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Why can't I get in tune - and a tip on first position barre chords
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TOPIC: Why can't I get in tune - and a tip on first position barre chords

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#141746
Why can't I get in tune - and a tip on first position barre chords 2 Months, 1 Week ago  
Dave and I sat and began tuning up for the recent house concert - Dave asked if I could turn off the ceiling fan? I learned something - yep, not an electrical thing - the sound waves created by the fan blades going through the air - it's true, ya can't get 'in tune' with a ceiling fan, or really any fan running near you.

Secondly - two of my acoustics have been professionally 'setup'. The Avian I took to camp has such 'playability' it's become a favorite. All three have one thing in common - the string clearance at the first fret is 0.022" to 0.020".

In comparison - the Seagull WAS at 0.032 - the new fan fret is 0.055 - the brand new Epiphone - 0.035 all these are measured at the first fret, first (E - wound) string using a set of automotive "feeler gauges" that have never been used for anything else.

The 6th string (e) on the Avian is 0.018

Using a set of *nut files and a few moments here and there (and after adjusting the neck relief and saddle) and going at very-very short and easy filings - the Seagull is now at 0.022. And 0.020 respectfully.

What a huge difference - butter, could even go down a bit more!

Now - what does this have to do with barre chords at the first position? Of course - less pressure needed to push down - like putting a capo on and playing a barre.

So - a suggestion - getting a professional level setup is well worth the money and the time.

And, if you play a lot in the first position (which most of us do) it will also help with those tired and painful fingers!

*there are YouTube videos out showing using things like small three corner files - of course, you can do so if you wish - yet my guy builds and replaces - with bone - for $75. A setup with him, a former road tech, starts at $40. The set of files I bought cost $75 from StewMac. My suggestion to you - stay away from going the cheapest way like the three sided file.
wiley
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Last Edit: 2017/07/09 11:07 By wiley.
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#141750
Re: Why can't I get in tune - and a tip on first position barre chords 2 Months, 1 Week ago  
Wiley,
You are absolutely right about nut files. Only the Stew-Mac files should be used. The price is high but if you want accuracy and easy work, nothing is better.

As far as 1st fret string height, I go even lower, however a lot depends on neck relief (always set that first) and saddle height. With a neck relief of .006 (capo at 1st fret and measured at 7th fret while holding string down at the 14th fret), I set my nut height thus (measured at 1st fret):

e @ .014; BGDA @ .016; E @ .018.

And action at the 12th fret thus:

e @ .065; B @ .070; GDA @ .080; E @ .090

Granted I'm a finger style player for the most part and these low tolerances are not going to work for a Bluegrass picker, unless he/she has a perfect attack. Even at these tolerances I don't have too much trouble digging in.

Thanks for your, as always, informative posts.

Bill
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#141759
Re: Why can't I get in tune - and a tip on first position barre chords 2 Months, 1 Week ago  
Bill, thanks -

You make a very good point as to style of play towards setup, or really, string height. In fact, it's one of the reasons manufacturers set the height at what they do - better too high when some hard slinging flat picker goes at a new piece on the wall than too low.

And yep, that order of things is how it needs to go - neck - saddle - nut. I've posted some of this before, and I always tell someone that if they do take a piece in for a 'professional' setup the easy way to tell if the tech is an actual 'pro' is if he goes at the neck first (after asking questions along the lines of your particular wants/needs/playing style) - anything else = take the guitar and run out the store.

My 0.022>0.020 is a 'medium' height for the first fret, I do very little real fingerstyle so the lower settings wouldn't work too well, for me.

Same as the neck relief, I use the first fret capo method and always have. Pushing down onto the 14th - my setting ON the 6th fret E = 0.010" (between string bottom and fret) at the lowest. Again - my own style and preferences.
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#141777
Re: Why can't I get in tune - and a tip on first position barre chords 2 Months, 1 Week ago  
This is interesting stuff guys. Can you elaborate on what you'd recommend for finger picking and for strumming, the differences interest me. Any thoughts on 12 strings?
Thanks!
Chris
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#141778
Re: Why can't I get in tune - and a tip on first position barre chords 2 Months, 1 Week ago  
Chris, never owned nor setup a twelve - don't know why it would be any different yet the tension is, of course, a lot more and the bracing for a twelve is different also due to exactly that, increased tension.

A lot of flatpickers and bluegrass players will set the neck relief at almost zero, has to due with the amount of movement the string makes when set in motion. Same for the first fret height and the saddle height. It's a combination of the three that makes up the "action" although changing any one of these will cause a change.

It should be said that the environment, humidty and such, will also change these things - by changing the first part, the neck relief. And in extreme cases the "belly" of the guitar where the bridge attaches!

So - in short, if you strum "heavy" or "loud" a low action will cause fret buzz, - the movement of the strings is more than say a fingerstyle pluck. And, certain styles or genres of music do the same - Rock just isn't the same played nice and sweetly! *Electric guitars are usually somewhat different.

*General Note - if you don't want to mess with the nut slots, then tune down a half or more and use a capo - pretty much has the same effect.
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#141784
Re: Why can't I get in tune - and a tip on first position barre chords 2 Months, 1 Week ago  
Chris,
It's bedtime for me now. But I'll repsond soon.
Bill
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#141791
Re: Why can't I get in tune - and a tip on first position barre chords 2 Months, 1 Week ago  
wiley wrote:
Chris, never owned nor setup a twelve - don't know why it would be any different yet the tension is, of course, a lot more and the bracing for a twelve is different also due to exactly that, increased tension.

