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Fretting out while bending notes

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by JimmyM, May 30, 2007.


  1. JimmyM

    JimmyM

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I bumped down my gauges to a .040 set with a pretty low action on all my basses a couple weeks ago, and everything was going good until I tried to bend a note on my 79 P at my gig tonight. It seems I can bend much farther now, but once I get past a whole step bend at the 12th fret or higher, it frets out. And the whole step bend isn't exactly clean, either. It's as close to fretting out as it gets without actually fretting out.

    So I'm wondering what the cheapest way to sort out the problem is. Raising the action to normal Fender specs doesn't work. So that would leave getting a fret dressing or possibly shimming the neck. A couple frets at the base of the neck have dents but I don't think a fret dressing is necessary. But is shimming the neck the answer? Do you think I can get the action low and not fret out by shimming? Or is a dressing the only realistic answer?
     
  2. jimmy,

    when you dropped gauge did you adjust your relief?

    fretting out on bends, especially mid-neck, can sometimes be the symptom of a not enough relief vs. a given action.


    if all parameters are to your liking and you still are having problems, a fret-dress may be the next logical approach.

    sure, try a shim first, though, they can do wonders and it's worth the check, right?
     
  3. JimmyM

    JimmyM

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I did drop it a little, but not to Fender spec of .014". But before I typed the original post, I did adjust it to .014" and had it a slight bit better but not enough.
     
  4. JimmyM

    JimmyM

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    So I took my Precision to my local guy today, and here's what he told me:

    He said that with the 7.25" radius, the only way to make it work is to have an ever-so-slight bit of backbow in it, then raise the strings. He said it was fretting out on the 20th fret, so the idea is to get the 20th fret below the rest. He recommended against shimming, and said that a slight backbow will work. I will see later tonight.
     
  5. BillytheBassist

    BillytheBassist

    Aug 18, 2005
    Texas
    Just a thought but, a slight back bow will more than likely cause your notes on the first five or so frets to buzz out, especially on the E and A,.... i guess the lesser of two evils huh?.... let us know how it works out.
     
  6. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    The way to achieve wider bends on a 7 1/4" radius is by changing the radius. A fret dress is performed. The important thing is that the frets are honed in the lie of the strings creating a conical radius. This will make the radius in the frets ever changing over the length of the fingerboard. This is the method that was employed at Martin up until they changed to NC machinery in the nineties. The result of the conical radius is the effective radius above the twelfth fret becomes ~10-12" depending on position.

    Violating basic setup techniques will not give the desired results. However it may have some unintended negative consequences in the middle of the neck.
     
  7. JimmyM

    JimmyM

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Well, we'll see shortly. I'm about to do it.
     
  8. JimmyM

    JimmyM

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Welp, so much for that idea. It worked for the upper frets but then the lower frets would bottom out. I guess you either need really high action or a larger radius. Now I remember why I always wanted a 12" radius on my basses.
     
  9. BillytheBassist

    BillytheBassist

    Aug 18, 2005
    Texas
    I've had an ongoing battle with the same issues that you are having. What i have found so far is, the best way for me to get the lowest action possible with out fretting out anywhere on the neck is to get the neck in an almost flat position with very little to no relief. Then, i just run through some simple chromatic scales over the entire fretboard while bending each note as much as i will. I know this is all basic setup stuff but, it can get pretty intense for me. In my case, "some" fretting out from the 15th to 23rd fret is acceptable but, only if it occurs when i'm digging in or bending etc. Of course it always helps to be sure the frets are level. Probably all stuff that you already know but, i just thought i would chime in with my trials on the issue.
     
  10. I get the same problem on my jazz . :meh:
     
  11. ArwinH

    ArwinH run rabbit run

    Dec 1, 2005
    Southern California
    This is why I prefer a 12" radius, if not flatter. The 7.25 radius on the jazz is jsut ridiculous if Youw ant to bend arund the 12th fret.
     
  12. GlennW

    GlennW

    Sep 6, 2006
    As 202dy said, it's the short fretboard radius.

    60s Strats were about 9 1/2, I think - makes Hendrix more amazing because he must have had his action pretty high. He often used a Gibson with its 12" radius and extra fret on Red House. I forget when Fender wised up...late 70s or maybe the 80s.

    I remember having a $110 Aria acoustic that would play better than '75 Strat.
     
