B-string rattle

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B-string rattle

Postby Bob Gramann » Sun Apr 29, 2018 5:38 pm

One of my customers can make the B-string rattle pretty reliably on the guitar I sold him when he frets it at the third fret. He strums near the bridge with a pick held at a slight angle. I think that his pluck makes a wave that jumps the fret. The rattle is just at the time of the strum. It doesn’t persist. I can’t make the sound when I play. Of course, he wants the action as low as possible. I have it set at 5/64” under the fat E through 4/64” under the little E with just a bit more relief than I would normally use. There are no problems on any of the other strings. I have made sure that the saddle contact point is as sharp as it can be without crumbling. I refretted to make sure that the fret was as high as it could possibly be (the sound is increased if he frets back from the fret). The fretwork is as close to perfect as I can discern. He can produce the noise on other guitars of mine. I haven’t listened to him playing factory guitars, but he isn’t complaining about the several I set up for him. If there really is a problem, I’m imagining that my tops are compliant enough that it’s allowing too much excursion of the string when it’s plucked and thus allowing the jump at the fret. If he strums more toward the soundhole than the bridge, the rattle disappears. If he reorients the pick so it hits the string flat, the rattle disappears, but he insists on playing about 1.5” from the bridge with an angled pick.

Has anybody worked this problem before? If so, how did you solve it? If he’ll accept it, I will raise the action to 6/64”, but the way he plays, I expect he’ll still make the noise. I’m about to write it off to incurable poor technique and take the guitar back. I’ve put a lot of guitars out in the world and not had this complaint before.
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Re: B-string rattle

Postby Barry Daniels » Sun Apr 29, 2018 8:47 pm

I tried to help a heavy handed pro player who kept breaking strings on his Breedlove. Tried lots of different things but nothing completely solved the problem. The final step was to advise him to lighten up on the pick. He took this to heart and actually changed the way he played and he no longer breaks a string every 20 minutes.

Your client has to either accept that he needs a higher action or to lighten up.
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Re: B-string rattle

Postby David King » Mon Apr 30, 2018 2:51 pm

Keep the guitar overnight, charge him $100 in the morning... keep doing that until he stops complaining.
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Re: B-string rattle

Postby Bob Gramann » Mon Apr 30, 2018 4:15 pm

David, that’s a great idea, but my instruments have a lifetime warranty (my lifetime). If I can’t satisfy him, I will give his money back. In the short run, it hurts. In the long run, reputation is everything.
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Re: B-string rattle

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Mon Apr 30, 2018 5:38 pm

Have you had other players play this guitar?
Perhaps if two or three you show him that it is his playing style that causes the noise, he may be more amenable to changing his style?

It sounds like he may be either lifting the string, or pressing it down, causing it to rattle on the saddle or any fret that gets in his way! :D

It would be a shame to have to return a guitar for that reason.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!
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Re: B-string rattle

Postby Bob Gramann » Mon Apr 30, 2018 6:41 pm

I think he pushes the string down as he plucks causing a wave that travels up the string and jumps the fret. The noise is the string coming back down on the fret. The B-string wire is the same diameter as the core of the each of the wound strings but without the winding. That makes its stiffness to mass ratio higher than any of the wound strings. Thus less mass to damp that initial spike.
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Re: B-string rattle

Postby David King » Tue May 01, 2018 1:16 pm

Bob, I don't know how critical this "problem" is to the style of music he's playing. It sounds to me like he's decided to focus all of his energy on this perceived problem and what he needs to do is pull back a bit and focus on the whole effect of the guitar. Either he likes the guitar or he doesn't. If he doesn't like it then absolutely he should get his money back and go elsewhere. If he likes the guitar then he needs to have his attention drawn away to some other part of his surroundings that can scratch his itch to find something wrong and have it consume him (and hopefully become someone else's problem. You don't need this negative energy in your life, it will take you down and it's not going to help either of you if it diminishes the joy you take in building or playing.
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Re: B-string rattle

Postby Brian Evans » Tue May 01, 2018 2:46 pm

I would do this to troubleshoot this issue. First, with the guitar on the bench I would find a way - any way - to reliably duplicate the buzz. I suspect it's partly insufficient finger pressure on the string. Once I did that, I would see if more pressure on the string, or pressing in a different location helps. If it does, that lends credence to the wave impulse jumping off the fret idea. If it doesn't, or if the pressure required is unreasonable, I would look at action height. Adding relief for a heavy handed player helps normally, but not much at the third fret - not much added string angle. If raising action helps, then I would wonder if it's really the wave/bounce on the third fret, or a more typical buzz on the fourth fret. If it's the latter, I would dress the fourth fret till it goes away at his normal action height, dress the fifth fret less to deal with any issue created there, etc. I think of this as mechanically adding specific relief to that string in that position, separate from general relief over all the strings over the whole neck. I have done this above the 14th fret (where the truss rod has no effect) and near the nut (like the third fret). I think that sometimes strings just don't like perfectly flat fret planes and sometimes they want a little more room to vibrate - particularly with low action and a heavy right hand.
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Re: B-string rattle

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Wed May 02, 2018 6:52 pm

I generally set the action a bit higher for a heavy strumming handed player also.
You can add .010 at the bridge, and barely feel the difference.
You can also add .005 at the nut.
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Re: B-string rattle

Postby Clay Schaeffer » Thu May 03, 2018 11:51 am

"I’m about to write it off to incurable poor technique and take the guitar back"

If you feel it's intentional poor technique taking the guitar back might be the most lasting fix. Unfortunate, but as long as the guitar is not too "customized" to that individual that might be the easiest thing to do. And never deal with him again.
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Re: B-string rattle

Postby Bob Gramann » Thu May 03, 2018 1:18 pm

Thanks to all. When he brings it back, I will try a couple of other adjustments, but if it persists under his hands, I will take the guitar back. I had the action higher before. That’s why I refretted to increase the height of the fret—I’m pretty sure it’s not banging on the fourth fret. He loves the sound of the guitar with the exception of this one issue. He’s a friendly guy and not being nasty at all. In the long run, making him happy is a good thing. He has friends.
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