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kr236rk

High Action?

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Hi, have a Yamaha Pacifica 112v which I am okay with. I bought a second, as a 'second', and had it set up. But to my amazement the new 112 is harder to play than the older one. I changed the strings so that both guitars had identical strings, but the new one is still harder on the fingers. Can it only be the action (they look identical) or could the new one need its frets wearing in - could I get the frets ground down 1/10th millimetre? Many questions - just ordered a string action gauge which I'm hoping might shed some light on what's going on here. My finger tips tell me the action is higher, that's all I know.

 

Thanks

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Most people can feel a couple of thousands difference at at the nut end, most can't feel 5 or even 10 up the neck.

 

Its interesting that recently a forumite wanted to clone a guitar that he really liked - he bought a similar one but didn't like the way it played at all. The big differences that we saw when we compared them was quite a bit of relief on the "bad" one compared to almost none on the "good" one, and nut action about 5 thou higher. The action up the neck was almost identical.

 

Use good tools, measure accurately, don't start changing things until you know what to change and why. Certainly leveling and crowning the frets might help, but again, know why you are doing it.

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I suppose that if it feels harder to play, it means the action is higher and you find it harder to press the strings down.

 

Get it set up properly. Professionaly, or take this opportunity to do it yourself?

 

1) neck relief

2) action

3) intonation

 

Lots of ressources on the Internet to learn how to do that.

Have fun!

Edited by Les Paul Lover

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Thanks guys, the strings certainly feel higher around the 12th fret area, you feel like your finger tips are going to fall off the strings type of thing. It's also harder to bend the strings, or just more clumsy-feeling because of the higher action / prouder frets maybe? I know a luthier, he takes forever but will do a good job if you let him know exactly what the trouble is. I may ask that he 'stone' the frets, if that is the term? The string action gauge should be interesting when it turns up, to compare the two Pacificas :)

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Thanks guys' date=' the strings certainly feel higher around the 12th fret area, you feel like your finger tips are going to fall off the strings type of thing. It's also harder to bend the strings, or just more [i']clumsy[/i]-feeling because of the higher action / prouder frets maybe? I know a luthier, he takes forever but will do a good job if you let him know exactly what the trouble is. I may ask that he 'stone' the frets, if that is the term? The string action gauge should be interesting when it turns up, to compare the two Pacificas :)

 

Id ask the luthier for a full setup, and ask him if the frets need to be dressed (leveled, recrowned and polished). He'll know what to do.

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Thanks guys' date=' the strings certainly feel higher around the 12th fret area, you feel like your finger tips are going to fall off the strings type of thing. It's also harder to bend the strings, or just more [i']clumsy[/i]-feeling because of the higher action / prouder frets maybe? I know a luthier, he takes forever but will do a good job if you let him know exactly what the trouble is. I may ask that he 'stone' the frets, if that is the term? The string action gauge should be interesting when it turns up, to compare the two Pacificas :)

 

Let me humbly suggest that before he starts doing anything he measure everything (or you do it) and write it all down. At minimum that includes relief, action at the nut and some other place, usually the 12th fret or sometimes higher. The condition of the frets is important (height can be measured with a micrometer). I always check some structural things - neck angle in particular - and it doesn't hurt to check intonation, height of pickups.

 

I have a little spreadsheet that I fill out before I start work on a guitar with all these measurements - in my opinion you can't start changing anything until you know everything, but I know people do it all the time.

 

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A quick check is to lower each height adjustment screw by 1/4 or 1/2 turn to get it where it feels right. If you do all of them you retain the radius that was there previously. If you don't like it you can raise them back up.

Possible that the stiffer one also has a slightly higher nut.

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... in my opinion you can't start changing anything until you know everything' date=' but I know people do it all the time.[/quote']

 

I often have that discussion with my wife. :)

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The two guitars could easily be set up differently. Take a bunch of measurements--action, relief, intonation, etc.--and compare them. Don't do anything to the frets, at least at first. They have little or nothing to do with action, which is defined as distance above the fret. If the frets are taller and the strings are correspondingly higher, it works out exactly the same. Examine the frets and if you don't see any noticeable wear, take something like a credit card and rest it on top of each fret in turn, and see if you can rock it. If you can, you have a high fret but that has very little to do with action unless you're measuring action above a high fret.

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in my opinion you can't start changing anything until you know everything, but I know people do it all the time.

 

Whilst that is a very good idea for a professional, for most of us DIYer, it's perhaps a bit OTT.

 

Whilst some measurements of the end result can be helpful as something to aim for, most people like me know what they like in terms of action and can just set it all up by feel. Neck relief is pretty straightforward to get right by eye sight alone, and the action after that is pretty easy to set right, and intonation too.

