Author Topic: Low Nut on New Guitar?  (Read 904 times)

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Offline Ex-Calif

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Low Nut on New Guitar?
« on: December 31, 2020, 06:52:24 pm »
OK - Beginner here on B1L5 but I am an engineer and pretty good mechanically.

I watched the guitar setup series of videos here pretty carefully - https://www.justinguitar.com/modules/set-up-your-electric-guitar

I also have a very slightly used, new to me Squier Strat. The (pawn shop) salesman said, "The owner is a guitar wizard and sets up al the guitars..."

The first thing I then noticed is that all my bridge blocks are dead level - hmmm... So I decided to start measuring - down the rabbit hole I go - LOL

The first test is to fret the third fret and look for a "little" space above the first fret - Zero space, string is hard aboard the fret.  So, "God hates a coward" as my dad would say so I adjusted the truss rod and got a little space.

Then of course the action down the neck is way high. I worked through it and got the action decent enough. TBH - I have a "cheap" plastic gauge that only has a "low" and "high" setting but have a metal precision one coming so I can't give an accurate number yet.

I set them pretty much at the "low" setting.  Then I worked the intonation and as the video suggested it was way off. I don't have a strobe tuner but I do have a really good tuner and now all the strings ring true note both open and 12th fret.  And yes the bridge blocks are definitely not parallel to each other any more. Also, for example, no matter what fret or string I play an "E" on the tuner calls it an E.  That was definitely not the case before I started.

TBH this whole thing started when practicing the pentatonic first position - certain notes didn't sound quite right. Then when I first checked almost all the 12th fret notes were way sharp.

So much for pawn shop wizard - I can say that the playability and sound is noticeably better even for a newbie like me.

So - finally here is the question. The initial first fret gap is still tiny but the bridge blocks "seem" to be wound quite low (lots of thread sticking up) - I could make the first fret gap a little better (like in the video) but I'd then be winding the bridge blocks down even more.

I did wind the sixth (low E) and A up slightly as I was getting a little buzz up to like the 3rd fret. I figure this is a bit normal on the fatter wound strings to need a little more clearance.

So - is my nut OK and I am doing OK or am I off base in my tuning?  It's almost like the whole nut is low a bit but being a "like new" guitar that's not a good explanation.

The only thing I am judging this by is how much allen screw is sticking up from the blocks.
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Offline joueur de guitare

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Re: Low Nut on New Guitar?
« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2020, 07:15:46 pm »
Some nuts are cut lower, or higher, than others from the factory.

OK - Beginner here on B1L5 but I am an engineer and pretty good mechanically.


TBH - I have a "cheap" plastic gauge that only has a "low" and "high" setting but have a metal precision one coming so I can't give an accurate number yet.



Don't you have a steel ruler?
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Offline Ex-Calif

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Re: Low Nut on New Guitar?
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2020, 11:16:04 pm »
Some nuts are cut lower, or higher, than others from the factory.

Don't you have a steel ruler?

I expected that question - LOL...  Yes but my tools and stuff are in the back garage about 100m from here, there is snow on the ground and I'm a lazy butt! - LOL...

But Praise Amazon! - My groovy new steel gauge showed up, I got of my butt and I also went and got my 16" straight edge from the garage.

First of all with the straight edge on the frets there is a slight gap on some frets - maybe as much as .010" - but it's random so I don't think the neck is bowed much but could be.  It's possible the frets are not the same height (manufacturing variance) - tomorrow's trip to the garage will yield my feeler gauges which I forgot to bring in and take some measurements on the fret gaps to make sure I know what I've got.

Filing frets is beyond my skills so if that turns out to be an issue it may go to a shop at some point.

So on to the current state of things -

For the record the strings are almost new Fender 150L strings 0.009 to 0.042 if it matters.

