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String spacing vs intonation

#1 User is offline   Yorgle 

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Posted 14 May 2018 - 08:31 AM

It bugs me that in the what, 60 or so years that the tune o matic bridge has been in existence that no one has ever corrected the obvious design flaw of the saddles moving at angles to the line of the strings (due to the slots being made square with the bridge housing, which on nearly all guitars is mounted at something other than a right angle to the strings). Thus, as you move a saddles fore or aft to set intonation, you unavoidably also move the strings side to side, screwing up your string spacing. This wouldn't be a problem if you start with unslotted saddles, set intonation first, then notch the saddles at the correct string spacing. But this means having to change saddles whenever something like a string change requires re-setting intonation. This problem could be fixed by simply redesigning the bridge housing so that the saddle slots are angled relative to the bridge housing to compensate for the angle at which the the bridge is mounted. Am I right?
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#2 User is offline   Pinch 

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Posted 14 May 2018 - 09:44 AM

Interesting. I never thought of that.
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#3 User is offline   Yorgle 

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Posted 14 May 2018 - 10:45 AM

View PostPinch, on 14 May 2018 - 09:44 AM, said:

Interesting. I never thought of that.

The angle may not seem significant, but it can affect the setup and playability of the guitar. As an experiment, I ran the bass E saddle on my Wildkat all the way back and all the way forward (flipping the saddle so as to account for the entire range of adjustment) and watched where the string crossed over the pole piece on the bridge pickup. At one extreme, the string was slightly north of center and at the other extreme, it was nearly to the south edge of the pole piece. That's almost 1/16 inch of lateral movement. Theoretically, that means you could end up with adjacent strings- especially G and D, being mis-spaced by as much as an 1/8 of an inch! If someone is intent on scrounging every last bit of "tone" and playability out of their instrument (as lots of Gibson owners seem to be), this design means you really should use new, un-notched saddles whenever more than a slight intonation adjustment is made.
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#4 User is offline   mihcmac 

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 12:34 PM

View PostYorgle, on 14 May 2018 - 10:45 AM, said:

The angle may not seem significant, but it can affect the setup and playability of the guitar. As an experiment, I ran the bass E saddle on my Wildkat all the way back and all the way forward (flipping the saddle so as to account for the entire range of adjustment) and watched where the string crossed over the pole piece on the bridge pickup. At one extreme, the string was slightly north of center and at the other extreme, it was nearly to the south edge of the pole piece. That's almost 1/16 inch of lateral movement. Theoretically, that means you could end up with adjacent strings- especially G and D, being mis-spaced by as much as an 1/8 of an inch! If someone is intent on scrounging every last bit of "tone" and playability out of their instrument (as lots of Gibson owners seem to be), this design means you really should use new, un-notched saddles whenever more than a slight intonation adjustment is made.

One of the things I noticed on my new Epi LP Standard was that the saddle notches seemed to be unusually deep for the wound strings. My Gibson's tune-o-matic bridges only have a very small notch on the wound string side, similar to the plain string side. This seems to work very well on my Gibsons, tone wise they work great and intonation is easy to set. But every once in a while one of the bass stings may slip out of position. I was as actually distressed that my new Epi's saddles were notched so deeply. I will be looking into replacing them with more Gibson style small notch saddles or no notches, I think the bridge works better without them.

This post has been edited by mihcmac: 15 May 2018 - 12:50 PM

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#5 User is offline   Yorgle 

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 01:52 PM

View Postmihcmac, on 15 May 2018 - 12:34 PM, said:

One of the things I noticed on my new Epi LP Standard was that the saddle notches seemed to be unusually deep for the wound strings. My Gibson's tune-o-matic bridges only have a very small notch on the wound string side, similar to the plain string side. This seems to work very well on my Gibsons, tone wise they work great and intonation is easy to set. But every once in a while one of the bass stings may slip out of position. I was as actually distressed that my new Epi's saddles were notched so deeply. I will be looking into replacing them with more Gibson style small notch saddles or no notches, I think the bridge works better without them.


The saddles on my Wildkat have very deep notches as well, but that's ok with my tremolo (I'm not dragging the strings over such a sharp edge). But it makes sense that having the string sit so low into the saddle could dampen the string's vibrations.
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#6 User is offline   mihcmac 

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 05:31 PM

View PostYorgle, on 15 May 2018 - 01:52 PM, said:

The saddles on my Wildkat have very deep notches as well, but that's ok with my tremolo (I'm not dragging the strings over such a sharp edge). But it makes sense that having the string sit so low into the saddle could dampen the string's vibrations.


