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cheap instrument warning

Clean Supper 29 Jan 04 - 07:03 AM
treewind 29 Jan 04 - 07:27 AM
breezy 29 Jan 04 - 07:27 AM
Leadfingers 29 Jan 04 - 07:32 AM
Brian Hoskin 29 Jan 04 - 07:41 AM
Dave Bryant 29 Jan 04 - 07:43 AM
GUEST 29 Jan 04 - 07:46 AM
greg stephens 29 Jan 04 - 07:51 AM
GUEST,Ned ludd 29 Jan 04 - 07:55 AM
GUEST,Strollin' Johnny 29 Jan 04 - 08:09 AM
Banjo,London 29 Jan 04 - 08:25 AM
Dave Bryant 29 Jan 04 - 09:51 AM
GUEST,Strollin' Johnny 29 Jan 04 - 10:11 AM
Grab 29 Jan 04 - 10:22 AM
GUEST,Martin Gibson 29 Jan 04 - 03:05 PM
GUEST 29 Jan 04 - 03:11 PM
dick greenhaus 29 Jan 04 - 03:40 PM
GUEST,obnig hrobdog 29 Jan 04 - 07:11 PM
Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull 29 Jan 04 - 07:36 PM
Cluin 29 Jan 04 - 08:00 PM
moocowpoo 30 Jan 04 - 12:05 AM
Cluin 30 Jan 04 - 12:31 AM
Kaleea 30 Jan 04 - 02:33 AM
Stour Delta 30 Jan 04 - 04:48 AM
Dave Bryant 30 Jan 04 - 06:29 AM
GUEST,Jon 30 Jan 04 - 07:05 AM
Dave Bryant 30 Jan 04 - 10:11 AM
GUEST,Hugh Jampton 30 Jan 04 - 11:24 AM
M.Ted 30 Jan 04 - 12:11 PM
GUEST,Clean Supper 30 Jan 04 - 04:30 PM
Blackcatter 30 Jan 04 - 05:55 PM
Banjo,London 30 Jan 04 - 08:02 PM
van lingle 31 Jan 04 - 10:40 AM
Uncle_DaveO 31 Jan 04 - 11:50 AM
GUEST 31 Jan 04 - 12:11 PM
Uncle_DaveO 31 Jan 04 - 12:50 PM
McGrath of Harlow 31 Jan 04 - 02:16 PM
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Subject: cheap instrument warning
From: Clean Supper
Date: 29 Jan 04 - 07:03 AM

I bought myself a guitar last week. It wa quite cheap and on special but I wanted something I could dangle off a swag without feeling too precious about it. I was prepared that it would be not the sweetest of tones and possibly a little less comfortable to play than the better ones. I WAS NOT PREPARED FOR THE EVENTUALITY THAT IT WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE TO TUNE!!!

An owner of a fretted instrument will be aware that the frets are spaced at musically/mathematically calculated distances to make a scale. As with this one. However, behind the first fret, where the nut should be, was one more fret, a gap of 3/16 of an inch and THEN the nut. [!!!!?] That meant that every fret was in the wrong place and it was impossible to tune it so that open and fingered strings together made a harmony.

I took the strings and nut off and cut back the fingerboard until the nut rested at the start of the first spacing where the unexpected fret had been. I did this with a chisel and a complementary steak knife, a very ignoble procedure and one which I was gutted to have to perform on a musical instrument. I did achieve a passably finished surface on which to put the nut and it now tunes well and sounds fine for what it is.

More than anything, I was annoyed that it is conceivable for an instrument maker to offer something on sale that is so blatantly unfinished, or so shoddily made as to not perform the job it is designed for.

Thankyou for this steam valve.
Clean Supper


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: treewind
Date: 29 Jan 04 - 07:27 AM

I'm not a guitar expert but I think it's quite common for guitars to have a "zero"th fret with the nut behind it as you describe. It is inexcusable for that fret to be in the wrong position, though.

Anahata


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: breezy
Date: 29 Jan 04 - 07:27 AM

so now you sell it on .


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: Leadfingers
Date: 29 Jan 04 - 07:32 AM

My spare guitar is an Earth Series Tanglewood which is not a bad box.
Jowever when Tanglewood first appeared in UK I never saw one of their
instruments where the intonation was correct. At least they got their act together and improved things. If you are looking at a 'Bargain' Instrument Check the intonation and harmonics or you might just be throwing your pennies away. I am glad you were able to sort your problem out Clean Supper, and hope the guitar does what you want it to now.


