G String out of tune at 4th fret

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G String out of tune at 4th fret

Post by hoax on Sat Aug 28, 2010 6:33 pm


Anyone come across this one?

A recently acquired Westbury had issues in terms of fret and fingerboard wear which I have addressed. There were deep gouges in the board up to the 5th fret so I was getting a tremelo effect as I pressed down into the holes.

As I say, these issues have been addressed and action and intonation have been set up.

There is, however, a continuing problem in that the G string sounds sharp when fingered at the 4th fret. It is puzzling as it is spot on when played open and at 12th and 16th frets so intonation is fine. There are no longer any depression at low frets causing tremelo effect. It is not a rogue string as it is fine open and at 12th and 16th.

It is only the G string that is affected.

Any ideas?

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Re: G String out of tune at 4th fret

Post by corsair on Sat Aug 28, 2010 6:44 pm

Are the harmonics OK too? And you say it sounds sharp; is it actually sharp? Martin may have some idea, but I'm a little out of my depth!! Sorry...

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Re: G String out of tune at 4th fret

Post by hoax on Sat Aug 28, 2010 6:51 pm

Good shout Corsair - I will try tuning using harmonics as I may be getting a false reading with a minor fret buzz somewhere which is throwing off tuning. But if intonation is OK, then harmonics should be as well?

Graham

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Re: G String out of tune at 4th fret

Post by hoax on Sun Aug 29, 2010 10:30 am


I think I may have sussed it. After fret work, the nut was too high causing an overstretching of the string when fingered. It was apparent low down the neck closer to the nut and that is why I noticed it during tuning.

Here's hoping!!

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Re: G String out of tune at 4th fret

Post by umpdv5000 on Sun Aug 29, 2010 11:45 am

Hi Graham, I have only just looked in. It will most definitely be the nut slots that are not cut deep enough as this is a common problem on many guitars. The only problem for you is being able to cut the nut slot to the optimum depth. Cutting nut slots to the perfect depth is a nightmare I can tell you and you have to be VERY careful and use a suitable tool. Nut files are really expensive, but I can recommend a set of these...

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Norman-Guitar-Nut-File-System-String-Slot-Template-/300460368674?pt=Guitar_Accessories

or if you have a bass as well...

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Norman-Bass-Six-String-Guitar-Nut-File-System-/300460369000?pt=Guitar_Accessories

I use them myself and they do the job well. EVERYONE should invest in a set of these nut files as they are always useful. If you are a guitar or bass player, having your nuts cut makes your performance so much better. Embarassed

Should you try cutting the nut slots yourself and commit the cardinal sin of going too deep, then I recommend getting some of this and press a tiny amount into the slot, then re-cut when it is set (although you will need to touch up the colour with a drop of white paint pen or something). This stuff will save your bacon should you cock up.

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/STEEL-EPOXY-PUTTY-METAL-WELD-PUTTY-SUPER-STRONG-/190426678224?pt=UK_CarsParts_Vehicles_CarParts_SM

The ideal depth for a nut slot is so that your sting lies about as high as if there were a fret in its place (or maybe just a fraction higher).

Martin.

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Re: G String out of tune at 4th fret

Post by Dragondreams on Sun Aug 29, 2010 1:34 pm

I've just spent the afternoon sorting out a similar problem on a funnel-neck acoustic. With that one, ALL the strings were giving me grief. If you suspect the nut to be the culprit, try tuning the guitar up with a capo on the second fret. This will have the effect of turning the fret into a "virtual nut". If you find the intonation problem goes away, it's safe to say that the nut is the problem. Very Happy

An alternative to nut files can be made by taking a junior hacksaw blade and beating it flat to remove the "set" of the teeth (the amount they stick out each side of the main part of the blade). I use this for the lower three strings. A piece of folded wet and dry abrasive paper (around a 320 grit) does the job for the thinner strings.

Take your time and take a little out of the slot in between testing it for depth. Also pay attention to the angle of the cut in the nut. It wants to slope slightly downwards towards the head, otherwise the string can end up bearing at the back of the slot, which'll cause you more intonation problems.

Another cheap alternative to epoxy putty is liquid super glue and baking soda. Pack a little baking soda into the slot and add a drop of super glue. DO NOT breathe the fumes it gives off! All the usual warnings about masking off the finish to protect it apply. When it sets, it'll be harder than the original nut.

