New Squier Jaguar tuning issue

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New Squier Jaguar tuning issue

Post by The Coastal Path »

So after a bottle of red I clicked on a link to buy a new Squier Jaguar from a box shifter store. The way you do.

It was immediately obvious it had tuning issues. The bridge design is new to me - the bridge can easily be rocked back and forth on the mounting pins. I assume this is by design, but it seems odd. I've adjusted the intonation so the twelfth fretted note is in tune with the harmonic - or as close as I can get as the bridge saddles won't quite go back far enough...

However if - say - an open A is in tune, the fretted C plays noticeably sharp & this continues up the fretboard until falling back into tune around the 12th fret.

So - have I failed to intonate the guitar correctly? Is it possible a modern CNC made guitar can have inaccurately spaced frets? (this would be a first for me).

Thoughts from the floor?

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Re: New Squier Jaguar tuning issue

Post by zenguitar »

Other things to check would be...

the action at the 1st fret (nut slots are generally left too shallow for most users when the guitar leaves the factory)

and look for excess relief on the truss rod

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Re: New Squier Jaguar tuning issue

Post by Wonks »

Had you fitted new strings? Sometimes a poor string can mess up the intonation.

As Zen says, high nut slots can affect intonation, as can an overly high action.

Don’t assume that a guitar is CNC made, especially if it’s from China. A surprising number of guitars made there are still made using hand routers, jigs and templates that can get worn over time before replacement. Chinese trying to achieve full employment tend to use CNC and full automation only where necessary. Not saying this is true of your Squier, just a general remark.
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Re: New Squier Jaguar tuning issue

Post by Wonks »

The Jag is of course at 24”, a short-scale guitar, so any slight deviation from the correct fret position has a much larger effect on pitch than on a longer scale guitar.

You could always use the StewMac fret position calculator to try measuring the fret positions as a check. https://www.stewmac.com/fret-calculator/

It will be hard to measure with any precision unless you use a digital vernier gauge, and the cheap ones tend to only measure up to 150mm. Measure from the nut to the crown of each fret for the first few frets, then from the last fret you could measure to, to the next bunch of frets etc.

You can always double check with a metal rule. You probably won’t get better than 0.1-0.2mm accuracy for most of the frets, but at least it will show up any frets that are wildly out (though I doubt it).

Always a small chance that the nut itself is slightly out.
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Re: New Squier Jaguar tuning issue

Post by The Coastal Path »

Many thanks for the suggestions - I haven’t fitted new strings so that’s probably a sensible first step - not sure what gauge they are but they feel a little light.

…am surprised the scale length is 24 - the neck actually feels longer (and wider) than most of my other guitars.

Buying guitars blind on line is always a bit of a dice roll - I’ve had several good ones so a problem instrument was probably due 🤓
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Re: New Squier Jaguar tuning issue

Post by Wonks »

The rocking bridge is part of the design. Probably the idea being that the strings stay in position on the bridge when the trem is used and the bridge moves back and forth. I expect it ended up being a mixture of both.

Of course the original bridge design probably depended on the thinnest standard string sets at the time being 11s to keep the strings sitting in their slots, even with the lower string tension from the shorter scale length.

I believe some people use plastic tubing to minimise any wobble.

The offset design does push the neck further out to the side compared to say a Strat.
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Re: New Squier Jaguar tuning issue

Post by The Coastal Path »

It’s an odd design! I might try the plastic tubing idea as to get the guitar intonated it needs to be kept rocked back toward the trem. Not sure what gauge the current strings are by the feel very light - I bought the guitar as I fancied something that would be good for hard strumming so have ordered some 11s - I may even try heavier depending how they feel. I believe Tom Verlaine used 13s and I quite like how those force you to play - at least for this style of guitar.
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Re: New Squier Jaguar tuning issue

Post by Wonks »

13s are fine as long as the action is low so you don’t have to press down too far, otherwise it becomes very hard work. String bending is best forgotten and trem use encouraged instead.
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Re: New Squier Jaguar tuning issue

Post by Martin Walker »

The Coastal Path wrote: Sun Feb 05, 2023 8:53 pm Many thanks for the suggestions - I haven’t fitted new strings so that’s probably a sensible first step - not sure what gauge they are but they feel a little light.