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: Brian Hoskin
Date: 29 Jan 04 - 07:41 AM

Might be useful to 'name names' here, let us know the make of guitar so others can be wary!


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 29 Jan 04 - 07:43 AM

Ignore the zero fret, as long as the octave fret is halfway (OK there is an "end" adjustment) between the zero fret and the bridge, then the guitar should be tunable. The most probable reason that you were having problems, was that the strings were not sitting in the nut properly (had you fitted heavier ones ?) and therefore not touching the zero fret. All you should have needed to do was to file out the slots in the nut.

I prefer a guitar to have a zero fret as this is much less likely to wear down than the slots in the plastic nut and means that the strings follow the curve of the neck more accurately. It also ensures that the sound you get between a fretted and open string is of a similar tone as they are both resting on metal.


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Jan 04 - 07:46 AM

Anahata, you are right about the zero fret. It's not even an indication of cheapness BTW. My Fylde Falstaff has one and looking at it now I'd say it's about 3/16 of an inch...

My guess with the complaint from the first poster is that assuming the concept of the zero fret was known and we are not looking at a post based on that misunderstanding, perhaps the nut was set too high and somehow failing allow the zero fret to make contack with the strings. I find it almost impossible to imagine that even makers of cheap instruments would make a mistake in the positioning of frets.

Jon


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: greg stephens
Date: 29 Jan 04 - 07:51 AM

What Dave Bryant and GUEST said, at a guess.


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: GUEST,Ned ludd
Date: 29 Jan 04 - 07:55 AM

The zero fret has some advantages and several makers use it. I agree with Jon that the problem more likely came from a badly cut nut, or a badly positioned bridge, which sometimes still happens (fixing one at the moment)


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: GUEST,Strollin' Johnny
Date: 29 Jan 04 - 08:09 AM

I agree with you guys re the 'zero' fret which, for example, Fyldes have. However, Clean Supper's warning about crap intonation should be heeded by all would-be guitar purchasers - I paid about £350 (around $600) for a well-known UK instrument retailers 'own-brand' guitar (cheap in comparison with my Lowden and my Martin, but still a fair wad of money to a lot of people!)and when I got it home I realised it wouldn't play in tune. When I compared the nut to 12th fret measurement against the 12th fret to bridge saddle, it was half an inch out! I'd made the elementary mistake of not checking intonation all the way up the fretboard when I tried the guitar - I let myself get carried away by its nice looks. Fair dues to the retailer who rapidly exchanged it for another one which was OK, but I felt a right prat for not spotting it in the shop.

CAVEAT EMPTOR (which is a posh way of saying 'Buyer Beware!')

Johnny
:0)


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: Banjo,London
Date: 29 Jan 04 - 08:25 AM

Well done Clean Supper!

If you've managed to do that with those improvised tools you obviously have quite an apptitude.

Guitars are cheaper than ever now because they are mass produced by machines.

Quality control is relatively expensive because it is labour intensive, and hence these problems arise.

Cheap flat top guitars also tend to lift at the bridge quite quickly when the "solid spruce top" is poor quality and unseasoned.

The bottom line is you only get what you pay for.

I agree with treewind though.

If you take our friend breezy's advice though, be ethical, point out and explain the modification you've carried out. With your skills you may be on the way to becoming a popular character in your local musical community, which would be far better than a reputation for selling dodgy instruments.

PS. I build mandolins.

Banjo,London


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 29 Jan 04 - 09:51 AM

If you're buying a guitar, the easiest way to check the accuracy of the neck is to compare the pitch of a note fretted at the octave with the harmonic at the same position - they should be the same or very close. It only takes a minute or so to do this and it won't matter if the guitar is not exactly in tune.


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: GUEST,Strollin' Johnny
Date: 29 Jan 04 - 10:11 AM

Exactly Dave - and wasn't I a pillock for forgetting to do it!


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: Grab
Date: 29 Jan 04 - 10:22 AM

I'm going to be an arse here. I'm sorry, but the list of mistakes is too large to let go.

- You bought this cheap instrument without playing it first. You didn't know that cheap instruments often aren't well-made. And only when you got it home, did you find that it wasn't in tune with itself.

