I have a long time customer who ALWAYS seems to be a pain in the rear. He brings me A LOT of business as he is a full time guitar instructor and he plays in a popular local band. He is very good and experienced player and knows what he likes. I setup all of his guitars and he is very particular, he likes the action low but likes to bend really heavy. He plays strats and a PRS DGT.
Here is where I ran into an issue. He gave me a sentimental Squire tele to setup. The tele appears to be in pretty good shape. The neck was straight, frets decent, upgraded pickups, and bone nut. 25.5" scale. I set this bad boy up, I had to shim the neck, and did a fret level and dress. I had the guitar playing great, or I thought I did.
When he came into pick it up he said he couldn't bend as easily as he thinks he should be able to. He said that he needs to be able to bend 1.5 steps without hesitation. He said he can do it with his other guitars, and he asked "why can't I do it with this?" Now the PRS is a different animal but his main strat is virtually identical in scale length and fretboard radius. He said he can do what he needs to do with the strat. I have the tele setup exactly like his strat, relatively straight relief .006, action at the 12th big E is .06 and tiny e is .42 he likes it LOW. He said he isn't afraid to go higher as long as it feels comfortable and he can bend.
Anyway he was here for about an hour and I changed the relief and changed the action and he still couldn't "comfortably" bend. Now 'disclaimer' I am not a great player and I don't think I could bend a 1.5steps if I tried for a week. I saw him bending and he was bending that tiny e half way though the fret board. After trying this and trying that the string BROKE! dead center in the middle of the fret board right around where he was bending 10th fretish. The strings were D'addario 10s, obviously brand new. He also said he felt like he couldn't hold onto the string. He said, and I saw, it kept slipping. Now the frets are decent height and defiantly higher than his strat, as his strat is ready for a refret. I just don't know what else to do and what else to try. He told me to put 9s on it he said he likes lighter strings but his strat has 10s on it as do the rest of his guitars.
WHY is this tele not bending the way it should be? What else can I do? He insisted in paying up front and told me add whatever else onto if it was going to cost more. He is more than patient. He told me take my time on it and no worries... but hey I am worried! I feel like I am failing as a repairman or at least a setup man.
Nah, not failing, just having "fun". His Strat which is "ready for a refret" has probably had the frets leveled a couple of times and if the previous tech is anything like I am with Fender fret radiuses and blues players he would have put a bit of natural "compounding" into the high number frets (15 and onwards) and also a bit of "drop away" to give a clean bend at the serious end of the scale. Put another way, a 10.5" radius will bend clean wheras a 7.5 or 9 will not take a deep bend with a low action.
Also Luke, and I don't know your trade/skill level, so don't take offence, but when you shim a neck (why?) you can change the geometry in a bad way and if the neck has a 14 fret rising tongue like a lot of older Fenders, or the frets have only been leveled at the cowboy chord end with pristine height at the high end this can get in the way of bending around the 12 fret onwards (everywhere actually, but this is just for example), especially if the action is low.
Also, drop the pickup heights a little if you can, you can be surprised. New strings do not break unless they are faulty and a 1.5 step bend may kill them eventually but not immediately.
Disclaimer: there are a dozen other things that may be in play here, and one or more of my colleagues here may help out with fleshing out this prickly topic with good stuff to know. Sometimes a guitar will fight all the way because it is a multitude of small issue working against you, sometime you can do no wrong. Customers, especially the ones who have been around the block a bit generally know when something ain't good - they may not know why, or how but mostly they do know something - which is where we earn our stripes.
When he says he can't bend 1.5 steps (easy & common.. I do 2 step bends all the time when required), does he mean the guitar seems to fight him or does it induce string choke?
Also, what is the FB radius on each guitar? If he's used to bending on a 12" radius FB on the PRS & a 10" radius on the Strat (if it's modern specs, it too may be 12"), a 7.25" or 9.5" on the Squire will DEFINITELY require higher actions. It's geometry & physics.