At the 12th fret the high 3 strings are at about .050"
D is about 0.060
A is about 0.070
E is about 0.090

Here is where it is interesting

At the first fret the high 3 are between 0.020 and 0.030
D is about 0.040
A is about 0.050
E is about 0.070

So am consistently about 0.020 closer at the neck end.

Intuitively I would want to straighten the neck moving the head relatively back but then the string gap in the first test closes up again? Hence my initial thought that the overall nut is too low.

I get that the truss rod doesn't just bend the neck forward and backward and that it (properly?) should add and remove bow, right.

I think I am missing something in my thinking but I don't know what.  I have a couple of websites marked and I will do a little more reading as well.
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Offline DarrellW

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Re: Low Nut on New Guitar?
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2020, 11:26:05 pm »
If you put a capo on the first fret and the strings don’t buzz but they do without it your nut is a bit low, if you don’t have a capo improvise one with some dowel (or a pencil) and a thick rubber band! It your nut is low you could try packing it with some thin steel shim or thick paper and see if it works. Long term you would probably be better off getting a new nut.
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Offline Ex-Calif

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Re: Low Nut on New Guitar?
« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2020, 11:35:18 pm »
If you put a capo on the first fret and the strings don’t buzz but they do without it your nut is a bit low, if you don’t have a capo improvise one with some dowel (or a pencil) and a thick rubber band! It your nut is low you could try packing it with some thin steel shim or thick paper and see if it works. Long term you would probably be better off getting a new nut.

Thanks, man.  I do have a capo and I am using it to do all the fretting I have been talking about because I want to take the "human error" out of it.

Like I said, right now it's better than when I bought it. At least it holds tune open and 12th fret.

Also at present there is no buzzing anywhere as I have it set.

The remaining question is the variable action (measured) from first fret to 12th fret and really is the action "too high" at the 12th fret - especially the wound strings.

My engineer mind is thinking to try and get the action the same at fret 1 and 12 so the strings are "parallel" to the fret board. But I am not a good enough player or Louthier (LOL) to know if 0.090 on low E is a problem or not.

I am also not a good enough player to evaluate whether the "action" feels good or not.  This is probably the best electric guitar I have owned and it's a sub US$200 guitar so to me it plays like magic - LOL...

I may be overthinking this too much...
New old guy getting on the Blues path
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Offline joueur de guitare

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Re: Low Nut on New Guitar?
« Reply #5 on: January 01, 2021, 01:15:53 am »
I'm not trying to be a smart xx--xx, but you really need to watch these vids.

https://www.justinguitar.com/modules/set-up-your-electric-guitar
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Offline Majik

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Re: Low Nut on New Guitar?
« Reply #6 on: January 01, 2021, 01:24:26 am »

My engineer mind is thinking to try and get the action the same at fret 1 and 12 so the strings are "parallel" to the fret board. But I am not a good enough player or Louthier (LOL) to know if 0.090 on low E is a problem or not.

No, the guitar geometry doesn't work like that.

Cheers,

Keith

Offline close2u

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Re: Low Nut on New Guitar?
« Reply #7 on: January 01, 2021, 01:30:15 am »
You don't want your strings, suspended between bridge saddles and nut slots, to be parallel to the neck.
Because to do so would require a dead straight neck. You want the neck to have a little bit of back how. The action will be marginally higher at the midpoint - around fret 12.
Also, for intonation, the fretted note at fret 12 should be in perfect pitch with the 12th fret harmonic.
And when intonated, no guitar will have six saddles all aligned side by side.
Re: the nut.
It is very rare a factory will send a guitar out with all but slots filed too low. If anything, they will leave too high knowing a little can be filed off if needed. If yours are too low then I would hazard to suggest some wizard has got too handy with a file and got distracted. You can take height off, you can't put it back on.
But I would seek other tweaks before concluding the nut slots are filed too low.

ps
Intonation is the last adjustment after everything else is set properly.
« Last Edit: January 01, 2021, 01:55:32 pm by close2u »

Offline Ex-Calif

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Re: Low Nut on New Guitar?
« Reply #8 on: January 01, 2021, 01:49:25 pm »
I'm not trying to be a smart xx--xx, but you really need to watch these vids.

https://www.justinguitar.com/modules/set-up-your-electric-guitar

I watched those videos all the way through twice, I even posted the link in post #1 - It would be helpful if someone answered with something concrete.

