Weissenborn Dead string

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Kerry Werry
Posts: 60
Joined: Tue Apr 10, 2012 3:21 pm

Weissenborn Dead string

Post by Kerry Werry »

A year or so ago I build a Weissenborn for a friend. He has been happy with it and learning to play it (he is an accomplished fingerstyle player) recently he chnaged tunings on it. He had been playing in various C & G tunings but has now changed to Open D (major) tuning.

The problem is the low D string sounds good when played open but as you move up the fretboard it gets dead. The effect is worse the farther up the fretboard you go. All other strings sound good.. it was originally a 0.060 string.. I have dropped it to a 0.053 which has made a slight improvement..

I've checked all the usual suspects..

This is the only Weissenborn I've built..

Any ideals?????????

Thanks

Kerry

Brian Evans
Posts: 897
Joined: Sat Aug 30, 2014 8:26 am
Location: Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia

Re: Weissenborn Dead string

Post by Brian Evans »

What scale length are you at? Did it play cleanly in low C with a .060"? Here is my thinking... I've never been able to get a low tuned slide or bar played 6th string to sound not dead above around the third fret. I play slide dobro with a low D, .056", and it never rings, it just kind of sits there when I play it. I have a theory that slide guitars, including lap dobro, steel, laptop, all have high tunings for a reason - low tuned strings just don't sound good. Technically, I put it down to string mass not being adequately damped by the bar/slide, inadequate force on the bar allowing the string vibration past the bar, and losing that hard stop you get with a fretted note, and inharmonicity from stiff strings played short (maybe why your choice of an .053 helped, less stiff, less mass).

Kerry Werry
Posts: 60
Joined: Tue Apr 10, 2012 3:21 pm

Re: Weissenborn Dead string

Post by Kerry Werry »

The C tuning was lighter strings all round which were fine.. I've had someone suggest even heavier strings to add more tension.. a bit confused on next steps..

Thanks

Kerry

Freeman Keller
Posts: 439
Joined: Mon Feb 27, 2012 11:34 am

Re: Weissenborn Dead string

Post by Freeman Keller »

Kerry, all I can give is my humble experience and the little bit of research when I built mine. I built two Weissenborns and I own three more resonators of different flavors, one of the Weissies has gone to a new home, I play the other (occasionally). While I've experimented with other tunings, now I use either open D or (standard) open G (I've tried high bass G but since I'm not a bluegrass player I use Spanish G (DBDGbd). The Weissenborn pretty much stays in D (DADF#ad).

There was a long discussion on another forum about stringing a Weissenborn - I've got a printout of it somewhere, but the general consensus was to use medium gauge acoustic strings and bump up the first one or two, which is exactly what I do. My 6th is probably an 0.056, I replace the 1st with a 15 and maybe a 17 for the second (that keeps you from banging the side of the guitar with the steel and gives a bit more tension for single string stuff). I'll add here that I don't play with finger picks but I probably should - I just don't feel comfortable with them.

My 6th string seems to be as responsive as the others all the way up the fretboard. I find I have to apply a bit more pressure on that side with my steel to keep from buzzing - I just felt that was my sloppy technique. I do dampen behind the slide, whether I'm playing lap or Spanish style. Fwiw I also use mediums on my resonators in D and G and the 6th string seems OK on them too. The Weissenborns and resonators are all 25 inch scale but I doubt that makes much difference.

A couple of things that might be significant. When I built the Weissenborns I used sister sets of wood and braced one in the traditional 1930's fashion of an X with a couple of ladder braces between the X (StewMac and GAL plans). I had seen pictures of more modern X bracing with angled tone bars so I tried that on the second guitar - we can detect a slight difference (I gave my friend his choice and he chose the traditional one). In theory the angled tone bars should open up the bass a bit - maybe that makes a difference. The other thing would be to use a thumb pick, however the people that I respect (Lindley, Harper) appear to play with flesh and nails.

So short story, mine seems happy with 0.015 or 0.016 to 0.056, open D, flesh and nails.

