PRS SE Custom 22 Semi-Hollow extrem fret buzz due to weather conditions

Discussion in 'Electric Instruments' started by Christian King, Aug 22, 2021.

  1. Uncle Bob

    Uncle Bob New Member for almost a year...

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    Ok, so it still sounds like you have backbow in your neck tbh, but maybe we just need to go right back to basics.

    ‘Action’ is basically a term used to describe how high the strings are off the frets. It is totally unrelated to whether the neck is flat or not.

    ‘Relief’ is a term used to describe the amount of curve in the neck. A flat neck is fine, as is having some curve (relief), but if the neck is bowed backwards you’ll have a bunch of trouble.

    I’d start by figuring out if your neck is straight or not, and maybe get it straight before doing anything else. You can do this by eye, or you can use a straight edge. I would recommend using a notched straight edge that sits on the fretboard wood and not the actual frets. You can pick them up pretty cheaply on Amazon and stewmac.
     
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  2. Christian King

    Christian King New Member

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    What is the difference between less and more relief in terms of feel? What am I supposed to feel?

    How do I measure relief correctly? What fret do I fret (12th or 17th?) and where do I measure (6th, 7th, 8th, or 9th fret)? What amount of relief is considered "straight" ?
     
  3. Draconomics

    Draconomics Celebrating 16 years of crappy tone

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    Literally plain "feel". I cant describe it any better than that. Most of the time you couldnt feel the difference between a flat neck and one with some upbow, but the more you play you can feel these little things. I can tell how straight a neck is by just playing it. If runs feel a bit sludgy, I probably have too much. If notes are choking out, that tells me its back bowed or needs more relief.

    For PRS guitars, the official way of measuring is capo 1st, hold the last, measure under fret 8. You are looking for .005-.010. Dead flat straight means basically zero relief.
     
  4. Christian King

    Christian King New Member

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    So when you say you basically like it straight that means zero relief, quite literally? I guess I'll get one or those straight edges. Haha
     
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  5. Uncle Bob

    Uncle Bob New Member for almost a year...

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    Try to imagine this. The string is always straight, right? It’s under tension between the nut and the bridge. The neck though, it can be flat or it can be curved.

    The more relief you add, the more curve you add, but only to the neck, not the string. This basically means you’re changing the shape of the space that the strings have to vibrate in. However, neck relief is only one part of this puzzle. There’s also the bridge/saddle position and, sometimes, the nut to consider.

    If the strings don’t have enough space to vibrate, you get fret buzz. If there’s too much space then you basically have a high action, and this may feel like you can’t be as accurate with your fretting, resulting in your playing being a bit sloppy.

    It’s quite hard to describe all this without confusing you even more. I really would recommend watching videos about it so that you can see what we’re talking about.
     
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  6. Draconomics

    Draconomics Celebrating 16 years of crappy tone

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    Pretty much. The only time I have the neck straight is when I am storing the guitar for a very short time with strings off, if I need to do repairs or install new hardware. That way I can kinda work the setup from scratch more or less.
     
  7. Christian King

    Christian King New Member

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    I understand all of this. I've watched dozen of videos and it's always the same. But that doesn't help me because none of the people on the videos go into detail about how one guitar might need more relief for lower action or more and why and why sometimes even though the frets are level and relief is basically almost straight you can't get low action without buzzing due to the way the guitar is designed or because of the neck angle. The guy in the last video I watched pretty much said that for every guitar there's a sweet spot. How do find that sweet spot? How do I know when my idea if low action is too low for any given guitar? Right now I'm sitting at 3/64 high and low e. It's easy to fret but sounds almost dead through the amp without distortion UNLESS I play very softly. If I raise the action it gets more sustain and via the relief I can make sure I have as little buzz as possible throughout the neck. In terms of action it seems to be case that I can't go lower than 4/64 or it'll sound bad. Any higher and shredding exercises are no fun. So I guess I gotta find my own sweet spot in terms of action/relief and stop chasing numbers.
     
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  8. Uncle Bob

    Uncle Bob New Member for almost a year...

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    Definitely! Ignore the numbers. How does it feel to play?

    I mean sure, knowing that PRS setup their guitars a certain way is great for a base setting, but that definitely doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fettle it to try and find your preferred sweet spot. And how do you do that? Trial and error, basically.