Edited by Les Paul Lover

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Thanks guys - huge response! ;)

 

The guitar was set up, it was done because I wanted a new pickup at the bridge, but when I collected the 112 the guy said 'job done' although he was slightly concerned about an open string buzz on the low E string, first fret. He demonstrated but I could hear nothing. I am wondering if the potential buzz concerned him enough to forgo that final, microscopic lowering of the action which would have brought the Pacifica in line with the older one I have?

 

To him the guitar would have been 100% playable, to me it's a problem - different strokes for different folks, I need the finest action I can get away with due to string bends, the way I bend a string and where the strings connect with my finger tips, which now know exactly where to anticipate the string. It also makes the strings seem harder to push, just fractionally, but enough to notice. That's why I made sure both Pacificas had identical strings to compare them.

 

The luthier extensively set up my AES 620 about a year ago and it is the finest feel I have ever known on a guitar neck, so I know he can get it spot on - but I didn't request fret work or an extensive overhaul on the new Pacifica & it was straight 'out of the box', so to speak. I also know it was a last minute job because he was leaving for a music trade fair the very next day.

 

Will wait till that action gauge shows up anyway.

 

Thanks again! ;)

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Buy a set of automotive feeler gauges also. Your string action gauge is very good for measuring action up the neck (and rocking frets, I use mine all the time) but you can not read it accurately enough to measure nut slots and relief. Most of them are in 10 thousands or 1/64th of an inch.

Edited by Freeman Keller

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I commend your ability to do this and while I'm not a professional I do set up enough guitars that I like to know exactly what the measurements are. I also know that some things affect others but not the other way around - for example relief affects action (and nut height) but changing the action doesn't affect relief. Changing action affects intonation but not the other way around.

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If you would like a copy of my little setup spreadsheet PM me your e-mail addy. It has boxes for each of the things that I look for and a column for "starting", "finished", "target" and "reference". You could measure your "good" guitar and put that in the "target" column, measure the other guitar and put it in "starting". Pretty easy to tell what needs to be done.

 

I use the "reference" column to record what I'm using for a standard. That way if I'm setting it to Fender's specs or Gibson's or maybe SRV's or BB's or whatever I have a record.

 

The spreadsheet has a second page with a lot of these summarized, but since I mostly work on acoustics thats mostly whats there.

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Agree - that's the order I do my adjustments, as i had stated above.

 

I must say, doing it by feel is only good assuming the nut is properly cut and the fret work is level.

 

One of my guitar has pretty worn frets and I can't get my optimal set up on it. It needs either a refret or levelling, but I put that off as it is a guitar I play little, though excellent, and still plays beautifully.

 

The only other time I've had an issue was with a squier telecaster that didn't stay long. With perfect neck relief, and optimal action, the notes up the neck fretted out. That wanted a good levelling.

 

But essentially, so long as your nut is OK, and the fret work is good (OK, no problem with the neck relief adjustment either), setting the relief, action and intonation is pretty straightforward.

I even find it strangely relaxing...... :o

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Thanks Freeman - have posted a PM. I need ultra light strings on a fine action due to a tendency for ingrowing nails - sounds funny but believe me it is a pain, in more ways than one :-o can handle going out of tune on skimpy strings, especially with modern floor tuners, I get by ;)

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Thanks guys - huge response! ;)

 

The guitar was set up, it was done because I wanted a new pickup at the bridge, but when I collected the 112 the guy said 'job done' although he was slightly concerned about an open string buzz on the low E string, first fret. . . .

That "open string buzz on the low E string, first fret" is an indication that the nut slot is too deep. Your setup guy didn't want to spend the time slotting a new nut so he raised the action a tad. A "real" fix would involve replacing the nut, a job not recommended for beginners. I don't know enough about your Pacifica but Fender nuts often have a curved bottom, which makes replacement even more challenging.

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That "open string buzz on the low E string, first fret" is an indication that the nut slot is too deep. Your setup guy didn't want to spend the time slotting a new nut so he raised the action a tad. A "real" fix would involve replacing the nut, a job not recommended for beginners. I don't know enough about your Pacifica but Fender nuts often have a curved bottom, which makes replacement even more challenging.

 

Good spot.

 

That particular nut slot can be carefully "filled" with CA until you get it gack to desired height.

 

Something I've never done, and would not be keen to do either knowing how superglue can be difficult to work with. Though u guess that if you can buy some precision tip superglue (a but like model making glue pots), that would help a lot.

