Modern Gretsch Guitars

Tuning stability?

1

... ok, I’ve read so many posts on tuning stability and I still can’t wrap my head around why my 2008 Jag Tan Annie won’t stay in tune?

I use a generous amount of powdered Graphite before every gig. I put it under the strings at both ends of the guitar.

I had the neck reset by Curt and he worked his magic on the nut and frets.

I have to retune after every song!
I have a Serpentine Tru-Arc on the guitar. It has locking tuners with the appropriate wrap going on.

The only thing I can think of is the bridge base is not on the up and up. It’s a pinned bridge, from the factory. It plays in tune up and down the neck. All is fine until I rest my hand on the bridge.
Then it all goes funky, I’m thinking the bridge “rocks” but does not return to the same place every time. Anyone else have this issue and what can I do about it?

2

I’m guessing I have a “heavy” hand on the bridge..... is the rocking bar not for everyone? Feedback please.

3

Light strings maybe.. seems like Gretsch, even the Modern World ones, like 11s best. Hand on bridge also may be suspect.

4

Well, most of the time, tuning stability is all about the nut.

My Hot Rod stayed in tune pretty well when I was using 10s (which I think is what the nut was cut for). When I went up to 11s (which I greatly prefer), tuning stability went out the window. I just got a cheap set of nut files to try to enlarge the nut slots and see if that helps.

Having said that, that does not seem like what your problem is.... hmm..... I'll be watching this thread (FWIW, the Hot Rod also has a pinned bridge, and I have a Compton on it)

6

I can visually see the bridge titled either to the front or back after I play. Looks like it rocks on the posts and doesn’t return to center. It’s not much but it’s enough to put it out of tune.

7

I believe it’s from my hand pressure.... and it’s all the strings not just one or two out of tune.

8

I believe it’s from my hand pressure.... and it’s all the strings not just one or two out of tune.

– Hipbone

I think you might be right. From my observations, the FMIC rocking bridge really doesn't rock all that much. The main reason it works so well with the bar bridge is that strings slide easily over the rounded bar bridge slots.

Of course if both are a little sticky, a bump with the hand can cause the bridge can become stuck in the wrong position.

I think the design of the Serpentune bridge nut slots don't lend themselves to being slidey. It might be good to narrow the flat on the bottom of the bridge and make some large tangent radii off the flat to raise the bridge just a little bit.

Of course, I think Tim Harmon's comments would be worthwhile.

Lee

9

Well, I figured there is only one way to find out.... I put the stock tunamatic type bridge back on it. I had put this bridge on another guitar years ago.

So far it seems to be staying in tune. I’ll have a better idea after I rehearse or gig with it.

10

In my close observations, I've never seen a wound string glide over any bridge surface, no matter how smooth - other than rolling saddles, and then it's the little wheel that rotates a little (unless the wheel isn't turning smoothly on its little axle, which isn't always a given). The strings always pull the entire bridge forward and back.

Plain strings may glide over the surface of a bridge - but if the wound strings are taking the bridge with them anyway, the plains get no opportunity to prove they can glide.

So while it's undeniable that the SerpenTune presents a narrower surface for the strings to rest on - and that surface doesn't look as smooth and "glidey" - I don't see an appreciable difference in return-to-pitch by comparison to the uncompensated straight bridge.

If I had that guitar in hand to diagnose (and other than inspecting the nut closely, but let's assume that's been done), I'd start by loosening the strings and taking the Tru-Arc off the base - then seeing if the base itself can be moved fore and aft, either rocking or sliding. The question would be whether the bottom of the base properly conformed to the top of the guitar, or might have a high spot that lets the base itself rock.

I'd start there not to avoid starting with the Tru-Arc, but to be sure whatever bridge is on it has an immobile platform to begin with.

The Tru-Arc does have a relatively narrow flat ledge on the bottom surface, the width of which was based on Gretsch's rocking bar. The behavior I always observe during Bigsbification is that the bridge really just tips a little up onto the front edge of that flat, where it meets the rounded portion of the bottom, then tips back onto the flat. (I'm assuming you do mostly, if not all, pitch dips - ie, you don't pull up on the Bigsby. But if you DID, then the bridge should tip slightly onto the back edge of the flat, then settle back in place.)

If the Tru-Arc is failing to settle back onto its flat ledge, then return to pitch will definitely be compromised. A string (just one) binding in the nut could prevent "re-settlement" to home position.