Can someone at least tell me if the action numbers above at first and 12th fret are reasonable?

Also CLose2U - If you read post #1 you'll see intonation is perfect.

I get that my posts can be TLDR so, my bad.  You say the action will be marginally higher at the mid-point - that's what I have now so id 0.020 higher at 12 a decent number?

The guitar is playing well right now - I just don't' want to find out later that I have been playing with the action "seriously" high at fret 12.

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Offline close2u

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Re: Low Nut on New Guitar?
« Reply #9 on: January 01, 2021, 01:59:08 pm »
... Can someone at least tell me if the action numbers above at first and 12th fret are reasonable?
Reasonable - yes. Though there is variance as people have different preferences on action.
If you have gone as low as you can then raised a little to get rid of any buzz then the action is likely fine.

Quote
Also Close2U - If you read post #1 you'll see intonation is perfect.
I saw that.
I was just commenting that using the 12th fret harmonic gives a perfect note to measure against.

Quote
thee guitar is playing well right now ...

Job done!

It's a shame you were lied to in the shop.
But you have taken your first steps in guitar tech tweaking!
:)

Offline Ex-Calif

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Re: Low Nut on New Guitar?
« Reply #10 on: January 01, 2021, 02:23:46 pm »
Reasonable - yes. Though there is variance as people have different preferences on action.
If you have gone as low as you can then raised a little to get rid of any buzz then the action is likely fine.
I saw that.
I was just commenting that using the 12th fret harmonic gives a perfect note to measure against.

Job done!

It's a shame you were lied to in the shop.
But you have taken your first steps in guitar tech tweaking!
:)

Thanks man - very helpful! Today's task is to string and set up the old Filipino guitar that's been in the closet for like 15 years - LOL...

My big gap at this point is I don't have any experienced guitar buddies. I'd love to have someone knowledgeable play it.

One of the other buried questions in my post is how low is "too" low on a bridge block and how much exposed thread is "acceptable" on the allen keys.

My longest thread is like 2mm proud of the block and about 6mm from top of the block to the base plate.
New old guy getting on the Blues path
Picked up the guitar again Dec 17, 2020
Fender Squire Bullet Strat & Fender Mustang I v2
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"Learn what you need to learn when you need to learn it" - JS

Offline joueur de guitare

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Re: Low Nut on New Guitar?
« Reply #11 on: January 01, 2021, 03:05:09 pm »

One of the other buried questions in my post is how low is "too" low on a bridge block and how much exposed thread is "acceptable" on the allen keys.

My longest thread is like 2mm proud of the block and about 6mm from top of the block to the base plate.

As Majik posted, guitar geometry doesn't work like that.

Basically:


Adjust the truss rod (if required) so that there's some back bow. How much back bow is  dependent, among other things, on the neck radius.

Adjust the string height at the bridge. This will set the action - you're looking at having it low, but not so low that there's fret buzz. I start with 1.5mm on the high and low E strings at the 17th fret. Again, this depends on the neck radius.  Once you have this, adjust to taste, some people like a high action.

Tune the guitar.

Set the intonation. You want the same note at the 12th fret (fretted), but an octave higher than the unfretted string. You will NEVER get perfect intonation, it's a compromise.



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Offline Majik

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Re: Low Nut on New Guitar?
« Reply #12 on: January 03, 2021, 10:40:25 am »
One of the other buried questions in my post is how low is "too" low on a bridge block and how much exposed thread is "acceptable" on the allen keys.

My longest thread is like 2mm proud of the block and about 6mm from top of the block to the base plate.