The rule of thumb I use when I build my own guitars is to aim for a clearance equal to the string thickness on the top three strings. By that, the gap from the bottom of the string to the top of the first fret is the same as the string's gauge. For the lower three strings, I shoot for half the strings thickness as the clearance. I cut the nut slot last, when I'm happy with the overall action higher up the neck. Then it's a case of fine-tuning until it all balances out.

There are other "rules of thumb". One such is to clamp a capo at fret three and go for a clearance of the thickness of a piece of paper between string and first fret. Yet another is to use a set feeler gauges to equal the height of the first fret, then add a couple of thou'. Clamp the feeler gauges next to the nut and cut the slots until they just touch.

Patience is your main tool. Wink

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Re: G String out of tune at 4th fret

Post by Warrn on Sun Aug 29, 2010 2:04 pm

....so why doesn't anyone just use a zero fret?

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Re: G String out of tune at 4th fret

Post by corsair on Sun Aug 29, 2010 2:17 pm

Useful stuff here chaps; much obliged!! Very Happy

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Re: G String out of tune at 4th fret

Post by hoax on Sun Aug 29, 2010 2:47 pm


Thanks Guys, as Corsair says there is some pretty useful stuff here. I think I will try using a capo to eliminate/confirm the nut being the problem. I am now not convinced it is the nut, as I have other guitars which have taller nuts in relation to the frets and i don't have this problem.

Who needs Viagra when you can smear your nuts with superglue and baking soda!!

I will report back

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Re: G String out of tune at 4th fret

Post by DuoFuzz on Sun Aug 29, 2010 3:13 pm

If anyone is interested in maintaining and repairing their own guitars, Dan Erlewine does a great book called the Guitar Player Repair Guide. I've got the 2nd edition but I'm sure it's been revised again since mine came out. The reason I mention this is that Erlewine has a good method of cutting the nut slots to the right depth, I've used it myself and have never had any problems with it so far.

Basically, first, get the fret height by putting a straight edge over the first two fret wires and measuring down to the board using vernier callipers. Take the fret height (say .040") and add an extra .005" to .010" onto the height of the fret for clearance.

This is the clever bit, set some feeler gauges to the combined thickness of the fret plus the clearance (in this case .040" + .010" for maximum clearance, so .050" total) and then place the set gauge flat on the fingerboard up against the front of the nut. Slowly file down the string slots, making sure to cut the correct break angle towards the tuners. Stop as soon as you feel the file touch the gauge, this should leave the slot .050" above the board.

If it still feels high at the 1st fret when strung up, cut the slots closer to the original fret height by thinning out the feeler gauge .002" at a time and using it as a safety stop.

As long as you keep the slot just higher than the fret height, it shouldn't cause any buzzes at the 1st fret

Dan Erlewine explains this more clearly than I can, so if possible, try and track down his book because it's full of useful techniques and tricks.

DAN.

*EDIT* hoax, I'm guessing your using fresh strings? Check that they're not damaged in any way. Kinked, worn, or just badly made strings can wreak havoc with the intonation.


Last edited by DuoFuzz on Sun Aug 29, 2010 4:51 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : Added more!)

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Re: G String out of tune at 4th fret

Post by bowenjaybee on Sun Aug 29, 2010 4:28 pm

Great advice & tips!

I will tackle anything on a guitar but messing with the nut is my worst fear, I've ended up with a sitar rather than a guitar on several occasions and around £6 for a quality bone nut it's bloody expensive if you mess up. I've recently built a strat and am pleased with my work on the nut, I don't have any pro files just a few small files in my tool box, the nut is still a bit too high but it plays ok though and I'm not attempting to go any lower.

My Thunder 1 guitar nut is way too high but I have to live with it as it's brass and I am too scared to remove and replace it as it's stuck tight. needs a pro job really but I'm too tight to pay for one

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Re: G String out of tune at 4th fret

Post by Westbone on Sun Aug 29, 2010 4:55 pm

Excellent advice.
Also you can grind either a hack saw blade or a junior blade to various thicknesses. Wrap some tape around them(handle) and voila! a nut file.

