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Repair Help - Fretting Sharp


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I am 100% unsavvy on guitar repair and maintenance.

I have an ES-339. I'll tune it, but the 2nd and 3rd strings - once I go beyond the second fret, sounds sharp.

My Google-fu skills tell me that means my saddles need adjusting. And to fix a guitar that's sharp, bring the saddle away from the neck and towards the right-hand side of the bridge (I guess, in effect, making the string longer?).

Anyway, I've got the 3rd string pegged as far as it goes. And look how sharp it still is!

Is this something I can address? Or do I need to wait until the guitar shops are open again?

Thanks.

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It looks like you've compensated as much as the 3rd saddle will go.

What does the 3rd string read on the tuner when you play the 12th fret?

The nut can cause similar issues if the contact point with the string isn't right at the front. To test for this, put a capo on the second fret, tune the string, then compare the 12th fret. If these agree then I'd look at replacing the nut. 

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On some bridges you can remove the saddles and flip them around for a hair more adjustment.  Remove that wire holding the screws in and flip the saddle around.  

Put on fresh strings first.

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Put a capo on the first fret, set the tuning and check intonation at the third fret or further down the neck. If you can set up the bridge to make this work then your nut needs adjusting not your bridge.

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I will go with the nut may be the issue, it may need to be re-slotted/filed...but your action maybe too high as well, which would make each fretted note sharp. However as this only seems to happen to two of the three unwound strings, the nut would seem the likely suspect. How long has this issue been noticeable?

Are you experiencing this only at the second fret, or is that just a typical reading down the neck for both the G and B stings?

Grant H made a good point, is the octave reading correctly fretted and unfretted?

Did your guitar take a fall recently? Even if there was no apparent damage, there are a myriad of things that could happen, including cracks in the nut, a tiny twist to the neck, and so on...

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Sorry but you're probably out of luck. Unless your action is sky high the bridge is incorrectly installed. I had the same issue with my first electric guitar and I ended up selling it.

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Wow! Thanks everyone for your suggestions!

 

DeepEnd, I hope you're wrong. I really like this guitar, and it's fun to play (although sounds terrible).

So here's something interesting. I've focused so much on the 2 and 3 strings because they're always what sound wrong to me. But it turns out that if I check the 12th fret, they're ALL a little sharp! But 2 and 3 more so. (I mean, if they all went the same way together, I'd never notice until I played with someone else, right?)

I didn't try flipping the saddle yet. Will both sides be notched with a groove for the string?

If I understand what you're saying, Djangler, is: Put the capo on the first fret, and tune it (to F/Bb/Eb/Ab/C/F, I presume?) - and then go about adjusting the saddles? I was under the impression I shouldn't adjust the saddle with the string on there...

As far as "when", that's an interesting discussion. I bought this guitar seven years ago when overseas and played it constantly.  Back in the States, I'm rarely home (like, 3-4 times a year). So it sits in a gig back, lying flat on its back under the bed. I really only noticed this about a year ago. I believe. I can't believe I wouldn't have noticed the first few years I was playing (but I was a crappier player then, so maybe I just didn't know). Once I noticed, I just presumed I had {censored}ty strings that wouldn't hold a tune.

Sounds like a job for a professional. I'm not comfortable playing with truss rods or anything like that.

I believe the action is OK. I had some guitars in high school where you could fit a Denver omelette between the string and the neck., so again I may just not know what good is. I've attached a picture, don't know how effective that is. Again, sounds like I need a professional.

Explain one thing, though. I don't understand why the nut would contribute. Why would the nut impact ONE string and not ALL strings?

2020_05_01 15_39 Office Lens.jpg

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to put it plainly, we are trying to diagnose an issue over the internet, without examining the instrument, which leaves a lot of conjecture. As you answer our questions we can narrow this down...

Each slot of the nut is different, so there are potential variants.

The nut could be worn down at the fretboard side, which would move the contact point away from the bridge, effectively lengthening the string, and changing the distance from the nut to the fret.

...however, you've had the guitar for a long time, and this issue only 'recently' revealed itself, so let's consider other possibilities...

Was the temperature and humidity been fairly 'typical' under your bed prior to you noticing the issue?

When was the last time you changed strings? Did you use the same gauge?

The strings could be 'hanging up'; although less common with unwound strings, it is possible.

