total newbie tricone intonation question

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total newbie tricone intonation question

Postby whirligig » Wed Apr 16, 2008 1:50 am

Please forgive such a basic question but I was unable to find an answer in searching this forum and I'd trust opinions here more than elsewhere. I seem to remember reading somewhere that the t bridge position on tricones does affect the intonation.

My tricone sounds great as far as sliding, but any fretted note is sharp. Sharp enough it's beginning to annoy me after 3 months; and guitar being warm or cold, humid or not etc. doesn't seem to matter, it's still sharp.

I know from banjo you adjust this by moving the bridge, but the complexity of a t bridge (and messing w/ it and the cones) scares me. It's sitting right in the middle of the hole in the coverplate, if that makes any sense, the gap is equal on both sides. So I guess my question is, can it be moved, will moving it fix it, which way do I move it (yes, duh, I don't know being new to this), and how do you do that, as in take the strings off or just loosen them, etc. And should I try this myself or get someone who knows what they're doing to do it ... I'd rather learn to do it myself but I don't want to do something totally stupid, either.

Any tips would be much appreciated :)
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Re: total newbie tricone intonation question

Postby ricochet » Wed Apr 16, 2008 2:22 am

If the fretted note's sharp compared to the 12th fret harmonic, the bridge needs to move away from the nut. You do this by loosening the strings and sliding it by gently pushing the bridge. The cones are sitting in three shallow pockets in the soundwell that gives a little room for movement. Tune back up and check again. You may have to slant it slightly to get the 1st and 6th strings more or less intonated together. You'll never get all the strings perfectly intonated.
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Re: total newbie tricone intonation question

Postby whirligig » Wed Apr 16, 2008 2:56 am

thank you very much rico!
I wondered if slanting the bridge was possible w/ a t bridge, it's attached to the cones right, so the whole unit would rotate slightly, or is that wrong? Anyway, I will try that in very small increments to see...I know it's going to be impossible to get them all perfectly intonated due to the way the bridge is, but any little bit would help. Thanks :)

ricochet wrote:If the fretted note's sharp compared to the 12th fret harmonic, the bridge needs to move away from the nut. You do this by loosening the strings and sliding it by gently pushing the bridge. The cones are sitting in three shallow pockets in the soundwell that gives a little room for movement. Tune back up and check again. You may have to slant it slightly to get the 1st and 6th strings more or less intonated together. You'll never get all the strings perfectly intonated.
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Re: total newbie tricone intonation question

Postby grumpygroo » Wed Apr 16, 2008 10:27 am

Hi Whirligig
You say that the guitar sounds fine when sliding but fretting sends the note sharp, it couldn't be that your actions a bit high could it. Sliding you are stopping the string with little downward pressure, fretting you're having to press the string down further onto the fret. I play a banjo with a high action and , certainly in the higher registers, it's almost impossible to stop the notes from sharpening when fretting.

Just a thought.
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Re: total newbie tricone intonation question

Postby Old Stella » Wed Apr 16, 2008 11:39 am

I had a spider bridge guitar that was sharp. I lowered the bridge a bit and went to heavier strings. That brought the sharp note into the +10 and -10 range of my tuner, not perfect, but good enough for most human ears. After lowering the bridge, I thought I'd get some fret buzz and perhaps it might be too low for slide but the stiffer strings compensated for that, plus it was louder. That was years ago. Now I now that the lower open tunings may require a heavier individual string here or there to be in tune. YOUR guitar may be different, but if you have rattling thin strings in a G or D or other low open tuning, you may need a little heavier string to stiffen the feel and flatten the pitch.
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Re: total newbie tricone intonation question

Postby whirligig » Wed Apr 16, 2008 2:25 pm

grumpygroo, yes, the action's set pretty high to my uneducated eyes, I was told it was set for slide, and from staring at my Bob Brozman DVDs and some other stuff on Youtube it doesn't look higher than their guitars. Notes are sharp even on the lowest 3 frets. And the degree of sharpness seems the same on a note on the third fret as it is on a note at say the 7th fret? I know it could be lowered some, but it's not as high say as a guitar set up for lapstyle, I don't think.

old stella, I'm using martin reso strings, I believe they are 16-56, that's about as heavy as I want to go, though, eek...the guitar came strung w/ GHS phosphor bronze 13-56 I believe, and putting the heavier strings on helped the tone a lot, so I'm trying to get used to them. I play in open G and D so far. Only buzz I get is from where the round thingie at the end of the string contacts the metal tailpiece, I put bits of felt around that part on each string when I strung it and that seems to help that problem.

Open strings, harmonics and slide notes are perfect so I'm hoping moving the t bridge will help. I've read about lowering the action both by filing the nut and the bridge, I thought it was just to make the guitar easier to play, didn't know it affected intonation that much, so that's great to know. I didn't know string thickness affected it either, I thought that was just for tone. Thanks for all the help and education, I will take all I can get :)
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Re: total newbie tricone intonation question

Postby Robin » Wed Apr 16, 2008 9:34 pm

Hi Whirligig,

Any chance of some photos? Particularly of the nut and of a tape measure placed against the scale length. If it is sharp at the 3rd fret then that sounds more like a problem nut height than anything else. If you put a cappo at fret 3, then the strings should only fractionally clear fret 1. If that gap is more than 1/32nd then your nut is way too high.

What tricone is it exactly? Most modern tricones (and single cones) have a scale length 2mm longer from fret 12 to the bridge than from the nut to fret 12 to help intonation - you may want to measure that.