Also, is there a noticeable difference in the angle of the string break over the saddles on the Strat & Tele? If so, that will make a noticeable difference in the pliability of strings of identical gauges. One more factor which affects only wound strings: Strings wound on a round core wire feel slinkier than strings wound on a hex core. If his wound strings don't factor into the equation, consider the core info a bit of trivia.
And... do the Strat & PRS have higher/larger frets than the Tele? That too greatly affects the feel of the string when doing a big bend.
As Rusty said, check the level of the frets along the entire fingerboard and add the fall away form the 14th fret to the 21st or 22nd, whichever it is. It's imperative on a Fender instrument for modern spec setups.
With that info, maybe we can come up with a good solution & pass it along to you.
The guys sounds reasonable, so don't worry about this. A 'Mulligan" on a set up is common, especially once you hand the guitar to its player/owner. You're giving him personalized service and that is to be applauded.
Have a good'un, man.
Bending one and a half steps might mean bending three frets and that's quite a bit. I used to want to bend the equivalent of two frets, hold that note in tune and then release when I wanted to. I could only do this on guitars with big frets. The higher the fret the more of your finger you can get 'below' the string so that when you push the string does not slip out from under. I preferred a highish action so fretboard radius was not a problem. If I got a guitar that I couldn't bend easily I re-fretted it with big frets.
When he says he can't bend he means he feels like the guitar is fighting him, it is not choking out. The radius is the same on the strat, it is 9.5" on both guitars and his PRS is 10" but the frets are HUGE on the PRS which explains why the PRS is easier to play but the strats frets are fairly low and lower than the frets on the tele that I am currently working on. Both his strat and tele have fallaway built in, I did the fret level and dress on both guitars. The STRING BREAK ANGLE on the tele is different on the tele than on the strat. The tele is top mounted where the strat is bottom loaded typical tremeolo on the strat. I had to shim the neck because I couldnt get the action where I wanted it, I did a full pocket shim tappered made from maple.
I guess a customer like this is helping me learn and learn how to customize setups better for the individual. I like a challenge espicially one I can learn from. I am thankful I have somewhere, Like FRETS.net that I can go to when I am struggling a bit. I owe a lot to the site and of course you guys on the forum. Thanks for the help guys Ill take any advice you have.
Some really great posts here!
Luke you are not failing at all as Rusty said, some clients are just a PIA....
In this case however I suspect that this is not only a good client but he is in fact feeling what he is feeling but perhaps unable to couch it in a way that we might understand.
Let's go back to exactly how he describes this issue: he feels as if the guitar is fighting him....
OK perhaps he's correct and as such let's look for differences between the Strat and the Tele. The most glaring difference that I can think of is the existence of a trem on the strat. When you bend on a strat the trem moves too softening the feel of the guitar "chassis" and buffering, if you will the feel of bending to a degree.
If his Strat trem is not blocked and inactive I would suspect that he is indeed feeling what he is feeling and that it can be chalked up to the presence or absence of a trem with the Strat, what he is likely most used to, indeed feeling less difficult, not "fighting" him than the hard tail Tele.
Is this your problem - hell no it's a Tele! :)
Anyway one way to test the idea that the Strat's trem is softening the feel of the Strat over the Tele is to block the trem in the Strat and then have the client play both side by side. If my hunch is correct this will illustrate to the client just exactly what the issue is in no uncertain terms and be a teaching moment too.
+1 to what Rusty said about a compound radius and +1 to checking for fall-away, Fender style bolt-on necks frequently have a ski ramp on the extension and this is also frequently the limitation to lower action.
You bet Luke and this is an interesting one to consider thanks for posting it as well.
Let us know what the solution is when you discover it please?
Here's my updated take, Luke.
The overall string length is longer on both the PRS & Strat. This is due to the trem (inertia) blocks on those instruments.