Ps. you can wrap a little tape on the end , so's not to mark the headstock. Always best to protect headstock though as there's nothing worse than one small slip of file kind Crying or Very sad

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Re: G String out of tune at 4th fret

Post by Barry on Sun Aug 29, 2010 5:27 pm

hoax wrote:...Who needs Viagra when you can smear your nuts with superglue and baking soda!!
Hmmm.... Twisted Evil
DuoFuzz wrote:If anyone is interested in maintaining and repairing their own guitars, Dan Erlewine does a great book called the Guitar Player Repair Guide.
Yup, great reference book Dan. I bought a copy off Amazon not too long ago on Frenchy's recommendation. The paperback copy wasn't expensive at all, and it came with a DVD! Highly recommended for the restorer/repairers in here. Learned a lot!

Thanks to all for the valuable info on this thread!

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Re: G String out of tune at 4th fret

Post by umpdv5000 on Sun Aug 29, 2010 5:54 pm

I don't think that there is any fool proof method of cutting nuts to the perfect depth. Even the feeler gauge method is not fool proof as a slight movement away from the nut when filing can cause the nut to be cut too deep. This can easily occur as having a stop gauge can make you complacent through a sense of security which can be flawed.

I have to say that the majority of guitars need their nut slots sorting and it really does make a BIG difference. The most common complaint I have ever heard from guitarists, is when they play an open chord of C on their guitar, it sounds as if the G string is flat. Come on, you know what I mean, I'll bet most of you have experience this one. Its all caused by the nut slots being too high and as soon as you press down your first finger at the first fret on the second string, it plays the note of C and a bit more. You are literally bending the string down to the fretboard, which of course sharpens it. Believe me, those links that I gave to the Norman Nut File system are worth checking out. Unless you are only going to own one guitar all your life, they are worth the investment, as they are every bit as good as the guy claims.

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Re: G String out of tune at 4th fret

Post by umpdv5000 on Sun Aug 29, 2010 6:02 pm

Warrn wrote:....so why doesn't anyone just use a zero fret?

There are a few guitars that have Zero Frets, but for some reason this method has become unpopular with many guitar makers. Maybe its because of them being prone to wear as the string moves back and forth across it during string bends or tremolo use. This creates dips in the Zero Fret which in turn causes fret buzz against the first fret. I suppose special Zero frets could be manufactured from hardened steel which would solve the problem, but no one has done it yet (or not that I know of).

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Re: G String out of tune at 4th fret

Post by Dragondreams on Mon Aug 30, 2010 5:57 am

David Collins, on the Musical Instrument Makers Forum, made this file freely available. It's maybe not directly connected, but it's a useful guide to intonation, tuning and temperament... and why we aim for a guitar that is always perfectly OUT of tune! Very Happy

Collins Temperament


Last edited by Dragondreams on Mon Aug 30, 2010 6:00 am; edited 3 times in total (Reason for editing : Typo)

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Re: G String out of tune at 4th fret

Post by Dragondreams on Mon Aug 30, 2010 10:38 am

bowenjaybee wrote:My Thunder 1 guitar nut is way too high but I have to live with it as it's brass and I am too scared to remove and replace it as it's stuck tight. needs a pro job really but I'm too tight to pay for one
Spoken like a true Yorkshireman! Laughing

You're not too far up the road from me. I'm quite happy to take a look at your Thunder 1 for you. And my usual rate for this type of work (for fellow forumites at least) is a bag of decent coffee... Wink

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Re: G String out of tune at 4th fret

Post by hoax on Wed Sep 01, 2010 4:36 pm

Thanks for all the help guys. I am now sorted. As suggested I used a capo to confirm that the nut was the problem and then I filed the slot down to stop the string bending when fingered. I think the whole issue was caused by the fret work I have done increasing the height differential between nut and fret, together with the fact that the guitar has lighter strings than I usually fit. I also found that this guitar does not like a straight neck. It actually prefers a very slight back bow or relief (I think its called?)

I would not have believed the puzzle this caused me, particularly when I compare it with other guitars I own which have much greater fret/nut slot height differential. But there you go!

Thanks again

Graham

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Re: G String out of tune at 4th fret

Post by Dragondreams on Thu Sep 02, 2010 4:48 am

Glad you got it sorted! Smile

Neck relief, action and intonation are all inter-related. I'm always surprised by how much of an effect adjusting neck relief has on the playability of a guitar. It's also quite surprising how counter-intuitive it can seem at first. Sometimes, increasing the amount of relief can give a better and more playable overall action.

Like a lot of things on a guitar, it's important to treat the "system" as a whole. Always bear in mind that adjusting one piece of that system will have a knock-on effect. Wink

Paul.

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Re: G String out of tune at 4th fret

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