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 Post subject: Neck setup and intonation for open tunings
 Post Posted: Mon Nov 27, 2006 6:02 am 
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Joined: Fri Mar 10, 2006 2:00 pm
Posts: 6
Location: Baltimore, MD
Perhaps someone can help me with a non-typical problem regarding neck setup and intonation. I'm a rather non-typical guitarist in that I'm not really a guitarist, despite being a talented composer and musician, and I do virtually all my guitar playing in open tunings.

I own a Ric 660/12 which I've had for about 8 months now, and recently acquired a 620/6. I tend to favor tunings ranging from open E or e-minor down to as low as d-flat-minor, and for recording purposes I'm frequently retuning to the most convenient key to create my music.

Both guitars are currently tuned to an open D, and I've been experiencing problems with intonation and what I believe is trussrod rattle. I took a look at the necks, and both guitars exhibit what I believe is called an underbow.

Okay, first I'm confused with the terminology and would understand it better to use the terms concave and convex in describing the condition. My understanding is that an underbow is what you've got if the fretboard as viewed from the front is concave, and an overbow is what you've got if the fretboard is convex. So my fretboards are both concave and I've got underbow, right? The apparent trussrod rattle is a symptom of an underbowed neck from what I've read, and to correct for it you increase trussrod tension by turning them clockwise to make the neck dead flat as Rickenbacker suggests. Have I got this much right?

Fine then, but if I do that with the guitars tuned to open D and get everything all nice and tidy, reintonate with the bridge adjustments, then what's going to happen when I want to tune them up to E again? Will I have overbow, or in my terms a convex fretboard?

In other words, how sensitive is neck adjustment to retuning the instrument to a variety of open tunings within a 3 or 4 semitone range?

Would I be better off setting the neck and intonation for the highest tuning that I expect to use, or should I aim for something in the middle of the expected range of tunings that I anticipate using?

Of course I know the real answer would be to learn to play the guitar in standard tuning and set them up that way, but please let's not go there...


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 Post subject: Re: Neck setup and intonation for open tunings
 Post Posted: Tue Nov 28, 2006 12:50 am 
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Joined: Sun Oct 08, 2006 6:07 am
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Originally, as in a century ago, guitars were adjusted for perfectly straight necks and medium to heavy strings, with high action for volume, as that's all there was. With electric guitars came the advent of lighter strings for comfort and string bending which meant less tension and greater string excursion. So necks on most electric guitars are slightly relaxed in setup, and it is called relief, underbow, concave, down curve, or whatever, to accomodate such. It varies from manufacturer to manufacturer and player to player, but generally if you press down on the 1st and last frets and can stick a small e string under the 8th or 10th fret or so, and maybe a little more on the low E side, you probably have about the right amount, give or take a few thousandths or quarter-turn of the truss rod nut.

One thing that hasn't changed is that guitars are designed for the player to decide on a tuning, brand and gauge of string and stick with it. Guitars don't like to be constantly adjusted. If you're only tuning down, say just the low E string to low D for a couple of songs, it's not enough to matter, but if you are changing entire tunings, say from open G to open D or A, it can stress the neck. Not that it will, but it can. Since the neck and truss rod are by design slightly flexible to accomodate adjustment, if you must change tunings mid stream, set the intonation to a happy medium, but set the truss rod and action to the loosest, meaning the tuning with the least tension, you will use. That way, when you tighten the strings, you will get slightly more relief, which the only thing it will do is make the guitar a little more difficult to play. If you set the truss rod for the tightest setting or a middle setting, when you loosen the strings, the neck will want to backbow from the lessening of string tension on the truss rod and cause string buzzing on the frets, and too much backbow means you risk the truss rod rubbing the fingerboard, causing even more stress and possible popping off of the fingerboard. Yes, this is an extreme case, but I've seen misadjusted truss rods that did just that. Also, make sure you keep the tunings close to each other so that the overall tension is changed as little as possible.

Better yet: if you get really good at your different open tunings, all the more reason to purchase more Ricks, and have one set up for each tuning!