As mentioned by Wonks above, a digital vernier gauge (or digital caliper, typically around £10) is a quick way to check your string diameters.

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Re: New Squier Jaguar tuning issue

Post by BigRedX »

One of the problems with the Jaguar style vibrato mechanism is that from the factory the break angle over the bridge is very shallow which means that the strings are more compliant (feel less stiff) than on other guitars with the same sting gauges. This is fine if you want to do MBV impersonations but it doesn't help with the tuning for more conventional uses.

What a lot of players do is to raise the bridge by several millimetres and then shim the neck to get the action suitably low again. The increased break angle over the saddles reduces the compliance of the strings and everything starts to feel more like your other guitars.
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Re: New Squier Jaguar tuning issue

Post by The Coastal Path »

Martin - thanks for the suggestion of the gauge. Another toy to buy...

BigRedX - this makes sense. The whole instrument is a very different feel to most of my other guitars, and the strings do indeed feel very loose compared with the feel of my other instruments.

I've just fitted 11 gauge strings and they still feel pretty loose - I think shimming the neck sounds like the way to go. The good thing about (relatively) cheap guitars is I never feel too precious about attacking them with my minimal luthier skills... this guitar may well become my next victim.
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Re: New Squier Jaguar tuning issue

Post by Wonks »

BigRedX wrote: Tue Feb 07, 2023 10:14 am One of the problems with the Jaguar style vibrato mechanism is that from the factory the break angle over the bridge is very shallow which means that the strings are more compliant (feel less stiff) than on other guitars with the same sting gauges. This is fine if you want to do MBV impersonations but it doesn't help with the tuning for more conventional uses.

Hmmm. The shallow break angle on most Jags and Jazzmasters (but not all as some of the modified versions have a better overall trem arrangement) certainly reduces the downward force of the strings on the saddle and with lighter strings, you can easily get the classic string jumping out of its correct 'slot' in the threaded rod 'barrel' saddle and moving sideways when bending strings, and maybe even trem use. Those ridges in the saddles have far too fine a pitch to keep the string in place securely. I really don't know why they haven't simply changed them to ones with a wider pitch/deeper slots, it's not rocket science.

Certainly adding a neck shim and increasing the string break angle can often cure the problems of a Jag bridge if you don't fit Mustang style saddles or use heavy strings.

But strings feeling 'less stiff' causing tuning issues? I've never heard that before or come across any problems on my guitars with shallow bridge break angles. And ones with a stiffer compliance can have just as many tuning issues as ones with a much lower compliance.

Fitting Mustang saddles to a Jag or Jazzmaster is one standard fix for the strings, basically because their single deep slot stops the string from moving sideways. But that doesn't alter the string break angle at all and it's probably no worse than the break angle on a top-loading Tele bridge.

As long as you aren't getting any string buzz from the saddle, then there's enough downward force on the saddle for things to work.

Increasing that downward force by increasing the string break angle can certainly alter the tone a bit. Compare the slightly lighter and janglier sound of a top-loaded Tele to the same guitar with rear body stringing.

The main dynamic force applied to a bridge saddle is the back-and-forth movement from the small change in string tension, which occurs at twice the string vibration frequency.

A steep string break angle pushes the saddle down and forwards, creating more friction between the saddle and its baseplate or bridge support, and so resisting the tendency for the saddle to move back and forth in sympathy with the tension changes. With a smaller break angle, there is less overall downwards force and certainly less force keeping the saddle pushed forwards, so the saddle will move just that little bit more as the string vibrates.

What I don't know is quite how that affects the sound, but a lower break angle somehow encourages a brighter sound, either due to less dampening of the higher harmonics or encouraging those upper harmonics over the fundamental. Sometimes you want that brighter sound, sometimes you don't.
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Re: New Squier Jaguar tuning issue

Post by Wonks »

The Coastal Path wrote: Tue Feb 07, 2023 11:07 am The whole instrument is a very different feel to most of my other guitars, and the strings do indeed feel very loose compared with the feel of my other instruments.

