How do you solve the string stiffness feel?

Discussion in 'Tech-Talk' started by Afishman9, Jul 20, 2021.

  1. Afishman9

    Afishman9 Strat-Talk Member Gold Supporting Member

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    I started this in another thread, am posting in a separate thread w tags to get a broader group to see it. Whether we do our own setups or take out Strats to a tech, the problem isn’t always solved. Sometimes the solution is obvious, but often it isn’t. There are a lot of potential factors.


    Maybe there already is, but I'd like to see a touble shooting formula on playing stiffness feeling. It is a common challenge to the nonprofessional who likes to set up their guitars. I think it is the same challenge to many/most guitar techs - unless they have this "formula" already figured out. We all know the usual suspect variables for a Strat:

    string gauge, string brand, number of springs, type (brand and style) of springs, type of bridge, claw adjustment, type of trem, trem/bridge setup (blocked, decked, floated), neck relief, action

    Are there other variables to add to the list?

    I'm sure there are. That's a lot to sort out!

    Hypothetical Example:

    If you have two "identical" guitars (tho no two are exactly the same) and set them up with the same strings, neck relief, action, brand and number of springs and one feels great but the other has different stiffness, then you are left with:

    trem and bridge setup and claw adjustment

    Something like this with a "how-to" make the adjustments for the variables you identify. Oh, the information is out there; it's just to get a setup done, not necessarily all put together to address the stiffness troubleshooting issue. (I will say, if you like a floating trem, the Frudua method gets you really close to a result with a good feel.)

    C'mon professional techs and luthiers, help us out here!
     
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  2. SeventySevenStrat

    SeventySevenStrat Strat-Talk Member

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    Please forgive my ignorance but I don't know what you're referring to when you say "stiffness" and this isn't even an attempt to make a bad pun, do you mean it's harder to fret? Doesn't sustain? It isn't a term I've heard before in reference to guitars.
     
  3. dirocyn

    dirocyn Most Honored Senior Member

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    If you're comparing entirely different guitars, scale length can be a factor. Shorter scale means the strings tune to pitch at a lower tension. The effect of scale length is pretty powerful--just setting the intonation can make a noticeable difference in string tension. Although I would presume most players would think being in tune up the fretboard is more important than having the strings feel loose.

    Nut height is also a factor. Higher action at the nut makes it take more effort to fret notes.

    Also with a lot of these factors, taking precise measurements is kind of tricky. Setting up neck relief and action exactly the same on two guitars isn't always a cake walk--and a "by the numbers" setup often isn't the best setup for a particular guitar.
     
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  4. misterwogan

    misterwogan Senior Stratmaster

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    Stiffness? I would just love to remember the sensation.
     
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  5. Afishman9

    Afishman9 Strat-Talk Member Gold Supporting Member

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    its when you feel like the guitar plays with a perceived stiffness vs other similar guitars. More string stiffness and not as “slinky”.
     
  6. fezz parka

    fezz parka fezz parka

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  7. Afishman9

    Afishman9 Strat-Talk Member Gold Supporting Member

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    i agree with all you’ve said. Thx. I’m talking about two Strats with the same technical specs, but one has a stiffer playing feel than the other. Same springs and strings, bridge, trem, etc.
     
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  8. Afishman9

    Afishman9 Strat-Talk Member Gold Supporting Member

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  9. Guitarmageddon

    Guitarmageddon Dr. Stratster

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    Hey Afishman9, how are ya?

    In all honesty, I don't have experience with this....

    If I take 2 Strats with 25.5" scale and the same neck thickness/specs and the same body and bridge and mass of block, and I set them up the same with the same gauge strings.....one has never felt stiffer or harder to bend than the other....I know my string gauges from years of experience, and I use them accordingly. 25.5" scale 9-42, 24.75" scale 10-46, 24" scale 10-46 or sometimes even 11-52. I know what they all will feel like even before I string them up.

    Once you become 'zen' with setup, meaning you fully understand how the truss rod and relief settings work, how high to set the strings, how low is "too low" for action and how high is really "too high" - you 'get' it, and everything else becomes easy......

    Once you also start to understand pickups, gauss, magnetic pull, etc and attributes of each of the types of magnets found in pickups.....you can really start to 'get' it and have everything set so you get as good-as-possible intonation and the least amount of magnetic pull while maintaining good sound. Every little minute adjustment on a guitar affects other things, it's all a balancing act....
     