There are at least two ways the Bigsby could contribute. A spring which isn't perfectly seated in both bottom and top cups can play havoc as it moves around. And if the Bigsby axle were binding in its bearings, it could also prevent a smooth return. (A remote possibility, but you seem already to have addressed the most obvious usual suspects.) The way to test for that would be to remove the strings and just be sure the axle rotates smoothly with no irregularities.

Another (and more likely) possibility is that the Tru-Arc is binding on the mounting posts. Bases being wood, those posts can't be relied on to be either dead-on their center-to-center spec, or to be mounted perfectly straight and perpendicular in the base. The bridges don't always just "fall" onto the posts easily (though I wish they would), and if it takes a little persuasion to settle them on the adjusting wheels, I don't despair. But once they're DOWN there, the bridge should rock easily fore and aft to finger pressure - and when settled on the flat, it should be square against the adjusting wheels.

If, on the other hand, the bridge is significantly binding on either of the bridge posts, behavior will be erratic (and tone generally suffers because the bridge is prevented from resting as squarely as intended on the wheels).

A narrower flat on the bottom of the bridge would, in my logic, make any tipping-and-won't-tip-back behavior worse. The extreme example which proves that point is the Bigsby Compensated Aluminum bridge, which has a very narrow vee on the bottom. It's been my experience that those bridges rock exactly once - during the first Bigsby dip, forward onto the neck side of the vee - and that's where they stay.

Assuming the stability of the base itself, binding at the nut, Bigsby issues, and post binding are all definitively eliminated - and the Tru-Arc still doesn't return to its home position - it's possible a Tru-Arc with a wider flat on the bottom would improve performance.

I've experimented with such a model, code-name "Bigfoot" (what else?), but it hasn't made a consistent and clear difference in behavior and tone in any of my tests. You'd be welcome to try one if nothing else avails.

11

Consider the lock tying method of tying your strings:

12

Thanks Tim, I will put my detective hat on and try and figure this out.

13

Consider the lock tying method of tying your strings:

– r0de0

I have locking tuners on the guitar. I’m not sure I’d need to do this.

14

Here is a pic of how I wrap with locking tuners.

15

I’m thinking I just need a bridge that doesn’t rock.

My picking hand is pretty heavy on the bridge. I bang on it pretty hard when I strum and me thinks a bridge that is designed to stay locked in one plane is for me.

Looking to trade the Serpintune for an Embie.

I have much respect and admiration for Tru- Arc, I’m thinking it’s just not the best design for how I play.

I know Billy Zoom puts The Synchrosonic on everything. I have an Embie on my White Penguin and it’s functional for what I do.

I’d even offer up a little cash with a trade. Not sure if my base is the finest example around, but I can’t find any issue with it.

16

One of the problems I had was that the nut on the Sperzels wasn't tight enough. It was just loose enough to allow the whole tuner to move as I tuned up but over time the body of the tuner would rotate back putting out of tune again.

17

Well, there IS the Rock Steady Serp. All flat on the bottom, no rocking. Probably full credit for your current bridge in exchange.

18

One of the problems I had was that the nut on the Sperzels wasn't tight enough. It was just loose enough to allow the whole tuner to move as I tuned up but over time the body of the tuner would rotate back putting out of tune again.

– Mr Tubs

I've had this issue too. I hate Sperzels. I should have replaced them with the new Schallers (instead of buying Sperzels again)

19

I read through this and I think you're pretty close on it - although I didn't see the question asked, do you have to retune every string?

20

I read through this and I think you're pretty close on it - although I didn't see the question asked, do you have to retune every string?

– Devil's Tool

Yes, it’s most if not all strings that go out of tune.

21

One of the problems I had was that the nut on the Sperzels wasn't tight enough. It was just loose enough to allow the whole tuner to move as I tuned up but over time the body of the tuner would rotate back putting out of tune again.

– Mr Tubs

Hmm, how do you diagnose this? Is it something that’s visibly obvious? What do I look for? Thanks....

22

I held the tuner key and tried to move it back and forth and could see a subtle amount of movement also when I tightened the nut I was surprised that it was only finger tight.

23

Tuners seem to be tight against The headstock

24

Tuners seem to be tight against The headstock

– Hipbone

Well at least that eliminates that option, best of luck.

25

It's the nut...get a tiny file & open the slots up. FWIW, I'm using .0095" strings and I have no tuning problems.


Register Sign in to join the conversation