Guitar set-up issues

Last week I bought a Jim Adkins Telecaster from my local music store. It was a “blem” – a factory second that had some flaw that led Fender to wholesale to a refurbisher, who then sold it to my dealer. I don’t know what the particular issue with mine was – the cosmetics are perfect.

My problem is I can’t get the thing tuned/intonated correctly – not even close. By this I mean, after tuning the guitar to a tuner, fretting various notes and chords yields some pretty horribly out-of-tune results. I have (and have had) a lot of guitars, but never one this difficult to get right – even the locking nut/tremolo guitars I have are better than this.

This is a fixed-bridge guitar – the TOM “Adjusto-matic.” I had my dealer work on it some; when that only yielded marginal improvement, I went to work on it myself. I’ve followed the usual set-up steps for a guitar like this: adjusted the neck using the truss rod… then adjusting the bridge height to specs; then checking the nut (which was fine); and then “roughing” the positions of the saddles and then adjusting them using a tuner.

Still, the thing is pretty bad – the worst offender is my low E and 3rd G strings: when I fret a G on the 6th string, it goes terrible sharp, same with fretting an A on the 3rd string. I have a 9.5 radius Earvana intonation correction nut lying around, but it’s blond in color, while my guitar is black… but I’m tempted to install it to see what happens.

I though maybe some of you knowledgeable guys would have some suggestions, like Swamptone :sunglasses:

If I can’t get this right, I’m going to exchange it

Are you adjusting the saddles, using the comparison of the open string to the 12th fret harmonic of the same string? You also have to compare the fretted 12th to the harmonic 12th.

Have you put new strings on it to rule out a few wonky strings?

Hey guys
Yes, I’m setting the intonation the standard way – checking the open string, and then the harmonic at the 12th fret and adjusting the saddle. The strings were new but I will go ahead and put another pristine set on and start from scratch. The strings that were in there did need some stretching. Thanks for the suggestions :slight_smile:

twilightsong said:

a factory second that had some flaw


+1

And what can really hurt is sometimes an axe like this will
have an AMAZING/KILLER tone.

{’-’}

http://www.stewmac.com/freeinfo/Fretting/i-fretcalc.html


Use this to see if the fret(s) are in the right spot.

Only thing I can think of, if the frets are properly positioned (and it’s hard to imagine they’re not in this day of everything done by machine), is that the nut slots are too shallow. If the strings are too high in the nut, then pressing down on them will stretch them and make them sharp, especially in the first three frets. I think that nut slots will often be too shallow out of the factory, under the expectation that the dealer will cut the slots a little deeper with special nut files depending on the gauge of strings you use. It’s not necessarily something you want to do on your own because it’s easy to mess up, and the nut slots do wear deeper over time. (Although, I did it myself on my new Les Paul Studio with some welder’s tip cleaning files!)

Just looked at pictures of your guitar… looks like a beauty. No way Fender would have messed up the fret positions, in my opinion.

I’d second the high frets hypothesis, after all if the open and 12th’s are in and the neck looks good and it still goes sharp, apart from a bad string/s whats left?

As a point, you say you’re checking the open and harmonic? but are you also checking the open and fretted 12th?

Hey Doug … here’s some reading material online. I also recommend Dan Erlewine’s excellent book on guitar set-up and repair (Guitar Player Repair Guide 3rd Edition). Keep in mind that intonation of an electric (or acoustic) is never “perfect”. Nature of the beast. Buzz Feiten has modifications that improve the situation, but that isn’t something I’d recommend as a DIY project.

Visit this site and read all of it … twice:

http://www.marcelroy.com/mods/bridge/bridge.html

Read this short article by the great Jerry Donahue (hosted on the Seymour Duncan site):

http://www.seymourduncan.com/support/choosing-installing/tech-tips/saddle_up_your/

Just had an electric 12 string in today, hopefully tomorrow he’ll bring it back after putting on new strings settling them in and setting the bloody thing up properly. I do love a 12 string but I also hate them too. :imp:

As you were…

By the way … the vintage 3-saddle tele bridge is a complete PITA without compensated saddles. Even with compensated saddles, there seems to always be some compromise required. I use a strobe tuner for set-ups, very precise … and very revealing.

