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Complicated NGD and problem/question


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So first the good news!

- My son decided he wanted to learn a 'real instrument' to go with the electronic music that he makes.

-Since Christmas, I've been keeping my eyes open for a nice (second-hand) guitar for him (remember me asking about Tanglewoods?!). And yesterday I found something that that looked interesting and not too expensive. A Yamaha FG 04 LTD. Difficult to get much info...but people seemed pretty happy with it in the threads I could find. 

We are probably going to be in lock-down soon in France and I wanted to drop the guitar off to my son before that happened, so I went to see it, BUT put my Seagull S6 in the trunk just in case it wasn't any good.

-it looked great. Near mint condition, but only had four strings on it, the seller was really nice and knew nothing about guitars. Sounded fine but especially up the neck. I bought it.

Erm...now for some bad news

- got to my son's, put new strings on it and it sounded TERRIBLE. At first I wondered if it was the brass strings the seller had given me (I always play PB). Nope... rickity, scratchy, tinny...the works. My son (who knows nothing of guitars) basically winced.

I said "Or you can have this one of course!" and whipped out the Seagull (I was thinking of giving it to him, but hesitated because the frets seem so small! Maybe I've always played 'jumbo frets' without thinking about it?!). He loved it, so I gave him that one.

- once I got the Yamaha home and could look at it properly, everything was clear. The neck was angled forward, making the action near the sound-hole too high, and to compensate, someone had tightened the truss rod to its maximum. All the strings were touching the frets around the sixth fret.The words 'Neck Reset', that I'd only ever read about here, spilled into my mind.

Now that I have loosened the truss rod, the action is great at the first fret, but works it's way up to pretty high near the sound-hole (maybe 7 or 8mm).

BUT...Holy Moly does it sound good! I ABed it with my 'real' guitar (a Lakewood that would have cost 1000 euros new), and even with the brass strings, it sounds really good! I'm sure you've all brought home a guitar and just felt playing that one for a number of days/weeks... that's what I've been doing with this Yamaha

 

The saddle is really low already (maybe 2mm near the high e-string and 4mm near the low E). 

Here's the questions...Will the neck continue to get worse and worse? The guitar is from 2004. Is it true that going REALLY low on the saddle will rob a guitar of its tone? Do any of you put up with a high action because you like a guitar?

 

So finally me and my son both got new guitars yesterday!

 

 

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1 hour ago, Brindleleaf said:

Here's the questions...Will the neck continue to get worse and worse? The guitar is from 2004. Is it true that going REALLY low on the saddle will rob a guitar of its tone? Do any of you put up with a high action because you like a guitar?

1. Yes, not tomorrow but over a period of years. 2. You're talking about the notion of "break angle." Purists strive for 45° but it's actually fairly rare to see that much break angle, 30° is more common. Anyway, you need a certain amount of downward pressure on the saddle, which is where break angle comes in. You can use a Dremel or something similar and "ramp" the bridge. That consists of cutting slanted grooves between the bridge pin holes and saddle to increase the break angle. 3. I don't. The 6th string height on my Alvarez beater is fairly high to compensate for the 14th fret hump, some folks would call it "high action" but I don't and it plays fine for cowboy chords.

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I haven't been here in ages, happened to wander by and saw this.    Before you go any farther, B, please measure everything and post the numbers.   I want to know where the fret plane hits the bridge, exactly how much saddle is sticking out (a picture would help), exactly what the relief and 12 fret action measures.   I'll check back.

 

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You might take a look at the bracing inside of the guitar and what gauge strings you've put on the guitar. Lighter string might help a bit. Pic would really help.

 

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13 hours ago, DeepEnd said:

1. Yes, not tomorrow but over a period of years. 2. You're talking about the notion of "break angle." Purists strive for 45° but it's actually fairly rare to see that much break angle, 30° is more common. Anyway, you need a certain amount of downward pressure on the saddle, which is where break angle comes in. You can use a Dremel or something similar and "ramp" the bridge. That consists of cutting slanted grooves between the bridge pin holes and saddle to increase the break angle. 3. I don't. The 6th string height on my Alvarez beater is fairly high to compensate for the 14th fret hump, some folks would call it "high action" but I don't and it plays fine for cowboy chords.