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Thanks Deep End, does this also mean that the action check might not reveal much? But as you say, if the action is a tad proud to get round the buzz, it will probably show? I'll just tell him I want the action lower, he should be back in town around next weekend. By then the action gauge should have arrived anyway. This is a great guitar with a new pup, I'm determined to get it right ;)

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Thanks, I would never attempt such a job - the luthier has always sorted my guitars in the past, even if it is a bit of a wait! :D

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When you (or your "luthier") measures the action and fills out the spreadsheet (which I can't send to you yet because I need your e-mail address) six of the little boxes will be the height of the strings off the first fret (the spreadsheet actually calls this "nut" but I'll explain that in my e-mail to you). The second page of the spreadsheet will give you some target values - measurements used by other setup techs or some factories.

 

There are two other tests for proper nut slot depths - one is to take a pencil and sand it in half - lay it on the first couple of frets and draw a line on the nut. That line represents a zero fret if you had one, you want the nut slot to approach but not go below that line.

 

The other quick and dirty check for too deep of nut slots is that when you fret a string at the third fret you want a tiny bit of clearance between the string and the first fret, ie the string behind where you are fretting needs to just clear the fret behind (you actually want that all the way down the f/b). Its a tiny amount, maybe two thou at the most - the easiest way to tell is to tap the string over the fret, if you have clearance you will hear a "ping".

 

The other thing to consider is that even with very low action you still need a bit of relief - a rule of thumb is that if strings buzz in the upper end of the fretboard you might need less relief, if they buzz close to the nut they might need a bit more. Again, measuring the guitar's relief (and making sure that it has relief all the way up and down the f/b) is just one of those parts of filling out that spreadsheet.

 

Another possibility is that the first fret is simply high and needs to be leveled and dressed. Once again, the conditions of the frets is the very first thing you (or your "luthier") should be checking before he or she does any changing.

 

On a few occasions when I've file a nut slot too far I have filled it with a mixture of bone dust and super glue, its not hard to do. Your guitar probably doesn't have a bone nut, I have heard of people using baking soda for the filler. It works as a temporary repair but I make a habit of making a new nut (at no charge to my customer, its my mistake).

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The guitar was set up, it was done because I wanted a new pickup at the bridge, but when I collected the 112 the guy said 'job done' although he was slightly concerned about an open string buzz on the low E string, first fret. He demonstrated but I could hear nothing. I am wondering if the potential buzz concerned him enough to forgo that final, microscopic lowering of the action which would have brought the Pacifica in line with the older one I have?

 

To him the guitar would have been 100% playable,......)

 

I'm going to ask a silly question that's somewhat related to the last post. When you asked him to replace the pup did you ask for a setup? Did you tell him what was wrong with the way the guitar was set and what you wanted as far as playability? It is fairly rare to just start filing the nut slots when a guitar comes in to have the pickup worked on.

 

And while an acoustic player never wants to hear any buzzing its not uncommon for an electric player to tolerate some to get the low action and ability to do deep bends. Some techs say that if you can't hear it thru the amp its OK (I don't necessarily agree). Anyway, my point is that sometimes you need to communicate to your tech (I like my customers to play a bit for me so I can get a sense of their technique).

 

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Thanks. This is possibly where it all went pair shaped. I got the Pacifica in for a specific purpose, I wanted it as a 'live' instrument so I could keep the older one for experimenting with tunings. That way there'd be no last minute panics when I realised the guitar I needed was in the wrong tuning. I played the guitar out of the box and it felt fine, but enthusiasm is not always the best guide. It certainly played 'just like the other one' when it first arrived. Shortly afterwards I took it over to the luthier with the new pick-up. "Set-up" was mentioned but at that time I had no criticism of the guitar, I just wanted the pick up in. So the luthier will be completely unaware that I now sense an action issue which I (a) didn't notice to begin with or (b) has somehow crept in subsequently. The problem is, the guy is not always around - he wasn't when I brought it over to the shop, so he's also getting information second hand at times. When I take it back I will make sure he is there, it was he who alerted me to the possible buzz issue on the low E, lowest fret, so he must have detected something going on, or why mention the buzz (which I couldn't detect)? I suspect that whatever he did or didn't do to get round the buzzing fret is what I am picking up on my finger tips as a slightly higher action than on the old Pacifica.

Edited by kr236rk

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. . . Another possibility is that the first fret is simply high and needs to be leveled and dressed. Once again' date=' the conditions of the frets is the very first thing you (or your "luthier") should be checking before he or she does any changing. . . .[/quote']

On further thought it also occurred to me that the OP might have a first fret that isn't ''seated'' properly, which could be an issue from the factory or it could also be due to the guitar needing to be humidified. Any qualified tech or ''luthier'' should be able to diagnose and correct the problem, assuming there is one. You want the string height at the nut slots to be a tad higher than the first fret. For that reason, I don't use the ''half pencil'' method. I normally aim for about .02" clearance between the first fret and the (unfretted) strings. YMMV.

Edited by DeepEnd

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