How Much Do All These Things Really Matter?

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by ElJay370, Nov 14, 2019.

  1. ElJay370

    ElJay370 Tele-Holic

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    I've been around guitars my entire life.

    Once I learned how to play I fed my incessant urge to build and take things apart by...building and taking them apart.

    Once I got some proper training (Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery, Class of '96) and worked for a few manufacturers I dug deep into the minuitae of design, setup, and repair.

    But here's the thing...

    Flip through a Stew-Mac catalog and you'll find jigs, tools, and measuring devices for every single conceivable part of a guitar...which is fine. Reference points are necessary. But I'm not sure what's gained by meticulously measuring and quantifying everything. At first I spent a lot of time obsessing over things like neck relief, pickup height, fretboard radius, nut width, etc. I'm not saying these things don't matter...I just think it's easy to get too caught up in them.

    Over time I learned a lot of specifics about what makes a guitar feel comfortable and sound good, but when I set up a guitar I don't really measure anything...Neck relief, nut height, string action...I eyeball all of it.

    Broader aspects like neck radius, neck profile, fret wire size, "perfect" intonation...I just don't really spend any time thinking about those things. I rely on my eyes, hands, and ears to tell me what a guitar needs or doesn't need, and that's pretty much it.

    It's like the time I spent a weekend in California wine country with a few friends. I did a bit of homework before we left, learned about all the different varietals, what to look for, what subtle flavors might be present...all of it. But ultimately there was only wine that tasted good, and wine that didn't. And no particular one got me more or less drunk than any other.

    Am I just an uncultured swine? :lol:
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2019
  2. archiemax

    archiemax Tele-Meister

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    Methinks that the specialty tools sold by Stew-Mac are mainly there to cater to shops where turnaround time is critical. Me, I can take all day doing a setup or nut replacement but I'm not a commercial shop where time is money.
     
  3. Ricky D.

    Ricky D. Doctor of Teleocity

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    Some things can help you work more efficiently, but other than intonation I don't think you need to do any measurements. I do my setups the same way you do.
     
  4. memorex

    memorex Friend of Leo's

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    I'll use almost anything for a body, including cheap Chinese clone bodies. I have Musikraft make necks for me, and I could never make them that good. I do my own wiring because I've been doing guitar electronics since I was a teenager. For me, it ain't rocket science, and I don't need a sophisticated shop because I never intend to work on anyone's instruments but my own.
     
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  5. JL_LI

    JL_LI Friend of Leo's

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    I'm an engineer, yet with guitars, I rely on what I hear, feel, and see above all else. This is an empirical rather than quantitative approach but a guitar is for playing and hearing and creating music. If I like it, I like it and I really don't care about pickup inductance, fret wire, or any other measurable quantity. I play a lot of thumb over to leave open strings. Can I fret the A string with my thumb? That's more important to me than a V, C, or U shaped neck carve except that too fat a neck makes playing difficult for me.

    I would be as quantitative as possible if I were designing an instrument and programming a CAD system to carve and route the body and neck and precisely place holes for screws. I'd be even more careful with a set neck guitar that has a lot less room for adjustment. This is very analogous to arguments about production and reproduction of music. In producing the desired sound from an electric guitar, a tube amplifier that has some distortion and speakers that break up appropriately is very much desired. Frequencies above 7000Hz can be ignored. To play back a recording, you want as little distortion as possible and speakers that can reproduce the full harmonic richness of the recording at the desired volume without any break up. There are no absolutes, just standards that most of us have agreed on because they work and there is as much latitude in those standards as discerning players demand.
     
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  6. dougstrum

    dougstrum Tele-Holic

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    All the details matter, but after years of messing with guitars, a lot of building and set up become second nature~
     
  7. Shuster

    Shuster Poster Extraordinaire

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    Some people are just Perfectionists and others endless Fiddlers, one thing I can tell is, a crap*py setup guitar and one that got a lot TLC. I love the endless Fiddler's!
     
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  8. blowtorch

    blowtorch Telefied Ad Free Member

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    guitars (and everything related) really don't matter
     
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  9. johnny k

    johnny k Friend of Leo's

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    I don't have any of those tools, but i can tell if a guitar is easy to play or not. Funny thing is that i sound bad if it's set up correctly or not.
     
  10. brookdalebill

    brookdalebill Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    The human animal strives.
    It’s a good thing.
    It’s why we no longer live in caves.
    I get why we measure, modify, and seek what we perceive to be better ways of doing things.
    I constantly modify my guitars, especially my poor avatar.
    Anyways, whatever the guitar evolves into, it will sound better, stay in tune better, be easier to play, and look cooler.
    Yes! (IMO)
     
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  11. mkdaws32

    mkdaws32 Tele-Meister Ad Free Member

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    I’m not a luthier - my woodworking sucks - i cant build a decent shelf ;). But I can do a decent setup and some minor fretwork now. I hate the measurements - if set up a tele to Fender specs, it feels wrong. I eyeball the neck to make sure it’s straight, raise the individual strings until they feel right - I don’t even necessarily make sure the string heights match the radius precisely. If it feels right, it is right. If I can’t make it right myself, I take it to someone like you ;)
     
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  12. The Angle

    The Angle Tele-Holic

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    I'd posit that the reason you can eyeball most aspects of a setup is because you've done enough of them to reach that magic number where you're "experienced." I'm not there yet - I still rely on a few measuring tools during setups, but not as many as I used to.

    Basically, this is the plus side of the Dunning-Kruger effect, where people who really do know the ins and outs of a subject have a hard time appreciating why it seems complicated to others.
     
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  13. gwjensen

    gwjensen Friend of Leo's

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    I can totally relate. I don't measure anything. It's by sight, feel and sound.
     
  14. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Poster Extraordinaire

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    Details matter....OBSESSING about details can be self destructive. I agree with several who have said you've probably done things so many times that you may not even realize what you're doing to get a perfect setup.(or build, or whatever) When I was a neon glassblower, there were so many aspects that had become so automatic, it became difficult, at times, to fully explain my process. It's also easier to successfully REPEAT an adjustment when you can quantify it. We all know what gauge strings we play....do you know how high to initially set your pickups or saddles? Even though you may "tweek" some adjustment, it helps to have a starting position.
     
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  15. Fred.T

    Fred.T Tele-Meister

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    I will join the uncultured swine club. And guess what, I don't spend to much time polishing my frets ;-)
    You're right about the wine part also
     
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  16. Fred.T

    Fred.T Tele-Meister

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    And I changed my avatar :p
     
  17. Skydog1010

    Skydog1010 Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

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    To me measurements matter when I want to walk away with a setup that mimics/mirrors (or is dang near identical) to a known working/workable solution.
     
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  18. Skydog1010

    Skydog1010 Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

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    I saved 15% on my car insurance. :lol:
     
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  19. Fred.T

    Fred.T Tele-Meister

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    Well that really matters :)
     
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  20. 4pickupguy

    4pickupguy Poster Extraordinaire

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    For a guitar tech it’s about getting it fixed and move on to the next. All I have needed to setup my guitars is a straight edge and a tuner. But I can spend hours and hours. What frustrated me was acoustic clamps. You can have boxes and boxes of all kinds of clamps and still not have the one you need. I make the tools I need most of the time.
     
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