I've just fitted 11 gauge strings and they still feel pretty loose - I think shimming the neck sounds like the way to go. The good thing about (relatively) cheap guitars is I never feel too precious about attacking them with my minimal luthier skills... this guitar may well become my next victim.

Don't forget the 24" scale length, That's 1.5" less than a Strat or Tele and 0.75" less than most Gibsons. Not only is the tension less but the frets are closer together, so your hand isn't stretching as much.
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Re: New Squier Jaguar tuning issue

Post by BigRedX »

Almost everything about a fretted stringed instrument is a compromise and improving one aspect will almost certainly have knock-on effects on others (like the relationships between tension/compliance and tone). It's down each player to decide what compromises work for them and what don't.

The OP had expressed concerns about tuning stability and loose feeling strings. My solution should fix both of those. IME the tuning stability is directly associated with additional string length behind the bridge combined with the very shallow break angles involved, and since nothing can be done about the length of string between the bridge and the string anchors, the break angle is the thing to look at.

Only once the OP has done this will they be able to tell if the change in tone is going to be a problem. Personally I've always found that most tonal changes due to setup modifications can be compensated by playing technique, and I'm by no means a virtuoso guitarist.
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Re: New Squier Jaguar tuning issue

Post by Wonks »

Compliance should only come into play once you start bending strings. Friction at the nut and saddle restricts the vibrating string length to between the nut and saddle in normal playing. You may get some small energy transfer to the behind the bridge string lengths due to that constant small change in string tension when a string is plucked through movement of the saddle, but the saddle effectively divides the string into two (and the nut divides it into three).

Once you start bending a string, then enough tension/force is applied to the string to get it moving over the bridge (and the nut). Static friction is greater than dynamic friction, so once that static friction is overcome and the string starts moving over the saddle, the string then moves easily over the bridge until the point where the string stops being bent and the string is effectively stuck to the saddle (and/or nut) once more. Releasing the bent string then allows the increased tension in the behind the nut/bridge area to (hopefully) pull the string back to its original position.

All the time the string is moving over the nut and/or bridge, the extra string length behind the nut/bridge is all part of the string tension calculation, and its a lot easier to bend a long string than a short string, which is why it can feel easier to bend a string on a guitar with a lot of behind the nut/bridge string length. The downside is that for a given string displacement, the pitch doesn't rise as much for a longer string, so you have to bend it a bit more to get it to the desired pitch. You end up with the string under the same tension, but it definitely feels easier to bend the string with those longer overall string lengths.

Badly cut nuts and sticky saddle slots provide more static friction than a well cut nut or bridge slot, which is why bending a string can put a string out of tune as the slot grabs the string before all the extra string tension from bending has been released from the fretboard length of string.

The OP actually stated that he feels the frets are not quite in the right place as whilst the intonated 12th fret note is an octave above the fundamental, on frets below the 12th fret, the notes are a bit sharp. Nothing about tuning stability. Changing the neck angle won't do anything to cure that.

It could of course be that the OP's 12th fret is the one that's slightly out compared to the other frets. On the kit guitar forum I frequented for several years, I certainly came across lots of examples of people measuring fret distances from the nut and some were distinctly out from the stated scale length and the occasional rogue fret was 1mm-2mm out of place.
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Re: New Squier Jaguar tuning issue

Post by The Coastal Path »

BigRedX wrote: Tue Feb 07, 2023 11:44 am Almost everything about a fretted stringed instrument is a compromise and improving one aspect will almost certainly have knock-on effects on others (like the relationships between tension/compliance and tone). It's down each player to decide what compromises work for them and what don't.

The OP had expressed concerns about tuning stability and loose feeling strings. My solution should fix both of those. IME the tuning stability is directly associated with additional string length behind the bridge combined with the very shallow break angles involved, and since nothing can be done about the length of string between the bridge and the string anchors, the break angle is the thing to look at.