There isn't a good answer to this and any direct measurements at the bridge aren't useful in the normal context of a guitar setup.

The height of the strings above the bridge will vary from one guitar to another depending on guitar design and construction, and is not directly of any relevance to guitar playing other than it impacts the thing that does matter: the height of the strings above the fret-board.

How much the grub screws protrude (or not) will really not tell you anything about the action or playability of the guitar. Again, it will depend on the guitar design and construction, including which parts were used.

Focus on the steps in the video Close2u posted. This is the approach developed over decades of electric guitar manufacturing and service as the method which works. It is, if you will, the "best practice". If the video doesn't mention something, like a measurement at the bridge, that's because it's not useful or important.

One other piece of advice: the guitar has a bunch of compromises built-in that you will never completely remove. Close2u mentioned intonation as one. Another is fret-buzz: if you want a low action for playability, you will also get a small amount of fret buzz, especially on the low E string. The electric guitar is designed to be amplified, and this fret buzz should not be audible through the amp, but it will be when the guitar is played unamplified and the strings are strummed hard. This is normal.

Cheers,

Keith

Offline Ex-Calif

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Re: Low Nut on New Guitar?
« Reply #13 on: January 03, 2021, 11:50:55 am »
Another is fret-buzz: if you want a low action for playability, you will also get a small amount of fret buzz, especially on the low E string. The electric guitar is designed to be amplified, and this fret buzz should not be audible through the amp, but it will be when the guitar is played unamplified and the strings are strummed hard. This is normal.

Cheers,

Keith

That's really good to know as a beginner "tuner" and guitarist one of the things we obsess over is buzzing.  We really like to know if the buzzing is caused by bad fingering or bad guitar.  Right now I capo'd the frets and don't get any buz so I lowered the action slightly yesterday.

I was having difficulty with G and G7 where I was muting the 5th string.  I lowered the action just enough so that I am not doing that any more. So that's a plus up in the playability of the guitar.

I also started tuning my old guitar and now I can compare playability on either of them.

It's all good for now I think. Thanks for all the comments.
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Picked up the guitar again Dec 17, 2020
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"Learn what you need to learn when you need to learn it" - JS

Offline DarrellW

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Re: Low Nut on New Guitar?
« Reply #14 on: January 03, 2021, 11:56:53 am »
Now that you’ve learned how to do it you will have that confidence and it will make your ability to get the next one sorted when GAS inevitably strikes 😀
Still here, still learning - no longer letting Fibromyalgia get in the way, it sucks but doesn’t have to mean your life stops!

Offline Ex-Calif

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Re: Low Nut on New Guitar?
« Reply #15 on: January 03, 2021, 12:00:55 pm »
Now that you’ve learned how to do it you will have that confidence and it will make your ability to get the next one sorted when GAS inevitably strikes 😀

Yeah - TBH the intonation adjustments have been a mystery to me my whole life. Kinda like "lady parts" - All these screws at the base of the guitar and I had no idea how much pleasure they could bring - LOL...

I did learn basic music theory in high school and as an engineer when I watched the video and put it is context of note frequency it made total sense.

I wish I'd know this 50 years ago. It would have made a lot of crappy guitars a lot more playable.
New old guy getting on the Blues path
Picked up the guitar again Dec 17, 2020
Fender Squire Bullet Strat & Fender Mustang I v2
iRig - iPad - MPOW BT Receiver - Pyle Mixer
"Learn what you need to learn when you need to learn it" - JS

Offline DarrellW

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Re: Low Nut on New Guitar?
« Reply #16 on: January 03, 2021, 12:04:58 pm »
I wish I'd know this 50 years ago. It would have made a lot of crappy guitars a lot more playable.
Me too, bleeding finger tips and all that stuff, guitars are so much better these days than they were 50+ years ago unless you had got deep pockets!
Still here, still learning - no longer letting Fibromyalgia get in the way, it sucks but doesn’t have to mean your life stops!

 

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