 

11 hours ago, Freeman Keller said:

I haven't been here in ages, happened to wander by and saw this.    Before you go any farther, B, please measure everything and post the numbers.   I want to know where the fret plane hits the bridge, exactly how much saddle is sticking out (a picture would help), exactly what the relief and 12 fret action measures.   I'll check back.

 

 

4 hours ago, jtr654 said:

You might take a look at the bracing inside of the guitar and what gauge strings you've put on the guitar. Lighter string might help a bit. Pic would really help.

 

Right! So! It turns out that things aren't as clear as I thought! I imagine that "Where the fret plane hits the bridge" means 'take a metal ruler and continue the line of the frets to see where it hits/misses the bridge' Right Freeman? 

So I tried that...and it turns out I have a hump at the 14th fret exactly like Deepend mentioned. I can rock the ruler so it either 'runs into' the wooden bridge, or just perfectly slides on top of it (if I rock it to get the plane of the rest of the fretboard (that make sense?).

I measured the distance from the top of the fret to the bottom of the strings at the last fret...it's not as bad as I said. 5mm for the 6th string and 0.3 for the high e-string (that might just be because of the saddle (see photos). That doesn't sound too bad when I see it written here! It's hard to get a photo of the 'hump' or shape of the neck...I'll try again when I have more time.

As I said, it actually plays really well and sounds great! Maybe I was just freaked out because of the backward bend when I strung it up...and the action which struck me as really high...maybe it'snot so bad...IMG20210201100013.thumb.jpg.ad8687f7ba883f6c57cf60938b169e95.jpg

IMG20210201093732.jpg

IMG20210201125610.jpg

Edited by Brindleleaf
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4 hours ago, jtr654 said:

You might take a look at the bracing inside of the guitar and what gauge strings you've put on the guitar. Lighter string might help a bit. Pic would really help.

 

I've only got lights on 10-46 or something, so shouldn't be a problem there.

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Hello Brindleleaf

I bought a 12 string guitar with similar problems. My solution was to sand down the bridge itself. I see your guitar has a nice chunky bridge - very similar to my 12 string - that could easily be sanded lower without losing too much strength. It's a fairly easy DIY job. Just protect the guitar top around the bridge with some card and masking tape then proceed slowly and steadily with first a small palm sander then dremel type tools and manual sanding. I actually lowered my bridge by half its height and compensated for the loss of mass by glueing a rectangle of plywood beneath the bridge inside the guitar and drilling through the pin holes when it was stuck fast. You might not have to go that low on your Yamaha - there seems to be a reasonable string break angle from your photo (I had virtually no angle at all on the rear set strings). It's a good idea to also ramp the pinholes like Deepend suggests. Then you can just take a little off the saddle base to achieve a lower action. I did that work on my 12 string 10 years ago and it's still going strong.

My method may be frowned upon by some people - and it would probably reduce the value of a "posh" guitar - but it's easy to do, works well and costs a few pennies so I wouldn't hesitate on a "not-so-posh guitar" or a keeper.

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OK, you really didn't do what I asked, did you?   I wanted to see where the straight edge hits the bridge, I want to know what the relief is and I want to know what the action at the 12th fret is.   Very simple measurements that will tell me everything about your guitar.   The hump at the 14th fret is normal and is OK, its called fall away and is much more desirable than a ski jump.    Unless you play your acoustics above the 14th fret don't worry about it.

Shaving down a bridge is the very last resort when you decide that you can't do a reset - it dramatically weakens the saddle in the bridge slot and is more or less irreversible.

I'll check back in a day or two, meanwhile enjoy your guitar.

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Lets put this in a different perspective.   Anytime I approach a new guitar, whether its on my bench for some work or if I was considering buying it, I automatically check two things.  

