New strings - 11's - setup advice?

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by bb_matt, Apr 26, 2019.

  1. bb_matt

    bb_matt Tele-Meister

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    I recently got a telecaster - american special.
    It's happened by accident. I ordered a Fender American Performer Strat, turned out the bottom E machine head was bust. I took it back to the shop, they had no more in stock and after a long chat, they recommended a Tele, after I informed them I'm primarily an acoustic guitar guy.

    They were right! - so much simpler.

    Anyway, the guitar shipped with 9's and being a long time acoustic guitarist, I just can't get along with light gauge strings, so I got some 11's. (11 - 48)

    I've strung it all up and everything works OK, but obviously, the action is higher on the current setup due to the string tension.

    Being somewhat new to the electric guitar (I've used them a fair bit, but never done a setup, apart from intonation on my old Peavey EXP), I really need advise on truss rod adjustment / bridge height adjustments.

    The strings on the 17th fret are currently about 2.4mm from the top of the fret to the base of the string - ideally, I'd like to get this down to at least 2mm, if not more.

    So, my question is this - how much truss rod relief decrease vs how much string lowering on the bridge?
    I've experimented with this and end up with slight fret buzz on the top E and the A at around 2.1mm.

    Should I even be worrying about it being 2.4mm ?
    Could I get away without even adjusting the truss at all - setting it back to where it was (I gave it about a 1/8th clockwise turn) - and then lowering the strings at the bridge?

    I can still play fine, being used to a much heavier acoustic guitar action, but it would be nice to have a slightly lower action.
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2019
  2. JL_LI

    JL_LI Friend of Leo's

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    Check the nut first. Holding the E (6th) string down at the 3rd fret, there should be no more than a business card of space between the first fret and the string. If you have much less, either fill or replace the nut. If you have more, file the slots. Next, hold down the E (6th) string at the 1st fret with your left pinkie and the 20th fret with the pinkie of your right hand and check for relief. You probably want about a business card of space between the 12th fret and the string. If the string lies flat across the frets, reduce truss rod tension. If the gap is greater, increase tension. Then measure how far the string is above the 17th fret. Raise or lower the action from the bridge. Most Fender bridges allow individual adjustment for the height of the string. Lower each string, one at a time from the saddle until you get unacceptable buzz and then raise it just a little until you're satisfied. Then set the saddles for intonation. This is something I check every so often on my electrics and reset every time I change strings on my Gretsch with a floating bridge. I check relief and action on my electric guitars regularly. Both can change with changes in temperature and humidity. For me, setup is an ongoing process.

    I'll have to go through a very similar process with my acoustic over the weekend. I want to get a little more volume and penetration by changing from the 11's on it now to 12's. I may not have to adjust the truss rod because the strings are almost touching at the 12th and 15th frets with the 11's. I won't fool with the saddle until I'm certain I want to stay with 12's. It's a lot more work making adjustment to the saddle on an acoustic. Good luck. Believe it or not you'll actually have fun doing this and you'll learn a lot about setting up your Telecaster. Adjusting your pickups for punch, balance, and clarity comes next but I wouldn't start with that until you're happy with the neck and bridge setup with the strings you chose.
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2019
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  3. bb_matt

    bb_matt Tele-Meister

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    That's some great advise there, thanks - just playing now and my intonation is shot. All strings tuned, but open chords are way off. I always equate it to an ice cream truck sound - the little jingles they play as they drive around the neighourhood, slightly wonky reverb that jars as the notes fade.
    I'll give it a slow and steady test - and I may end up paying for a setup if I have no success with some gentle adjustments.
     
  4. JL_LI

    JL_LI Friend of Leo's

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    If you’re paying for a setup, see if you can look over the tech’s shoulder. You’ll want to tell him how you want the guitar to play and feel. You’ll also want him to show you how he works his magic.
     
  5. kinkstah

    kinkstah Tele-Afflicted

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    If you're new to electrics setup, you may find interesting info in Fender's setup guide first.
    https://support.fender.com/hc/en-us...ow-do-I-set-up-my-Telecaster-guitar-properly-

    As mentioned above, check the nut first.
    Then, have a look at the neck curvature/bow : going from 9's to 11's may actually need some truss rod adjustment (see Fender guide's indications as reference/starting point, adjust to your likings).
    After those steps are completed, raise/lower the bridge saddles to get the action/string height were you want it to be.
     
  6. aerhed

    aerhed Friend of Leo's

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    Truss rod should have little effect up at the 17. TR acts mostly between the 4 to 10.
     
  7. t guitar floyd

    t guitar floyd Tele-Holic

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    Good luck! If it were me, I'd take that back and trade it for a Tele Acoustisonic. ;)
     
  8. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

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    .

    +1 JL-LI's measurements for the setup.

    If the guitar is out of tune playing cowboy chords, it's the nut that needs fixing, if the intonation is out when playing above the 12th fret then you need to move the saddles and for thicker strings that means further back toward the bridge flange.

    It's possible to run out of intonation adjustment on some guitars if the strings are too thick. Tele should be ok but some Strats have problems.

    .
     
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  9. telepraise

    telepraise Tele-Holic

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    The tension difference between 9s and 11s is enough that a truss rod adjustment might be necessary. Check the relief first as per recommendation above and adjust the truss rod and saddle height. Once you've got the action where you like it, adjust the intonation with a good tuner. Adjusting nut slot depths is a finicky job requiring appropriate files, good eyesight, and a lot of patience. It's easy to go too far- a few thousandths too much and you're in buzz land and facing filling nut slots or cutting a new one.

    Welcome to tele land! you'll find it a very expressive instrument (I played acoustic for 40+ years before taking up electric)
     
  10. Buzzgrowl

    Buzzgrowl Tele-Meister

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    A few variables to consider. The first is the nut height - essential for in-tune cowboy chords. If thats ok then I would tune up and crank the truss rod until the neck is flat straight. Then adjust the bridge height how you like your action. At that point you will likely have some buzzing. Next you loosen the truss rod a eight turn and let the gitar rest for an hour or two. Does it still buzz? Loosen anothet eight turn. Repeat until you get it as free from buzz as you can tolerate.

    If you still can't get it to play right you may need a neck shim or fret levelling or adjustment of the fall line past the 14th fret.
     
  11. bb_matt

    bb_matt Tele-Meister

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    Great tips here guys, thanks. I just read up a little more - and yes, it's the nut causing the tuning issues on open.

    I've got everything else setup sweet with these tips - the action is now nice and low, with very minimal fret buzz - a tiny bit on the upper E, which I can live with - can't hear it amplified.

    I had some great success with basic intonation (yep, I know it'll never be perfect) - kinda stoked that it all went fine with the three-saddle - all but the A were sharp on the 12th - easy fix.

    So, yeah, the nut - and that's the hardest part to do. The worst open chord of all is the F. D and A are more or less ok.
    Still, it annoys me, so I'll have to fix it.

    The alternative is just to tune a little bit by ear when playing open chords, tiny tweaks till it sounds right - heck, I do that anyway after tuning with my korg with acoustic.
     
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