- Then, having found it wasn't in tune with itself, you didn't take it back to the shop, or ask on Mudcat for possible suggestions as to what was wrong.

- Then, deciding to fix it yourself instead of seeking advice, you found it had a feature you didn't know about. Again you didn't ask Mudcat whether this feature was normal, or take it into the shop.

- And then you chopped it about to fix the problem, thereby making it impossible to return the guitar to the shop and killing any resale value.

Guitars are totally "sold as seen". Some expensive ones sound crap, and some cheap ones sound lovely. And it's not uncommon for cheap guitars to have bad intonation, bcos you get the workmanship you pay for. The reason guitar shops let you play them beforehand is so you can see which ones to go for, and *no-one* needs a guitar so quickly that they have to buy one "blind" without checking it out.

Graham.


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: GUEST,Martin Gibson
Date: 29 Jan 04 - 03:05 PM

Grab,

Right on. Well stated.


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Jan 04 - 03:11 PM

Totally agree, Grab.

btw 'Clean Supper' was the arse, not you.


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 29 Jan 04 - 03:40 PM

ANyone that spends more than $50 for a guitar he hasn't tried deserves whatever he gets.


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: GUEST,obnig hrobdog
Date: 29 Jan 04 - 07:11 PM

At least read the Sale of Goods Act before asserting that instruments are "sold as seen"


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull
Date: 29 Jan 04 - 07:36 PM

Sale of Goods Act [1968], Goods should be "As described, Fit for their intended purpose, and of merchantable quality"

It seems as though you would have had a good case for returning your guitar and asking for a replacement, repair or refund BUT as you've attempted a repair yourself, the shop will probably tell you to get lost, they could say that any damage was caused by your amateur attmpts at repair.


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: Cluin
Date: 29 Jan 04 - 08:00 PM

You get what you pay for with musical instruments.

That being said, the zero fret was not a defect or cheap knock-off device. Many well-made reputable guitars employ the zero fret. Some people prefer them, saying that if the rest of the notes are fretted then the open note should be too. I have a guitar with a zero fret and it plays fine.

If it wouldn't play in tune, it likely needed a set-up or to have a compensated saddle made. But if it was that cheap an instrument, it likely wasn't worth that bother even. The zero fret does not throw out the spaceing of the rest of the frets. It replaces the nut as the scale length end of the string. That way the nut is just used for spacing purposes laterally across the fingerboard.

I don't know what you did to it to solve the problem, Clean Supper, but it likely improved the set-up. You're lucky in that case.


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: moocowpoo
Date: 30 Jan 04 - 12:05 AM

Now now, Clean supper was not an arse!
I must admit to reading his post and thinking "oh no!!!" and thinking he was too hasty to hack into the guitar, without knowing enough about the instrument. I know a little about the construction of some instruments and have made one in the past but I am still very wary about doing irreversible repairs(or very tricky-to-reverse ones)...Having said all this I know what it feels like to be frustrated by this sort of thing and in the heat of the annoyance you tell yourself " I can do a better job than these hacks"(who, in this case perhaps were not completely incompitent, I have and old swedish guitar with a zero fret,it's ok) and you launch into a repair program with the right amount of intent and not enough expertise.   On that topic, I once tried to install a car radio for a friend and told myself "how difficult could it be?" half way through the process I managed to get smoke to come from the radio, my friend wasn't all that impressed. At this point I decided to admit that I had no Idea of what I was doing.    I'm sure that most of us have been guilty of the know-it-all syndrome at some point in our lives(I know I've re-offended quite a few times) so lets not be too hard on clean supper. moocowpoo


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: Cluin
Date: 30 Jan 04 - 12:31 AM

By the way, the 12th fret should not be exactly halfway between the nut and the bridge. There should be some extra length on the bridge side for compensation. I.E. when you fret a string, you are stretching it, thus raising the pitch slightly more than just decreasing the scale length that much. Therefore a bit of extra compensation length is added to the string at the bridge end, generally a bit more than 1/8 inch (slightly less on classicals), increasing for bass strings on steel string guitars. That's why the bridge is installed on a slant.


