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  1. #1

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    My 2013 ES 175 has about 0.01 inch (0.25mm) more relief on the bass side than on the treble side with 11-52 round wound strings. I noticed that the bass side had more relief when I first got the guitar (I got it new). I went back the next day and asked the repair department in the store. They said, that was a sign of a well built guitar. At the time, I hadn't measured it and I was using heavier gauge strings which somehow made the difference less I think.

    How much difference in neck relief on both sides is normal?
    Last edited by Tal_175; 06-07-2021 at 03:57 PM.

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  3. #2

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    In this video from Gibson's set up guy, he says a couple thousandths difference in relief, with more on the bass side, is ideal:


  4. #3

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    If you set the desired relief on one side, on the other you get what you get.

  5. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by garybaldy
    If you set the desired relief on one side, on the other you get what you get.
    As I said above I get 0.01 inch difference. In other words if I set up 0.01 inch relief on the bass side, the high e string is flush to the frets.

    The difference of course varies with humidity and string gauge. 40% humidity and high gauge string gives less difference. 60% humidity with low gauge (11's) strings gives more difference (0.01 inch).

    I think what I have is a little bigger difference that is ideal.

  6. #5

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    The previous owner shaved down the saddle on the treble side on my Taylor 12-string. I just noticed how high the action was on the bass side.

    Still deciding if I want to mess with the saddle. That could easily turn into a messy job, especially with 12 strings. The 12-string is challenging enough to play as is though, don’t need any high strings to make it harder.

  7. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Doctor Jeff
    The previous owner shaved down the saddle on the treble side on my Taylor 12-string. I just noticed how high the action was on the bass side.

    Still deciding if I want to mess with the saddle. That could easily turn into a messy job, especially with 12 strings. The 12-string is challenging enough to play as is though, don’t need any high strings to make it harder.
    Just to clarify, the issue I described is not about the action. It's about the neck relief. So, 0.01 inch difference is in the gap over around the 8th fret when the string is fretted on the first and the 17th fret.

    Saddle adjustment I think is an easier problem. I repair man can sand the bass side down in a few minutes. It's basically a setup work. In your case the tricky thing is not to sand the treble side further while making sure the base of the saddle stays flat.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175
    Just to clarify, the issue I described is not about the action. It's about the neck relief. So, 0.01 inch difference is in the gap over around the 8th fret when the string is fretted on the first and the 17th fret.

    Saddle adjustment I think is an easier problem. I repair man can sand the bass side down in a few minutes. It's basically a setup work. In your case the tricky thing is not to sand the treble side further while making sure the base of the saddle stays flat.
    Sorry I think I was misunderstanding. But the only way the relief would be different would be if the neck was asymmetrical. (Sorry I didn’t watch the video, maybe it explained that.) So that’s a feature not a flaw?

    I can and have sanded saddles down, but what often starts out as a small project often turns into a bigger one—replace the strings, oil up the fretboard, etc.

  9. #8

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    Maybe it's a physical phenomenon, since there is more pull on the bass strings than on the treble ones, and the neck naturally has a slighter more bow on the bass side?
    Just a supposition..

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175
    As I said above I get 0.01 inch difference. In other words if I set up 0.01 inch relief on the bass side, the high e string is flush to the frets.

    The difference of course varies with humidity and string gauge. 40% humidity and high gauge string gives less difference. 60% humidity with low gauge (11's) strings gives more difference (0.01 inch).

    I think what I have is a little bigger difference that is ideal.
    Hi. My reply was in response to the Gibson video. The guy happened to get the desired relief both top and bottom with the adjustment of the truss rod. All I'm saying is one side may be right but the other not. Cheers.

  11. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Jx30510
    Maybe it's a physical phenomenon, since there is more pull on the bass strings than on the treble ones, and the neck naturally has a slighter more bow on the bass side?
    Just a supposition..
    That's what I used to think but if you look at the tension charts of string manufacturers, turns out treble strings actually have more tension. Although they have lighter gauge, they are tuned to a higher tension.

    I might replace the high E and B strings with higher gauge strings and see if that improves things. There is actually more relief on the bass side that I'd normally set up on a short scale guitar. It's not a big deal however, the guitar plays well.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 06-08-2021 at 09:51 AM.

  12. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by garybaldy
    Hi. My reply was in response to the Gibson video. The guy happened to get the desired relief both top and bottom with the adjustment of the truss rod. All I'm saying is one side may be right but the other not. Cheers.
    The issue is, as a result of the bass side having significantly more relief than the treble side, when one side is setup to be right, the other side isn't right.

  13. #12

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    Wound bass strings normally have more excursion than treble strings when plucked, so to prevent fret buzz they need a little more relief than the treble strings. But you get what you get. With an archtop guitar, absolutely everything is a compromise of some sort. The perfect guitar has never existed, and never will. I tend to set my action just a tad higher on the bass side to allow for more string vibration without buzzing, on any archtop, but it doesn't have to be a lot. A little more relief on the bass side would allow for slightly lower action, all things being equal. I tend to set relief using the G string, because it's closer to the center of the guitar, but sometimes I need to use another string, so I'm not religious about it. I just try to find a compromise I can live with, wherever that may be. If there is too much relief on one side only, using lighter gauge strings on that side might help a little, but it depends on the neck, and they're all just a little different.

