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  1. #1

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    Most players have a preference for nut widths, be it 1-11/16", 1-3/4", etc. But I see very little discussion about string spacing at the bridge. For me, this is an equally important factor when it comes to picking technique, whether alternate or "sweep."

    So, what kind of spacing do you prefer (E to E)? 2"/51mm, 2-1/4"/57mm? Something narrower? In-between? Wider?

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  3. #2

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    If possible, I set the string spacing to align the strings over the center of the neck pickup polepieces, whatever that may be at the bridge.

  4. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell
    If possible, I set the string spacing to align the strings over the center of the neck pickup polepieces, whatever that may be at the bridge.
    I was referring to what kind of spacing you prefer for your picking technique, as a player. Whether it's an acoustic, electric etc.

  5. #4

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    It's a trade-off between pick vs fingerstyle for me. Wider string spacing makes playing fingerstyle easier. Wider nut width also helps doing more pianistic, intricate chord melody playing. But to me string spacing is even more important than nut width for fingerstyle. One of my acoustics has string spacing similar to a classical guitar. It's certainly easier to clear strings when doing free strokes. My ES 175 is narrower but I got used to it.
    If I was a strictly pick player, I wouldn't see any reason to go wider than a typical Strat or Tele specs. Narrow spacing makes strumming and string skipping easier with picks.

  6. #5

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    The string spacing I prefer is whatever puts the strings over the polepieces. Beyond that, I have no preference. It has no importance to me.

  7. #6

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    I think string spacing at the bridge does matter, but it is a complete system. The nut and bridge define the string path and the neck taper should match that geometry.

    To complicate matters nut width is not string spacing at the neck. So someone theoretically could have 1-3/4” or 1-11/16” nut and the same string spacing at the nut.

    Finally, experimenting with bridge spacing is hard on an electric guitar because off-the-shelf pickups have pole pieces in a few standard spacing.

    That said, I make my own guitars. I can do whatever I want. I find that for jazz I prefer a wider fretboard. My favorite neck was a mistake. I was laying out a 1-3/4” nut with string spacing at the nut of 1/8” low E and 3/16” high e from the edge. The fingerboard was compound from 12”-16”, so relatively flat. This is for a “Tele”.

    Finally, the bridge was supposed to be 2-3/16”. That matches vintage Martin. Instead I laid it out at 2-3/8”. Oooops!

    Turns out I LOVE it! It plays especially nice from the sixth fret to the fifteenth, which is where I spend most of my time.

    It is hard to experiment because once the neck taper is set you really can’t change the bridge spacing much. But, if you can, experiment. You may find something unexpected.



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  8. #7

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    2"

  9. #8

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    I have archtops where it is 1-3/4” at the nut to 2-1/6” at the saddle and others a bit wider at 1-3/4” at the nut to 2-3/16” at the saddle.

  10. #9

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    For some reason, perhaps because they’re more likely to be finger pickers, the folks on the acousticguitarforum.com seem to talk about this issue much more often. They’ll torment themselves while planning a custom build or sell off a $7500 Bourgeois if the spacing at the bridge is not to their liking.

  11. #10

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    Thinking about it, probably the main reason I don't care about string spacing at the bridge is that I never play there. I pick over, or near, the neck pickup and the string length behind that is terra incognito for me. Acoustic players seem to tend to play closer to the bridge, and that could make a difference. But I only play further up, near the neck, and the spacing there is much more important to me. But even there, I have no overriding preferences.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell
    Thinking about it, probably the main reason I don't care about string spacing at the bridge is that I never play there. I pick over, or near, the neck pickup and the string length behind that is terra incognito for me. Acoustic players seem to tend to play closer to the bridge, and that could make a difference. But I only play further up, near the neck, and the spacing there is much more important to me. But even there, I have no overriding preferences.
    String spacing has effect on the entire picking range, from the neck side to the bride side. Just like the nut width doesn't only effect the first fret but the entire neck. It's measured at the bridge because that's where the spacing is set.

  13. #12

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    I tend to keep the E-strings parallel to the edge of the fingerboard and make the other strings fan-out as needed.

  14. #13

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    True, but I tend to set the string spacing at the place where I pick. If the strings are directly over the polepieces of the neck pickup, the spacing at the ends becomes less important. I have guitars with nut widths all over the place, from 41mm to 45mm, but the spacing at the neck pickup is over the polepieces, so about the same. The spacing at the bridge is whatever it happens to be, I've never bothered to measure because it doesn't matter. All I care about is the spacing at the neck pickup.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by icr
    I tend to keep the E-strings parallel to the edge of the fingerboard and make the other strings fan-out as needed.
    That's another valid method. I have that setup on my Wu. The strings aren't over the polepieces on that guitar, because the neck is wide and the Rhythm Chief pickup has narrow spacing of the polepieces. Putting the strings over them would result in the E strings being pretty far from the edge of the fingerboard at the end, so I compromise. I don't notice any ill effects from the slightly wider spacing at the pickup. TBH, I've never really thought much about string spacing, I just take what I get and don't worry about it. Action height is much more important to me, along with other factors.