    You CANNOT setup a guitar by numbers and expect it to be perfect, because ‘perfect’ in this case is subjective. So you’re right in that you have to set it up so that it plays how you want, and in order to do that you have to understand what each adjustment you make is doing to the overall setup of the guitar. It sounds like you have some understanding of this, but perhaps not as much physical experience of it.

    So yes, trial and error buddy. Keep the adjustments small, and do them one at a time so that you can easily revert back to a base setting.
     
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  9. Draconomics

    Draconomics Celebrating 16 years of crappy tone

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    Well...yes, each guitar has its own sweet spot, but regardless there are always limits to how low you can go. When you fret a string, the clearance for the next fret is miniscule, thousandths of an inch. If you hit the string too hard, it might vibrate right into the next fret and choke out. Take Allan Holdsworth. He liked super low action, but he had a super light touch. Satriani is the same too. Something has to give. If you like digging in, youll need to give more room. Personally, I find 2/64 the limit. Any lower and its unplayable. Even 2/64 is pushing it.

    My ethos for a setup is start at factory spec and go from there. I made sure all my PRS axes were at factory spec and with zero buzz before tweaking any further.
     
  10. Christian King

    Christian King New Member

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    I set it to factory specs and it plays horrible. Action is waaaaaaay too high. I have to use a thicker pick and dig in more when practicing shred stuff. And the added tension due to higher action feels weird when riffing as well. And even though I did an intonation adjustment it sounds off. Doesn't sound as nice as it did when it was at 3/32nds. I also seem to like more relief. Feels better. Currently in at about .08". Before it was .010". I'm going back that again and just keep adjusting the neck to account for changes in weather/humidity.

    As far as intonation is concerned, there's more spots to check for right? I usually check the 12th fret but I know that I have to find the average between a few different spots to get the most even sound.
     
  11. Christian King

    Christian King New Member

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    I did a little Google research and someone mentioned this on another forum:

    "I'm not a fan of perfectly straight neck setups (zero relief) as I find I always have to raise the string height at the bridge higher than necessary just to keep the strings from buzzing excessively down near the nut. Then it feels like I'm going uphill string height-wise as I move up the neck. By having a bit of relief in the neck I find I can run a lower and more even feeling action along the entire fingerboard and at the same time minimize fret buzz/rattle."

    This is exactly my experience yet everyone tells me to aim for a almost straight neck with low action. My tech measures relief at the 9th fret (idk why) so when he measures .010" at the 9th fret it's actually more than that at the 8th fret. When I got it from him it played itself when practicing shred exercises. So much for less relief is better (not for me apperantly). Well I'll keep messing around with it to learn some more. I have my techs notes so I can always dial it back to where it was. And regarding intonation I'll do more research to find the sweat spot.
     
  12. Draconomics

    Draconomics Celebrating 16 years of crappy tone

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    Right, I hear ya. I can live with 4/64", but I like a little less clearance too. It depends on the guitar too, I have some set slightly higher for more bluesy stuff, some are lower for wankery. Also consider you may need a fret level as well to get lower than 4/64". To check, take a credit card and put the long side across three frets. If it rocks, you got a high fret and it will limit your action because the strings will always be knocking into it.

    Might also suggest learn to minimize the force with which you contact the string. One of my personal heroes, Eric Johnson, can play lightning fast but he has a super loose grip on the pick. He likes to make definitive contact, hence why he uses jazz3 picks, but just enough that he doesnt have to compensate for drag with force. What can I say, alternate picking is an art form.

    As for intonation, I use 12 fret harmonics and thats it. You will drive yourself nuts if you try to achieve intonation any other more complicated way or attempting to get perfect intonation. Perfect intonation, on a normal fretboard, is physically impossible. If its good enough for rock n roll, and your pitch dont sound like Yoko Ono on ganja, its good enough.
     
  13. Screamingdaisy

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    You’re getting mixed answers because some are telling you how to setup the guitar, and some are telling you how to maintain an already setup guitar. If the guitar is already setup, you just need to maintain it, not set it up over and over again.

    If your setup is with the string at X height, and you come home and it’s at X-2 and the strings are buzzing, grab the truss rod key and adjust the truss rod until the string is back at X.

    If you come home and it seems high and measures X+2, then grab the truss rod key and adjust it until the string is back at X.

    This method is meant for daily maintenance, it’s not meant for setting up a guitar from scratch. If the guitar is properly setup then the only adjustment you should need to make is truss rod. You shouldn’t need to adjust the bridge. One of the PRS hang tags that comes with the guitar should say this. I have a 6 year old PRS that’s still on its factory setup, all I do is adjust the truss rod.

