New tele feels very stiff. Setup question

Fullcircle

TDPRI Member
Joined
Jul 1, 2014
Posts
48
Location
Tx
Hello all.

Just got a new tele a few weeks ago and am still getting to know it. I don't buy guitars very often (or take them to luthiers for setups either for that matter) but I'm having trouble adjusting.

i got a nice Custom Shop '59 reissue to accompany my CS 52 for more of a skinny neck, twangy steel saddle sound for something different. Both have the same string gauge and frets...well they DID have the same frets, as my old one is getting a bit worn after 12 years. Problem is, the new one just feels stiff. That description's as subjective as it could possibly get, I know, but it just seems to feel and sound...rigid compared to the older one. Not necessarily talking about tension. String bending is about the same on either but just an overall feel. Kinda like a brand new pair of shoes feels compared to a similar pair you've been wearing for awhile.

Does it just need to settle? The shop I bought it from does a good job of setting them up initially, but it's probably not as thorough of a setup as you'd get if you paid a luthier - probably just strings, relief, action and intonation is all. From my general setup perspective, nothing feels out of whack...relief seems minimal/normal, nut doesn't seem too high/low, etc...but I don't know for sure as I don't cycle through a lot of guitars.

Would I benefit from taking it to someone to give it a thorough work over? Again, little experience with this - especially on a brand-new guitar. Most of mine are either great right away or get better over time and a lot of minor tweaking on my own. If so, and this may be really dumb, but would it be beneficial to take my older one along and see if the luthier can feel what i feel and try to figure out what needs to be done to the new one to make it feel the same?

Big questions that are probably impossible to answer on a board like this, but I'm in the dark here. Appreciate the feedback.
 

fender4life

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Sep 18, 2011
Posts
4,433
Location
los angeles
#1 thing that will cause that and is treatable is relief. If theres a lot of relief, adjust the truss rod till the neck is straight then adjust the saddle height so the action is the same height as it was before you adjusted the rod. Other then that, saddles can make it feel stiffer. No way to know which will help but they can make a difference but no guarantees there. Other than that, all else being equal, the neck's stiffness can affect it quite a bit. Some just create mnore stiffness no matter how the relief is. I think it's how stiff the neck is because for a number of years i liked very thin necks and i would shave them, often a lot. One of the results is tension would usually feel slinkier.
 

Fullcircle

TDPRI Member
Joined
Jul 1, 2014
Posts
48
Location
Tx
Thanks. Relief was what I thought to look into closer as well. My old one is a big fat U shaped neck. New one is a skinny C shape maple/rosewood. I doubt that has anything to do with it, but who knows.

Could be that I'm just not used to it yet, but there's something definitely stiff about it. Anything else I may be overlooking?
 

Boreas

Poster Extraordinaire
Joined
Nov 3, 2019
Posts
8,680
Age
67
Location
Adirondack Coast, NY
Thanks. Relief was what I thought to look into closer as well. My old one is a big fat U shaped neck. New one is a skinny C shape maple/rosewood. I doubt that has anything to do with it, but who knows.

Could be that I'm just not used to it yet, but there's something definitely stiff about it. Anything else I may be overlooking?
Just fret the hi and lo E strings at the 1st and 14th frets. You should have just a smidgen of relief about halfway between them. Compare that to your other guitar. If the relief is the same, that isn't the problem.

There is a world of difference between the two necks - almost polar opposites. What you are feeling is likely just the difference between them. Many people prefer a thick neck. I think much of this is due to the hand mechanics and mechanical advantage - depending on your hand size. You will likely get used to it, but most people tend to have a preference for one over the other.
 

KokoTele

Doctor of Teleocity
Vendor Member
Joined
Mar 17, 2003
Posts
14,703
Age
47
Location
albany, ny [not chicago]
A small difference in fret height and/or relief can make a big difference in the way a guitar feels.

Break angle over the nut and saddles also makes a noticeable difference in feel. Sometimes I'll put a shim at the headstock end of the neck pocket to reduce the break angle over the saddles and get a slinkier feel.
 

PhredE

Tele-Afflicted
Joined
Sep 25, 2017
Posts
1,918
Location
Suburban PDX, OR
When I have experienced something similar it ended up being a combination of factors conspiring to throw me off! Usually, like a neck that needed a truss rod adjust combined with a nut that wasn't filed properly ('too high' -- string slots not filed down enough), etc.
 

