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Fenders Stratocaster Setup Guide

Discussion in 'Tech-Talk' started by aclundwall, Feb 19, 2010.

  1. aclundwall

    aclundwall New Member!

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    Hello all...

    I'm setting up a 2008 American Standard Strat that I just bought new. I'm using the specs Fender has online on their Strat setup guide.

    I've got it playing fairly well, but I can't seem to get the strings down to the 4/64ths height that Fender has listed. I guess I'm at about 5/64ths.

    The nut looks good, the relief is about right, and none of the frets are high or loose. Still, when I go much below where they are now, I start getting some light buzzing from the 12th fret up. I can't say I've got a light touch, but I wouldn't say I've got a heavy touch, either.

    I've looked through a bunch of threads.... I see some where guys can't get below where I'm at now... and other where they are well below that height. I guess I'm asking for a general consensus regarding the 4/64" figure on Fender's site... Is it realistic, or the best-case scenario obtainable only when the planets align?

    Thanks for your thoughts,

    Art
     
  2. Goodkat

    Goodkat The One Strat-Talk Supporter

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    First of all ... are you sure the neck relief is okay? Because ... when you do set it up according to those Fender specs, you can set the actions almost all the way down.
     
  3. bettsaj

    bettsaj Senior Stratmaster

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    Also..... Maybe the frets need dressing and the guitar needs a tech to look at it.... If you don't believe me seek out Ron Kirn on this forum.

    my own Strat needed setting up drastically when it was new. When i got it new from the shop it was totally unplayable.

    Check out this post from the other day... I think you'll get the basic idea

    http://www.strat-talk.com/forum/stratocaster-discussion-forum/26520-buying-strat-amp.html#post161133

    Also setting up is not really a science. The recommendations by Fender are only that..... Recommendations, they're not cast in stone. Some people like a high action, some a really low action... it's down to personal taste. If you want my advice take it to a guitar tech and ask him to do a set up on it, including checking the fret levels. After all that he'll then be able to set the action to your preference. When YOU feel that it's comfortable then it's right... NOT when Fender say it's right.

    I think I'll try and get my Tech Dave Edwards to sign up to this forum.... He's a mine of information and would really give some great advice where setting up guitars are concerned. In a past life he played with Rory Gallagher and also teched for him for a fair period. They were very close family friends.
     
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  5. Goodkat

    Goodkat The One Strat-Talk Supporter

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    Oh ... I forgot: it's a US Strat with a 2-point tremolo - maybe the bridge is too high?
     
  6. ghostwolf

    ghostwolf Super Moderator Staff Member

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    you say you're getting some light buzzing above the 12th fret. does it come thru your amp, or is it just noticeable when the guitar is unplugged? strats do sometimes make noise unplugged that isn't a problem amplified.
    how much relief is in your neck? players who prefer a low action benefit from a neck that is as close to dead straight as you can get. this means pretty much no relief as to whether the bridge is too high, how high off the body does the trem sit?
    at this point, i have to ask you. why would you want your strings lower than 1/16th of an inch anyway?
     
  7. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Senior Stratmaster

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    Welcome to the party Art, and you have mail....

    Ron Kirn
     
  8. sthebluesman

    sthebluesman Strat-Talk Member

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    Buy Dan Erlewine's book "How to Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great." He has a step by step setup guide with all the measurements plus plastic measuring tools in the back of the book. Or, you can get his Guitar Repair Book which also has setups for most guitars.
     
  9. aclundwall

    aclundwall New Member!

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    Thanks everyone for all the ideas. Goodkat, the neck relief is pretty close to .010", but I didn't have a capo when I measured it, so it was hard to get a precise measurement. I expect a capo in today's mail, and I'll recheck the relief when it arrives. It was about .025"-.030 when I started. The tremolo is a two-point bridge, and I've got it setup such that it sits on the body, level. I don't use the tremolo on non-locking guitars.

    Bettsaj, I wondered about the fret leveling myself. It's possible, I guess, but the reason that I didn't think it was necessary is that it seems remarkably consistent. I was looking for an obvious high fret, one that would cause a rattle when you played right below it, and stop once you'd passed it. That's not what I get.

    Ghostwolf, it's very light buzzing, and no, I can't hear it through the amp. But even if the buzzing doesn't come through the amp, it's still hurting sustain and tone, right? I mean if it's rattling even a bit, that's going to affect the way the strings vibrate. And I'm not really looking to get the strings lower than 1/16... But since 1/16" (4/64") is what Fender recommends, I am just trying to get it to play at that height, and I can't get it that low without a light buzz in the top third or so of the neck.