I want to know if it is properly humidified - that is very simple, are fret ends sharp, is the natural doming of the top still there.   Two minutes to evaluate, its either OK or not.

Then I check the neck angle.   I just automatically do this on every guitar.   Lay the straightedge on the fretboard, look at the end - bingo, its OK or not.    There is another test for neck angle which yours seems to fail, but the old straightedge never lies.

If the guitar passes those two tests, then I go on to evaluate setup or anything else.   If it isn't properly hydrated and/or if the neck angle isn't acceptable then everything else stops until they are fixed.   Before doing ANY work on it I measure EVERYTHING and write it all down.   If you don't know where you are starting how can you know where to go?

Old yamahas have a reputation for neck angle issues and they have a reputation for being hard to fix.   I've done it to mine, but I've turned down several opportunities to do it for others.   Personally I would not consider buying an old yamaha with a marginal neck, or if I did I wound want the price to be so low that if I failed to fix it it wouldn't matter.

So, take the measurements, post them here, lets see what you've got.

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1 hour ago, Freeman Keller said:

Shaving down a bridge is the very last resort when you decide that you can't do a reset - it dramatically weakens the saddle in the bridge slot and is more or less irreversible.

 

See ^  ^  ^  ^  ^

Told you.

PS. The saddle on my 12 string is still doing fine after 10 years. Will probably be fine for another 10 years. But if it does break I'll just pop in another :idk:

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17 hours ago, Freeman Keller said:

I haven't been here in ages, happened to wander by and saw this.    Before you go any farther, B, please measure everything and post the numbers.   I want to know where the fret plane hits the bridge, exactly how much saddle is sticking out (a picture would help), exactly what the relief and 12 fret action measures.   I'll check back.

 

Nope I guess I didn't really do what you asked...BUT...it's because I'm not sure I understand everything you are asking.

"I imagine that "Where the fret plane hits the bridge" means 'take a metal ruler and continue the line of the frets to see where it hits/misses the bridge' Right Freeman? 

So I tried that...and it turns out I have a hump at the 14th fret exactly like Deepend mentioned. I can rock the ruler so it either 'runs into' the wooden bridge, or just perfectly slides on top of it (if I rock it to get the plane of the rest of the fretboard (that make sense?)."

This was about the best I could understand "fret plane hits the bridge"

"exactly how much saddle is sticking out (a picture would help), exactly what the relief and 12 fret action measures. "

Sorry; missed this bit when I got all tied up with 'fret plane' ;)

12 fret measures are 3.5 mm for the low E-string and 2mm for the high E

If the way to measure relief is capo on the first fret, fret the last fret and measure at the 8th fret, then the low E string is a hair under 1mm (with no tools to measure that I'm guessing :() and the high E string is touching.

Saddle height is 1 mm for high E and 4mm for low E. 

 

I'll have to dig up a longer ruler to lay one all the way along the fretboard..with the little one I've got, I can rock it once I get up high on the fretboard as I mentioned...hard to know what was true to line. I'll get back to you on this.

This any help?

 

Edited by Brindleleaf
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That is helpful.   Lets start with the neck angle.   There are two ways to measure it - the easiest and most accurate is to lay a 24 inch straight edge on the fretboard so it is resting on the first and whatever high fret it wants to rest on, probably 14 in your case and see where the end is.   The ideal situation is for it to be right on top of the bridge (not saddle).   A guitar that is seriously dehydrated might be above the bridge, if the end of the ruler is much below the top of the bridge it needs a neck reset.   

Why is this?   The bridge and saddle act as a little lever to rock the top - the taller the lever the more energy is transmitted from the string into top action.   It is a compromise but most guitar geometry is designed such that the strings should be about 1/2 inch off the top (sorry, I mostly work in decimal inches) which means that with a typical bridge of 3/8 the saddle will stick out about 1/8 inch.   This is a compromise but it works and if you measure most new guitars that is about where you will find the bridge and saddle.