  14. #13

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    I've just bought a used, but mint, Peerless Martin Taylor Virtuoso, a terrific guitar.
    But the guy who I got it from had done a very strange setup.
    The neck had no relief at all, and this obliged him, obviously, to crank the bridge anormaly high to obtain a proper action without buzzing.
    The guitar was playable but felt kind of stiff and plucky.
    I adjusted the neck with a very slight relief, 1 mm at 8th fret.
    Consequently I had to lower a good amount the bridge to bring back the action to my taste (about to 2 mm at the 12th fret for the low E string).

    The effect of this set up was quite spectacular on the playability, that is now very smooth and silky. The roundwound strings, 11- 49, that felt stiff, are now almost too slinky. I'll try 12-52 for sure.
    And most importantly the guitar sounds miles better, much more responsive, resonnant, and it "sings,"
    I'm used setting up my guitars, but it's the first time a change in neck relief has had so much effect in my experience.
    And the Peerless MT is really an exceptional guitar. Very happy with my purchase.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175
    That's what I used to think but if you look at the tension charts of string manufacturers, turns out treble strings actually have more tension. Although they have lighter gauge, they are tuned to a higher tension.

    I might replace the high E and B strings with higher gauge strings and see if that improves things. There is actually more relief on the bass side that I'd normally set up on a short scale guitar. It's not a big deal however, the guitar plays well.
    I've always heard that TI strings have less tension for the same diameter. Don't know for sure if this is true. It "feels" true to my fingers.

    That might affect the relief and balance of the strings.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Doctor Jeff
    But the only way the relief would be different would be if the neck was asymmetrical.
    That's true enough - but there are multiple components to the neck, and any of them can be the guilty party. You need an accurate diagnosis before treating a problem. For example, I've seen many fret jobs that were a few thousandths from concentricity with the board and many guitars on which one or more frets were either not fully seated or mismatched to the rest. If a guitar's had any work done to the neck, the fingerboard or the neck itself could have been planed imperfectly. And an occasional neck will twist or shrink enough to throw a relatively small area out of whack with a frank depression, altered relief etc. This can be from inconsistent density, grain etc deep in the wood and not detectable to the builder - and it could even be from a small flaw in the wood that slowly propogates into an internal crack. Prolonged or sudden exposure to extremes of temperature and/or humidity can activate this, as can aggressive truss rod tightening or a drop that didn't seem to do any damage.

    String tension is not as simple as some describe it, e.g. "[I]f you look at the tension charts of string manufacturers, turns out treble strings actually have more tension. Although they have lighter gauge, they are tuned to a higher tension." This depends on the gauge, weight, and construction of the strings. Look at this chart from Curt Mangan. My default gigging guitar is strung 11-15-22-36-46-56-70. With a 24.75" scale, an 11 applies 18.46 lbs to the top and a 15 applies 19.26 lbs. Interestingly, a plain 22 adds 26.1 lbs but a wound 22 drops that to 22.36 lbs.

    Playing style can dictate asymmetric relief. When playing solo fusion or funk tunes, I like to pop bass notes with my thumb on my 7s. It takes higher action and a hair more relief to get that sound right. But for me, it's fine if it plays fine. Tuck Andress probably needs about 10" on the low side.

    Neck relief - Bass side vs treble side-smiley_hysterical_3-gif

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175
    The issue is, as a result of the bass side having significantly more relief than the treble side, when one side is setup to be right, the other side isn't right.
    Exactly.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell
    But you get what you get.
    Great minds!! See post #3

  19. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by garybaldy
    Exactly.
    There are a range of values for the relief on each side. It'll vary based on the guitar, string gauge etc.

  20. #19

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    Sometimes the truss rod seems to get kind of bound up, maybe from someone along the line twisting it a little too tight. Here's one suggestion that worked for me once on a Gibson with a similar issue. Loosen the strings and then loosen the truss rod nut all the way so there is no tension on the neck. Let it sit for a few hours, maybe overnight. Then tighten the nut back up to the relief you desire. The neck may straighten itself out so it is about perfect. It's a good idea to lubricate the nut before retightening so it moves smoothly without any binding. You can make sure the bridge stays in place by taping it with some low tack blue painter's tape before you loosen the strings.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chazmo
    You can make sure the bridge stays in place by taping it with some low tack blue painter's tape before you loosen the strings.
    That’s fine for most modern guitar finishes, but it can affect French polish and other ultra thin organic finishes. For delicate finishes, I use thin static cling film like Oasis Guitar Armor or a Guitar Guard removable pickguard, cutting templates from it for specific uses like bridge location.

    Removing the bridge during cleaning and adjusting is not a problem. Measure nut to saddle distance at E1 & E6 and bridge to binding before disassembly. Use as a guide for placement, and recheck intonation when you string up. As most guitar players rarely remove the bridge, its location is often evident in the finish on guitars more than a few years old.

    Lessons learned the hard way: I once put the bridge on backwards. I also discovered that some low tack tape gets much tackier as it ages. If it’s a few years old, it’s as bad as the tan stuff. So I buy it fresh in small rolls.