Hello fellow forum friends,
We got a brand spanking Jose Ramirez classical referred to us which has a bizarre intonation problem. Firstly, I'm familiar with all the normal limitation of straight saddle slack stringed works of the devil like classicals and normally can get them to at least be consistently out of tune but this one has got me beat. The intonation is such that this expensive little jobber is unsaleable on our local shop's floor and even has the heavy metal guys diving under the counter.
The low E strobes high, with the A,D,G, strobing low and the B and high E going High. And when I say the intonation is noticeably bad I mean very bad......its OK up to the eight fret or so and then goes very bad very quick. Octaving at the 10th sound like a train wreck There is also a massive dead note on the A at the 12th fret (not frets, just plain straight "plonk" at that one position) but that's another day.
Ramiez has come back with their bridge/saddle location spec which ties in well with what we would have expected and I note the method of slanting the neck to give a action/intonation bias from side to side. I have changed the strings and the tension sets (also hybridized the sets) to attempt to get some compensation to assist in normalising the intonation to no avail as well as touching up the saddle to help a little, also to no avail.
The action height is acceptable and the neck is dead flat with good frets.
Any help which does not involve a expansive dissertation about intonation theory is most welcome - the brother of this instrument which has identical specs sounds just fine. I'm stumped.
Probably a long shot but is the fret spacing correct? I'm wondering if one or more of the frets are just a bit out of place.
Thanks Ned, I am guilty of assuming that and will check and comment if necessary, nice. R.
Another long shot - some folks restring classical guitars and "pre-stretch" the strings by pulling on them as they first tune up. This practice can pull thin spots, especially in the unwound nylon, messing up intonation for sure.
I'd change the strings first and use a different brand. Besides the stretching issue, I've had an instance of strings that caused bad intonation, probably due to manufacturing defects. I thought something on the guitar had moved or come loose so I gave it to my trusted local luthier who checked it over thoroughly for issues and found none. This is a guitar that had always been ~perfect up to that point (and still is!). The conclusion: everything on the guitar checked out, the problem was the strings. I changed strings to a different brand and the problem disappeared.
Later I learned that the particular brand had a rash of intonation complaints during that time and in fact, I got some free strings after a complaint. I've used the brand since, years later, with no problem so it must have been a temporary issue. My particular problem was with steel strings but there's no reason why Nylon strings couldn't have a similar QC problem.
I'd mention the brand name but since the problem seems to be solved, why invite an undeserved bad rap? Anyway, they don't sell nylon... .
Quote: "Any help which does not involve a expansive dissertation about intonation theory is most welcome"
I'm far more likely to write an expansive dissertation about the evolution of British Naval Power during the 1500's.
The importance of Galleons to the Projection of that Power and how that related to the Development and Evolutionary Manufacturing Processes that Vastly Improved the Consistency in Quality of Rope Making, for the Miles of Rope, that each Ship Utilised.
This Directly Relates to Epic Improvements in the Quality of Historic Gut String Making, which had, (due to their Inconsistencies throughout their length, a problem which Frank has already alluded to), heavily burdened Early Musical Instruments of Many Kinds with Huge Intonation Problems.
Rest assured, I will not write anything about intonation theory.
I think it's far more likely that this problem is actually due to the fact that apart from the Highest End, Jose Ramirez Instruments.
Certain Models in particular, especially the "Classical Student" Model Types by that Manufacturer, are Actually Fabricated by Third Party Contractor's rather than by Jose Ramirez Workshops themselves. The number of Contractors which are utilised at any one time, may in all probability, vary considerably with Repeating Cycles of Higher and Lower Demand for the Instruments.
This, in a Southern European Economic Environment that is placing a great strain on the populations in this part of the world. Companies Large and Small are screwing down and cutting costs hard wherever they can. Contractors are typically "in and out" paid for by Job, and there is always someone, who will do the Job Cheaper; which is just another way of making a Profit, if there is a Limit to How Many Instruments, a Manufacturer is Likely to Make and Sell.
So in short.
I would think it entirely possible from Factual Knowledge.
