intonation and tuning issues with an 8 string

Discussion of all aspects of multi-string guitars, namely those with 7 or more strings.
entschwindet
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intonation and tuning issues with an 8 string

Postby entschwindet » Fri Jul 15, 2016 2:40 pm

Dear all,

I'm writing here to ask for advice on a guitar of mine.

It's a factory-built 8 string fan-fret design (There's only one company that does those so you can guess who it's by).

Once I started playing it for a while I noticed some tuning issues, and eventually my eye noticed that there were a number of frets that were out of line. I had a back and forth with the luthier and he agreed to pay for that to be sorted, as it would otherwise have had to be sent across the world and back. I found a guy in London, and he took out and realigned a few frets, as well as adjusting the nut and bridge, which definitely improved things.

However, I'm still struggling with the intonation - I've measured it, and I'm getting about +30 cents on the octave on most of the strings, but especially the trebles (I string 4 basses and 4 trebles, like a 'Brahms guitar', and I tune like a renaissance lute - ADGCFADG). My ears really can't take the instrument being that out of tune.

I suppose I need the thing serviced properly, so my query is whether there's a luthier in the London area who'd be willing/capable/available to have a look - it could need just more nut adjustment or it could require further re-fretting etc. The guy I used before was good but was more of an electric guitar specialist.

If anyone has any advice or recommendations I'd be grateful to hear them.

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James Lister
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Re: intonation and tuning issues with an 8 string

Postby James Lister » Fri Jul 15, 2016 3:19 pm

30 cents is a big error. Sounds to me like the bridge/saddle position is wrong. I'd suggest measuring as accurately as you can the distance from the nut to the 12th fret, and from the nut to the saddle, on both the first string and the eighth string. The nut-saddle distance should be twice the nut-12th fret distance plus a couple of mms.

James
James Lister, luthier, Sheffield UK

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mikfik
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Re: intonation and tuning issues with an 8 string

Postby mikfik » Fri Jul 15, 2016 5:32 pm

For evaluation: I would put a capo (or 2) behind the 1st fret and measure the intonation error by playing harmonic at the 13th fret and comparing it with the fretted note at the 13th fret. This eliminates the nut from the equation. You need to know which end of the fretboard is causing you the problem before you can know how to fix it. If all is well when using the capo then perhaps the problem IS with the nut location, if so this might be an easy fix. If the problem is the saddle position the fix might be more difficult and if the problem is fret placement I would suggest a new fretboard which might be a nightmare.
Good luck

Jabberwocky
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Re: intonation and tuning issues with an 8 string

Postby Jabberwocky » Sat Jul 16, 2016 8:13 am

You might try Martin Woodhouse. He makes an 8-string fan-fret guitar.

entschwindet
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Re: intonation and tuning issues with an 8 string

Postby entschwindet » Sat Jul 16, 2016 1:23 pm

Thanks all.

I get the following measurements, from edge of the nut to peak of the 12th fret, and edge of nut to peak of saddle.

on first -
nut to 12th - 327mm
nut to saddle - 650mm

on eighth -
nut to 12th - 348mm
nut to saddle - 696mm

that suggests to me that there's not a great deal of compensation, if any?

as for the capo on 1st fret, I've had a go, and I'm not sure - it's maybe not as bad but it's certainly still quite far out.
(incidentally my most recent tuning test has given me about +20 at the octave, which isn't as terrible but is still painful on the ear)

When I was getting around to buying this guitar I did look at Woodhouse's website a LOT but I couldn't justify the -admittedly low- price.
Would it be untoward I wonder, asking him to work on what is effectively my low-budget version of his product?
Problem is, with the one I now have, if it needs much more work doing to it then my original savings begin to evaporate!

thanks again...

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James Lister
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Re: intonation and tuning issues with an 8 string

Postby James Lister » Sat Jul 16, 2016 4:25 pm

If your measurements are accurate, then I'm afraid I was right in thinking that the bridge/saddle placement is way off. The first string scale is 654mm, so the nut-saddle distance should be about 655.5mm, making it 5.5mm off. The eighth string scale is 696mm, so nut-saddle should be about 699mm, so it's about 3mm off.
That's too much error to be able to correct on the saddle, so it either needs the bridge removing and replacing or the fingerboard replacing with new frets in the correct position for the scale. Either is a big job. You could ask Martin, but if it were me I'd probably say no. It can be very frustrating as a luthier when players come to you with a guitar that has been poorly made or set up and ask you to fix it for them.

James
James Lister, luthier, Sheffield UK

entschwindet
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Re: intonation and tuning issues with an 8 string

Postby entschwindet » Sun Jul 17, 2016 1:56 pm

James,

Again, many thanks for your reply.

