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Work with the instrument! A rant.


DONUTHOLE

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Even the best guitars buzz! Its wood and nickel! Its physics! Work with it! Gaahhhh! I have spent alot of money on my basses. They are as close to perfect as I can hope to find. They buzz when I wail on 'em! Get a grip....er....Loosen it!

 

Some players just have to realize that if they look really hard for something to complain about in an "off the rack" guitar or bass the first few minutes that they play it, they're gonna find it!

 

I wish I had a nickel for everytime I set up a guitar "nice and low" for a player only to have them send or bring it back complaining about fretbuzz. If you want low action, ease up a bit. You don't have to hammer on the strings, or touch the string to the wood on the fretboard. Its a give and take thing, and you have to work with what you have to an extent. If you buy a bass for $225, chances are good that you'll have to put another $40 or so into the frets. $225 is alot of money to spend, but its just the way it is. Its a good deal. It looks like a Stingray! It sounds like a Stingray! But, it's not a Stingray! It's just the way it is, right or wrong! Even if it was a Stingray, it would buzz when you really slammed it, right?

 

Now, if it has neck issues, or some high frets, I get it. I send the new ones back home. But people just have to understand that you get what you give. "Perfect, super low action with no buzzing" is this mythical place that some folks are sure they have to be without looking at the way that they are playing. Instead they blame me for selling them an imperfect $200 guitar. What they don't realize is that even if they spend a buttload of cash, they still have to practice their touch.

 

Playing hard has its tonal advantages for some. If they want to take that road, they need higher action or to live with the buzz. Give the string room to do its thing. When my buddy plays my basses, it sounds like a jackhammer. When I play his, I feel like I'm running under water. We know the deal.

 

Not to mention the fact that over half of the guitars I'm setting up are bounced across the country in a really hot or cold (or both)tin box with wheels. I tell people this but some still insist on a "micro action" set up upon recieving it. Not possible. No "rockstar" without dues.

 

Any thoughts on this?

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Your clients should be more philosophical about the inescapable imperfections of your basses. It's physics. You should be more philosophical about the inescapable imperfections of your clients. It's biology.
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Here's a quote from the illustrious Jeff Bollbach that you'll probably identify with, DONUTHOLE...

 

Years ago I had a client who had wrist problems and was after me to get really low action on his bass - especially on his E string. I went to hell and back and he still kept rattling that string. I was on the phone with Ian often about that. One thing he told me really helped. He said to put a white dot on the string and play it. This way you could see the cross section of the vibration. Very interesting. If you played arco, the cross section was an even ellipse, parallel to the bow stroke. Of course that wasn't where the noise was. Pizzicato was a different story. Plucked, the cross section formed a kind of weird T with a spike down into the board. It is so clearly visible that it can be measured. When I realized how large the spike was, I saw that I was on a wild goose chase. There were 5/32in. under the string and that was exactly the size of the spike. No can do. That really gave me a method to know exactly how little clearance is possible under the string at any point. It all varies with the type of strings and the style of the player. A bassist using Spirocores trying to play loud in an unamplified setting cannot have an action that is "like buttah". But put on a set of Obligatos and get subtle and technical - get out your feeler gauges!
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Originally posted by bc:

Your clients should be more philosophical about the inescapable imperfections of your basses. It's physics. You should be more philosophical about the inescapable imperfections of your clients. It's biology.

hmm, well put bc!
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Often people think they want low action. Really low. Combine that with the type of relief used, and it's - well - it's a set-up.

 

I've learned to judge an instrument by it's feel if the action/etc. is close to what I like. If it's not close, then I don't form an opinion.

 

Once again, we're talking about the inaccuracy of language. I asked Mike Kinal to give me medium action on the bass. It arrived with a flat neck (no relief) and the action was too low for me. I couldn't blame Mike - I didn't send him measurements. So I (slowly) made adjustments until it was OK.

 

Hey D - if it's a semi-regular customer, ask them to bring in their own axe for comparison. That way, everyone learns something.

 

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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Originally posted by DONUTHOLE:

Wrong! Mountain Dew.

 

It does really come off more severe than I actually feel. I'm a sarcastic guy.

A perpetual buzz, it seems.