Have you ever 'lubricated' your nut slots? A little bit of pencil tip graphite in there may help

Reversing the bridge saddles likely won't help, since you've already maxed out the adjustment, but the grooves will still be there, you are just changing which side faces forward. Notice how the angled side on the E/B/G strings is reversed from the E/A/D? I don't think there is enough potential change there to warrant the effort, but if you are feeling the urge, give it a shot.

You can adjust the saddles with the strings on, btw....how else do you hear the change in pitch to know when you've got it right?

Are the bridge posts solidly into the body? ...not saying this would be the cause, but something I typically check if there is an intonation issue.

At this juncture, after checking these possibilities, I think you should take it to a competent guitar tech...

 

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Posted (edited)
33 minutes ago, daddymack said:

Reversing the bridge saddles likely won't help, since you've already maxed out the adjustment, but the grooves will still be there, you are just changing which side faces forward. Notice how the angled side on the E/B/G strings is reversed from the E/A/D? I don't think there is enough potential change there to warrant the effort, but if you are feeling the urge, give it a shot.

OMG Duh. I was thinking "upside down", even as i was looking at it to see why it would make sense. April was a very long year.

Of course I lubricated my nut slots - oh, you mean on the guitar. No, didn't know that was an option.

The room's humidity fluctuates a bit. When I'm not home, it can get down to 50s in the house. Humidity can get up into low 60s. (The dehumidifier is in the next room, with my vinyl collection.)

I just assumed the tension of the string would be too high to adjust the saddle - like it would do bad things to one or the other. To adjust it, |: I loosened the string, adjusted it, retuned it. : |

It has eben a while since I changed strings. If they weren't the same gauge, they were damn close. (Like I may have light on and had medium before or vice versa). Not sure I understand what you mean by the string hanging - like it's just "stuck" in the nut? Doubtful, given the loosening and tightening described above, right?

I'm thinking that since it's so extremely out of tune, the hair-length difference of flipping the saddle won't help much. The bridge appears to be solid.1434810116_2020_05_0117_23OfficeLens(1).thumb.jpg.7033bfdb4cd15f6d4a7251ea022a6de3.jpg172242870_2020_05_0117_23OfficeLens(2).thumb.jpg.622f11cba4bf931707adb3031e70e7e3.jpg

Thanks for all the advice and help diagnosing. I used to work with a help desk for auto repair... So I empathize. I started this project hopeful that this would be an easy DIY job that would make me happy and proud of myself. If it gets much more complex, I'd rather pay a professional than screw up something I like.

 

 

Edited by Alonzo Mosley
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Posted (edited)

Fwiw, changing string gauges can make a huge difference on the setup.  It will through off the intonation and neck relief, and could be an issue at the nut and saddle slots.

Old strings can be impossible to intonate.  Put on a fresh set before you do anything.  

Edited by mrbrown49
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3 minutes ago, Grant Harding said:

It looks to me like the nut is the culprit.

If the note at the 1st fret agrees with the 13th fret, but they don't agree with the open string it's the nut.

I wouldn't jump to that conclusion until trying a fresh set of strings.

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I will try to replace the strings tonight.

The 1st fret does agree with the 13th, and they don't agree with the open string. (And now that I know what to ask, I'm seeing this is not an uncommon gripe with 339 owners! But they complain more it about "staying in tune". It definitely holds its tune. Just...)

Question about lubricating it with pencil lead - how do I do that? Like, literally just pop the string out the nut and write in it with a pencil?

The only strings I have are Ernie Ball Slinky Light.

 

 

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OK so put new strings on. That took a lot longer than I remember! Stretched 'em good, I think.

And... It seems better. The 2 string is a lot better and the 3 string is somewhat better. So you both may be right.

I am amazed.

In all seriousness, why would dead strings act that way?

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9 hours ago, mrbrown49 said:

Fwiw, changing string gauges can make a huge difference on the setup.  It will through off the intonation and neck relief, and could be an issue at the nut and saddle slots.

Old strings can be impossible to intonate.  Put on a fresh set before you do anything.  

exactly why I asked...when he said the guitar had been under the bed for years...the strings will corrode over time, even in the untouched nut slots; and yes, changing the gauge without doing a proper set-up usually creates tuning issues like this.*

8 hours ago, Alonzo Mosley said:

Question about lubricating it with pencil lead - how do I do that? Like, literally just pop the string out the nut and write in it with a pencil?

use a razor blade or a pocket knife to shave off some into the slot, then use the edge of a piece of folded paper to work it into the slot...lightly blow out any excess.