Robin
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Re: total newbie tricone intonation question

Postby whirligig » Thu Apr 17, 2008 1:38 pm

http://web.mac.com/whirligig29/whirligig/guitar.jpg

I tried to take some pics, Robin, link above. Thanks for the help everyone, as always! It's a Republic tricone. I'm such a beginner, I know Frank set it up perfect probably (I LOVE this guitar) and I'm wondering if my putting the heavier Martin Reso strings on it might have done something. That's all I have done. I did loosen the strings as much as I dared and push the t bridge slightly toward the tailpiece...it made a slight suction-y noise which freaked me out and then I didn't want to push hard. Rico said push gently. It seems to have helped a little bit, if I try that again I'll wait until I'm going to change strings.

I also noticed that if I tune slightly flat on the open notes (I play in G mostly), according to the tuner, that helps a lot for the tuning on fretted notes. What does that mean?

I only started noticing all this cause I'm trying to learn 'come on in my kitchen' and the brozman version has more chords than I've been playing up to this point...the discrepancies started popping out then as opposed to something like 'can't be satisfied.'

Sorry to be so dense, I was a drummer (let the jokes begin.) I do realize the intonation won't ever be perfect but I just want to get it as optimal as I can because drummer or not, I hear every little discrepancy in intonation :)
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Re: total newbie tricone intonation question

Postby Old Stella » Thu Apr 17, 2008 6:05 pm

I've got a Republic too. Call Frank.
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Re: total newbie tricone intonation question

Postby Robin » Thu Apr 17, 2008 8:09 pm

Hi Whirligig,

From the pictures, the guitar nut looks fine! And those Republic Tricones have the extra length built into the 12th fret to bridge to aid intonation. There's one dead givaway to your problem in you last post however:

"I also noticed that if I tune slightly flat on the open notes (I play in G mostly), according to the tuner, that helps a lot for the tuning on fretted notes. What does that mean?

What it means is that you are learning the realities of playing a guitar!!!! Tuning is a compromise - Our ears actually don't like evenly spaced notes - even the fret spacing on a guitar is a compromise! Electronic tuners are too acurate - you need to complete the tuning cycle by ear and "temper" the tuning so the notes of a scale merge correctly. Particularly, you need to slightly flatten the 3rd of the scale - the B string if you are playing in open G. Also, an open string will always be slightly sharper when fretted. Tune your guitar with a tuner, then temper the 3rd, then play a few cords and adjust the tuning by ear.

There is a good chance your guitar is fine and you simply need to learn how to tune it to get the best out of it.

Good luck

Robin
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Re: total newbie tricone intonation question

Postby whirligig » Thu Apr 17, 2008 8:20 pm

Robin, thanks for that excellent explanation, makes total sense to me now! I think I did at least partially what you explained in a rough way last night and it seemed to make a lot of difference. Now I know...thanks very much for taking the time to explain it and check the pics :)
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Re: total newbie tricone intonation question

Postby Old Stella » Thu Apr 17, 2008 11:25 pm

Yup, Robin said it.

My dad was a piano repairman / tuner (and a heck of a hawaiin slide player). He said that athough pianos, unlike guitars, are 'equal' tempered tuned, when he tuned them up it was still a chore to make nice chords - and that's tuning EACH note exactly perfect. To quote my dad, "You can never be IN tune, only PRETTY GOOD tune."

I've been playing guitar for about 35 years. What I've learned about tuning a guitar is -

~ I try not to twist the tuner keys 'down' to get the string in tune. If the note needs to be flat, I twist UNDER the correct pitch then UP to the correct pitch. This keeps the string in tune longer by not creating slack.

~ I keep the strings as new as I can afford to.

~ I NEVER put new strings on the day before a gig. If I do, I'll be retuning on stage.

~ When I DO retune on stage, I do it descreetly and quietly. Practicing this will give you a 'touch' along with a good ear.

~ I criss cross or tie or hook (whatever you want to call it) the new string on the tuning shaft. Then, I pull the string as if to snap it at the 12th fret 3 times - this really keeps the strings stable for the next few weeks (or *gasp* months). Just winding the string around the shaft really is not enough. Lock it in.

~ Over the years I've modified and improved the way I press on a string, whether with finger or slide. Being aware of how the string stretches when you note it really pays off.

~ I keep the slots in the nut lubricated with pencil lead or nowdays, liquid graphite.

~ For standard tuning, once my strings are tuned close to pitch and I want to get into "Near" perfect tune, (and an electronic tuner is not around,) I play this A chord - Low E string muted out, A string open, D string 7th fret, G string 6th fret, B string 5th fret, Hi E open. When I get this chord in tune, all the others sound great. I've taught it to many people. (tune the lo E by ear to a standard E chord.) When you hear guitarist onstage going bwoing bing braaw, they're tuning the old string to string way - they don't know this A chord trick.

~ For slide, G or D (or A or D) tuning, I simply tune the strings and strum open and fine tune. When the open chord sounds good, I play (fingered, not with slide) the 5 chord in the standard position near the nut. I fine tune that, then I'm in tune.

~ I bow down to harmonicas, keyboards, and horns. I tune to THEM.

~ I learned the hard way that an instrument kept in the cold or the heat will not play in tune, and most certainly will be damaged.

~ I don't let strangers touch my stuff. They all want to. Non-guitarist, drunks, penny throwers, kids cute and ugly, women who want to make their guy jealous , etc........... just tune it up and lock it up.

Good luck
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Re: total newbie tricone intonation question

Postby whirligig » Fri Apr 18, 2008 7:09 pm

Thanks, Old Stella, those are all good tips most of which I didn't know. I do paste everything I need to learn and remember about guitar in a text file, and thanks mostly to the people here out of all the boards, it's growing :)
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