Jump to content
Gibson Brands Forums

DUH lesson in guitar setup


ksdaddy

Recommended Posts

Pretty common claim that the string height will affect tone. Without pondering the physics involved (levers and fulcrums and driving the top, oh my!) it just seems to be a common claim that raising the action can yield more volume and possibly better tone.

 

I always stayed away from that because dang it I want Les Paul action on my acoustics. there can't be THAT much difference in tone that I would intentionally raise the strings!.... right? I mean, if it's not buzzing, why would I intentionally make it harder to play?

 

So I get in a 2000 J200. The saddle was junk so I made a new one. The guitar has a healthy neck angle and the truss rod was adjusted so there was almost no relief. So for the time being (until the guitar gets settled in to my abode and all that) I opted to make a new bone saddle a bit taller than I normally would. I don't obsess about 64ths of an inch but the new saddle yielded a string height of about 7/64s on the bass side and maybe 5/64 on the treble. Not positive on that but it has a healthy air gap anyway, more than I'm accustomed to.

 

Ungodly tone. Big boom. I thought, okay, it's a good one! Jeez, I had held my '89 J-200 in such high regard and now it's kinda lackluster in comparison.

 

The '89's action is super low. Can you guess what my next move was?

 

Yep. Good thing I have lots of bone saddle blanks. I made one for it that gave it a healthy 7/64 or so on the bass side and a little less on the treble. To be honest I'm more obsessed with curvature than I am with height, but this saddle has more height than normal.

 

Sweet mother of Lucy, what a tone. I had to set it in a chair and go sit quietly in a darkened corner to absorb what I had just done. It pretty much leapfrogged over the 2000, tone wise.

 

I believe Gibson's spec is 6/64 bass and 4/64 treble and that's probably spot on as a correct height compromise for tone and playability. They build them, they should know! If I decide to actually measure the saddles and tweak accordingly, that's the spec I will shoot for.

 

I truly didn't realize what a difference a little bit of height would make.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's good to know. In my experience, different instruments respond differently to higher or lower saddles. Some get louder and stronger with a taller saddle but others seem to be almost over-driven when the saddle is too high. They key is to find the sweet spot, as you have. Considering that I'm in the hunt for an SJ-200, I'll mentally file away your experience and keep it in mind as things unfold.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not to play the skeptical engineer here, but ... Are you sure the two new saddles didn't also fit the slots better than the originals?

 

Was the new J-200's "junk" saddle also bone? (What made it "junk"?)

 

What happened to the old strings on the two guitars? (Stayed on the guitars, or were replaced when the new saddles were added?)

 

I'm not denying that, in general, a taller saddle will produce more sound, and that probably accounts for what you perceive. I just see a few more variables in here than are being considered. (I've faked myself out too many times, with guitars and in engineering work.)

 

Brian

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Points well taken and a little clarification is in order.

 

The saddle that was on the blonde 2000 was a too-thin plastic one that leaned forward. I replaced it with a new bone one I shaped myself. It fit better and also had a better radius. I changed the strings at that time, mainly because I broke the G string and figured I'd put a whole new set on. I also repaired the bridge gaps under the moustache parts of the bridge. I knew they were popped up and that was a big part of why it was sold to me as-is. To be honest, I didn't notice a black/white change in the tone simply by doing those things but at that point I was confident that anything that would be detracting from the tone had been dealt with.

 

I compared the 2000 with the 1989, strumming and picking each in turn. I found the 1989 to be quieter with a more even tone, not as much 'in your face' brilliance as the 2000. At first I chalked it up to the individual personalities of the two guitars and I was cool with that, but over a couple days I found I was picking the 2000 hard and really digging in, something I couldn't do with the 1989 because of it's lower action. So I then made the new saddle. (I made the 'low' saddle back in 2006 so I was confident as to fit, etc). The new saddle was basically the exact same thing, just somewhat taller. The strings were recent and I didn't break any, so I re-used them.

 

It was then I noted the huge improvement. I did the a/b comparison again and found the 89 to have a little better tone than the 2000.

 

Both are killer guitars, so it boils down to whether I want a blonde or brunette that day!

 

Betty and Veronica???

28gzedy.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Scott, as I recall, the early Bozeman guitars were finished in Fullerplast while the more recent ones are done in a 'standard' lacquer. I'm certainly not the "Tim-the-Toolman-Taylor" of guitar finishes, but I know that they used that stuff for the first couple of years, I want to say till sometime in 1991 (???).

 

My (former) '89 J-100 had that finish, and it felt and looked different from the later ones.

 

I went through the same thing, as I purchased a '01 J-200 and A/B'd it for some time with my '89 J-100, and eventually sold the '89, as it just had a little less of The Stuff.

 

Maybe I should have tried saddles with and without spurs, as you have... [confused]

 

Fred

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Absolutely not. I haven't gone in with a mirror but by feel and quick observation I can say the cross brace under the fingerboard extension is much bigger on the 2000. The little angled ones on the NW and NE corners of the soundhole are shaped differently, and one of the back braces on the 2000 is huge.

 

FWIW, the neck joints are probably different, as I think the early Bozeman ones used the Norlin double dovetail.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting - I would have thought it was the other way around. Them, now being more aware of vintage virtues, trying the recreate the lighter wood-work from the earlier days. Maybe that trend started a few years later. Then again I know zero about J-200 bracing. Tape in a post in case you take a mirror look at the top braces. . .

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I took a quick look with a mirror and didn't really see much difference in the top's bracing... there may be, just nothing really obvious. The 89 definitely has the big complex dovetail; the headblock extends close to the soundhole where the 00 has a simple block. Maybe that's why it has the heavier cross brace above the soundhole.

 

The 89 has a rosewood bridge plate where the 00's is maple. No idea why.... maybe they had a pile of thin rosewood laying around just like the pile of Sycamore.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah,

 

Betty and Veronica are good names for them.

 

I suspect there's an arch top in your stable who deserves the name >drum roll< Archie.

 

If memory serves me, and sometimes it don't, Betty = blond, Veronica "Ronnie" = brunette.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...