Handcrafted basses


The last chapter: Tuning and adjusting the guitar. What can you adjust? First of all: the height of the strings. Maybe you like it when the strings stand off the neck a lot, but in most cases you want to have the strings as close to the neck as possible for easy playing. Adjust the bridge as low as possible. Just play all the notes on all the strings, while adjusting the height of the bridge. When you stop hearing the buzzing noises of the string, the height is OK. Just a little bit of buzzing is not so bad, you don't hear much of that when the guitar is amplified.

It is possible that just one or a couple of frets keep buzzing. In that case, perhaps the frets are not properly mounted in the fretboard, or the fretboard is uneven. You can check this by holding a metal ruler on the frets, when 1 or more frets stand off, you will notice. You will have to file the top of the off-standing frets. Use a very fine file for this and keep checking constantly when you're at it.

Another thing to adjust is the fine-tuning of the strings. During play the strings are stretched, and the string will get longer. This is why, despite of the carefully calculated placement of the frets, the notes will be out of tune, the higher you get on the fretboard. To compensate this, you will have to adjust the bridge.

In the picture is shown how this is done. Play a flageolette note (finger on the string, don't push the string on the fretboard) on the 12th or the 19th fret (19th is most accurate), and then play the some note the normal way. You hear the difference? No? Okay, you're finished fine-tuning the string.
If there is a difference between the flageolette and the normal note, you have to adjust the saddles on the bridge. Normal note higher than flageolette: saddle away from neck (towards left in the picture) . Normal note lower then flageolette: saddle towards neck. Do this for each string.

If you use a different set of strings, I mean a different gauge, you need to check the fine-tuning again.

If your pickups have adjustable poles (the better ones do), compare the loudness of your strings (when plugged into an amp, of course). Adjust the poles when needed.

There is another thing that you can adjust, if you have one: an adjustable truss-rod. If the neck is really start to bend a lot, this won't help. Adjusting the truss-rod is ment for compensating the tension of the strings, and not for pulling a bent neck straight. A slight curve forward in the neck is not a bad thing, since the shape of the vibrating string is not straight either. See the exaggerated picture below. When I say "a slight curve", I mean a hardly noticeable curve, only to be seen when you look along the side of the neck. It's another thing when your guitar starts to look like a crossbow of course.

That's it: finished, finito, readyfreddy. You've just built your do-it-youself guitar! The only thing left to say: don't hang it on the wall, play it!

Next page: The fret caculation program