There is another test for neck angle, this is a little more practical because it takes YOU the player into consideration.   It says IF you have about 1/8 inch of saddle sticking out of the slot AND you have acceptable action (thats the "you" in the picture) THEN you have a good neck angle.    From what you have said and the picture of your saddle I think your guitar fails the test, but I wanted to see the straightedge test to be sure.

TORQUE-LOAD-300x160.jpg.4a70f5c904489cd543a4c19c733e01e4.jpg

What about the hump?   Darn neare every guitar has one.  The way the strings pull relief into the neck and the way the fretboard extension is glued down almost promises a hump.  Guitars like Taylors can shim the extension to eliminate the hump.   Ideally there will be none but falloff is much better than a fretboard extension that curves up (the ski jump).   If the hump really bothers a player I can pull the frets and remove most of it, however most players never notice and the nice thing about fall off is that it will never buzz.

 

Neckprofile.JPG.721a457526fdc2495e9928c9c8a9b089.JPG

What about Howard's suggestion of shaving the bridge?   A typical bridge is 3/8 thick with the saddle slot going down 1/4 inch into it.   If the saddle sticks out by 1/8 then two thirds are imbedded in the slot.   Assuming the saddle fits snuggly in the slot that is considered pretty strong even looking at the rotational torque.  There is little chance of the bridge cracking.   Lets say we shave 1/8 off the bridge, now the saddle is half in and half out and we start to approach the possibility of cracking.   A good way to prevent that is to route the slot deeper - I can promise that you don't have the tools to do that. 

The other reason to not shave a bridge is very simple - when you finally get around to resetting the neck (which was the issue in the first place) you will have to replace the bridge or the saddle will be way too high.   Why not do it right in the first place.

I'll add that if a guitar crosses my workbench and I can tell that the bridge has been shaved I simply don't work on it.   Its not worth the risk.

A couple of other observations from the numbers you've given me.   My normal step by step procedure for doing a setup is (1) humidity and neck angle, (2) relief, (3) nut slots, (4) 12th fret action.   You said the relief is slightly less than 1 mm, that is about 40 thousands of an inch.    I consider 10 thou the upper limit of allowable relief, you are four times that.   Relief is adjusted by tightening the truss rod, you have loosened it.

We haven't worried about nut slots, if the guitar has survived all these years they are probably OK.   The 12th fret action you given (2mm (0.078) high E and 3.5mm( 0.135) low E) are way too high in my book, particularly when I look at your saddle.

Lets see the straightedge test when you get it.

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20 hours ago, Freeman Keller said:

I haven't been here in ages, happened to wander by and saw this.    Before you go any farther, B, please measure everything and post the numbers.   I want to know where the fret plane hits the bridge, exactly how much saddle is sticking out (a picture would help), exactly what the relief and 12 fret action measures.   I'll check back.

 

Okay, so found the long ruler! (Thanks Honey!)

Thanks for that info Freeman. That seems surprisingly clear.

So I WAS going to say...

"So, there is a difference depending where on the fretboard I place the ruler. Near the high E string or between third and forth strings, the corner of the ruler JUST butts up against the corner of the bridge (but doesn't slide onto it). Near the sixth string it's about 1mm below the top of the bridge. You said "if the end of the ruler is much below the top of the bridge it needs a neck reset." is 1mm 'much' in your book?"

BUT, I just adjusted the trussrod better (other day I saw that it was TIGHT to its limit and just undid it basically completely). Now I have only the tiniest sliver of at the 8th fret when I capo the 1st and hold down the last fret, and at the high E string it still touches.

The 12th fret measures are just under 3mm for the low E and still 2mm for the high E.

Now the ruler is dead on the corner of the bridge at the low E and less than a mm over the bridge at  the high E side. 

 

 

 

Yes, I have 3mm of saddle sticking up at the Low strings (so 1/8th of an inch), but only 1mm at the high E string. 