Only once the OP has done this will they be able to tell if the change in tone is going to be a problem. Personally I've always found that most tonal changes due to setup modifications can be compensated by playing technique, and I'm by no means a virtuoso guitarist.

To be clear - although I was surprised by the loose feel in string tension, the main issue was less about the guitar staying in tune, and more a problem of correct intonation as notes are playing slightly sharp at the 'cowboy' end of the guitar, leading me to wonder whether the frets might be slightly out of alignment.

As far as the bridge goes, even with it rocked back toward the trem it's not quite possible to adjust the saddles back as far as needed to get correct intonation at the 12th fret. As you tighten the screws that run through springs to the barrel saddle, the screw tips begin to lift toward the strings - so if fully tightened (to maximize the nut to saddle length) the top of the screw begins to touch the string. So a compromise.

With 11 gauge strings the issue seems improved - next step is to try 12s as I think that will get the feel more comparable to my other instruments - and of course may change the intonation settings to boot.

Wonks - with regard to your observations on the brightness of the guitar - it's certainly closer to the bright sound of my tele than my Strat, and acoustically it has a decent ring to it. The neck relief is quite flat (comparable to most of my guitars) but it does choke out somewhat at the higher register. My guess is this is probably best addressed with a fret dress rather than more neck relief...

On the other hand I might just ignore that and turn on a noisy fuzz pedal and hammer the living daylights out of the guitar. I will be the only one that knows.
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Re: New Squier Jaguar tuning issue

Post by Wonks »

If it's a Squier FSR Classic Vibe Jaguar, then on looking at some online, I see they already have Mustang-style saddles, so the string placement should be secure.

Do you have the full-length springs fitted on each saddle? It may be necessary to cut them down significantly in order to get the saddles right to the rear edge of the bridge.

If the screw hole in the rear of the bridge is lower than the hole in the saddle, then moving the saddle back will naturally lift up the front of the adjustment screw. Which means that you either need to file down the base of the saddle so that the hole is level with the hole in the rear of the bridge (which is how they should have been made in the first place), or else you simply cut the screws down to size.

It could be that it's the springs bunching up that are lifting the saddles, in which case cutting the springs down should help that.

Choking out on the higher registers generally indicates that the string height is too low, so the bridge needs to come up a bit. Without seeing the guitar, it's hard to say whether it actually needs a fret levelling (though most guitars will benefit from one), but I'd have a look at the neck relief. With level frets, you actually need very little relief at all. But as you tighten the truss rod and flatten the neck, you pull the strings down all along the neck, but more so on the upper frets; which means that you then need to raise the bridge to compensate.

If the neck relief is already minimal but the nut slots are high, then this will raise the overall action of the guitar, and lowering the nut slots in this instance will improve the action and allow you to raise the bridge a bit so there's a slightly larger angle when fretting the upper frets to the bridge, whilst still keeping a similar action height over them to that which you currently have.

But unless the nut slots are very high indeed, (when they can be safely brought down to a reasonable level) leave the nut slot adjustment until you've got the overall neck relief and bridge height sorted, using a capo on the 1st fret if necessary. Then check the intonation again.
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Re: New Squier Jaguar tuning issue

Post by zenguitar »

Although you say that the neck relief looks quite flat and comparable to your other guitars it might be worth double checking.

Strings choking in the higher register and insufficient range of adjustment on the saddles to intonate correctly are both symptomatic of excess relief on the neck. This often results in the bridge being adjusted too low in order to get a lower action around the middle of the neck.

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Re: New Squier Jaguar tuning issue

Post by The Coastal Path »

Many thanks for the detailed suggestions - much appreciated 👍🏻

Holding down the first and 12th fret the neck relief I would guess is around 1/2 a millimetre. But I think the nut height is possibly just a little on the high side, so I may try a slight lowering. I initially raised the action to get rid of the choking, but this made the guitar just a little too unwelcoming for my liking. It’s always something of a compromise in my experience. I have to say my worst experience in this respect is my Gibson 335 which I’ve always felt was a Friday rush job and have never been quite right.
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Re: New Squier Jaguar tuning issue

Post by zenguitar »

Better to fret at 1st fret and the fret where the neck joins the body to check relief. Using the 12th fret will give a lower measure than the actual relief.

