Hi guys.  After building my first guitar with a 25.5" scale and three kid-size guitars with 19.125" scales, I'm finding that the notes get sharper as I play up the neck, starting with the first fret.  My tuning (for now) is CGC, and the low C string for instance plays a hair shy of C# at the 12th fret.  I'm pretty anal (some people have other terms) about measurements, and I've checked fret placement with more than one calculator and everything seems to add up.  What's going on?

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Yes, too much thought...

I have been pondering for days what to use for a neck, how to put frets in, etc. I'm trying to learn conventional 6-string fretted and kind of obsessed with knowing what notes each finger is fretting...because the 6x2 dimensional nature of guitar freaks me out vs. saxophone. The position concept is still not sinking in.

So I found a 1x2x33" piece of cedar in the garage today - been out there 1 or 2 years and it's actually flat (as flat as the cement garage floor)! I already had a couple packs of 'fleur-de-lis' cabinet hinges unused from another project, so this is almost building itself! If I could just get the frets to install.

If the style question was directed at me, you'd be accurate in assuming I think about what style I WOULD play...I commute a lot so I use my commuting time to listen to audio taken from video guitar lessons for ear training...a lot of people think that's just plain weird, but I don't find it at all boring and I figure what little playing time I have can be spent playing smarter...I will have to learn some theory eventually to get where I want, so I don't care what people think about that...it's MY commute, and I could be doing far worse things with my time!
@murray
this is really turning into a discussion! :D

i spent months calculating and figuring and looking and researching and drawing and re-drawing... then i finally got the time to try building the thing and it was such a rush job that everything i thought i learned went right out the window.. LOL

i learned a lot from that first build. and the second. the third was a real jem. each time i build, i tighten things up just a little. after that first build i realized i was being much too intellectual about it at first. it's easier to build something and then have specific questions because it has minor problems, rather than to try to prepare one's brain with the entire myriad of things that may come up before hand.

it also seems to me that you may be jumping in to the deep end of the pool a little early. if the thought of six strings and finger positions freaks you out, then maybe you should start with one of the basic designs, like a one string diddley, or a three string fretless, and start your stringed instrument journey there.

i would never reccommend a guitar with six strings to any beginning player anyways. there are lots of tecnhiques and skills that should be built up first before throwing them on a six stringer that requires all four fingers for certain chords, and bar chords, and tons of scale knowlege... to me it's like teaching someone to drive by putting them in the seat of an 18 wheeler rig, with 32(?) gears and so much pre-training that by the time one finally gets to drive, they'd likely lose interest.

in my experience the best first project (or first instrument of any type) should be one that gives a high ratio of success and is not particularly difficult, so that one can become accustomed to the basic concepts, and then work thier way up to the harder stuff.

this applies in an even greater degree when building instruments. i always thought i'd be cool building a good looking six string guitar.. but now that i see just how many tools, how much presicion is involved.. and how much FUN i'm having with the most basic three string fretless.. and i haven't touched my six-string guitar to even PLAY it in over a year..

the whole thing turns in to high art VS low art...

i knew a guy, an artist, that would spend weeks working on a piece of art, only to have mild reviews as people passed. then i saw a guy with a little electric chainsaw walk up to a block of wood on the sidewalk, and in two minutes had reduced it to an awesome gritty, angular sculpture of a bear standing on its hind legs - and the passers by had formed a crowd around him, and simply wend WILD when he finished.

it's the same thing with my primitive guitars. i've had more live performances in the last year with my primitive fretless three string than i have in my whole LIFE with my store-bought six string. i used to play nicely arranged acoustic versions of popular songs, sing with a ton of character, and even pick out bass lines and melodies myself, as i was a solo performance. all this to a mild audience that barely even took notice.

however i started playing gritty, rythym only parts with my CBG and singing, and people love it.

so...

i guess what i'm saying here is that we have a tendacy to over-think things until we finally try for ourselves and find out what really works best for ourselves...

and good luck with your first build! you've found a fleur-de- li styled hinge? that's my favorite style!

however, after the first attempt at using a hinge for a tailpiece, i went right back to the basic - pass-it-thorugh-the-tail-block-method. you see, the hinge creates a pivot point, because it has a little give inside the hinge, and becomes a rocker under lateral stress. i would tighten the low string, and the see-saw effect would cause the high string to gain even more tension.... just thought i'd tell you, because you're really trying to understand all the principles. and yes i mounted the hinge with all three screws, it was the curled metal/pin that had a little play in it, and allowed it to move a bit...

have a great day, and good luck!!
I'm with Crow on not over-planning. Several years ago I started building along with Guitarmaking - Tradition and Technology by Cumpiano (great read) but I never got past the scarf joint and heel. The next step was routing for the truss rod and at the time I couldn't afford a router or the buttload of special clamps you need down the line. I still have that neck blank sitting around! But a CBG can be easily built with just a saw, a drill, and some sandpaper.

Start building. Do whatever stupid thing your imagination comes up with. Cedar neck? Well, it's a softwood but why not? It's easy to work and if it fails you made some of the sweetest smelling sawdust in town.

I say build a fretless 3-string slide machine and quick. You'll gain knowledge, confidence, actually complete something, and you might dig it! Play a little blues shuffle, a couple licks and the Smoke on the Water riff and watch the smiles... people are suprised that what looks like a toy can make some serious tone through my little practice amp. And you should hear it through my 100w 2x12 combo LORDY!

If slide just doesn't float your boat, you can maybe fret it later or I guarantee you will find someone willing to buy it or receive it as a gift. I showed my first build (quick and a bit rough) to a few friends this weekend and 3 people want one lol.
I hear that on the over-planning. Too much thinking can get in the way.
Yow, there's a lot I could tell you about mistakes I've made...