JustABluesGuy

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Sep 2, 2016
Posts
3,916
Location
Somewhere
Thanks. Relief was what I thought to look into closer as well. My old one is a big fat U shaped neck. New one is a skinny C shape maple/rosewood. I doubt that has anything to do with it, but who knows.

Could be that I'm just not used to it yet, but there's something definitely stiff about it. Anything else I may be overlooking?
Depending on what you mean by “stiff” I understand that a nut that is cut a tiny bit high can make a guitar feel stiff. Higher and it can throw cowboy chords out of tune as well.

Good luck with it.
 

Fullcircle

TDPRI Member
Joined
Jul 1, 2014
Posts
48
Location
Tx
Just fret the hi and lo E strings at the 1st and 14th frets. You should have just a smidgen of relief about halfway between them. Compare that to your other guitar. If the relief is the same, that isn't the problem.

There is a world of difference between the two necks - almost polar opposites. What you are feeling is likely just the difference between them. Many people prefer a thick neck. I think much of this is due to the hand mechanics and mechanical advantage - depending on your hand size. You will likely get used to it, but most people tend to have a preference for one over the other.
That's what I'm afraid of. I love, LOVE that big ole U shaped neck, but I still have my first guitar which was a 1981 Fender Bullet. That one has the slimmest neck I could ever imagine and I love it too...though it also has tiny little frets and I keep 9 gauge strings on it with super low action. Skinny little neck, tiny frets and strings that are basically ON the fretboard. Super fun to play around with.

I bought this one to straddle the two sizes and to give me more bright, steel saddle twang that my flat pole broadcaster PU and brass saddles on my #1 can lack at times.
 

Fullcircle

TDPRI Member
Joined
Jul 1, 2014
Posts
48
Location
Tx
Most new guitars, even custom shop ones, come with nut slots that aren't cut for low action (making the strings higher at the nut than ideal). Too-high nut slots will make any guitar seem stiff. I don't know if that applies here, but it might.
I wonder about that too.

Side question: if so, do nuts "self cut" over time with wear like frets do, and to a much lesser effect saddles develop grooves?

The nut question is the one thing I could think that would absolutely be necessary for a good luthier to tackle but I just want to make sure it's not just me adjusting.
 

Boreas

Poster Extraordinaire
Joined
Nov 3, 2019
Posts
8,680
Age
67
Location
Adirondack Coast, NY
I wonder about that too.

Side question: if so, do nuts "self cut" over time with wear like frets do, and to a much lesser effect saddles develop grooves?

The nut question is the one thing I could think that would absolutely be necessary for a good luthier to tackle but I just want to make sure it's not just me adjusting.
Put a capo on the third fret. Check to make sure there is a whisker's worth of clearance above the first fret on every string. Shouldn't be more than a couple thousandths if you like a low action. A business card thickness would be quite a bit. Compare with your other guitar. If that gap is the same, the nut slot height likely isn't your problem.
 

KokoTele

Doctor of Teleocity
Vendor Member
Joined
Mar 17, 2003
Posts
14,703
Age
47
Location
albany, ny [not chicago]
I wonder about that too.

Side question: if so, do nuts "self cut" over time with wear like frets do, and to a much lesser effect saddles develop grooves?

The nut question is the one thing I could think that would absolutely be necessary for a good luthier to tackle but I just want to make sure it's not just me adjusting.

Strings do indeed wear slots down over time, particularly the wound ones. It’s exacerbated if you do a lot of string bending, tremolo using, or are just ham fisted and squeeze hard when you make open position chords. Anything that pulls the strings back and forth in the a lot will wear them down.

But it takes a lot of playing for this to happen. If you play heavy and a lot, maybe it takes a year. If you’re like most hobbyists, maybe it takes longer than you own the guitar.
 

netgear69

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Dec 21, 2012
Posts
2,061
Location
england
Sounds like it could be you have just got used to playing the older guitar and some guitars even though they are similar in every way might not sound or play the same
You don't need to take your guitar to a luthier to set it up and you certainly won't damage it
lots of videos on youtube etc how to set up a guitar use that info and set it up how you like it use your other guitar as reference point
 

Lou Tencodpees

Tele-Holic
Silver Supporter
Joined
Oct 15, 2020
Posts
584
Location
Near Houston
A small difference in fret height and/or relief can make a big difference in the way a guitar feels.