That Two Different People or Workshops actually made the Two Instruments on your Sales Floor, or Particularly Important, Respective Parts on behalf of The Jose Ramirez Company.
Even though it would appear to many, that Jose Ramirez Workshops, Completely Manufactured them both. It may even be that for Certain Models, the Largest Part of the Fabrication was performed by Third Party Contractors and the Finishing Done, Elsewhere.
It reminds me of A Couple of Pals of Mine who are Amongst the World's Top Paint Shop Designers. Of course, they Design Factories. When a Company I have "an interest" in built a Factory in America. For the first couple of years, we Shipped the Entire Production back to Germany and then back to America, simply to Guarantee Quality.
I remember when Sterling Ball started making Cheap Music Man Sterling's and Sub's. They Shipped the Production to the Home Base Factory for Final Set Up Adjustment and Quality Inspection. The salient point that I would make here is that a Great Reputation is Very Hard to Earn but Very Easy to Lose. That is the point I feel that has been missed or lost by the Brand Owners of this Problematic Instrument.
It would appear that, very surprisingly, no such undertaking as described above to ensure Quality Consistency has been undertaken by the Home Base Factory in this Instance, or that an Wholly Inadequate "Sample" of Checks have been performed upon a Strictly Limited Number of Instruments, allowing others by pass Quality Procedures (if you assume they exist), or that Assumptions Regarding Quality have been made by the Home Base Factory without Validating, whether such Assumptions have any Genuine Basis in Fact.
That's the Big View from My Perspective.
Here's the Local View, from My Perspective.
I would try to Return the Instrument if at all Possible as being Unacceptable from Manufacturer of this Reputation.
If they are troublesome regarding this and it seems impossible to achieve, ask that they take the Instrument back provided you buy a Premium Priced Model instead of it to replace it with, to create a Win, Win Scenario for both sides. The point is you end up with an Instrument that in all Good Conscience, you can Sell.
If that is not possible, my hunch about the problem would involve a number of factors. Because what I am sure you are looking at, is not simply one issue, but the Combined Effect of a Number of Compounding Issues, that Amalgamate to Create the Confused Problems that you are trying to make sense of.
Just one all too obvious point, will be that it would not be normal, to apply Electric Guitar Set Up Standards and Methods of Accuracy to a Traditional Classical Guitar.
No reason why they should not be used at all. But Peterson Tuners are of another World Order as for many of the Traditional Classical Guitar Makers, if it "Sounds" In Tune, then it is. The Ear is the Standard by which they assess rather than the Eye.
As you are an Ace at Electric Guitars, which appears to constituent the bulk of your work, it's all too easy to apply the same Standards you have Ready to Wear, and apply them to Products really made using Far Looser, Very Old World Measurement and Fabrication Methods.
It's easy to a assume that a Vitally Important Issue like Fret Placement will be Enacted Precisely.
But here we see that a Third Party Contractor will very probably have done the work, possibly to a fixed cost and time schedule, and I expect, applying their own Standards of Accuracy, if there is No-one to Supervise Them or Oversee These Processes.
Furthermore there is no reason... If we suspect that The Fret Placement could be off somewhat, (it really doesn't need to be off that much, and if the starting point is off, the whole thing will be off)... To assume that the Bridge Placement and other Aspects of the Instruments Overall Geometry, will be any better at all. They could all play into this, and very probably do.
If a Contractor has been in too much of a hurry (is using worn, inaccurate or old measurement devices, using them incorrectly, or even interpreting measurement specification incorrectly, or even simply needs new glasses) there is no reason to Assume that other Essential Aspects of the Manufacturing Process will have been Enacted Correctly.
Today there are a lot of New, Willing Economic Migrants in Europe, generally moving from East to West and South to North. Businesses are Eager to Exploit and Utilise their abilities, (however Skilled or Unskilled) to Lower Their Employment Costs.
Because of this, Simple Everyday Communication with Seemingly Skilled, Cheaper Labour causes genuine problems. It's not at all uncommon if someone doesn't understand what you are saying, for them to smile warmly, nod and say "yes" to give the needed reassurance that one is completely understood.