The Tele is a top loader, so in fact, the total string length is about 2" shorter than on his other guitars.
This fact is likely the cause of his dilemma.
One other factor....? By chance are the FB's different on the Tele & Strat? As in, does the Strat have a RW FB & the Tele A Maple FB? That GREATLY affects the "feel factor" for me. It's the primary reason I don't have guitars w/finished maple FB's. It's just a thought.
This is a great thread that we can refer to in the future....once the mystery is solved. It's been a while since we've had a good head scratcher. It's refreshing, indeed :) :)
Quote:"WHY is this tele not bending the way it should be?"
My hunch is that this is not some great mystery.
Rather it is a number of relatively small factors, which acting and summed together, have amalgamated, to a perceivable, accumulative effect.
This effect would be missed entirely by a Multitude of Players, however you have been Blessed with an Excellent and Experienced Player, who knows Exactly what he Wants.
A Longstanding Client who DEMANDS that his Guitars, even the Cheapest Models, are set up to meet his Playing Ideals, and can treat them All Similarly, as he would his most Expensive and Best Guitars.
I have just been preparing a couple of Electric Guitars for my Son, and Casing and Packing Them Up, as God Willing, he and his wife are Moving to a New House in the Near Future.
One was a Gibson Les Paul, the other was a Yamaha SG. He has owned the Yamaha, Rather Longer. It is a Great Guitar, and I have to note that because of the Greater Wear on the Frets, the Action and Bend-ability (which is Superb on both) is quite incredibly low on the Yamaha, and there has obviously been a lot of Bending Wear that has gone on up the Fretboard.
The Salient Point being, the Lower, Flattened Frets, all round, make a great deal of Difference to the Extent to Which Strings can be Sustainably Bent. So when comparing the Well Worn Stratocaster Fretboard to the Squire, Telecaster I would definitely expect this to be a Significant Contributory Factor. Perhaps the Most Important Difference in all the Factors you will Consider.
Get a notebook and pen out. I think you should Measure and Precisely Quantify both the Neck Relief (if any) and the Degree of Neck Angle (if any) on the Stratocaster. By Direct Comparison, has the Squire Telecaster been Under or Over-shimmed? Can you Further Adjust both the Neck Relief and Shimming to bring the Squire into Exact Measurable Conformity with the Stratocaster, and ensure that the String Brand and Type used are also Identical?
Once you have Aligned these Factors. I think you should Measure the Height of the Individuals Frets on the Stratocaster throughout the length of the Fretboard and come to an Average Ball Park Height. Assuming and Provided the Squires Frets are Significantly Higher, (possibly after consultation) consider Stoning and Re-Crown the Frets on the Squire to bring them into Consistent Specification Adherence to the Average Height, by Proper Regulation, with the Fender Stratocaster.
Now the Strings, Neck Relief, Neck Rake and Average Fret Height All are Identical. Check the Nut Height and Adjust as Necessary, and Lube it, also along the Headstock Section of the Strings to ensure the Strings Pass Through as Easily as possible during Excessive Bends. Measure the Stratocasters Bridge Saddle Heights and Adjust the Squires to genuinely Correspond as Closely as Possible. Many Fenders have Assymetric Necks and Rolled Fingerboard Edges and its Possible that to a Sensitive Player, a difference of the Neck Shape or at the Fretboard Edge might inhibit their Playing Style, so mention that could be a Factor.
I had a Tobacco Sunburst Stratocaster Deluxe for my Birthday, and one of the differences to a Standard Stratocaster is the Compound Radius Neck. I took to it like a Duck to Water, and it becomes obvious with this type of Neck what a Big Difference Flattening the Higher Frets have to Typical Playing Styles. So Russell's Idea of Adding a Degree of Compounding is, as always with Russell, right on the Button. I don't understand why we don't see this Feature used more.