    Ron, thanks for the email. I've got it open and I'm going to read through it shortly. I'll let you know what I learn when I've had time to digest and apply.

    sthebluesman... thanks for the suggestion. I bought Dan's book a while back, and learned a lot from it.

    Thanks again everyone for the suggestions. I'll report back with further developments.

    Art
     
  10. nadzab

    nadzab Senior Stratmaster Strat-Talk Supporter

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    This is great advice. I bought the Repair Guide many years ago, and still refer to it on a regular basis...I've been meaning to spring for an updated edition.

    IMHO, this book is a must for anyone who's remotely serious about guitars, especially folks who are newer to the instrument.
     
  11. aclundwall

    aclundwall New Member!

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    After reading a lot of stuff, including spending a lot of time reading Ron Kirn's information on his site, I'd decided to go ahead and level the frets. So, I've ordered a few tools, made a few others (I just machined a leveling bar out of 7075 aluminum) and I'm on the hunt for some adhesive backed sandpaper today.

    In the meantime, I pulled out a set of machinist's angle blocks, and started checking for high frets. It's got enough different sizes such that I can always find an edges that's exactly the right length to bridge three frets at a time. I'm not really sure why I didn't do this already.... Anyway, I found several places where the angle blocks rocked on a high fret. None of them are very high. Sometimes I could barely feel the plate rocking, but still, I'm sure that's why I can't get the action as low as I'd like. I found at least three different places where this was the case above the 12th fret, and I didn't even check everywhere. Just enough to convince me that leveling the frets was necessary.

    So, while I'm a little disappointed that a guitar costing nearly a grand has to immediately have work done, I'm excited at the prospect of how good it will play once I'm done.

    Luckily, I've got a frankenstrat that has pretty crappy action too, so I'll practice on that one before I start on my new strat.


    Thanks all.
     
  12. nadzab

    nadzab Senior Stratmaster Strat-Talk Supporter

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    If I bought a brand new Am. Std. Strat and it needed a fret level, I'd be returning it pretty quick. You can expect that you might have to tweak the truss rod, or adjust the saddles a bit, but this is not a $120 SX Strat copy...unacceptable in my book.
     
  13. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Senior Stratmaster

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    While I tend to agree, the sentiment is completely unrealistic. Leveling the frets is not part of the manufacturing process on “off the rack” guitars. You will not find it as a “part of the guitar” until you enter the world of custom builds, with a few rather “pricy” exceptions.

    To everyone, if you own guitars that were not specifically touted as having the frets leveled, you are in for a surprise when you get around to having it done.

    The reason the manufacturers do nod to it is,,, is. . . Hummm . . . Well there is no good reason except to cut back on manufacturing costs. Its labor intensive and the cost of labor is the most expensive component of the guitar.

    For me, selling a guitar without the fret leveled is much like selling a new car, then they tell ya you have to have it tuned up and the wheels balanced and aligned. It’s just crazy.

    Ron Kirn
     
  14. aclundwall

    aclundwall New Member!

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    There's two reasons I'm keeping this guitar. First, I bought it the way it is, and I played it for quite a while before doing so. I've had it for three weeks now, and I've adjusted it and played it and used it enough that I don't feel comfortable taking it back and getting a refund. Shame on me, perhaps, for not recognizing the problem immediately. That's a mistake I will not be making again. But, the guitar's used now, and while I can technically take it back and get a refund, I'm not comfortable doing so.

    Second, I played 10 strats that day. I played 5 new American Standards, two Custom Shop Strats (they said they were used, but they looked brand new to me), two used American Standards and one mim strat. I was there for 3 or 4 hours, and I bought the one I thought was the best. The action was about the same or higher on every single one of them. So, if I take this back looking for a better one, what are the chances that I'm going to find one that doesn't have the same issues this one has? I still want a strat.. so I either have to find a better one, or resolve the issues with the one I have.

    I wouldn't be going through this if I didn't really like a lot of things about the guitar. If it costs me a few bucks for some new tools and a little elbow grease to get it setup the way I want it, I can live with that.
     
  15. SeaFoamStrat2

    SeaFoamStrat2 New Member!

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    Crazy

    If you try to match the specs set forth by Fender, it will make you OCD. Just play the f***ing guitar and stop tinkering. If it feels good, it's fine. Or, try a new pick! ;)
     

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