A lot of flatpickers and bluegrass players will set the neck relief at almost zero, has to due with the amount of movement the string makes when set in motion. Same for the first fret height and the saddle height. It's a combination of the three that makes up the "action" although changing any one of these will cause a change.

It should be said that the environment, humidty and such, will also change these things - by changing the first part, the neck relief. And in extreme cases the "belly" of the guitar where the bridge attaches!

So - in short, if you strum "heavy" or "loud" a low action will cause fret buzz, - the movement of the strings is more than say a fingerstyle pluck. And, certain styles or genres of music do the same - Rock just isn't the same played nice and sweetly! *Electric guitars are usually somewhat different.

*General Note - if you don't want to mess with the nut slots, then tune down a half or more and use a capo - pretty much has the same effect.


Hi Chris,
I agree with Wiley on all points here. That said, I would add that setting the neck relief flat is not a good idea as the strings vibrate the most in the middle of their length. That leads to a lot of fret/string buzzing. Knowing your style of play I would really recommend the tolerances I mentioned in my last post here. Wiley uses a neck relief of .010, I use .006 to get a lower action for my style of play. I wouldn't go any lower than .005.

Again a lot of this has to do with the overall condition of the guitar. Any belly in the top near the bridge or a bad neck angle changes everything and if those conditions exist, you're never going to get a guitar that plays well. So before anyone tries to adjust neck relief, nut height, and saddle height the instrument should be checked for correct neck angle and top defects.

Checking neck angle is easy. With the guitar tuned to standard, place a straight edge on the middle of the finger board (one about 15" is perfect) parallel to the strings. The bottom edge of the straight edge should just kiss the top of the bridge (not the saddle). If it does, your neck angle is good. If the straight edge falls below the top of the bridge, you need a neck reset. This is true if the top of the guitar is flat. If there is a bulge at the bridge, that should be fixed first.

With me so far?

Wiley also makes a good point about humidity. If the guitar is dry, the bridge will sink, if it is "wet" the bridge will rise. I keep my guitars in a humidity controlled room; 45% to 55% relative humidity is ideal. In the winter I use an Ultrasonic humidifier in the winter and my central a/c takes care of the summer time high humidity. If you decide to use an Ultrasonic humidifier, it has to be run with DISTILLED WATER (not just filtered water). Distilled water has no minerals in it. The minerals in filtered water create a white powder that gets all over everything in the room.

Lastly, the only thing I do with my 12 string is tune it down a full step (E to D etc.) That takes tension off the neck, and makes it easier to play. I use the same tolerances as those in my 6 string guitars.

Whew...I hopes that's not TMI and you find it helpful.

Cheers,
Bill
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#141797
Re: Why can't I get in tune - and a tip on first position barre chords 2 Months, 1 Week ago  
Thanks Bill,

Once again, your dead on with checking the neck for warp and straightness and angle.

One reason I wanted to try an "Arch Top" was the 'floating bridge'. IOW - the bridge, and therefore the saddle are not attached to the top other than the tension of the strings. The neck rises up and over the body and is set deeper in. Virtually, nothing really touches the body using a raised pick guard, not even your pinky or pick in a 'normal' fashion.

The floating bridge allows for huge, easy corrections to intonation, yet it can be a pain when changing strings and other maintenance issues. You can't do that on most flat-tops.

Honestly, I really can't judge yet, not too much. The intonation is pretty much dead on (after experimenting around a bit) except a bit sharp on the unwound strings - the fifth ( is always a problem with all. Yet I am of the opinion that issues like intonation and playability become close to non-issues if and when a proper setup is done. And that is on any piece!

This post is mainly directed towards those of us traveling to camp soon, those who may not have ever been at Sea Level, high-humidity locations. Asilomar is more or less "on the beach" and can be crazy on acoustic hollow bodied guitars. So, be ready for tuning problems, even more so because from the photos of the place, there are lots of ceiling fans.

So, see a bunch of you soon!
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#141806
Re: Why can't I get in tune - and a tip on first position barre chords 2 Months, 1 Week ago  
Thanks to you too Wiley. The arch top sounds really nice. I looked at them out of curiosity when I saw the ad in Acoustic Guitar magazine.

For those of you traveling to Asilomar, I would highly recommend putting the D'Addario Humidification System in each guitar/case. They really do work. Here's an Amazon link for them:

www.amazon.com/DAddario-PW-HPK-01-Two-Wa...ion+system&psc=1

Have fun all at IGC, I'll miss being there.

Bill
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#141836
Re: Why can't I get in tune - and a tip on first position barre chords 2 Months, 1 Week ago  
Chris, and everyone else,

I began the task of taking on the Monster Fan Fret from Yugoslavia - a sample of the tiny baby steps to get there -

First, neck relief - Target point of 0.010 > 0.008

Start - 0.024 - first swing - wrong direction to 0.026, third - 0.021, forth - 0.014 - stop at 0.009

Second - Saddle - Target point of E (as example) @ 0.10 > 0.08

Start - 0.191 - second - 0.017, third - 0.143 - forth - 0.121 and that's where I'm at for now.

now for "e" set point = 0.075, at 0.086 for now. Started @ 0.161

*NOTE - The saddle has taken a long time, seems the bridge is also a problem and the saddle itself is in the shape where I am having to take down the bridge as I go along, lots of room there though. Getting close to needing a new saddle and routing out the groove in the bridge.

Third - Nut - not really working it yet, to a degree. Target = E @ 0.022 > 0.020

Start = 0.056, done a bit of work since it was so off and the fact it came off during the neck relief (the fan fret angle got in the way as I didn't take the time to make a specialty tool) has it down to 0.041
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