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Fixing buzzing & intonation problems on Dot Studio?


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I have Epiphone Dot Studio which was professionally set up about a year ago, and then not played much. I recently started playing it more and noticed two issues:

1. Fret buzz on B string from 1st through 5th frets.

2. D string intonation slightly off, gets about 10 cents sharp at the 12th fret.

 

I first raised bridge till fret buzz was gone. However, this threw off the intonation for most strings. D string now off by 20 cents, G, A and low E are all sharp at 12th fret by about 15 cents. (high e and B strings still intonate properly for whatever reason).

 

I next tried to adjust saddle on these four strings to fix intonation. It looks to me like moving saddle toward bridge would be correct direction after some trial/error (moving saddle the other way, toward nut, seemed to make intonation problem worse). The problem is, the saddles were already near maxxed out toward bridge when I started, so I could hardly give any relief in that direction. They are now maxxed out toward bridge and the lower (in pitch) four strings are still sharp at 12th fret by around 15 cents.

 

So I'm in a dilemma...If I lower bridge to get intonation back to normal, that'll bring back fret buzz on B string. If I leave bridge where it is, I have intonation problems that cannot be fixed.

 

I see two solutions:

First, a new nut that is cut slightly higher than old nut at the B string would seem to fix this problem. If the B string is buzzing when all the other strings are not, it seems the nut is cut a bit too deeply at that string. However, a new nut is beyond my home-guitar repair skills.

 

Second, I could dive into truss rod adjustment. I've never done this, but I'm guessing more relief on the neck would be equivalent to raising bridge, so I could then lower bridge without bringing back fret buzz on B string, and this might get intonations on other strings back in line.

 

Does that make sense? Should I move the saddles to mid-way position - half way each direction -- before I adjust truss rod? I don't want to find myself in the same boat again of having the saddles so far one direction that I cannot tweak intonation in whichever way may be necessary to fine tune set up.

 

This is my first time doing any of this work, so I could very easily be missing something, making errors in reasoning / logic, so any advice appreciated.

 

Ken

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I'd say to lower the action back down, and add some relief (curve) to the neck. When the strings down near the nut are buzzing it's almost always that the neck is too straight. All you do is put your truss rod adjustment wrench into the truss rod at the neck end, and turn counter clockwise a 1/4 to 1/2 turn. Let it set for a while, and see if the buzzing is gone. You can check it by eye, to see if there's a slight bow in the neck. If there's still none or very very little, another 1/4 to 1/2 turn and let it settle.

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Hi Ken, welcome to the forum. First of all, are the strings the same ones from the set-up a year ago? If so, get new ones because you can be chasing intonation till the cows come home with old strings.

 

>If the B string is buzzing when all the other strings are not, it seems the nut is cut a bit too deeply at that string.

 

possible, but equally could be the B slot is cut correctly, the others are too high, and the relief is too low or absent.

 

First of all, check relief by holding a string down at the first fret with your left hand or a capo. With the little finger of your right hand, hold that string down at the 17th fret. With the first finger of that hand, press the string down over the 8th fret to see how much space under the string there is. If you can't stretch that far, use a capo on the first fret. If there is no space under the string at the 8th, you have no relief and possibly even a back-bow to the neck. If there is space and you want an accurate measure, use feeler gauges. Most electric players will aim for 5-10 thousands of an inch, or about the same thickness as a top E string. If there is no space, you won't know whether you have a dead straight neck or one with a back-bow. This is when you need to adjust the truss rod to put some relief in the neck so you know what you are dealing with. But don't do anything to the truss rod till you have evaluated the relief first.

 

Second, when you're happy that you have an idea what the relief is doing, check the B nut slot. Press down on the B string between the 2nd and 3rd fret. If, and this is a big if, the frets are all OK, the string should just clear the 1st fret by a tiny almost imperceptible amount. You will see some people giving a measurement for this, but the theory is, that as long as the tops of the frets are level the string will be able to clear the next fret along (in this case, nut - 1st) because of the angle imposed by the bridge height. If there is no gap over the first fret, put a short straight edge over the first three frets, and check they are level. If there is a space over the second fret or the straight edge rocks over the second fret, further evaluation of the frets will be needed.

 

Also look at the nut where the strings leave the nut edge. The slots should describe a curve which is roughly the same as the curve of the fretboard, the radius. If a nut slot is too low it will often look low and be out of the line of the radius that the other strings make.

 

As your other questions all concern intonation, I'd strongly suggest getting new strings before you make any other adjustments.

 

There's a lot to learn about set-ups, but if it calls to you to do your own then it's a great skill to have. There's a lot of info on youtube, and I recommend Dan Erlewine's books. Let us know how you get on and there'll be lots of folks here happy to chip in with advice.

 

Paul.

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Thanks, both replies give me some good notion what to try out.

 

The joy of learning how to DIY guitar set up / fixing! I've been playing about 2 1/2 years, and have so far ignored this area of knowledge. But as my ear gets better, the little things that I did not notice before, start to bother me. And as I notice more how issues like temperature, seasonal changes, etc., throw things outta' whack, I think I'll definitely want to know how to tweak things myself as I proceed on this journey.

 

Is there a generally recognized "best" online FAQ / walk-thru for "electric guitar set up for dummies"? I could do YouTube searches or Google this topic, but maybe would not stumble on best / simplest online tutorials that way. Sometimes it seems people trying to sell you stuff climb to the top of the search engines, ya' know?

 

Ken

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from prior discussions

 

 

Hold down the E string on the first fret and the 14th fret. About halfway between those two points the space between the bottom of the string and the top of the 7th fret should be enough for a playing card to slip in. If it is greater, you will probably need a setup and if it is less or touching, you will probably get some buzzing on some of the frets. Maximum action should be 3/32" from bottom of E strings to top of 12th fret. You should have at LEAST 1/8" of saddle showing above the bridge. High action and low saddle almost always mean neck problems. Play each string, from fret 1 to the end of the fretboard and see if there is any buzzing on any of the frets. Buzzing can mean as little as a tweak of the truss rod, to major planing of frets to make the guitar sound good. Site down the neck. If the neck is bowed up or down, usually this can be adjusted with the neck rod. HOWEVER, if it is over 1 /16" beware. Make sure you adjust the neck AND that there is more room for adjustment. Beware of this situation. IF the saddle is high on one side and narrow on the other, this is often done to fudge for a twisted neck. Siting down the neck you can see this but if the action is correct and the saddle is lopsided, this could be a problem. A twisted neck is VERY hard to fix.

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Is there a generally recognized "best" online FAQ / walk-thru for "electric guitar set up for dummies"? I could do YouTube searches or Google this topic, but maybe would not stumble on best / simplest online tutorials that way. Sometimes it seems people trying to sell you stuff climb to the top of the search engines, ya' know?

Welcome. I'd recommend the Information Thread in this section and highly recommend this book (not endorsing Amazon, just the book)

http://www.amazon.com/The-Guitar-Player-Repair-Guide/dp/0879309210

 

Good luck with the Dot issues.

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Three things:

 

1. If 5 of the strings are OK and one is buzzing, then you likely have a bad fret or bad string. If it's a bad fret, then a truss rod adjustment may help, but it will only be masking the fret issue. A fret dress by a competent luthier would be a better solution. Not uncommon to have fret issues on an Epi.

 

2. The nut only affects open strings. If you are getting buzzing when fretting a string (you mentioned 1st through 5th frets on the B string), the problem is not the nut.

 

3. Adding relief is not the same as raising the bridge, though both will raise the action in general. Adding relief helps with buzzing on the lower frets, raising the bridge helps with buzzing on the upper frets.

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