The stupidest one is in my opinion the funniest...my first project was a 'FrankenStrat' for my daughter...all I really did myself was take a stripped body & neck, load the hardware back on and custom wire a pickguard at least three times until it did everything I wanted...which is far too much...

I had it in my head that the tremelo absolutely had to be floating (bidirectional bends), and a luthier friend encouraged that...no one else I know ever heard of that & thought it was crazy...the electronic tuner I used somehow got set to another key (F?) so all the strings were tuned a 4th high: E was A, A was D, D was G, etc.

I'd chase that Strat bridge all over & back getting all six strings tunes & retuned due to the interaction pulling back & forth - I was pretty proud I get that down to a science...but no one else could tune it.

In the morning the action would be up to about 3/8" and I'd break a high E getting it back off the ledger line and on the G clef again! After 4 broken strings I still wasn't gettin' it...figured the nut (the one ON the guitar, not the one building it) was bad, tried roller string trees, and on and on.

Finally my daughter's guitar teacher said check the tuner against a piano...that's when I realized it was transposed...the 10-46 string set felt like 13's. Other people checking it out said it was really hard to bend notes...

...duh...

One thing I would like to do is a fretless 4 string with the neck proportioned like a violin's...my daughter is quite proficient on violin and bought a mandolin and the frets are just 'wrong' to her. She also does a little pizzicato playing with the violin held like a guitar, in addition to her school orchestra 'at-the-chin' pizzicato technique.

She'd probably warm up to a fretless CBG with the same tuning and neck proportions as her regular axe! I guess it's OK to have high goals right? :O)
That is why the saddles on all my acoustic bridge guitars float. Not only the reasons already listed, but different gauged strings will throw off your intonation as well.

Crow said:
when i build a guitar, the setup is not complete until i check the intonation at the 12th fret
if the fretted note at 12 is too HIGH, then the bridge needs to move away, to make it lower
if the note is too LOW, then the bridge needs to move closer, to make it higher.

i'm anal about intonation. i don't even use frets, i play with slide, but you'd better believe that my tuning and marks are VITAL to my ability to play it well. playing with a slide creates a tension/pitch relationship too, that must be accounted for.

i say, (and i've always had good results) to calculate and build exactly according to your planned scale length, and have a movable bridge, so that you can always fine-tune it after building.

keep up the great work!!
Huzza! Josh is quite right!

I too have 'floating bridges' tho I tell my buyers that they have to set the intonation when they change strings. Intonation does change when you change strings/gauge.

-WY

Josh Gayou (SmokehouseGuitars) said:
That is why the saddles on all my acoustic bridge guitars float. Not only the reasons already listed, but different gauged strings will throw off your intonation as well.

"When I teach folks to play slide, I usually tell them to stick out a finger."

NO, NO, not THAT finger!
The cedar is still straight.

I got the red oak plank surface planed & ripped & returned to me today. The guy who did it for me said it was high-moisture 'sapwood', very unstable. Turned right back into banana-boards after coming out of the planer.

I guess that's why it was $1.25 or $2 for 1x4.5x48"

Interestingly, the two sticks (~ 1x2-1/4 x 48) face to face LOOK flat, until you sight the stacked boards close to your eye and you can see they both have identical bow. Flip 'em around and it looks terrible.

I guess cedar is the starter...

Oh yeah, tuners...I thought about zither pins as economical, but can you imaging tuning with wrench and no gearing? (Quit whining, plenty of people use them, even zither-luthiers, right?)
And for zither pins, you need to have your wrench handy. I have enough trouble finding a pick.

Murray said:
The cedar is still straight.

I got the red oak plank surface planed & ripped & returned to me today. The guy who did it for me said it was high-moisture 'sapwood', very unstable. Turned right back into banana-boards after coming out of the planer.

I guess that's why it was $1.25 or $2 for 1x4.5x48"

Interestingly, the two sticks (~ 1x2-1/4 x 48) face to face LOOK flat, until you sight the stacked boards close to your eye and you can see they both have identical bow. Flip 'em around and it looks terrible.

I guess cedar is the starter...

Oh yeah, tuners...I thought about zither pins as economical, but can you imaging tuning with wrench and no gearing? (Quit whining, plenty of people use them, even zither-luthiers, right?)
Once you use a bar, barre chord the position of the nut is no longer relevant. Or for that matter if you play a scale that contains no open strings. Effecitively it is not the problem as it removed from the equation. Compensated nuts are for open notes and chords.
Don

Diane in Chicago said:
But if you find that you have a dime's width at the nut and a nickel at the 12th fret, and you are still "sharp-ing" at the frets nearest the nut, then you can - on the next build, sadly - use a trick I got somewhere on here a really really long time ago and am unlikely to find again, but I'll look and if I find the link I'll post it. It solved that problem for me, and this is it:

When I lay out my fret markings, I move the zero/nut mark back between 1/32 and 1/16 of an inch, to elongate the distance between the zero and all the other frets by that little amount. The extra length makes all the other notes a bit flatter and fixes the "sharp-ing" problem on the lowest frets. By the time to you get to the upper frets, the change becomes imperceptable and voila. I believe this is called "intonating the nut" -- or in my case, the zero fret.

Hope that helps!


Ah ha! the original thead - it is the Wes Yates post at the bottom of the page.
http://www.cigarboxnation.com/forum/topics/scale-length?id=2592684%...
Yes, I find most of my builds require about an additional 1/8 of an inch from the 12 fret to the bridge(move bridge back)compared to the length from the nut to the 12 fret.


Larry McInnes said:
I hear that on the over-planning. Too much thinking can get in the way.

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