How do I fix a dull string?

Discussion in 'Acoustic Heaven' started by Steve 78, Jan 20, 2020.

  1. Steve 78

    Steve 78 Friend of Leo's

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    I'm not much of an acoustic player, but I picked up my Washburn the other day and it sounded surprisingly great... except for the E (6th) string. It has always sounded dull like it is being very lightly palm muted.

    It happens when fretted as well as open so I assume it's the saddle. All the other strings are bright even though they are pretty old. Any suggestions?
     
  2. Chunkocaster

    Chunkocaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    That one string may have just died before the others. I'd fit new strings, Elixirs if you don't change the strings often. Then go from there. If it's still dead sounding you may need to replace or fill that nut slot or check for a high fret, tweak the truss rod.
     
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  3. fidopunk

    fidopunk Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

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    Low E or high E? I had the same problem on a bass for the low E and it turns out I was winding it around the post wrong during re-stringing. As such I was twisting the string's core and killing it.
     
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  4. El Tele Lobo

    El Tele Lobo Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    I would check the following in order:

    • Change strings
    • Check string action/neck relief
    • Check saddle
    • Check nut
     
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  5. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Poster Extraordinaire

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    Yup!
    A proper setup ( something I spend $$ to have someone else do, gladly! just me) will take care of this.

    Often, an adjustment in neck relief will restore string energy that has disappeared, and at least in my case, it was most evident on lower/wound strings.
     
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  6. jackal

    jackal Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    Step One-----change that string.
     
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  7. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    It has ALWAYS sounded that way? The strings are PRETTY OLD?

    Strings are cheap, replace them. Make sure you have more or less the proper gauges (probable 12 to 54). Make sure the ball ends are properly seated. Make sure your guitar is nicely hydrated and has no structural issues.

    New strings still sound the same? Without doing anything else measure EVERYTHING - neck angle, relief, first and 12th fret action. I like to measure or at least check the next fret clearance all the way down the neck. Report back (or spend an hour reading this)

    https://www.tdpri.com/threads/basic-setup.952636/
     
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  8. Steve 78

    Steve 78 Friend of Leo's

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    The reason I suspect the saddle instead of the nut or high fret is it happens when the string is open and when the string is fretted on any part of the neck, but I will keep these in mind.

    It's the low E (as in lowest note).

    Thanks, that guide looks incredibly useful. I have partly skimmed/partly read through it a couple of times (a lot goes over my head at this stage, but I am learning). The guitar is about 15 years old and even when it was new the low E seemed a little dull (although it seems more pronounced currently). I have changed the strings a couple of times since I had it. The current strings are probably 2-3 years old.

    Thanks everyone. I'll start with a new set of strings and then look into measuring and setting up.
     
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  9. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    When you have the strings off, pull the saddle and look in the slot. Does the saddle fit nice and snug and appear to be touching the bottom of the slot all the way across? Look at the pins, especially the low E - does it fit the hole nicely (not too tight)? Is the ball end of the string up against the bridge plate (use a little inspection mirror and a flash light. Poke around the edge of the bridge with a feeler gauge - is there any separation? I'm assuming here that it doesn't have a UST - those things can cause all sorts of problems.

    Its really hard to diagnose something like this with limited information and without the ability to poke around the guitar myself. But the essence of the Evaluation section of my little setup link is valid - make sure the guitar is properly hydrated, that there are no structural issues, the the neck angle is acceptable. Then start measuring things.
     
  10. Steve 78

    Steve 78 Friend of Leo's

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    I've ordered some new strings off the net so I'll poke around a bit more when they arrive. Here's a couple of pics I took which (or may not) help.

    Inside, looks okay I think:
    washburn_internal.jpg

    How the offending E string sits on the saddle (Ive loosened the string and held it aside):
    saddle_E.jpg

    A string (ever so slightly dull but not bad):

    saddle_A.jpg

    G (bright as a bell):

    saddle_G.jpg

    Side shot showing action. Pretty high I guess:

    washburn_side.jpg
     
  11. Nick Fanis

    Nick Fanis Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    Change that string.
    ALL (regular ,not coated) strings DIE after 8-12 HOURS of playing anyway.
    Wound strings die first and the heavier they are the sooner they die.
    That's why the low E always bites the dust first.
     
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  12. Tonetele

    Tonetele Poster Extraordinaire

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    OP Chunkocaster is correct. Chances are they're all abut to go. Get Elixirs as they last a long time. BTW you can get em cheaper by # packs on Ebay.
    BTW I use Nanoweb 0.012-0.052 first ad on Ebay $ 18.99 for 3 sets. Bargain! These used to be $50 a set when they first came out.
     
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  13. Henry Mars

    Henry Mars Tele-Afflicted

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    Change the strings if the problem persists check the saddle and bridge ... then the nut.
    This is rare but sometimes the bracing inside the guitar starts to deteriorate ... like needing to be re-glued. It is caused by dry weather It is rare but possible and you would notice it more with the bass strings.
    Most likely your strings are shot.
     
  14. ale.istotle

    ale.istotle Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

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    I would pull the saddle and make sure it is making solid contact under the 6th string.
     
  15. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    Action is high, but thats a completely 'nother issue. I don't like the little grooves that have formed in your saddle, I would sand those out and polish the saddle when you are done with it. Balls are correctly seated, we can rule that out. I don't see the wire from a UST so we can rule that out too.

    Strings are cheap, I replace uncoated ones about monthly and coated ones every six months or so (I've got a dozen acoustics so I tend to let them go a little too long). But I'm also worried that you say its always sounded this way - it is very possible that the bracing/wood choice/geometry..... of this guitar is just wonky. A better description of the actual sound, some of the measurements (particularly the "next fret clearance" that I describe in the link) would be helpful. I think you may find when you measure the neck angle that it might need a reset. When you restring it try tuning the 6th string one and two semi tones down and one up - does it still sound "dull" When you play the A on the 6th string does it sound like the open A string?

    I'm sorry to be asking all these silly questions - it would be much easier if I had my hands on the guitar.
     
  16. muudcat

    muudcat Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    2-3 years old? Dude I change mine at least every 8-10 hours of use
     
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  17. kbold

    kbold Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    .... and if it's a round core string, you need to bend the string at the post before tightening.
    ....but you know this, of course.
     
  18. Steve 78

    Steve 78 Friend of Leo's

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    Thanks again everyone. Just a quick update. The strings arrived so I have changed them. When I had the strings off I checked to see if the saddle was seated correctly. It had 3 wood shims underneath and a half length plastic shim on the low side. I removed all of these as the action was quite high. I also sanded the top of the saddle to smooth out the nick a little. After this I restrung the original low E and tried it, but it was still very dull. I then changed all the strings and it sounds much better, so I think the issue was the string itself. I don't have any buzzing issues even without the shims so I'll keep it like that for now. I might do a full setup one day (I'm going to teach myself using my electric project guitar first) but for now it is sounding and playing considerably better.
     
  19. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    If I found a stack of shims under a saddle I would suspect something being really wrong. I've already suggested measuring EVERYTHING and posting it here. I'll also suggest reading this thru completely - it doesn't matter what kind of guitar you have, the principles are the same (target values might be slightly different)

    https://www.tdpri.com/threads/basic-setup.952636/
     
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