As he stated. You may need to Back off the Pickups as you probably have Adjusted and Lowered the Overall String Height. In general, I find that Backing Off Pickups tends to help improve String to String Balance and the Guitar Tone Tremendously, whereas its quite common to find even Experienced Guitarists Adjusting Pickup as Close to the Strings as Possible to Maximise Output. So again that might be something worth Adjusting and Mentioning as an Aside.
Personally, because I Started on Gibson Style Instruments I always have Stratocaster Tailpieces Flat on the Body with Five Springs Securing the Stability. A Floating Vibrato would introduce a difference in Ease of Feel as Hesh has Described. Have you Considered Particular Strings manufactured with a Slinky Bendability for these type of Set Ups in mind? When all else is done, these might just be the Icing on the Cake, and I believe Paul mentioned Inner Core Differences, it might just add that little extra Subtleness, he is looking for.
This is doable! See the Problem as a Challenge. Keep a Close Account of the Time you Spend, and Bill the Customer by the Hour. If you can pull this off, which I believe you should be able to, provided you Measure Precisely and Adjust Systematically taking note of Differences by Comparison. The word of mouth recommendation to all his Students should keep you very busy if you can make their Cheap Instruments, Highly Playable.
Finally, to me, one of the Great Things about Owning Different Guitars, is that the Differences between them, guide and force me towards Playing them in a Slightly Different Way. Sometimes these Differences are Extremely Subtle. Sometimes these Difference are Glaringly Obvious. Sometimes, when I have been Blessed with Numerous Examples of Precisely the Same Model. I fit Lighter or Heavier Strings to Introduce Differing Characteristics to Provide Different Playing and Tonal Qualities, for Different Playing Styles, and strangely enough, even to Add "Fight" when I am Bending.
In this manner, by Verisimilitude, I add Authenticity to Playing, Certain Styles of Music from Particular Era's, where the Strings that were used at that Period were Similar, and in What they Facilitated and What they Prevented the Player from Doing. In other words I look for, and Enhance and Intensify the Differences between Particular Guitars I own.
But Many are like the Clients Preferences above, set up Almost Identically. Choosing when to Consolidate, the Setup Style of Instruments and When to Deliberately Heighten all possible Differentiations between Instruments is I believe, and I write it with Considerable Humility, a Matter of Mature Experience.
But Sometimes, its Genuinely Ideally the Way to Go!
Another difference in the Squier line(s) can be the neck width size at nut and heel as well as string spacing. All can slightly affect the playing feel. Compounding the fret radius slightly as Rusty mentioned can be helpful for bending.
Quote: "When he comes to pick up I am going to ask him to bring his strat so I can take some messurements and notes."
If you ever saw the Film "Hot Fuzz".
You will realise the vital importance of always having a Pen and Note Book, Handy.
It is a British Police Officers, Best Friend, that enables him to Accurately Recall, Precisely what was Said, Done and All Relevant Facts, later in Court.
When he was at Fenders Soho Soundhouse in London, Seymour Duncan revealed that Noting and Recording Facts for Prosperity, really was the Best Way to Appreciate and Understand the Discongruity in Pickup Characteristics.
If your Client needs the Telecaster to Play Similarly to his Stratocaster, Precisely Measuring and Accurately Quantifying the Actual Differences in Parameters, that its Possible and Normal to Adjust is the Best Way to Understand what is really going on, when one might otherwise be, Lost in a Fog.
This isn't time wasted, for you have Recorded on paper forever, a Crystal Clear Picture, of Precisely the Manner in Which your Client Prefers his Instruments Set Up. As you state you do Lots of Work for Him, this should Facilitate the Speed with which you Accurately Meet his Requirements on an Ongoing Basis. Furthermore, it is Likely Some of His Students will Want their Instruments Set Up, Exactly Like His.
It is a Number of Relatively Small Differences that has Driven the Anxieties you Expressed.
Decisively Accounting for all Accurately Measurable Differences, gives you a Clear Point of View and Precise Way Forward to Minimise and Eliminate, every Possible Contradistinction.