8 hours ago, Alonzo Mosley said:

The only strings I have are Ernie Ball Slinky Light.

Hopefully this is the same gauge used when the guitar was set up way back when;  if you have a caliper or micrometer, compare the diameter of the strings you removed to the ones you put on. Are they the same or different?

 

*going from a 9/11/16/24/32/42 to a 10/13/17/26/36/46 can make a noticeable difference to the neck relief, intonation and 'grip' in the nut slot...it may not seem like much 'intellectually', but physically it is potentially a major change, often requiring a whole new set-up.

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20 hours ago, Alonzo Mosley said:

. . . The only strings I have are Ernie Ball Slinky Light.

Since Ernie Ball doesn't make "Slinky Light" strings maybe you can find your set here: https://www.ernieball.com/guitar-strings/electric-guitar-strings/slinky-nickel-wound-electric-guitar-strings/6-string#P02225 and tell us which set you mean. I'd suggest buying a set of "Extra Slinky" .008-.038 or something similar online. Thinner strings require less compensation and you might get lucky. In my case I put on a set of strings with the lightest 6th string I could find (since that was the string that wouldn't intonate) and got rid of the guitar.

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Posted (edited)

Getting rid of the guitar is not an option.

I almost made a comment in my post, "Don't give me {censored} for my strings". Because the one thing I remember about high school guitar drama was, once you got past the Fender vs. Gibson nonsense, and whether "La Villa" or "Evolution" was the better showcase, was what brand of strings you bought. But I digress. Ernie Ball absolutely makes Slinky lights:

I have no idea how it was set up, and certainly had no clue - after all these years - what a difference it made! That makes sense, I guess, but I'm gobsmacked. Any good primers on what to do if I ever want to change gauges? Like what the set up OUGHT to be?

Thanks everybody for humoring me along this process.

2020_05_02 15_41 Office Lens.jpg

Strings.jpg

Edited by Alonzo Mosley
Getting rid of the guitar is not an option
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A setup will check the action, intonation, neck relief, and pickup height. I also give it a good cleaning and check for problems; loose knobs, nuts, screws etc.

If changing string gauges the nut and saddle slots should be checked that they are sized right. Not too big or too small. No string binding.

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2 hours ago, Alonzo Mosley said:

But I digress. Ernie Ball absolutely makes Slinky lights:

Sorry but I see "Regular Slinky," not "Slinky Light." Accuracy matters. As for setup specs, here's a guide for setting up a Les Paul. The same numbers should work as a starting point for your ES339: http://diystrat.blogspot.com/2012/09/how-to-set-up-gibson-les-paul-style.html

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1 hour ago, Grant Harding said:

I would 100% recommend getting it serviced by whoever your local "wizard" is. It'll be like a whole different guitar. 

Yeah, that was my plan. I live about 90 miles from any good "wizards". And I'm pretty much always on the road for work. My plan was to drop it off on my way to the airport in March, and pick it up when I got back, but I was running late and figured "next time". But there hasn't been a next time yet  now I've been sitting at home for six weeks... and the shop is very closed... Hence my new-found sense of DIY.

  

26 minutes ago, DeepEnd said:

Sorry but I see "Regular Slinky," not "Slinky Light."

Then you're not looking. There's more to life than packaging. Cans of Miller Lite say "Great taste", but if you compare Miller Lite to things that actually do taste great, you'd see that it's just marketing. 0.10's are objectively "light", as per anything I've ever read, ever. Including what I posted. EB's "Regular Slinky"s are 0.10's. Modus ponens.

26 minutes ago, DeepEnd said:

Accuracy matters.

My point exactly. I may not know a lot about guitar repair, but I'm not a complete idiot.

 

2 hours ago, mrbrown49 said:

A setup will check the action, intonation, neck relief, and pickup height. I also give it a good cleaning and check for problems; loose knobs, nuts, screws etc.

If changing string gauges the nut and saddle slots should be checked that they are sized right. Not too big or too small. No string binding.

Pickup height?!? Hadn't even considered that. Knobs, nuts, etc., all seem OK. But that's just the surface.

Just for giggles, when I do find a wizard, what should I expect to pay for this?

Thanks for all the helpful info!

 

 

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