When its common place in actual fact, that they do not have a single clue as to what you are on about, but plenty of inbuilt confidence that they will be able to work it out for themselves, later. This is how many of them get by in their lives, and most of the time, continue to use their Language of Birth, almost Exclusively. This can have many amazingly complex, entirely unforeseeable, complications.
I also feel that an Overly Tall Bridge Saddle and Overly High Nut (very Common with Classical Guitars) may also compound the problem. I have a strong feeling that the Bridge Saddle contributes in some way to the problem of the Intonation Issues.
You are a Brilliant Luthier Rusty and I always Avidly Read your Posts to benefit from your Wisdom and Knowledge. For you to bring such an issue to this Forum, it must be the Result of Many Small, Contributing Factors, the total sum of which, result in the confused problem you present. Where one can't see the Wood for the Trees.
Back to Basics is the Way Forward, starting with Fundamental Measurements of Instrument Geometry.
Finally, certain well known Classical String Brands have been reported as having definite Intonation Issues in recent times.
Whether these are due to Chemical or Technological Engineering Changes to Manufacturing Processes or simply the Fact that Many People have a Habit of Overstretching Nylon Strings, to Pre-Stabilise their Tonal Security, I cannot be sure.
But Strings do seem to make a Massive Difference to Classical Guitars and their Reliability regarding Proper Intonation, is also another part of that Overall Equation, regarding the Instruments Tonal Security. Its another part of the Whole Problem.
On You Tube, there are Truly Excellent Players (who know how to Properly Tune a Guitar) Demonstrating Certain Guitar Models, from the Ramirez Line.
Clearly, the Instruments Used for Demonstration, Do Not Intonate Correctly, to My Ears and appear to have not been Checked for that.
Good Luck Rusty, it's Always Great to Read Your Excellent Posts.
Wow, thanks Peter, and thanks all,
Very humbling to have such great help from the forum members here, with a concentration of expertise and problem solving philosophies/attitudes that is unprecedented.
The third party construction issues have been noted in my look at the problem and the observed fact that the other Ramirez that intonates OK when compared to the problem guitar was manufactured by a different set of instrument builders is well taken and understood.
Ramirez to their credit have provided a comprehensive set of measurements to apply to the instrument and it checks out OK to their standard and OK by our own figuring.
I wish it was just a case of the Peterson Strobe being a culprit in determining the problem by way of it's accuracy in measuring the problem. Its encouragement to see things that aren't really there or meaningful is an acknowledged problem, but this instrument sounded bad at 50 paces without the strobe when the guitar was first demonstrated to me. My way of saying I'm not expecting too much of the basic classical format and performance in this area.
I constantly try not to listen too much to a particular problem as previous work with acoustics/sonics demonstrates just how easy the brain locks in a particular event/sound and puts some "brackets" around it for instant recognition in subsequent events .
Based upon the consensus I'm going have a look at strings again - the guitar presented badly with the factory strings, and I pre-stretch stings (as an Electric Guitar Tech always does, thanks for that) which may be a factor. The nut looked fine but it may have been a Friday or Monday when it was dressed. Ditto the fret positions which I will check as advised.
Finally, lots of good stuff comrades, and you have all helped immensely in my retaining the will to "get back in the ring" with this thing.
Builder Ken Miller shared an old trick with me regarding conditioning new strings--an alternative to stretching that may make new strings a little bit easier to deal with without intonation effects:
"Tune the strings up to pitch - or higher, then with the guitar in your lap, rub the strings hard with the palm of your hand, back & forth till they get hot. Do this a couple of times, allowing your hand to cool in between. This will shorten your string stretching period by about 95%." He said that he learned this from Carlos Montoya way back in 1966. Seems to work on the Ken Miller Flamenco that I have. YMMV, especially with all the different string formulas out there.
Good one Larry, priceless gems here!
Thanks so much for posting this Rusty , my only similar experience was cured by installing a high tension G , that hardly compares with this can of worms . Your posts are always very interesting and I cant wait to hear the outcome of this one .