Break angle over the nut and saddles also makes a noticeable difference in feel. Sometimes I'll put a shim at the headstock end of the neck pocket to reduce the break angle over the saddles and get a slinkier feel.
I've just recently discovered that my guitars with neck shims at the front of the pocket seem to feel more relaxed. Usually the reason for the shim was to compensate saddle height/screw issues.
 

boris bubbanov

Tele Axpert
Ad Free Member
Joined
Feb 24, 2007
Posts
56,106
Location
New Orleans, LA + in the
Thanks. Relief was what I thought to look into closer as well. My old one is a big fat U shaped neck. New one is a skinny C shape maple/rosewood. I doubt that has anything to do with it, but who knows.

Could be that I'm just not used to it yet, but there's something definitely stiff about it. Anything else I may be overlooking?
The thickness of the neck can have everything to do with it. I doubt those 2 truss rods are different, in basic specifications and wood varies more than steel in my experience. I'd suggest the relief of these necks is a sort of tug-of-war and your older, thicker neck had an easier time contending with the tension from the rod. The newer neck isn't as likely to be capable of fighting the rod with the same vigor, and thus the rod "wins" the struggle and that's IMO a thumbnail explanation for why thicker necked guitars feel right when you might imagine it would be the other way around.

Having said that, there's just a natural degree of variation, one neck to the next on these and you just so happen to have gotten one of the stiffer feeling ones. The funny thing is, the next guy will insist on the added stiffness - an overly compliant feel is desired by some, while others don't want that at all.
 

Boreas

Poster Extraordinaire
Joined
Nov 3, 2019
Posts
8,680
Age
67
Location
Adirondack Coast, NY
That's what I'm afraid of. I love, LOVE that big ole U shaped neck, but I still have my first guitar which was a 1981 Fender Bullet. That one has the slimmest neck I could ever imagine and I love it too...though it also has tiny little frets and I keep 9 gauge strings on it with super low action. Skinny little neck, tiny frets and strings that are basically ON the fretboard. Super fun to play around with.

I bought this one to straddle the two sizes and to give me more bright, steel saddle twang that my flat pole broadcaster PU and brass saddles on my #1 can lack at times.
Another thing to consider is neck radius. Are they both the same?
 

adjason

Poster Extraordinaire
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Posts
6,022
Location
virginia
I agree with the put a capo on it and see if it is easier to play- if it is then yes the nut might be a little high. You could take both of your guitars to someone good who might be able to set them up the same BUT even though this might be stupid I think there is some kind of slight difference between guitars that makes some naturally stiffer than others...I know its not scientific or anything
 

Fullcircle

TDPRI Member
Joined
Jul 1, 2014
Posts
48
Location
Tx
I agree with the put a capo on it and see if it is easier to play- if it is then yes the nut might be a little high. You could take both of your guitars to someone good who might be able to set them up the same BUT even though this might be stupid I think there is some kind of slight difference between guitars that makes some naturally stiffer than others...I know its not scientific or anything
The thickness of the neck can have everything to do with it. I doubt those 2 truss rods are different, in basic specifications and wood varies more than steel in my experience. I'd suggest the relief of these necks is a sort of tug-of-war and your older, thicker neck had an easier time contending with the tension from the rod. The newer neck isn't as likely to be capable of fighting the rod with the same vigor, and thus the rod "wins" the struggle and that's IMO a thumbnail explanation for why thicker necked guitars feel right when you might imagine it would be the other way around.

Having said that, there's just a natural degree of variation, one neck to the next on these and you just so happen to have gotten one of the stiffer feeling ones. The funny thing is, the next guy will insist on the added stiffness - an overly compliant feel is desired by some, while others don't want that at all.
Interesting. You’re saying the big ole fat neck feels less uptight and rigid because it’s not working so hard against the truss rod? Less ”strength” asserted for the given task?
that might explain the reason I like that old bullet neck despite it’s tiny relative size to the big u shape. That one has tiny frets and light strings and probably isn’t working hard either if that’s true. It also feels far less rigid.

all I do is play ‘em. Not so much interaction with other guitars or guitarists round here. appreciate the perspective. if I understand correctly that’s a dynamic I’ve never considered.
 




New Posts

Top