In Manufacturing, Eliminating Variables is the way to Achieve Consistency in Series Production. When you have Two Entirely Different Instruments which the Owners wants to be able Play and Respond by Touch and Feel as Closely as Possible to One Another. Clearly Quantifying the Parameters of Difference, by Accurate Measurement is the Firm Enabling Grasp upon the Nettle.
Quote: "fretboard wood, string spacing, string loadage"
If the Wood was Rosewood, although unnecessary and possibly ill advisable, I would Liberally Oil it to Enhance the Silky Fingerboard Qualities, he Seeks. I had a Top Professional Player come in with a Les Paul one time with the Lowest Stoned Frets, I have ever Seen. The Ebony Fretboard was Soaked in Wet Oil. As I stated, ill advised to my mind, but I knew the well Oiled Fretboard would be Incredibly Easy to Bend Strings.
As its Maple, if the Wood has a Thick Coat of Clear Coat, as Fender Telecasters often do, indeed as my own does, I would repeatedly Polish, Buff and Firmly Harden Up, Several Layers of Carnauba Wax, to Assist the Finger to Slide Easily, Right Across the Fingerboard when String Bending. This is what I do, and it Genuinely Helps the Fingers Slip Smoothly Sideways.
In my experience, The Major Components, Hardware Parts and Relative Spacing's of Japanese and Oriental Counterparts are measured in MM's, whereas the original American Instruments are Measured Imperially. So Some Conversion will probably be Necessary to Properly Quantify any such Differences.
I'm not really, Properly Cognisant with the Squire Range of Products, though I tried out a Basswood Bodied Vintage Style, Precision Bass a while back, (when given a Private Room by a Guitar Company for a few Hours for Lot of Various Product Testing and just tried one, as it was there and I liked the Look of it), that was in Quality, Superbly beyond its Actual Price Point.
I even know several Top Recording Producers who have Squire Instruments and Admire them Greatly. With the Right Upgrades, (usually including Tuners, Bridge/Tailpiece, Wiring, Pickups, Potentiometers, Capacitors and Jacksocket's) they can be Excellent. There's no point in being a Brand Snob, as a Good Guitar is a Good Guitar Regardless, but these Good Guitars can be made to be Great with some Time, Effort and Money.
To be Honest, there are Many Variants of the Telecaster. Most of the Telecasters I see have Rear String Loading, some have Alternative String Loading Rear as well as Through the Tailpiece Loading. According to Paul, who I totally trust, this Squire Telecaster is a Top Loader. Whilst Vintage Style Bass Saddles, saw the Strings traversing the Top Grooves. Modern, Individual, Precise Intonation Saddle demand that the String is Loaded Low and Upward and Out Through The Saddle Aperture. I really can't see how you can Easily Alter any Aspect of this Design to Facilitate String Bending, as you could do via the Tailpiece Height of a Les Paul, for Example.
For this Reason, The Solution I Suggest, is to Move to Slinky, Flexible Core Strings that are Specifically Designed for Blocked Off and Hard Tailpieces a la Eric Clapton, who usually can Bend a String a Good Way without Breaking It. I would expect Ernie Ball Super Slinky's would give the Desirable Sideway's Give, and I wouldn't be surprised if you could get away with Fitting 10's.
The Salient Point to Understand is that you can't do reasonably do anything at all about the Break Angle that determines the strings Loading Characteristics. What you can do very easily though, is to Specifically Choose and Fit a String that is Deliberately Manufactured with the Hallmark Qualities that reducing the String Break Angle would Achieve. That should definitely move you closer to your Goal. It is a No Brainer.
Quote: "my plan of action."
The Transformation from a Negative Position.
To a Positive Outlook with a Clear Methodology Going Forward.
Says Everything About the Many Fine Contributors on this Board, that I am always Learning Something New From.