    Alternatively, you could use feeler gauges and measure relief, which ultimately should produce the exact same result in terms of string height.
     
  14. Christian King

    Christian King New Member

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    I agree with Eric Johnson. I see it the same way. I'm super into alternate picking. I watched all the cracking the code videos by Troy Grady for the technique aspect of it. I like to have a somewhat loose grip on my pick (I used TIII tortex because I like the jazz tip but the tortex feel since I'm used to it) so that I barely graze the string. If the action is higher I have to use more force and a firmer grip and that throws me off. That's why I like it low.

    As far as fret leveling, they seem pretty level (I had it plek'd as well). I think it's just a matter of finding the right relief for my playing style and desired action. That's pretty much my techs approach as well. He sets all his guitars up the same way and they all play the same. You barely need any force. But the downside of that is (for me) that I can't play rhythm stuff on one string while having the rest of the strings muted because I get harmonic overtones due to the strings being so close to the frets already. Just the weight of my hand trying to mute the string is enough to produce harmonic feedback. It could also be the fret board radius. I should get another guitar for that kinda playing style. Maybe a strat with a rounder fret board and lower frets.
     
  15. Draconomics

    Draconomics Celebrating 16 years of crappy tone

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    As far as fretboard radius goes, its another one of those things that is a feel aspect of guitar. The usual rule of thumb is a bigger radius is better for fast lead work with little or no bending, smaller radii more for chords and bend-fests. You can play anything on any guitar, but its great to have diversity and keep certain axes specialized for certain things.

    Ive watched Troys vids too...I think I talked to him about picking a few times too. Cool guy. Ive found the ideal picking thing for me is light touch, tiny movements, try to limit the excess motion. Zakk Wylde is sort of an exception to picking economy, but you can get alot of extra speed by optimizing movement. Even on higher actions, it takes a while but you can train yourself to release that tension on the pick.

    Curious, how long have you been playing and what string guage do you prefer?
     
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  16. Dead Astronaut

    Dead Astronaut New Member

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    Without getting into whatever sub-arguments have occurred in this thread, I will simply add that my SE Custom 22 Semihollow, though it's one of my favorite guitars, usually needs about 2 truss-rod adjustments per year, one when it gets wet in the spring and one when it gets dry in the winter, and that I keep a couple of the strings (most notably the B) cranked up higher on their saddle screws than the rest.

    For me, anyway, it's no big problem. I start noticing that the guitar sounds buzzy or choked, I just give it a couple fractional turns in the necessary direction, see if the height is about right on the low E (which I just do by feel: fret it at the top of the neck, then see if it's right up against the 7th fret or still has a little bit of bounce and play to it), and then adjust any individual saddles as necessary.

    People, not least techs, make this stuff sound like trying to defuse a nuclear warhead, but as long as you're careful. never give the truss rod more than a 5th or 4th (or even 8th if you're being super cautious) of a turn at once, and check your intonation when you've got it feeling good (which is easy: just play a note at the 12th fret, then play the 12 fret harmonic, and adjust the screw on the back of the bridge until they match), you will very, very, very likely be fine.
     
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  17. Christian King

    Christian King New Member

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    Yes they do make it sound like it's like defusing a nuclear weapon. You are right. I've been doubting myself because of that. But it seems like I do have an understanding. I just need to see the bigger picture and not just truss rod adjustment or action.

    I just finished with my second attempt at setting it up according to my needs. I ended up with about 1.5mm on the low E and 1.25mm on the high E. I used mm on purpose because I'm originally from Europe. Just feels like home to me haha. As far as relief goes, i ended up with .010" at the 8th fret. I tried less relief but I don't like the feel. It feels off. I still have some fret buzz when I dig in but it's manageable. However, the b and high e string sounds choked. The low E buzz is audible through the amp. But overall I like the feel. It feels fast yet there's still enough tension to the point where I can dig in some and play fast gallops or 16th notes on the lower string. But I'd like to get it to have more sustain without sacrificing the "fast" feel. I might have to raise individual strings (b and e and low E) to get there. The d e and g strings feel the best.

    What I haven't figured out yet is why some strings have good sustain whole others don't despite the fact that I matched the saddles to the fret board radius. Maybe it's due to the fact that the high E is lower then the rest resulting in a slope from the low E to the high e. It's a learning process for sure. I might also have tweak the relief to get the sweat spot and then measure to see where it's at rather than measuring first.



