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What Makes One Guitar Slinkier or Stiffer Than Another?

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by charlie chitlin, Feb 15, 2019.

  1. SPUDCASTER

    SPUDCASTER Poster Extraordinaire Gold Supporter

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    I now remember where I read it.

    It was the new Jimmy Page Tele with the top loader.

    Claimed because of the top loader it was easier to achieve the "Jimmy bends".
     
  2. Billy Claire

    Billy Claire Tele-Afflicted

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    I had a '78 lefty Strat (strung righty) that just played hard. I literally threw it across a field at an outdoor gig once and it played a lot better after that. ;-)

    [​IMG]
     
  3. Viejo

    Viejo Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    My guitar tech calls it "lowering the key". He mills about.10 " out of the neck pocket so the neck sets deeper into the body. Just a small amount makes a lot of difference as far as how the guitar feels.
     
  4. Ronetele

    Ronetele TDPRI Member Silver Supporter

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    Almost hate to do this to y'all, but to complicate things, does a more slinky guitar (easier to bend, easier to fret) have the same tone as a stiff guitar? Of course, in this context we must mention SRV who played quite heavy strings which need to be much tighter to get up to pitch (right?). So is their a trade off between easy to play and potential loss of tone?
     
  5. old wrench

    old wrench Friend of Leo's

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    Pretty sure SRV played with those strings tuned down to E flat ;).
     
  6. M4RK

    M4RK TDPRI Member

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    I just fixed the stiffness in my home build strat by moving the string tree closer to the nut to increase break angle. Worked a treat. I thought of doing this because all my reverse head stock guitars are the most slinky.

    Contrary to the consensus, I have the feeling that less total string length (including pre nut/bridge) means that you need less tension to get to pitch, hence a slinkier string :). Less bend is needed to hit the higher note too on shorter string length.

    Oh yes and as some one else mentioned, a high nut will definitely drive you bonkers. First thing I did was swap the nut and that made the guitar immediately feel better.
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2019
  7. coolrene

    coolrene TDPRI Member

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    There are a lot of elements that contribute to the tone, resonance and slinkiness (ease of play) of a guitar. I will try to be as complete as possible. No particular order, I write as I think of them. Warning: if you read it all it can end up in mixing you up quite a bit ! :confused:

    - scale length: the classic 25,5" inch used by Fender is a bit stiffer than the 24,75" used by Gibson. PRS has a few intermediate ones ranging from 24,58 to 25. The principle is: the longer the scale, the « twangier » the tone. The shorter, the easier to bend.

    - radius: vintage radius 7,25" to almost flat radius of 20" have a pretty different feel. 7,25" is good for chords, 9,5" is a « modern » good intermediate, 10" is used by PRS, 12" is used by Gibson. Shredders tend to use 16" to 20" like the Ibanez Wizard necks.
    Warmoth offers « compound » radiuses as a standard, that ranges from 10" to 16". 10" on the lower frets to ease chords and 16" on the higher ones for easier soloing. Once again, no rules, you have to experience a lot to find your right fit. My personal preference goes to a straight 9,5 to 10".

    - fret wire: the larger the fret, the easier the bends. 6100 Dunlops are my favorite, but I can do with 6150, depending on the neck. Stainless is great: no wear and silky bends, but some claim they give a more « metallic » sound than the nickel/silver ones… I’m not persuaded but it’s up to your own ear.

    - neck wood: basically, maple is snappier, mahogany has a more « rounded » tone, putting the mid/upper low frequencies forward. If you look at Warmoth’s site, a description of all the variations of woods in tone is quite explicit. It’s never day or night, but slight nuances can be distinguished.

    - neck profile: the way you grab your neck influences your playing and therefore your tone. Plus a vey thick neck will give more length to the notes.

    - fretboard wood: once again, maple snappier, rosewood a bit softer tone + all variations like pau ferro (about same density as maple), ebony (more trebly), etc.

    - string gauge: depending on all other factors (scale, frets, break angle…), string gauge is of course an essential component of the « slinkiness ». 9-42 will be a lot slinkier than 11-49 but if you play on a PRS with a radiis of 10, 6100 frets and a 25 scale, you might not want to go below 10-48 as the will already feel as a 9-42 on a standard Tele for instance. As to tone, it’s another debate, some will claim small gauges sound too thin. Personnally, I think it depends on your playing, whether you hit hard or play soft, on the type of pickup you use, etc. My fav as a standard is 10-48 it is just right for tone and bends and 48 adds up a bit of bass resonance where lower gauge can sound too trebly.

    - neck relief: you have lots of vids that explain it. A straight neck gives you the ability of a low action but it’s difficult to have it perfectly straight, plus it can cause buzz in certain parts of the neck. Ideally, set it dead straight and then release it very carefully (1/8 of turns at a time, plus let it rest a while between settings). You should be able to insert a business card at the 12th fret while pressing on the first and last fret (use a capo). Goes together with the action setting.