 

My Mountain Dew story: I drank all the Mountain Dew I've ever had on one day in about 1967.

 

My mom had given me $1.00 for summer camp expenses, and I had another $.30. In those days, sodas cost a dime.

 

I didn't use any of the money until the Saturday morning of camp, a few hours before the bus ride home. And I drank the brand new soda, "Mountain Dew." And I liked it. Drank another. And another.

 

13 Mountain Dews later, I was extremely tired of it, and hyped up and ill. And I had to climb on a bus and ride from Oklahoma to Dallas.

 

And I never needed another for the rest of my life.

 

But last year, I told my orchestra if they got a Division 1 at contest, I would drink a Mountain Dew. I did that, and saved the can.

 

UgggH! A flood of old, sick memories later I realized I might be better off cutting my moustache for a bet with the students.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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You should have them come in to try out the new setup in-shop. Offer them an in-shop guarantee so that if they don't like it they can give it back to you before they leave...otherwise it's an all new setup with new specs and a new fee when they come back.

 

My 2 scents.

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It's interesting that nearly everyone who brings in a guitar for setup says, "make it as low as possible without buzzing."

 

But of course to get the string height that way has not as much to do with feeler gauges or measurements as it has to do with the player's touch.

 

Charge them for a setup, use the time to teach them how to do it and hopefully you'll never have to see them again.

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Its great when people bring something in and want to spend the time.

 

People that want a guitar to come out of its case playing perfectly after being shipped across the contry are dreaming. Its worth it for them to take it to a tech and spend the money, or learn to do it themselves. I'm just going to have to be more insistant about this. I just got yet another email from a guy who insists on it. So if I set it up super low, its likely to come out of the case with the strings laying on the frets. I should send him this thread. :D

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I've never understood why people pay someone else to set up an instrument, when all they need is a truss rod tweak and maybe intonation. It takes a couple of tools and there are easy to follow instructions in books and all over the web. You look at it, make a couple of measurements with your fingers, play it a bit, and tweak to taste-- your own taste, not the tech's taste. Why would I want to pay someone to do that?

 

Bruiser

 

 

Bruiser

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It must be pretty frustrating working on people's guitars for a living. I would rant too.

 

I used to pay $28.50 twice a year for a setup until a guy taught me how to do it myself. He had a set of allen wrenches in his case and would tweak his intonation quite regularly.

 

Now I'm constanly messing with the intonation, truss rod, string gagues, alternate tunings, capos etc.

 

Personally most of the buzz I get while playing is actually from my left had technique. When you don't fret the note directly behind the fret, sometimes it will buzz.

 

So a lot of it is in the player technique.

 

This is not unlike my occupation of fixing computers. A lot of the problems I get called in on are from the user's mistake, not the system.

 

Oh well.....Nice rant.

Rob Robitaille

 

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This discussion reminded me of the book "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance", a book which blends elementary Buddhist concepts with good advice on maintaining the things you own.

 

That and a lifelong principle my parents passed on to me in my youth: what's the sense of owning something if you can't take care of it? And unless you're totally incompetent with hand tools, each and every one of you can take care of your own setup and intonation. A great metaphor that applies to many things in life.

 

To my surprise, the book is online, if you wish to READ IT sometime.

:wave:

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Originally posted by Bruiser:

I've never understood why people pay someone else to set up an instrument, when all they need is a truss rod tweak and maybe intonation. It takes a couple of tools and there are easy to follow instructions in books and all over the web. You look at it, make a couple of measurements with your fingers, play it a bit, and tweak to taste-- your own taste, not the tech's taste. Why would I want to pay someone to do that?

Yup. Truth and truthitude.

 

Peace,

 

wraub

 

I'm a lot more like I am now than I was when I got here.

 

 

 

 

 

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Originally posted by Bruiser:

I've never understood why people pay someone else to set up an instrument, when all they need is a truss rod tweak and maybe intonation. It takes a couple of tools and there are easy to follow instructions in books and all over the web. You look at it, make a couple of measurements with your fingers, play it a bit, and tweak to taste-- your own taste, not the tech's taste. Why would I want to pay someone to do that?

 

Bruiser

 

 

Bruiser

You and me both, man. An electric bass is not rocket science to set up.
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