Mine seems to be working just fine, but my D string notch looks kind of low. Intonation is good and no buzzing. So it seems if it ain't broke don't fix it..

I am contemplating installing a Deusenberg Les Trem II on it, if I do I will install a roller bridge.

This post has been edited by mihcmac: 15 May 2018 - 06:57 PM

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#7 User is offline   Jeff Bostic 

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 08:03 PM

View PostYorgle, on 14 May 2018 - 08:31 AM, said:

Am I right?


You're right, but I don't know that it's really something I've ever noticed. I looked at my ELP bridge closely, and yeah, the bass strings are not a perfect 90 degrees to the notches. But I don't think I'd feel much of a difference in string spacing if I moved the intonation. I might, but I'd get used to it pretty quickly and not think of it after. I've never seen 1/8" movement in string spacing from moving the intonators. That almost sounds like something is wrong.

This post has been edited by Jeff Bostic: 15 May 2018 - 08:09 PM

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#8 User is offline   Yorgle 

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 09:11 PM

View PostJeff Bostic, on 15 May 2018 - 08:03 PM, said:

You're right, but I don't know that it's really something I've ever noticed. I looked at my ELP bridge closely, and yeah, the bass strings are not a perfect 90 degrees to the notches. But I don't think I'd feel much of a difference in string spacing if I moved the intonation. I might, but I'd get used to it pretty quickly and not think of it after. I've never seen 1/8" movement in string spacing from moving the intonators. That almost sounds like something is wrong.

I realize I'm nitpicking here, but it's fun to think about. The 1/8 inch I was referring to was the approximate total increase in spacing between two adjacent strings relative to each other in the extreme (and highly unlikely) situation where the saddles are moved to opposite extremes of adjustment. The most any individual string will move relative to its own former position would not be very noticeable, i.e., by my eye, about 1/16". You are absolutely correct that normal intonation adjustments are not going to produce such dramatic changes.
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#9 User is offline   Jeff Bostic 

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 09:36 PM

View PostYorgle, on 15 May 2018 - 09:11 PM, said:

I realize I'm nitpicking here, but it's fun to think about. The 1/8 inch I was referring to was the approximate total increase in spacing between two adjacent strings relative to each other in the extreme (and highly unlikely) situation where the saddles are moved to opposite extremes of adjustment. The most any individual string will move relative to its own former position would not be very noticeable, i.e., by my eye, about 1/16". You are absolutely correct that normal intonation adjustments are not going to produce such dramatic changes.


I get you. To me the guitar tuning/intonation thing is all sort of a compromise. The builders figured it out a long time ago and you get what we've got today. I think it's like that with most instruments. None of them are perfect. In a way it's a good thing. Instruments are imperfect and that's perfect for humans.
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#10 User is offline   capmaster 

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Posted 16 May 2018 - 12:11 AM

The intonation/string spacing tradeoff of slanted bridges is what always made me love the 1970's long-travel "Harmonica" Tune-O-Matic bridge. However, I learned to live with the spacing tolerances.

The very solution in a double sense are roller-bridges with slanted intonation paths compensating the bridge angle. Additionally they have an extended travel and allow for individual string spacing adjustment, independent from intonation. I think the reason for that design is keeping the string run exactly perpendicular to the roller axis. This model in chrome is what I use on my Gibson Frank Zappa "Roxy" SGs. However, it only seems available as a drop-in for the Gibson Nashville T-O-M.

https://schaller.inf...bridges/328/stm

Pictured in chrome like mine are:

https://schaller.inf...88/12080200.jpg

http://www.stewmac.c...ler_Bridge.html

Sadly I only found a roller bridge for Epiphone guitars not compensating the bridge slant, so the strings run slanted across the rolls - not good for tone and sustain. It also seems to have a shorter adjustment travel:

https://www.amazon.c...e/dp/B005P9BRXK

This post has been edited by capmaster: 16 May 2018 - 12:12 AM

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#11 User is offline   Yorgle 

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Posted 16 May 2018 - 01:37 PM

Wow, that Schaller is as much art as engineering. I wonder what it would take to fit it to an Epiphone like my Wildkat?
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#12 User is offline   mihcmac 

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Posted 17 May 2018 - 03:32 PM

View PostYorgle, on 16 May 2018 - 01:37 PM, said:

Wow, that Schaller is as much art as engineering. I wonder what it would take to fit it to an Epiphone like my Wildkat?

Schaller makes very high quality bridges. If the post measurement will fit it comes with both metric and US standard posts..
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http://www.stewmac.c...rIaAmV7EALw_wcB

This post has been edited by mihcmac: 18 May 2018 - 12:40 PM

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