 

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3 hours ago, Freeman Keller said:

Old yamahas have a reputation for neck angle issues and they have a reputation for being hard to fix.   I've done it to mine, but I've turned down several opportunities to do it for others.   Personally I would not consider buying an old yamaha with a marginal neck, or if I did I wound want the price to be so low that if I failed to fix it it wouldn't matter.

 

Or you could shave the bridge. And if you reduce the height of the saddle afterwards to improve the action you will pretty much maintain the ratio within the slot.

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This might help.   Look at post #5.   Then look at the others to see how I measure stuff

https://www.tdpri.com/threads/basic-setup.952636/

The important thing is that I evaluate the entire guitar before I touch anything.   The minute you start screwing with something you affect everything else (relief is the best example).     I'm going in for knee surgery tomorrow and probably won't feel like guitar discussions for a few days.   Good luck

Edited by Freeman Keller
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7 hours ago, Brindleleaf said:

12 fret measures are 3.5 mm for the low E-string and 2mm for the high E

If the way to measure relief is capo on the first fret, fret the last fret and measure at the 8th fret, then the low E string is a hair under 1mm (with no tools to measure that I'm guessing :() and the high E string is touching.

The action is a tad high, it should be closer to 2.5mm for the low E and 1.5mm for the high E, but it's not terrible. Anyway, you don't have enough saddle exposed to lower it enough to matter. On an acoustic, you measure the relief by putting a capo at the first fret and fretting the string at the neck/body joint, not the last fret. Then measure at the 7th fret. The measurement may change due to the difference in method but the string is probably touching the 14th fret anyway and there shouldn't be much difference from the 8th to the 7th fret. The relief should be 0.2-0.25mm. In the absence of feeler gauges a business card will do in a pinch. Based on what you posted it sounds like you don't have much relief and there's no more on tap but, again, you can live with it. Let the guitar settle for a day or so and measure again, it might improve. You mentioned possibly having 10's on it for strings; "lights" on an acoustic are usually 12's. You can buy 10's but they're not common. If they're indeed 10's they're contributing to the lack of relief by not pulling on the neck as much. Finally, check to see if your new-to-you guitar displays symptoms of being dried out. https://www.taylorguitars.com/support/maintenance/symptoms-dry-guitar

Edited by DeepEnd
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Hi Deepend!

I probably didn't explain it well enough. When I got it home the fretboard was bent backwards, and the strings (all) hit the fretboard! But I realised someone had tightened it to the max, so I just left loosened it off. 

Above Freeman mentioned that the relief measurements went too high, so I tightened it a little. So I CAN add more relief, but it sounds fine as is.

Yes you put it right. It's a 'tad' high, but in fact that is especially true in the bass strings, and now it plays fine. (But with a high action 😁).

I'm curious to know if it has a real problem, once I get a ruler that's really long enough, I'll know if it will have problems long-term.

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16 hours ago, Freeman Keller said:

This might help.   Look at post #5.   Then look at the others to see how I measure stuff

https://www.tdpri.com/threads/basic-setup.952636/

The important thing is that I evaluate the entire guitar before I touch anything.   The minute you start screwing with something you affect everything else (relief is the best example).     I'm going in for knee surgery tomorrow and probably won't feel like guitar discussions for a few days.   Good luck

Very interesting stuff. I'll get onto it once I have a longer / better ruler.

Hope things go smooth for your operation...I had both knees done a few years back...

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20 hours ago, garthman said:

Or you could shave the bridge. And if you reduce the height of the saddle afterwards to improve the action you will pretty much maintain the ratio within the slot.

Have I wandered into a long-running friendly disagreement? 😬

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2 hours ago, Brindleleaf said:

Have I wandered into a long-running friendly disagreement? 😬

 

LOL not really. As well as playing and performing I'm a DIY guitar maintenance and fixer person. I do set ups, fit electronics, cut nuts, modify / repair bridges and saddles, etc, etc using normal tools and bits and bobs. Freeman is more of a "luthier" guy and has all the (expensive) gear. So he works by the book and sort of frowns on my shortcuts and quick fixes.