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 Post subject: Re: Neck setup and intonation for open tunings
 Post Posted: Tue Nov 28, 2006 3:36 am 
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Joined: Wed Mar 01, 2006 2:00 pm
Posts: 77
Location: milan michigan
yikes....now i gotta go buy another 360/12 for that cgcgce tuning that i love..

chris


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 Post subject: Re: Neck setup and intonation for open tunings
 Post Posted: Tue Nov 28, 2006 6:35 am 
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Joined: Fri Mar 10, 2006 2:00 pm
Posts: 6
Location: Baltimore, MD
Thanks for the thoughtful and detailed explanation, iiipopes! I think I understand the situation more clearly now. I'll adjust the necks for the lowest tuning I intend to use, intonate to somewhere in the middle of my range of tunings, and try not to make my tuning changes too extreme. I guess the next question is whether those tuning changes are too extreme. I never tune higher than open E, and wouldn't try if only for reasons of string breakage - a definite consideration with that 660/12 headstock - and my other tunings are either tuning all the strings down, or a combination of a couple of strings down, a couple up (which it seems would sort of balance out the forces somewhat).

I guess it's a good thing that I chose solid-body Ric's with neck-through-body designs then, huh, since it would seem to me that they would stand up better to my particular situation of frequent retuning, in terms of strength and resilience.

I like the idea of one Rickenbacker for every tuning, too, though that's a more long-term solution! I'd sure like several more 660/12's, and maybe one of those 650 Sierra's, too, and...



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 Post subject: Re: Neck setup and intonation for open tunings
 Post Posted: Tue Nov 28, 2006 10:47 am 
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It's more the neck aspect than the body aspect, where the actual flexing occurs.

As far as strings and how much change in tuning, something similar to a straightforward gauge change would probably not be too much. For example, if you used a conventional tuning with a set of conventional "9's," then going to a set of conventional "10's" for example would probably not be too much, or going up, say, from open D tuning to open E tuning, two frets. But I wouldn't go, say, from "9's" to "11's" or from open C tuning all the way up to E tuning, 4 frets, and switch back and forth on a regular basis, as that is a significant tension change to make a neck endure.

On the D'addario website you can download a string tension pdf that tells exactly how much tension each string they manufacture puts on a neck for a particular pitch. Now, they do it for guitars with a 25 1/2 inch scale, not a 24 3/4, but absolute numbers is not what you're after, rather relative percentages of increased or decreased tension.

And you're right: up on one and down on another can roughly even out, so long as you balance out what's going on on either side of the neck lengthwise along the center line of dot position markers. For example, if I go to a drop G tuning for a song or two, and drop my high e string to d, I also drop my A string to G, but not necessarily my low E string to D at the same time, depending on if I need it for the song, so that the two strings dropped are on either side of the fret board and I keep from inducing torque to the neck from too much tension on one side or the other.


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 Post subject: Re: Neck setup and intonation for open tunings
 Post Posted: Tue Nov 28, 2006 11:27 pm 
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Joined: Sun Nov 26, 2006 11:05 pm
Posts: 38
Quote:
It's more the neck aspect than the body aspect, where the actual flexing occurs.

As far as strings and how much change in tuning, something similar to a straightforward gauge change would probably not be too much. For example, if you used a conventional tuning with a set of conventional "9's," then going to a set of conventional "10's" for example would probably not be too much, or going up, say, from open D tuning to open E tuning, two frets. But I wouldn't go, say, from "9's" to "11's" or from open C tuning all the way up to E tuning, 4 frets, and switch back and forth on a regular basis, as that is a significant tension change to make a neck endure.

On the D'addario website you can download a string tension pdf that tells exactly how much tension each string they manufacture puts on a neck for a particular pitch. Now, they do it for guitars with a 25 1/2 inch scale, not a 24 3/4, but absolute numbers is not what you're after, rather relative percentages of increased or decreased tension.
.



I noticed this as well, it would be great if Rickenbacker would list their tension too for their 45 55 75 105 Nickel Roundwounds. Mr Hall - make a deal with D'Addario to pay commission to you for every brand of theirs sold that you recommend for Rickenbacker.

Some strings I see are 40 60 80 100, or 40 50 70 95, I doubt I would need to do a truss rod adjustment for this deviation, irregardles of round/half/flat wound, but could be wrong


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