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  10. Fenderbaum

    Fenderbaum Strat-O-Master

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    I have been wandering between 009 and 010 gauges.
    Found 009 too flimsy. so i tried 010..
    Found 010 stiff again. But okay for normal chord and solo play. For bends, too hard. My non-trem´d Telecaster is on 010.
    Then i tried 009.5. that gave something of both worlds.
    Then i ended up, and found new love with 009 again Not flimsy at all as i thought they were.
    Like BB King told Billy Gibbons.. "Why do you work so hard"
    Gibbons ended up with .007.. haha.. Sort of followed that advice.

    My bridge on the Strat is always float. 3 or 4 springs, i feel little difference. It depends on how stiff springs are i suppose but have not bought stiffer and tested.
    I Like it sensitive and smooth, but not TOO sensitive.
    Like my strat with a2 point trem. That trem is smooth, but very very sensitive. bends if i blow air on it. But im getting rid of that now. Rebuilding the whole guitar to 6-point..
    Coz 6-Point is my preferred trem. Just enough leverage that i have to wrestle a little bit with it. 6 Point + 009 to me is a match that suits me. Fender ships new guitars with 009.
    I Also use a shorter arm. Not full length, not Gilmour, but in-between. The shorter the arm, the more muscle you need to work it.
    Perfect for me.

    Been a fun experimentation. Not done yet. My try soft or hard springs, but not really necessary to me. Content with how it is now.
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2021
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  11. henderman

    henderman Dr. Stratster

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    break angle over the nut and saddle - the steeper the angle of the string going over the nut/saddle is going to increase playing tension, reducing the angle, you guessed it reduces it.

    nut slot height - almost every fender i have ever picked up had extra high nut slots. lowering them makes a guitar so much easier to play. it is a critical adjustment but they do not take the time to do it on assembly line guitars.

    fret a string at the 3rd fret and with your free hand tap/push the same string straight down onto the first fret - it should just barely have any gap between the string and top of the fret. if you have to actually push down to get it to touch it is crazy high. only a light tap should make it contact the fret top. you will need a tad more space for the bigger strings than the skinny ones but it is micro.

    wound string cores - the thinner the core the easier it will be to bend the string and feel less stiff.
     
  12. BlurgyWurgyWibble

    BlurgyWurgyWibble Strat-O-Master

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    Change the neck angle.
     
  13. amstratnut

    amstratnut Peace thru Music.

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    Its been my experience that a guitar plays less stiff when there is as little relief as possible. If two guitars have similar relief they ought to feel similar.

    On my les paul, stiffness was affected by the break angle over the bridge. Lots of guys screw the tail piece all tghe way down. I do not because I like a slinky feel and, I don't notice any tone or sustain difference.
     
  14. albala

    albala Most Honored Senior Member

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    any time I felt a stiffness, my wizard would adjust the neck and it would be delicious again
     
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  15. Chipss36

    Chipss36 Strat-O-Master

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    One thing I have found is the nut not following the fret board radius.

    this is provided the action, neck relief, intonation, and all basic set up stuff is spot on.

    fender is bad about this, string heights that do not match the fretboard across the strings.

    the guitar just plays with less effort when strings do. And frets are level, and very little relief is used.
    Keeping all strings pretty much the same distance from the fretboard. Or as much as possible. I learned this idea from the way satch sets his guitars up. It works for me as well.

    hard to say if this applies here.
    Stiff can mean a lot of different things to different people.
     
  16. jwj1701

    jwj1701 Strat-O-Master Silver Member

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    Yeah, I wanted to go there with a crude joke like, “stop stroking”. But I decided to give him a break. ;)
     
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  17. myredstrat

    myredstrat Senior Stratmaster

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  18. Roger66

    Roger66 Senior Stratmaster Double Platinum Supporting Member

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    NO ONE sells a guitar, to my knowledge, with perfect nut slots. It seems to be OUR responsibility to fix them. At least usually the slots aren't deep enough, so you can file them to depth. Nothing like spending $3500 on a Rickenbacker only to find that the G chord is out of tune with the open E chord.
    Usually Fenders aren't as bad as others.
     
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  19. Roger66

    Roger66 Senior Stratmaster Double Platinum Supporting Member

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  20. Afishman9

    Afishman9 Strat-Talk Member Gold Supporting Member

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    Thanks. I got ya. I concur with pretty much all that you’ve said! It IS a balancing act! I don’t use the same gauge strings on all my Strats, but on some I do. That’s where the feel difference is curious since everything is the same on those. Trying to find the main contributor to that difference is the challenge.
     
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