  16. #15

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    I recall seeing some Martin guitars where they adopted some older spacing. The ones I saw had bridges where the saddle slots were open at the saddle ends. I can't recall the spacing, but it was large enough where it made the fretboard seem uncomfortably wide up around the 8th fret.
    Last edited by DanielleOM; 06-20-2019 at 11:58 AM. Reason: spelling correction

  17. #16

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    I personally find it very important. Very overlooked by guitarists in general.

  18. #17

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    I have a ‘68 ES-345TDW equipped with a Bigsby. It has a more narrow neck than I like, 1 9/16. It feels very crowded to play. My Tele and Epi 175 are vastly more comfortable, with their 1 11/16 widths but I don’t want to get rid of the 345 if there is some wiggle room to be found in a possible widening of the string spacing. It’s currently sporting a TOM and is all original except for Schaller tuners that were installed 35 years ago. Would there be a good strategy to give that more narrow neck a bit more room by having a new nut made and adjusting the bridge? The 345 is 39mm vs 43mm on the Tele so if I could gain maybe 2mm through some tweaking, I think I could get on with it more easily.

  19. #18
    It might work for you, but it wouldn't for me. I prefer plenty of space between the E strings and the fret edges. Have you considered just getting a different vintage 345 with the more normal neck?

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Sound
    It might work for you, but it wouldn't for me. I prefer plenty of space between the E strings and the fret edges. Have you considered just getting a different vintage 345 with the more normal neck?
    I’ve gone back and forth on trading the 345 or just figuring out how to get along with it. Since the guitar belonged to my dad, I always talk myself out of parting with it.

  21. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Esport
    I’ve gone back and forth on trading the 345 or just figuring out how to get along with it. Since the guitar belonged to my dad, I always talk myself out of parting with it.
    Ah I see, that's always a tough call.

  22. #21

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    There is no easy way to increase the string spacing while using a tune-o-matic bridge that I'm aware of. How much you can gain at the nut depends on the current spacing, and how far from the edge of the fingerboard the strings are now. It might be possible to get a couple of millimeters or maybe more, but that might put the strings so close to the edge as to make playing uncomfortable without having them slip off the side. No way to know without trying it, and that's a lot of work. That's impossible to tell without seeing it, or at least having some numbers.

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell
    There is no easy way to increase the string spacing while using a tune-o-matic bridge that I'm aware of. How much you can gain at the nut depends on the current spacing, and how far from the edge of the fingerboard the strings are now. It might be possible to get a couple of millimeters or maybe more, but that might put the strings so close to the edge as to make playing uncomfortable without having them slip off the side. No way to know without trying it, and that's a lot of work. That's impossible to tell without seeing it, or at least having some numbers.
    I definitely don’t like the idea of having the E strings too close to the fret edges....had a Strat a few years ago that was a bastard on the low E...it pulled off the edge ALL the time. I’m not married to the TOM, so maybe a rosewood compensated that isn’t pre-slotted would make a good starting point. So frustrating as the guitar sounds great but I hate playing it.

  24. #23

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    Hi
    Your expertise required.

    I am about to fit a new nut to my 6 string archtop. Could I ask your knowledge on string spacing?
    Where the nut fits the F/B the width of the F/B--including binding--is 45mm. Would the two E stings be the same measurement from the edge of the F/B--your views on this?

    Many thanks.

  25. #24

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    This requires too much information. Lots of research and videos's can help but I suggest taking it to a repairman.

  26. #25

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    theoretically, you want the spacing from the nut ends/edge of fretboard to be equal...but as the diameter of the hi E string is a lot smaller than the low E...some informed tweaking is needed when spacing

    check out a dan erlewine tutorial on utube or stewmac site

    cheers

  27. #26

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    Assuming equal inset for bass and treble, the attached (zipped) spreadsheet should provide the centres for equal string spacing with any given set of strings.

    Arthur
    Attached Files Attached Files

  28. #27

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    Yes 1/8" clear space from the outside edge of each e string at the nut.
    When slotting a new nut I first establish the location of the two E strings. I start by marking the location of the two E strings so that there is a distance of 1/8" between the outside edge of the string and the edge of the fingerboard at the nut. I then use gauged slotting files that match the dia. of the string to cut the notch. I cut the notch depth to about 2/3 of the string dia. for the wound strings and the notches are cut as deep as the full string dia. for the plain strings. After the E strings are set I measure the space left between the inside edge of each string. From this space I subtract the total width/dia. of the four remaining strings and divide the remaining space by five and that will be the amount of space left between each of the strings. I use a fine line mechanical pencil to mark the location of the center of each notch that is needed. I then use the properly gauged files to cut the remaining notches.

  29. #28

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    Matt's description is good(you can also, assuming you have another guitar, on which you like the string spacing, use it as a template). The spacing at the nut can somewhat depend on how the fret ends have been filed: if they are sharply(overly) beveled, that can limit a wider spacing. If this is your first attempt, probably a good idea to make one or two practice runs, on sacrificial blanks.