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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.

Rusty.

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Thanks Len, 

I am fortunate have a box of different new tension strings and string sets  (the hard G's included) that i hybridize to try and alleviate these sort of problem.  While it helps if it's just the 3rd playing up it's not really a fix on a new high end Ramirez  as the customer will not accept a new guitar with a customised string set.

Thanks Bro. 

Quote: "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 ."

 

 

This is a very interesting point indeed.

Once identified as a fault, Sonic Aberrations that would pass many people's Ears by, do have a way of being locked into our consciousness, to the extent that we become very markedly aware of them.

I've noted this not only in Musical Instruments, but also Audio Problems in Recordings. Whereas many people say "We'll Fix it in the Mix" or leave a  Particularly Difficult Problem "to a Final Mastering Engineer".

Instead, I diligently check each Individual Recorded Track with Unforgiving Reference Class Headphones to Detect, Eliminate and Build Out of the Recordings such Aberrations, before moving onto the Next Stage. The Point is I am Building Unwanted issues and Problems Out!

Of course the alternative is, that if you take former route, the inevitable consequence is that you will Incorporate and Build Unwanted Issues into the Finished Product. These will eventually emerge, as through Listening and Product Use, Individuals become Conscious of them. There is a Direct Analogy to the Problem Guitar here then, if we can see it. At that point of course, they are Far Harder to Deal With.

My Son and his wife are currently having their "Snagging List" dealt with by the Builders of his New House. Could they have Built the Product Right First Time? They Surely Could, though there's not much wrong, it seems Cheaper and a Lot Easier for Everyone, if Everything is Done Right Initially. This is the Best Way to Manufacture any Product, it Reduces Costs by Eliminating Expensive Rework and of course, Reputation Damaging, Warrantee Repairs.

Someone once commented that if you ride a bike and focus too strongly on potholes in the road, it's a profoundly common experience that a rider seems to be unable to avoid riding straight into them. I think the Human Brain gathering as it does information from all our senses, shuts some of them out and locks into what is the deepest concern of the moment, and that can become our Obsessive Focus, to the exclusion of all else, to the point which it's possible to lose the Indubitable Gift of a "Well Balanced Perspective".  

It can become a Matter of Judgment which is Subjective. That's where Proper Measurement, Technical Skill and Science give you the Objective Truth. "You Only Get One Chance, to Hear Something for the First Time" has thus become something of an Axiom for me, and I have learnt to absolutely trust my Initial Ear Impression. The Fact that you Observed the Problem by Ear, and later confirmed the issue by a Peterson Tuner is Important. It means a Real Problem Exists. That was never in question, I only mention this because I am sure that Enthusiasts, Equipped with Hyper Accurate Tuners are at times quite Disturbed by Problems that Do Not Exist.

All Peterson Tuners are already Accurate to 1/1000 of a Semitone. As these Tuners become Ever More Reliably Accurate because of Technological Improvement, Cheaper to Purchase and More Commonly Widespread amongst Guitar Players: Luthiers can more and more expect to find themselves, asked to address "Problems" that are in truth, well within the "Realm of Acceptability".

 

As many may be aware.

Historically, the many Varying Design and Build Differentials in what we think of today as Classical and Flamenco Guitars, simply melt into the Mists of Time.

These Stark, Indentifying Differences, did not exist as we understand them Today. Guitar Building varied from Region to Region, reflecting the Materials, the Music and the Particular Demands of the Players.

If we can accept the Historical Truism, that at one time the many differences between what we understand Today as Classical and Flamenco Guitars, simply did not exist as we know them, and that Guitars varied in a great many respects from Guitar Workshops in one Region to Another.

It is also an Historical Fact, that Accuracy of Measurement, Meticulousness of Build Quality, and very Specifically, Precision of Intonation, also Varied Greatly from Guitar Workshop to Guitar Workshop. Both from Region to Region and indeed, within any Given Region, across the Spanish Instrument Building Community.

This is not in dispute anywhere, it is an Historical Fact. One of the Salient Points about Ramirez Guitars, especially where Andreas Segovia was Concerned, was that this Variability in Quality of Intonation, especially  Higher Up the Scale of the Instrument which was commonplace as mentioned above, was Most Adequately Addressed at the time and brought Far Greater Consistency, completely  due to Ramirez's Great Diligence. (but improved upon for Accuracy, Clarity and Brilliance later by the demands of John Williams).

 

 

The Irony of the Thread.

Is that Ramirez, Famous for this Particular Aspect of Accuracy of Intonation.

Like Other Great Guitar Makers that have Gone Before I could mention, appear to have Forgotten, what they Once Knew only Too Well.

The Historic, Regional Problem of Accuracy from Builder to Builder the Maker Initially Addressed, appears to me at least to have been not Taken Sufficiently into Account by a Succeeding Generation of what appear to be Now Relatively Youthful Individuals. Thus, been Absorbed and Built Into, Certain New Instruments, Bearing their Name.

Although I see this Problem in a Particular Historical Context, and as a Supplier Problem, I am Constantly Amazed and Amused by the fact that Manufacturing Problems in Factories are Often Cyclical, Appearing and being Addressed again and again over Periods of Decades. There is no doubt that Today, people with Similar Intonation Problems with Instruments from this Maker, have found a Proper Solution by Moving the Bridge, which has been Slightly Misplaced and so on...  In the Light of Such Knowledge, Accurately Measuring the Basic Fundamentals are Correct, would seem to be a Sagaciously Erudite Approach.

Though I do Understand and Fully Appreciate, the Great Attraction of the Simplest Solutions and which of course, are Always the First Things to Try.

Ramirez is a Great Name in Guitar Building, so I trust that Whatever is causing these Recent Quality Issues can be quickly Resolved.

Most Other Great Names in Guitar Building, have experienced Similar Short Periods of Embarrassing Issues.

So I Wish Them Well.

 I have a Pal with an Original Manual Ramirez.. Torres.. Hernandez.. etc. Lucky Man!

Thanks Peter,

Your thoughts and research on this matter and subjects in general here, are very much appreciated.   As is all who have given their valuable time and efforts to help me with this vexing instrument.

Sincere thanks,

Rusty. 

Hello Rusty,

Beside the previously mentioned fret spacing. There are only a few other things I could think of.

- The most mysterious intonation problems I've come across were due to improperly cround/rounded fret tops (I know you allready mentioned the frets were ok)
- Damage of the strings over the saddle/breakpoint the minute they are tuned to pitch. (even though you allready adressed the saddle. Might be worth another close look?)
- The last thing I came across more than once is improper bridge placement (especially slanting of the bridge over centerline). This could really give a whole new twist to intonation issues (with the wound bass strings and thicker treble strings)

Good luck!

The first thing I do when faced with intonation issues that seemingly defy normal troubleshooting technique is capo up a fret and recheck, even capo up two or three frets.  Bridge saddle break points are easy to observe, nut slot break points are impossible to observe, and as noted nut slot height can always be an issue anyway.  The capo simply takes the nut out of the equation and lets you evaluate the rest of the guitar.

Brian

Thanks Brian,

I will have a look at that ans see how we go there,

R.

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