But I do all by own guitars and have done up many for friends without any complaints. It all depends on the guitar. As I said above you probably wouldn't want to do a quickfix repair on a valuable instrument but if it's an old but loved beater and keeper that has developed some age-related problems and if you don't want to spend lots of money, why not?

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On 2/1/2021 at 5:55 PM, Brindleleaf said:

12 fret measures are 3.5 mm for the low E-string and 2mm for the high E
 

 

PS. I've just measured the action on a couple of my steel string guitars and get values of 3mm for low E and 2.5mm for high E. I've set up the guitars how I like them when I play - which is mostly finger-picking. So I would say yours is not bad. I have noticed from your pics that the saddle is higher at the low E end - you could shave a little off off the saddle base (at a slight angle) to bring it down a little. Deepend mentions values of 2.5mm for low E and 1.5mm for high E - that would be too low for me on an acoustic.

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7 hours ago, Brindleleaf said:

I probably didn't explain it well enough. When I got it home the fretboard was bent backwards, and the strings (all) hit the fretboard! But I realised someone had tightened it to the max, so I just left loosened it off. 

Above Freeman mentioned that the relief measurements went too high, so I tightened it a little. So I CAN add more relief, but it sounds fine as is.

Yes, the neck was suffering from backbow and you loosened the truss rod. I got that. And then you ended up with a tad less than 1mm of relief for the low E (we're not really sure how much since you didn't take an accurate measurement) but none for the high E since you said it was touching the frets. Freeman has his preferences but in this case you're going to have to compromise since your guitar isn't perfect. If it were you'd have the same or close to the same relief for both E strings. Generally speaking, all the strings need a certain amount of relief (although Rickenbacker recommends little to none on their electrics, Gibson also specifies minimal relief on theirs). Less relief for the low E translates to less for the high E and it's already at zero if not into negative numbers (i.e., still backbowed). The best you can do is to get the high E where it's barely touching the fret and add a bit of relief, then you'll have to live with whatever you get for the low E. Your guitar and you can do whatever you want but that's what I'd do.

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4 hours ago, DeepEnd said:

Yes, the neck was suffering from backbow and you loosened the truss rod. I got that. And then you ended up with a tad less than 1mm of relief for the low E (we're not really sure how much since you didn't take an accurate measurement) but none for the high E since you said it was touching the frets. Freeman has his preferences but in this case you're going to have to compromise since your guitar isn't perfect. If it were you'd have the same or close to the same relief for both E strings. Generally speaking, all the strings need a certain amount of relief (although Rickenbacker recommends little to none on their electrics, Gibson also specifies minimal relief on theirs). Less relief for the low E translates to less for the high E and it's already at zero if not into negative numbers (i.e., still backbowed). The best you can do is to get the high E where it's barely touching the fret and add a bit of relief, then you'll have to live with whatever you get for the low E. Your guitar and you can do whatever you want but that's what I'd do.

Okay I see. Apart from getting fretbuzz (which I don't), any other reason to have a bit more relief?

I put the strings the seller gave with Bronze 10s. I play with 10s because my other guitar is really light and responds well to them. 

What gauge do people put on a dread normally? 11s or 12s? I'm kind of out of the loop. But I hadn't heard Bronze strings for ages, and find them different and interesting.

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20 hours ago, Brindleleaf said:

Okay I see. Apart from getting fretbuzz (which I don't), any other reason to have a bit more relief?

I put the strings the seller gave with Bronze 10s. I play with 10s because my other guitar is really light and responds well to them. 

What gauge do people put on a dread normally? 11s or 12s? I'm kind of out of the loop. But I hadn't heard Bronze strings for ages, and find them different and interesting.

You're not getting fret buzz because of the relatively high action. All these parameters interact. Further, if you add relief it will raise the action slightly. You may well need to live with your guitar as is. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the "good enough."

As for "normal" strings that assumes guitarists are "normal." ;) Seriously, typically you're going to find mediums (usually 13's) or lights (generally 12's). That doesn't mean either is best for your particular guitar or for you.

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