You could comfortably take the relief at the 7th fret to 0.2mm or even a fraction less.

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Re: New Squier Jaguar tuning issue

Post by BigRedX »

To the OP have you actually checked the fret positioning? There are plenty of on-line calculators to help you with this so you no longer need a calculator capable of giving you the 12th root of 2 which is the way I had to do it when I was making fretted stringed instruments in the late 70s.

I would be very surprised if any of the frets are out of position. Mass-produced instruments nearly are all made with CNC machines, and even if the fret slots are hand cut it will have been done with a jig, so it would require a deliberate action to get a fret (or two) in the wrong place. The only thing I can think of is that the nut has been incorrectly positioned (again should be impossible with CNC but slightly more probably than the frets being wrong) or that the nut slots are too high (this is a common feature on more budget factory made guitars).

So after double checking the fret space simply for piece of mind that would be where I would be looking next.

Heavier strings require more backwards movement of the saddles to get them to intonate, so this may well be why you have run out of travel on the saddles, or problems with the intonation screws fouling the strings. There appears to be a school of thought that says that you should use the saddle height adjustment screws to change the action rather than the bridge, but IMO the height adjustment on the saddles for matching the fingerboard radius and the overall bridge height screws should be used to set the action. This should sort out the problem with the intonation screws fouling the strings.

If it turns out that any of the nut/frets/bridge have been wrongly positioned which is preventing the guitar from playing in tune, then you should send it back for a refund or replacement.
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Re: New Squier Jaguar tuning issue

Post by The Coastal Path »

In my original post I had the same thought - that mis-spaced frets are extremely unlikely to be the issue on a modern mass-produced instrument. Also, without some kind of digital gauge I think I'm unlikely to be able to check the positions with the accuracy required - it's obviously fractions of millimetres.

Reading the thoughts shared in this tread, I'm inclined to think the nut slots are likely a little high together with possibly a touch too much relief in the neck, and these two factors together are enough to pull the string audibly slightly sharp when fretting the notes. So I will have a go at those adjustments next and see if that improves things.
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Re: New Squier Jaguar tuning issue

Post by Wonks »

As it's a new guitar, I presume it's one of the Classic Vibe 60s or 70s Squier Jags (rather than the contemporary one).

This is the bridge fitted and there is no individual saddle height adjustment.
Image

The saddles come in three diameters to provide basic string height curvature.

The wide barrels obviously limit the range of forward and backwards movement, as does the tensioning spring. The U-channel bridge really needs to be wider from front to back.
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Re: New Squier Jaguar tuning issue

Post by Wonks »

The Coastal Path wrote: Wed Feb 08, 2023 11:17 am In my original post I had the same thought - that mis-spaced frets are extremely unlikely to be the issue on a modern mass-produced instrument. Also, without some kind of digital gauge I think I'm unlikely to be able to check the positions with the accuracy required - it's obviously fractions of millimetres.

You can use a 1m long metal rule to at least measure from the nut to the 12th fret and check that distance to within 1/2mm, then measure the distance from the nut (by the top/high E slot) to the centre of the top E saddle.

With a 24" scale length, the centre of the 12th fret should be 12"/304.8mm from the edge of the nut. The top E string saddle should always be the one furthest forwards after intonation, and should normally sit somewhere between the nominal scale length 24"/609.6m and 1mm further back. The thicker the E string, the further back it will sit when intonated. You'd normally expect the saddle to be between mid-position and a bit further forward if all is correct.

That should at least give you an idea if the basic neck/bridge positioning is correct.

The guitars are made in Indonesia (not China as I thought they might be), so I'm pretty sure they will be made using CNC machines.
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