  13. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    60's Strats were manufactured with 7 1/4" radius. Some techs would dress the frets into a conical radius to allow wider bends. So how is it that box stock fingerboards with short radii could be bent so far? It's simple geometry. String height determines how far a string can be bent. The higher the string, the further it can be bent. Conversely, strings that are set low will note out quicker.

    Up until the 70's, most guitar players were willing to accept a medium set up as reasonable action. The idea that low action makes for faster, easier playing had been around for years. It was and can be argued either way. As the metal era began, there became a fetish for ridiculously low set ups. While most metal enthusiasts will tell you that the sound of a Gibson humbucker was the reason so many players started using Les Pauls, it was actually the 12" radius that allows bends of a step and a half or more that was the attraction. Martins manufactured before the nineties had 12" radii and were dressed conically at the factory to 16" at the end of the fingerboard. Again, this is one of the reasons that Martins were the acoustic of choice for styles that require bending.

    Even today it is not unusual for some guitar players, usually of the metal persuasion, to demand that their string height is set to 3/64" at the twelfth fret and there be no buzzing anywhere on the neck. However, it is fairly rare to hear this request from a pro or a player over thirty. That statement, BTW, is not meant to be inflammatory, it is an observation made over thirty years of observation. There are exceptions.

    So what about bass players and their instruments? Generally speaking, most bassists are willing to accept a reasonable set up, typically 6/64" and 5/64" string heights, bass and treble respectively, as measured at the twelfth fret. This allows a player to dig in if they want to do so. Maybe it is desire for a clean sound, maybe it's testosterone, maybe it's because they want to beat the living snot out of their guitar, but overall bassists are willing to leave the laws of geometry and physics alone.
     
  14. GlennW

    GlennW

    Sep 6, 2006
    Another advantage Gibsons had was the 24 9/16" (they call it 24 3/4") scale - looser strings bend easier and stay in tune better. I don't know any stats, but it's a safe guess that a large majority of 50s-60s blues was played on Gibsons.

    If Jimi did what he did with 7 1/4" necks that's even more amazing. I think most of his guitars were stock.

    I wonder what Roy's Tele was. Google might know.
     
  15. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006

    Yup! Some folks like a more compact fret spacing. Obviously, they're not bass players.

    There are a lot of tricks that were (are) used to make bending easier. Stevie Ray, and many others, tuned to E flat to get a loose feel and easy bending. Sometimes they do this to facilitate the use of heavier string gauges like .010" or even .011" sets. (On a personal note, I've always found the fact that guitar players whine over stepping up to a heavier set-all of .001" on the high E string-to be a source of amazement, great humor, and for close friends, occasional derision.) IIRC, it was stated in a thirty five year old Guitar Player article that Roy Buchanan also tuned down a half step and played a .011" set of strings.

    Geometrical reality is that tight radii, low action, and light string gauges are the enemy of wide bends. Conversely, a flatter radius, higher action, and heavy string gauges permit the player to bend further. It just takes a little bit of hand/finger strength to do it all night.
     
  16. GlennW

    GlennW

    Sep 6, 2006
    Jimi also tuned to E flat; not initially, but maybe around the time of Axis. He might have pioneered that, unless some jazz guy did it before on account of the horns.

    I think I read that SRV's #1 fretboard had been dressed quite a bit and grew into a flatter radius.

    I use .010-.046 on guitar. The main problem I had with heavier strings was that skin under the fingernail on my ring finger would pull apart from bending, the more you bend the worse it gets.
     
  17. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006


    Jazz musicians can transpose with out detuning. : )

    SRV #1: Dan Erlewine measured it and said it was "somewhat flatter". Usually Dan is very specific. Maybe he didn't have his gauges with him?

    The Stevie Ray trick: a drop of liquid thin super glue placed between fingernail and the pad will repair a "split nail". It even eliminates most of the pain. Great for the five gig weekend when your fingertips are like hamburger by Sunday night.
     
  18. GlennW

    GlennW

    Sep 6, 2006
    LOL, yeah, the jazz guys are smart, but that low E flat is hard to find in regular tuning. I think Jimi was tuned down to D on "Machine Gun" on Band of Gypsies - some incredible playing on that one.

    I have Dan's Guitar Repair book, and it seems like it mentioned the super glue trick. I thought about it, but lack the courage.
     
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