... No capo for these measurements. Also, I use 9-42 strings.

    It's quite possible that your neck could have subtle twist in it. If that's the case, it's virtually impossible to get rid of the string buzz.... I went through 3 Fender guitars that had this neck problem.

    Also, it's possible that your play n' style and technique won't allow for lower action. Good luck and keep us posted.
     
  15. Hiker

    Hiker Poster Extraordinaire

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    Part of an actual business card is what my luthier used to shim my MIM Tele. That Tele and my MIM Strat (he performed the setup on that one as well) seem to be setup at the same 'low' height, though. I explained in detail what I was looking for in terms of string height, and he did his job. He installed a bone nut on both, which is part of his preferred setup. The string height that you find on new Fender Std. MIM guitars in the stores is quite a bit higher than my tailored MIM guitars. :cool:
     
  16. nickd

    nickd Tele-Meister

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    Shimming is only really meant for actions that are too low or high at the saddle end out of limit.

    I just fret the guitar at 1st, and right at the 21st. I then tap lightly with the spare pinky on the 6th fret, if it goes "tick tick" then chances are theres too much relief. I usually just look for a hair of light coming through. It's also a good idea to adjust the truss rod in conditions you will likely be playing in. For example, hot stage lights. You will find during winter to summer you will get all sorts of buzz and clicks depending on temp and humidity .

    I use a 000.10 feeler gauge if I can't tell, that's usally low enough, and high enough to compensate for any fluctuations in climate.
     
  17. csmatt45

    csmatt45 TDPRI Member

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    I'll try to answer several comments regarding my OP.
    The fret dressing was fantastic, but didn't necessarily allow for lower action. What it did was get rid of the seemingly random buzzes. Like, it'd buzz on the 8th fret, d-string, but not the 7th or 9th, etc. Also, since the neck was new, it helped because he did the sides of the neck to soften the fret-feel, "break it in a bit, etc. I had done this and rolled the board etc, but intentionally didn't go overboard because I know you can't "undo" that.

    The nut is fine. I'm pretty obsessive about that because I hate when the nut is too high. Also throws everything out of tune when I play open chords if the nut is too high.

    With neck relief, I really don't think there is a "right" way. I know several pro's (Eric Johnson for instance) like a dead straight neck. Bill Kirchen has a ton of relief. 020" at the 9th fret. No typo. That's .020" not .002". Of course this effects the action, but less than you'd think. More than anything, it effects the feel of the strings. Mine is a hair less than straight.
    I measure at the 12th fret simply because years ago I read a Dan Erlewine book and he said he preferred it at the 12th instead of 17th for some technical reason, I have no idea what it was. I've just got used to it. In my experience, the action measures a hair higher at the 17th. My logic is that I almost never play around the 17th fret so the 12th is a better place to measure.

    The higher action is applicable to pretty much any Fender I've ever owned so I know it's not a neck issue unique to this guitar.

    Thx for all the input. Perhaps another issue I thought about today is simply that I'm a bit more tweaky about buzz than others. I know all guitars buzz, and light players can make it happen less.
    Glad to know I'm not the only one with this issue!
    I once saw a vid with Cesear the famous tech for SRV. He would measure 1/8" (3.2mm) on the bass side and a bit less on the treble side.
    How the hell did he play that!!!
     
  18. Owensv

    Owensv TDPRI Member

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    Musicmatty- can you comment on the neck twist a bit? How is it detected, what might cause it, etc.? I have not heard of this before. Thanks
     
  19. Twang Tone

    Twang Tone Friend of Leo's

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    I stopped worrying about measurements a long time ago. Now, I just go on what FEELS right when it comes to action and neck relief. Same goes for pickup heights, what SOUNDS best to my ears is where they're set, not what some manual/forum says.

    Thanks,
     
  20. Swervin55

    Swervin55 Tele-Meister

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    Measurements are important to me only in that I do a lot of set-ups for other folks and repeatability is a bit of an issue.

    I think the OP's numbers are on the high side also. When setting up a tele (unless the owner has other requirements) I shoot for relief between 0.002" and 0.005" (.05-.13 mm), string action for both e and E at 3/64" to 4/64" (1.2-1.6 mm) measured at the 12th fret. So far I have happy customers.

    Personally, I prefer e on the higher side so I don't get over top doing bends so I set my own guitars at 4/64".

    These numbers aren't usually hard to hit unless there are one or more high frets. Then the files come out.

    Edit: Forgot to mention these numbers are with 9.5 and 10's and both 7 1/4" and 9 1/2" board radii and you do need some relief to get these results. How much kinda varies from guitar to guitar.
     
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