    - action: Lower action is nice because it gives ease of play, but bends are more difficult and you run into the risk of buzz or fret out. Too high is a pain, particularly with bar chords of as you go up the neck for soloing. I like my action to be medium. Requires quite a bit of trial and error: high enough not to buzz, low enough not to have to press like mad on bar chords.
    Goes with the neck relief. As stated on a power user’s blog: « Too much relief and it'll buzz at the top on the upper frets as you play at that end of the neck. Effectively you end up with a high action at the 12th which people try to compensate for by lowering the bridge.
    Too little relief (read back bow in the neck) and it'll buzz on the lower frets and open chords. The usual approach here is to try and lift the bridge too high to try and achieve a decent action at the 12th.
    The recommended settings for relief are between 0,1mm and 0,3mm at the 7th fret, with a capo at the first and the string held down on the body fret (usually the 17th). I try to aim around 0,2mm. »

    - nut type: an essential element. Type, height, slots. Plastic is the standard on most budget guitars. Nothing wrong, as long as the height is correct and the slots are well cut. I never thought of the width as a tone factor, but it undeniably will influence on your playing. 43mm is what I use, but on some Teles I have 42mm and 43,8 mm on another one. The largest one has the feeling of a « classical » guitar, thus you play differently and it might affect your tone…
    TUSQ will give you better resonance and auto-lubricates. Perfect for most cases, but if you are a whammy power user, it may end up in deepening the grooves, acting like a saw particularly on the wound strings, and you will have to change your nut quite frequently.
    In that case, use a bone nut. Variables like Corian (a hard-type nylon), brass, titanium can be an alternative.
    The slots have to be perfectly cut, deep enough not to detune when pressing on the first frets, but not too deep as it will create buzzing. also, the grooves have to be wide enough to accommodate the type of string you use and the string has to sit comfortably. Too wide and it will fumble, too tight (V shape groove) and it will be stuck when you bend, thus creating detune. Also, the groove has to follow the headstock angle. If it is too straight, it will give you an unpleasant « sitar » effect when the string is played open.

    Has to be considered together with the break angle, string retainer, tuners.

    - break angle: enough to give a good tension. Too much will stiffen the action and eventually have that unwanted « sitar » effect.
    I personally favor the use of staggered tuners rather than normal+string trees. These tend to add friction, too much tension and eat up a bit sustain. I use locking, staggered tuners and stated that the stings resonate more freely, stay better in tune and have an easier feeling on bends.
    At the bridge, the less break angle the slinkier the feeling. Here again, you have to explore until you feel the most comfortable.

    - saddles: bent steel, Tusq, solid steel, nylon, brass, titanium… you name it ! On a Tele, I use solid brass, compensated saddles (Rutters is my best experience), with solid, cold rolled steel bridge plate (Rutters as well).

    - body wood: Alder, ash, pine, mahogany, walnut, rosewood… Alder will give you a bit more resonance, ash or pine are lighter. You have to find the right compromise for you. I have an alder Tele that weights a ton but sustains for days, and a light ash one… as well ;) depends on the other components as stated above (bridge, saddles) and pickups !

    - pickups: humbuckers, single coils, P90’s… I love to mix them. Humbucker in front and single in the bridge, but also TV Jones in the bridge, P90 in the front… Plus you can vary a lot with magnet types (Alnico 2 to 5), low wind, etc. Single will hum a bit Humbuckers will be less trebly. Your choice, as well as wiring, series, parallel, split etc.

    - pots: 250 k for singles, 500K for humbuckers is a standard but you can vary if you want to darken the singles for instance.

    - capacitor: 0,015μfd will give you a « cleaner » tone, 0.022μfd is considered as standard, 0,043μfd a bit darker: you have to experience !

    I probably forgot other elements/settings but I suppose it’s enough food for thought :D

    I play guitars for 55 years and mod them for a few decades. I learned a lot from my mistakes, which is why a posted such an extended comment. I maintain and take care of a dozen guitars on a daily basis. My last experience is based on a Telecaster (the one on my pic) on which I modded practically all the components. You can have an overview on this link:
    http://www.tdpri.com/threads/my-voodoocaster.408063/#post-8927107

    There is no perfect or ideal guitar. Explore, experience and don’t hesitate to ask for help to a competent tech or luthier if you don’t feel at ease with DIY.:) Have fun and good luck !
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2019
    M4RK, fernieite and midnight340 like this.
  8. igor5

    igor5 Tele-Meister

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    We can't compare apples to oranges...
    I have two Teles, among others. One of the slickest I've ever had is a american standard. Other, pretty much stiff is MIM James burton.
    They have the same configuration except for: Nut (witdh and material), fret size and bridge. So, I am pretty confident that the difference lies between these three factors.
    BTW, MIM JB is my number 1, it has just feel better to play.
     
  9. coolrene

    coolrene TDPRI Member

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    Igor5: I agree. You pointed 3 important components that contribute greatly to the difference in playing. May I suggest that if you add 2/100 of an inch to the neck relief, your James Burton Tele will be much more pleasant to play. Try it and let me know;). Cheers!
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2019
  10. Fidel Nocastro

    Fidel Nocastro TDPRI Member

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    Hi radiocaster, please elucidate your position.
     
  11. radiocaster

    radiocaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    I guess this is what happens to guitars that have been hanging on the walls of guitar stores that nobody buys for years, you must be right...
    [​IMG]
     
  12. Fidel Nocastro

    Fidel Nocastro TDPRI Member

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    I thought you'd concede slick. There's nothing wrong with that neck too if you know how to play.
     
  13. PCollen

    PCollen Friend of Leo's

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    Certainly scale length. A given set of strings, when tuned to standard pitch, will have more tension on each string on a longer (25.5") scale than they will on a shorter (24.75") scale, all other things being equal.
     
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