It's frustrating but also positive to hear what the likely problem is. Fwiw I think the original spec was for a scale length of 650-700, which is longer than the 600-650 of the Brahms guitar, and you can really feel that with longer stretches - lutes are so much smaller so playing renaissance music you occasionally run into trouble!

This puts me in a bit of a pickle. Much as I'd love to, commissioning a new guitar isn't an option, and there's already been a fair investment in this one.
I completely appreciate why Woodhouse would be reluctant, but I'm going to have to find someone to help me out (I suppose at the end of the day a job's a job as well).
I'm not sure who I could approach - does the forum have something like a local directory?

Douglas

Pat Dodson
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Re: intonation and tuning issues with an 8 string

Postby Pat Dodson » Sun Jul 17, 2016 2:08 pm

Hi Douglas

The best directory that I know of was compiled by forum member Stephen Kenyon. The link is below. Not all luthiers do repairs or adjustments/setups of course but with a computer and phone hopefully you'll find someone. Good luck!

http://www.jacaranda-music.com/UKGuitars.html

Jabberwocky
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Re: intonation and tuning issues with an 8 string

Postby Jabberwocky » Mon Jul 18, 2016 11:09 am

Douglas, off the wall suggestion: approach an advanced student at the London College of Furniture. Someone in luthiery might be bold enough to take on your project.

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Granary Guitars
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Re: intonation and tuning issues with an 8 string

Postby Granary Guitars » Mon Jul 18, 2016 12:35 pm

Off topic but, coincidentally, this lunchtime I happened to have 2 rulers on my desk - both 12", 30cm. Fiddling around over lunch I put them next to each other and was surprised to see that one scale was 2mm shorter than the other at the 30cm marking!
My suggestion to my colleagues that I should go over to Paris to have them recalibrated was not met with the enthusiasm I was expecting.

Jabberwocky
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Re: intonation and tuning issues with an 8 string

Postby Jabberwocky » Mon Jul 18, 2016 3:19 pm

Rob Mackillop is selling his 8-string Ibanez guitar for about £300, if I am not mistaken. Maybe just put aside the one that you have and get a playable 8-string. Not a fan-fret but ,at least, eminently playable.

I don't think it is untoward to ask Martin Woodhouse for help. The worst he can do is say, No. It will generate immeasurable goodwill, and who knows, you may just go to him one day when you have the funds for and commitment to a real Brahms guitar. My only fear is that it may require a brand new fretboard and new bridge. The frets may be all off in position.

entschwindet
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Location: London, UK

Re: intonation and tuning issues with an 8 string

Postby entschwindet » Mon Jul 25, 2016 3:43 pm

Thank you all again for responses. I've just registered but it has been very helpful already.

I think I will approach Woodhouse at least with queries - I agree, the worst is he can say no, and if I ever feel flush enough then I can get one built, so can't hurt to get in touch.

I have to say that I've been surprised by the troubles I've had with this guitar, and without wanting to point the finger I wonder what could possibly have gone wrong? I've not seen anyone making similar complaints about that particular model...

Also, with regard to just sacking it off, I know it's not a concert instrument but there's a lot of rare (and expensive) wood already in it and I feel it ought to do what it's supposed to! But then the question is - is there ever a point where a guitar should just be binned?

Thanks Pat for the list, that's very helpful.
Thanks Jabberwocky for the suggestions also.

Douglas

Jabberwocky
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Re: intonation and tuning issues with an 8 string

Postby Jabberwocky » Mon Jul 25, 2016 5:58 pm

Douglas, did you get...Bellucci-ed? And I'm not talking about Monica.

Well, you bin a guitar when it is standing between you and playing music. When you can't play it, it is essentially wall-hanging.

entschwindet
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Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2016 1:41 pm
Location: London, UK

Re: intonation and tuning issues with an 8 string

Postby entschwindet » Tue Jul 26, 2016 7:07 am

Jabberwocky,

Wow, just followed up on your comment - that's the sort of thing I am worrying about, but no, at least it wasn't them.

The guitar is a Bartolex, and I did a fair amount of research beforehand - generally speaking the worst people have to say about them is that they're not strong enough for the concert hall. I've not come across anyone kicking off about workmanship before, but maybe it's a well-known secret?

Gonzales was helpful enough and reimbursed me for the initial repairs I had done, but now a while has elapsed, and I'm just finding time to properly get into playing the thing: it's fine if I hang around the low positions (which Dowland tends to do) but if I start moving up the neck then it hurts my ears.

I suppose I just need to put it in front of an expert and let them give me a diagnosis. Any idea what costs I'm potentially looking at for a fully replaced fretboard?

Thanks again.

Douglas


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