    You are right it's doable. However, due to studying Eric Johnson's playing style I've developed a somewhat lighter touch when alternate picking. I'd like to maintain that because I've seen great results so far. And that didn't work so well earlier today when I raised the action a little more. I also agree with the fact that smaller movements are key. The smaller the better. And keep your fingers close to your hand (almost like a fist) and it'll be even better.

    The question about how long I've been playing isn't easy to answer. I got my first guitar in 1995. I must have been 11/12 if my math checks out. I wanted to play like Billie Joe from Green Day. So I took some lessons and said straight away I want to learn Green Day. So the teacher ditched all the theory and technique stuff to tab out all my favorite Green Day so songs. It only took me about 2-3 months and I was able to play the entire Dookie album. It wasn't the cleanest but pretty good for 2-3 months. I'm pretty impatient (as you can tell) so I wanted to be a pro right away. The amount of work that it would have taken to get there was too much for me so I gave up. I told myself I can't do it. I just suck. So I threw my guitar in the corner and that was it.

    Fast forward to 2003. I grew up some and decided it's time to pick up the guitar again. This time I wanted to play in a band. I found a couple cool dudes that were into Punk/Pop Punk so I joined them. Unfortunately it didn't work out because all they wanted to do was hang out and drink. I wanted to learn what i missed out on for so many years. But I was clueless. Didn't know how to teach myself or what techniques to learn. I kept playing but stuck to the easy stuff with power chords, drop D and so on.

    In 2006 I had met more serious musicians that saw something in me. We started a band. It worked out and we toured through Germany and played small clubs. However, it was still punk/pop punk which didn't incentivice me to push myself in terms of technique and music theory. In 2008 we split up due to personal differences.

    Faaaassst forward to 2016. I decided to move to the US. When I moved I took my guitar with me but never really bothered playing it ( I was still telling myself I sucked). Then the pandemic hit in 2020 and ended up going down a YouTube rabbit hole about shredding. It took me about another year to muster up the courage to really try and learn the guitar for real this time. At the beginning of 2021 I bought an amp (Fender Mustang GTX50) and started learning Metallica songs because, well, they're fast haha.

    About 2-3 months ago discovered Troy Grady and through him Eric Johnson, Paul Gilbert and so on. That's when I decided to sign up for guitar lessons and to really get into music theory and all the technique stuff. I chose alternate picking as my first challenge and so far I've been progressing. I started out practicing the Paul Gilbert exercise. When I first tried it I couldn't even play it slowly. Now I warm up with it at 75 bpm and finish at 100-110. What an iron will and practice can do right?

    So to answer your question I don't know. Does the time I played power chords count? If so, I guess you can say I've been playing for at least 4-5 years. But I usually don't say that because after 4-5 years I should be able to shred some but I can't (yet hehe) .So I usually say I'm a novice and leave it at that.

    If you want to nerd out about technique and stuff shoot me a PM. I'd love to have someone to talk to about that. Usually I just bother my wife lol.
     
  18. Christian King

    Christian King New Member

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    I tinkered a little bit today and what i found is that there's a sweet spot where the guitar sings. And it's so sensitive that one little turn of the truss rod in either direction will throw it out of whack. The sweet spot seems to be .008" on the 8th fret. Currently my action is sitting at .05" with very little buzz and bending feels spongy yet the strings don't feel like loose rubber bands (the more relief I add the more they feel like loose rubber bands). I think I'm slowly getting a hang of it. Also, i noticed that with the right amount of relief the action is pretty even from the 12th - 17th fret. And there's just a tiny amount of bounce between the 5th fret and the low E all the way up to the 9th fret. If I loosen or tighten it more it'll be out of whack. It's pretty insane how sensitive the neck is. But the nut isn't cut right. The high E slips off the fret board easily and it's sitting too deep in the nut. I'll have PTC replace the nut with a USA one and have them check everything I did and fine tune it for some peace of mind.
     
    #58 Christian King, Sep 14, 2021
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2021
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  19. Dead Astronaut

    Dead Astronaut New Member

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    In my experience, yeah, that's a little hypersensitive for any guitar ... but they're all different, and who knows?, maybe yours just prefers a very narrow setup range. You certainly won't be hurting anything by getting a more precisely-cut nut and a general "check my work" setup, though, so I think your general plan is a good one.
     
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