Just today I ordered a Babicz full-contact tele bridge (before seeing this thread) after fiddling with intonation on a vintage tele style bridge with aftermarket compensated saddles all weekend. I know purists dig the 3-saddle bridges, and I understand the advantage … but I’m migrating toward individual saddles on my tele’s to get the intonation as correct as possible (short of a Buzz Feiten refit).

http://www.buzzfeiten.com/

Hey All

Actually Swamp I have that book – the “bible” of guitar maintennace! I also watched some of his YouTubes on this sort of bridge

Did I mention I’ve set the action relatively high on this? It’s that sort of guitar – not meant for shredding, but for hard rocking and rhythm playing. But still I’m getting fret buzz

I went to replace the low E string and found all I had on hand were lots of acoutsic strings :confused:

Although I’ve read up on the Buzz Feiten system, they say it’s fallen a bit out of favor, and now these
Earvana nuts are popular – I put one on a Strat and it did in fact help

^^^ Was the neck straight before you adjusted the truss-rod to get some relief?

Is the neck twisted?

What is the neck/fingerboard profile, radii (compound)? Maple fingerboard or rosewood?

How’s the neck pocket? Shimmed? Is the neck aligned straight in the pocket (look at high E and low E relative to the edge of the neck/fingerboard … is the distance of string to edge consistent from nut to heel? Do either of the E strings slide off the edge through normal playing?)

I’ve had Fenders where the neck pocket dimensions were way off, and the bottom of the pocket was not level.

How is the fret wear, and where is it mostly? As the lower frets wear, the upper frets sit too high and have to be dressed (filed or sanded down) and re-crowned. Or … if they’re too worn it’ll need a refret.

The action was too low… the neck looked straight, but I put a bit of bow in it

Is the neck twisted?

I don’t think so

What is the neck/fingerboard profile, radii (compound)? Maple fingerboard or rosewood?

If i understand your question, it’s a rosewood 9.5 radius neck

How’s the neck pocket? Shimmed? Is the neck aligned straight in the pocket (look at high E and low E relative to the edge of the neck/fingerboard … is the distance of string to edge consistent from nut to heel? Do either of the E strings slide off the edge through normal playing?)

This is a neck-through guitar… the E-strings play normally

How is the fret wear, and where is it mostly? As the lower frets wear, the upper frets sit too high and have to be dressed (filed or sanded down) and re-crowned. Or … if they’re too worn it’ll need a refret.

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They seemed okay, but these are semi-jumbo frets, and I’m not sure what to expect. They look uniform up and down the guitar

Thanks for the input :sunglasses:

Ahhhh, neck-thru is good! That means it hasn’t been removed and bolted back on misaligned laterally causing the E-strings to easily slide off the edge of the fingerboard on one side up the neck.

Some relief is good and desirable, and essential in the case of a 9.5" radius IMO. Now, if you have some radius gauges you should check that the radius of the bridge saddles is also 9.5 (also double check that it is not a compound radius neck … say 9.5 near the nut and flattening out as you go up the neck … something like 12" radius at the 15th fret). Very common and better for riffing way up the neck.

Large frets in good shape, also a good sign. You can check fret heights at various points up the neck using feeler gauges. If a fret(s) has lifted up (it happens) it’ll be higher than it’s neighbors. It may be as simple as tapping it back down with a fretting hammer (local shop could do it in about 30 seconds for a cold adult beverage I expect). That will most definitely cause buzzes. If that is not the case, the frets may need to be dressed and recrowned … not a big deal and often necessary to a proper set-up after a major change to the bridge.

Keep in mind that raising the bridge will require resetting intonation … each time.

I suspect the radius of the bridge saddles isn’t the same as the neck, and that will cause buzzing (especially on bent notes up the neck) and fretting out on the high frets (say, above the 12th) … again, a set of radius gauges is needed (there are DIY plans on the internet, but I recommend a set from Stew-Mac … worth having around).

Thanks, Nick

I ended up taking it to a guy in my town who is semi-legendary for solving setup issues. The waiting period is at least 10 days. But when he’s done, I will able to talk to him about it, and the issues and knowledge you’ve shared will help me understand better what he tells me – thank you very much! :sunglasses:

Should be: checking the fretted note on the 12th fret, and then the harmonic at the 12th fret…

Or, open string, then fretted note at the 12th fret, works here… :wink: .

Mauri.

This sounds like the solution. Checking the open and the harmonic takes no account of the fretboard. They’ll always be exactly an octave apart. Need to adjust string length at the bridge until the first harmonic occurs over the 12th fret (allowing for finger pressure).

Yes… I meant to say, checking the open note, then the fretted note, then the harmonic

UPDATE: I got this back from my local guitar set-up guy hero and… it’s significantly improved. The fret buzz is gone. The action is WAY too high even for this type of guitar… I gradually lowered it, it’s now about right and still no fret buzz

HOWEVER

The intonation issue regarding the low E string remains. It’s really bad! Given all the work that three of us have now done on this, does this strike you as a fret or nut issue? The frets look okay, as does the nut. This would be a great guitar is not for this one annoying issue :imp: