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Accoustic Guitars - Observations and questions

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(@rparker)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5480
Topic starter  

Hi Folks, I apoligize in advance for this barrage and length of questioning. I've taken some pretty good strides this past 18 months and in particular, past few months. My playing style is mainly Rhythm, and until recently, almost all strummy stuff at that. Some songs I would strike partial chords (a term I recently learned was acceptable) and in doing so have expanded beyond the strum. Most of this was done on electric guitars on clean settings, and at really low volumes due to ear woes that's in itself a topic for another day.

The guitars used most are double humbucker types. My favorite two are my Epi LP Custom and my Ibanez GAX70 w/rosewood fretboard. Both have 10 guage strings. Noth are set up low, but not too low where I get vibrations and rattles when really hump on the strings. The amps I use really respond well to the guitar attacking and I've become quite adept at identifying and using this to my advantage. Of course, the more you know, the more you don't know. Disapointing to some, but I'm odd and love that kind of thing.

So, my accoustic. It's a Taylor 214. Nothing expensive, but not a cheapo either. It's an $800 guitar and I don't foresee replacing it with a higher dollar number......ever. I use 12 grade strings on it. D'adds to be specific. In fact, I just changed them today. The didn't look too bad, but it's been 18 months and I think any brightness was gone. Taylors "boom", so tonight it just kind of boomed a personality-less tone.

#1: My first questions is this. Has any of you ever went from 12's to 11's on an accoustic. If so, what did you notice about the playability, tone, etc. Vibration too. Like the kind when you don't fret the string in the perfect spot.

I did the 6 string replace at once method. In doing so, I knocked the saddle from where it was. I guess these saddles set in there loose? Not sure. I put it back where I thought it was and it turned out I was way too high on the bass strings. So, I loosened them all back up and shifted the saddle some. I found it to be better after doing this. In fact, a little bit better than it was before I started all this. Things appear to be lined up properly. So, my second questions is this:

#2: What kind of scene is the saddle replacement/modify about? Do people do it? Do people do it often? It appears to be cheap plastic. Could I buy something that isn't so cheap and wind up with a noticable difference? I guess what I'm after, is what do people do with these things to make them and the guitar better?

I know that accoustic guitars do not have the action that Electric guitars have. I have done a truss-rod adjustment on it once. I forgot which measurement was out of whack, but I got it back into the desired range of specification and it did help. This brings me to the next question.

#3: Giving credit where it is do, Nils measurements and specifications are pretty much what I go by. I have a really cool brother-in-law who has plated for35+ years non-stop. He was telling me a couple of years ago to not be afraid of the truss-rod and to tighten it until I get the action where I want it. Being technical by nature, Nil's approach is much more appetizing. Not surprising, I could not find the truss-rod tool when he was here. The question then is, is there any substance to what my brother-in-law was saying?

After all this, my complaints about my guitar are as follows. It takes so darned much pressure to fret. It also takes too perfect a position to cause the ever-annoying rattle-vibration. I normally break this guitar out and opractice with it for 15 minutes before I start "playing" just to get used to the beast. It is the guitar I play outside while sitting back and enjoying the weather. I just need some additional comfort and such on my fret hand.

So, any advice or answers would be great. I really like this guitar a lot due to it's tone and volume. I would advise anyone to get one, even with the fretting items I think need some tweeking.

Thanks for your time everyone! As you know, I try to give more than I take from this Forum as everyone is just peachy-keen.

Roy
"I wonder if a composer ever intentionally composed a piece that was physically impossible to play and stuck it away to be found years later after his death, knowing it would forever drive perfectionist musicians crazy." - George Carlin


   
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(@twistedlefty)
Famed Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 4113
 

I agree with you about Nil's set up info,
when i got my first set up done by a nearby luthier,i mentioned that i had just joined GN and that i had discovered the info on Nil's site.
he had a PC online in his shop, and looked it over before doing my set up.he said he thought it was good info for those who wanted to learn to do adjustments themselves.
then he walked me thru what he was doing and i was able to relate what i had read while watching.
if you have a friendly relationship with a local guy it can really help fill in the blanks about fine points that may have escaped you.

as far as switching string sizes, i'm sure it can affect the intonation if you do a drastic change. but i'm not sure going from 12s to 11s would.

#4491....


   
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(@nicktorres)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 5381
 

Ahhh Grasshopper,

Before I answer all of your questions, change the locks on the doors and do not let the brother near the acoustic again. The truss rod is for adjusting neck relief. IT IS NOT FOR ADJUSTING THE ACTION. :? If you have your action set right, then you adjust the truss rod to make sure you have the correct amount of bow in the neck. If you don't have your action right at the get go, use a straight edge with the strings at full tension and take a look at the neck to see how much relief or lack thereof you have. Then adjust your action and take another look.

#1:
I use medium lights on some, medium on others. It depends on the guitar but in a broad generality string gauge has much more of an impact on acoustic guitar's sound that on an electric's. The sound generating device on the acoustic is the top, so how much tension you put on the top impacts what sound you get. The lighter and more delicate the guitar, the lighter strings I use. My built like a tank Washburn Golden Harvest D-84SW uses medium strings, the Collings OM-1A medium lights, as do my Taylor and Breedlove. I think each acoustic has a sweet spot string wise that makes the top really resonate. It is based on the build characteristics, the top wood, your style of play etc. Play a couple of different gauges until you find the one that works.

#2:
The saddle is supposed to come out unless you have a very old cut through bridge. Make sure it is snug in the slot before you start stringing up the guitar. The strings can hold it in a weird angle and give you high action as you found out.

#3:
Did I already say the truss rod adjusts neck relief and not action? Don't believe me? Go to Frank Ford's website and search.

Take the guitar in to a pro and have a setup done. Except when I have had a brace come unglued, and it has happened, all of my guitars have low action, play like buttah and never buzz unless I am too.


   
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(@luisagui)
New Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 2
 

I have an ibanez acoutsic guitar and i was trying to restring but the slot where the G string goes, when i try to put in the pin it won't stay...i lost the pin that went there a while back so i tried taking out a pin from the high e string and putting it where i wanted it (g string) but it simply wouldn't stay i tried putting that same pin in different slots and i found no problem so i dont know if the pin is the problem. so im wondering if pins vary in diameter or thickness or something like that or if some pins are meant for certain slots....or if the hole where the string goes is worn out or something like that....i really dont know what to do...i thought about buying some brass pins or something like that but i want to be sure that its not my guitar thats worn out..I am a decent musican and before if my guitar ever needed any kind of maintenance my friend would take care of that so i never had to deal with this, and i have no idea what can possibly be going on....


   
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(@citizennoir)
Noble Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 1247
 

Hey Roy :D

As far as the string thing goes; I agree with Nick wholeheartedly.
You've got to find a set that really makes that top sing!

And that depends on all the things that Nick already listed.

I myself use 11's on my acoustic.... tried the 12's of the same type;
Didn't like them at all.
Sounded like the 11's when they got old! lol.
Very 'thuddy'.

Tried the thinner 11's and even the 10's of the same type -
sounded really 'Mickey Mouse' to me, plus not enough 'fight' in them for me.
(I need to have a bit of 'push back' in my strings or I'll fret and bend everything out of tune).

The 11's I use though, just sound perfect.

As far as the truss rod goes;
Nick is right again!

Although, there is much talk of 'fear' amongst guitarists regarding ANY trussrod adjustments.
Personally, I see absolutely NO reason to be afraid of it.
When I bought my 60's SG, the neck was actually counterbowed and I brought it back to specs myself....
if that 60's Gibbo slim taper, glued on neck didn't snap from a meathead like me turnin' the trussrod, I think
anyone can do it! :wink:

Don't know if that's what you were askin' or not though....?

Anyway - Nick is right about the trussrod; although, I have had it set to specs and had the action set, and the guitar's
'action' or fretboard playability seemed to be slow - or fought me a bit harder than it should.
And I would give the truss rod a tiny little crank and BINGO!
Fast action.

Maybe Greg can shed some light on the technical aspects and the whys....?

I've also read that many people have bought the Epiphone Hummingbird, and swapped the plastic saddles and nuts for
something more substantial and they were said to play like $1200 guitars afterwards.... that's just what I've heard.

Hope ya get it sorted,

Ken

"The man who has begun to live more seriously within
begins to live more simply without"
-Ernest Hemingway

"A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"
-Orson Welles


   
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(@gnease)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5038
 

I have an ibanez acoutsic guitar and i was trying to restring but the slot where the G string goes, when i try to put in the pin it won't stay...i lost the pin <snip>

I relied in the Maintenance and Repair section.

-=tension & release=-


   
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(@gnease)
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Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5038
 

Maybe Greg can shed some light on the technical aspects and the whys....?

not sure what I can add, Ken, except to repeat ...

Never force the truss rod adjustment, and if you've made a full clockwise turn against some resistance (tightening) and absolutely nothing is happening, STOP. on many guitars, a truss rod cannot adjust relief everywhere on the neck -- especially at the end opposite the adjusting point. and sometimes the best is can do is imperfect due to the natural shape of the neck. also don't confuse uneven frets with the need to adjust relief.

learned all this early as a teen by breaking the truss rod on my very first guitar ... then I learned how to repair it.

as for strings. I generally prefer mediums (13s) for my acoustics that are going to take a good strumming. dropping to 12 (or 11s, yuck) only seem appropriate on some guitars, as noted. but many of those are best for fingerstyle or a really acoustic-electric and won't be taking a damn good strumming anyway. I will always remember as a teen, when the leader of our guitar service grabbed my friend's acoustic strung with 11s and played it saying, "easy to play, but doesn't sound like much of a guitar." then he picked up his Hummingbird -- strung with mediums or med-heavies -- and showed us how it was done. what a monster tone and voice!

-=tension & release=-


   
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(@dogbite)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 6348
 

I'll answer peg hole and pin slipping.
nine times out of ten the pin pops out because the string was not set into the pin slot properly.
double check that first.
pegs are pretty wide at the peg head. even worn out holes aren't are problem.
if all else fails you could try a different gauge peg. make sure the taper angle is similar.

http://www.soundclick.com/bands/pagemusic.cfm?bandID=644552
http://www.soundclick.com/couleerockinvaders


   
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(@rparker)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5480
Topic starter  

Thanks for the replies everyone. I have done quite a few truss rod adjustments, but not 100% sure if ever on my accoustic. I know I did measure for it last year, but do not remember the outcome. (sorry, 18 months of stupid meds....)

Nick, the reason I could not find the tool when he was here was because I didn't look for it. :wink: I had been using Nils' page for a couple of years. I like absolutes. Even in the form of a range. It's my comfort zone.

It's been over 4 years since I bought the guitar. It's probably due a professional set-up as Nick reccomended. It's been playing decent, but I had not used it in like 4 months. :oops: I picked it up yesterday and felt and sounded awful after tuning and double checking the tuning.

So, I went to Sam Ash and GC today to look at some other 214s' saddles. I did move mine a bit last night and retightened the strings. According to what I saw today, I need to do a lot more than I did. When looking at the saddle from the top to bottom (or Low E to High E), more saddle appears than the bottom. How much more was what I didn't know. From what I saw today, it looks like maybe 10% more. In mine, it's like 2X or 3X, and that's after reducing it by 1/2 after I knocked it loose and restrung. I think I feel that too. I'll make the correction now and then see what it feels like.

I can't "see" a thousanths of an inch or two, but even so, the neck looks like it will remain un-adjusted. Place your bets....I'll do a measurement once I'm done with the saddle shift.

TL, I never thought about intonation. I don't even know how one could easily fix on an accoustic. I think I'll make the 12's work somehow. Well, that and I have 8 more sets of D 'Adds 12s.
:roll:

Roy
"I wonder if a composer ever intentionally composed a piece that was physically impossible to play and stuck it away to be found years later after his death, knowing it would forever drive perfectionist musicians crazy." - George Carlin


   
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(@gnease)
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Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5038
 

I can't "see" a thousanths of an inch or two, but even so, the neck looks like it will remain un-adjusted. Place your bets....I'll do a measurement once I'm done with the saddle shift.

no -- but here's a trick for that: if you want to check for a non-specific "invisible" clearance between a string and fret, simply tap the string down onto the fret. your finger should be positioned directly over the fret when you do this. if there is no clearance, you will feel the solid contact between the string and fret. If there is clearance, there will be a distinctive "tick" or "ting" as the string strikes the fret. purely qualitative, but useful in a pinch.

-=tension & release=-


   
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(@gnease)
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Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5038
 

I'll answer peg hole and pin slipping.

it's a double post, Dogbite. that's why I didn't answer it here, but did in the other section.

-=tension & release=-


   
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(@rparker)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5480
Topic starter  

Well, I took the strings loose. Saddle was nestled in ther perfectly. Dang! I took my trusty little dremmel-type tool out and followed the angle down the saddle and shaved off a tiny bit. I put it back on and tuned. Still too High as I suspected, but a somewhat better. I didn't sand off much. I am the type that will make painstakingly small adjustments and check each time.

So, before loosening things back up again, I took measurements. A little better. Almost 7/64th at the 12th fret. Not too far out of whack. I then measured the relief. I don't remember what it was last year, but tonight it was .014-.016. (I don't have a .015 guage, but I think it was right there.) At the far end of specs. So, 1/4 turn got me closer and then another approx 1/8th turn got me to .006. I tuned of course before checking. Not sure if it matters with Nils's system. Regardless, I'm at the bottom end of the range instead of top end.

So, I adjusted the tuning and it now feels much like the guitar I purchased over 4 years ago. I'm at .006 for the nut height measurement and almost 7/64th for the string height measurement. Just a touch high per specs, but not too high to play by any means. It's playing very well now and I don't think it's worth risking taking too much off the saddle. (I actually don't have a micrometer....need to get one) Besides, if I do get a wild hair and try a set of 11's, I'll have a little room to play with.

For anyone else watching this thread, note the really minimal adjustment I did to the truss rod. A total of 3/8th of a turn. Also, I probably burned maybe a 1000th off the saddle.

Roy
"I wonder if a composer ever intentionally composed a piece that was physically impossible to play and stuck it away to be found years later after his death, knowing it would forever drive perfectionist musicians crazy." - George Carlin


   
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(@citizennoir)
Noble Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 1247
 

Great advice Greg.
as for strings. I generally prefer mediums (13s) for my acoustics that are going to take a good strumming. dropping to 12 (or 11s, yuck) only seem appropriate on some guitars, as noted. but many of those are best for fingerstyle or a really acoustic-electric and won't be taking a darn good strumming anyway. I will always remember as a teen, when the leader of our guitar service grabbed my friend's acoustic strung with 11s and played it saying, "easy to play, but doesn't sound like much of a guitar." then he picked up his Hummingbird -- strung with mediums or med-heavies -- and showed us how it was done. what a monster tone and voice!

Yeah - My acoustic is a long scale (25.25") and has a cedar top (fingerstyle).
It's not a big, warm, booming strum-monster kind of guitar at all.

On the other hand, a Hummingbird is a short scale (24.75") with a Sitka Spruce top and Mahogany sides....
Big booming sound! :D
(And they do well with finger picking as well!)

I would imagine that the same would apply to acoustics as they do to electrics...?
Bigger strings on the shorter scale types.... smaller strings on the longer scales?

I looked up the scale length on the Taylor 214, and it's said to have a 25.5" scale (might be 25.25 though).
So, 11's might do fine on that as well.

Ken

"The man who has begun to live more seriously within
begins to live more simply without"
-Ernest Hemingway

"A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"
-Orson Welles


   
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(@nicktorres)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 5381
 

IMHO, or NSHO as keeper of many guitars, you have to experiment to find the right combo of string and saddle to match your particular combo of scale length, saddle type, playing style, top and back wood, guitar size etc.

I play strings on one guitar that suck on another, for instance what I played on my maple and adirondack grammer, now in the hands of Jason Falkner, would sound way too dull on a rosewood/spruce taylor. Nickel sounds a lot different than phosphor/bronze.

It's a cheap fix and cool experiment.


   
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(@alouden)
Trusted Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 59
 

Dont know if this has been mentioned, but I believe you replaced the saddle backwards. It is a compensated saddle and the thicker end should be toward the low E string.


   
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