Chris Reed
Posts: 161
Joined: Thu Feb 02, 2012 6:26 pm

Re: Weissenborn Dead string

Post by Chris Reed »

Assuming that your friend is playing with a steel, then the only thing I can think of which would affect just one string, and for most of its length, is the saddle. Two possibilities:

1. There is a small void at the base of the saddle slot, or an imperfection in the base of the saddle, under that string. The change in string gauge might be just enough to reduce contact between saddle and slot base.

2. The profile of the top of the saddle is not quite right for that string (which will take a slightly different curve over the tope of the saddle than its predecessor string). As you progress up the neck the steel will be deflecting the strings to a fractionally greater angle at the saddle, so if there is something like a ridge the string gets closer to it and might be making stronger contact as the string vibrates.

I'd start with number 2. Check the saddle top with your fingertips to see if you can feel any small ridges or imperfections, and smooth them out. Normally I'd expect a problem here to lead to buzzing, but I guess any imperfection of fit might be just small enough to rob energy from the string without causing a buzz.

If number 2 is OK, then inspect the saddle and saddle slot. As a diagnostic tool a paper shim at the base of the slot should compress enough to even things out, so if this evens up the string response then you've discovered where your problem lies.

If it's neither of these then I really don't have other ideas!

Freeman Keller
Posts: 439
Joined: Mon Feb 27, 2012 11:34 am

Re: Weissenborn Dead string

Post by Freeman Keller »

What did you use for a saddle - a traditional fret wire or a modern bone (or similar)? Is it perfectly flat on top? Did you notch it for string spacing or do the pins set that? I'm just fishing for something that could be different with the 6th string.

ps - I played mine a bit last night and as I said before I really need to be aware of putting enough pressure on the bass side of the steel but as long as I do the notes seem to ring pretty clear and loud.

Kerry Werry
Posts: 60
Joined: Tue Apr 10, 2012 3:21 pm

Re: Weissenborn Dead string

Post by Kerry Werry »

Guys thanks for the replies..

I am using a Bone saddle, not slotted the pins set the spacing.. it is played with a steel.

I will do some investigation around the saddle ans see if I can come up with anything..

Kerry

Brian Evans
Posts: 897
Joined: Sat Aug 30, 2014 8:26 am
Location: Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia

Re: Weissenborn Dead string

Post by Brian Evans »

You could probably gain insight from trying a Dobro Capo. It clamps firmly over the strings, and would eliminate the idea that steel pressure or back string vibration is causing an issue. You might duplicate a nut and place it at the third or fifth fret, perhaps with a clamp to ensure sufficient down angle behind the test nut, to see if that makes a difference.

Freeman Keller
Posts: 439
Joined: Mon Feb 27, 2012 11:34 am

Re: Weissenborn Dead string

Post by Freeman Keller »

One other thing, Kerry. I was playing my Dobro last night which I have set up for lap style (nut extender) and similar strings (mediums, heavier first). I play with a Shubb style of steel, the railroad track looking thing, and I hold it with my thumb on the saddle side but only on the end close to the bass strings (hard to describe but if you pick up a steel I think you'll see). Anyway, I noticed that sometimes I could feel the winding of the sixth string with my thumb, I was tilting the steel just enough that my thumb would contact and dampen the string. If I tilted the steel back towards the nut just a hair it seemed to correct it.

So, problem was bad technique, nothing wrong with the guitar. Might be worth checking into.

You might also try playing 5th, 7th and 12th fret harmonics and see if they ring true (slide players use the fleshy part of their hand below their pinkie). If you get a good harmonic (I do) then the saddle is probably OK.

Kerry Werry
Posts: 60
Joined: Tue Apr 10, 2012 3:21 pm

Re: Weissenborn Dead string

Post by Kerry Werry »

So this issue is solved.. Here is what the problem was. The saddle was rounded with a slope to the bridge pins but the heavier guage string on the D could not conform to this curve so there was a space between the string and the front of the saddle as the player moved the slide toward the saddle the vibrating string would start to hit the front of the saddle and lose energy & tone.. Properly ramping the saddle so the string contacted the front of the saddle solved this issue and the ower and I are both happy!

Thanks everyone for the help

Kerry

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