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: Kaleea
Date: 30 Jan 04 - 02:33 AM

Unfortunately, there are many makers of instruments who simply do not care that their customers are getting junk ready to be tossed in a dumpster or used for El-Cabonging--preferrably the dirty dogs who allowed the alleged guitars out of the factory in defective manners.   Over the years, students have brought such nightmareish dumpster worthy things which have come from discount houses, hardware stores, tire stores, farm implement shops, & worse. It never ceases to amaze me that brands supposedly "the finest made" are as bad as that.   Want me to name names? . . .
    Some years ago, I bought a Baby Taylor sight unseen (based upon the reputation of the brand) from a "friend." The nonmusical instrument had such wretched intonation that one could place one's finger on a string in one spot of a specfic fret, then move it to a different spot in the same fret on the same string & get a totally different note! The entire lot of Baby Taylors are defective, which is why they decided to make the Big Baby Taylor. I would never have a Taylor, nor would I ever reccommend the brand to anyone--& as a guitar instructor of over 30 years I often am asked what guitar to buy, and I often meet students/their parents at a guitar shop to assist in the choosing of a decent instrument.


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: Stour Delta
Date: 30 Jan 04 - 04:48 AM

Don't be so hard on the guy, it's only buy ******ing about that you find out how these things work.
Be honest who hasn't tinkered about with the nut to alter the action or the string spacings and messed it up only to re-instate how it was originally!
At least it was only a cheapo guitar, anyway it sounds as if it came with all the wrong connectors.


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 30 Jan 04 - 06:29 AM

Cluin - I did mention the "End Effect" (that's what it was called when I did Physics at school) in my posting. It's because strings have to bend when they vibrate and so the actual vibrating length is slightly shorter than the distance between the points at which it's fixed (ie bridge and nut/fret). Because thicker strings are less flexible, they have a longer end effect, which is the reason for the slant on a bridge.


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 30 Jan 04 - 07:05 AM

I see mass production mentioned.

Personally I'd believe mass production teqniques would be more likely to reduce possible errors in fret positioning than increase them.

Jon


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 30 Jan 04 - 10:11 AM

WARNING - Buying cheap instruments can seriously damage your credibility on MUDCAT

:-)


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: GUEST,Hugh Jampton
Date: 30 Jan 04 - 11:24 AM

Jon, Spot on. Quality assurance procedures developed over years of industial experience should ensure the product of a mass production facility conforms to its` proven specification. Any establishment where this is not the case, in our very selective world, must either refine its` processes or go by the board. Also it results in good products at affordable prices; witness the proliferation of industries de-camping to the far east where everyday products including musical instruments can now be obtained and, in general, are of "merchantable quality" because the companies take their destinies seriously.


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: M.Ted
Date: 30 Jan 04 - 12:11 PM

I'm with Grab on this--


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: GUEST,Clean Supper
Date: 30 Jan 04 - 04:30 PM

Of course, this is where I, as the initiator of the thread, say "Oh. Bugger," and realise that I´ve just performed the guitar equivalent of unnecessary tooth-pulling. Never mind, as it works well now anyway, but I did have that tickling at the back of the neck all along that said maybe I´m doing something really stupid here. Not sure that I don´t like it better this way but I do wish I´d been AT LEAST bright enough to send this post first and do the surgery after. Oh well...


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: Blackcatter
Date: 30 Jan 04 - 05:55 PM

Clean Supper - you kind of screwed up, but you're not an arse. We've all made stupid mistakes, The point is to learn from them. You certain sound like that's happened.


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: Banjo,London
Date: 30 Jan 04 - 08:02 PM

I've enjoyed this thread.

And I think Clean Suppers a STAR !

Banjo,london.


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: van lingle
Date: 31 Jan 04 - 10:40 AM

Hey Clean Supper,

Zero fret= don't worry about it. vl


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 31 Jan 04 - 11:50 AM

I guess I must be kind of dense. Despite reading this thread, I can't understand the zero fret concept.

Seems to me that anything outboard of the nut-to-bridge string span should be irrelvant to pitch and fretting. Tone, conceivably, but not pitch. In other words, as I would see it, the nut is the zeroth fret.

How, if at all, am I all wet?

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: GUEST
Date: 31 Jan 04 - 12:11 PM

Dave, the zero fret is within the nut to bridge span. With this setup, the nut acts as a spacer for the strings but it has nothing to do with fret and bridge positioning.


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 31 Jan 04 - 12:50 PM

Okay. I guess I misread the founding message of this thread. Thanx.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: cheap instrument warning
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 31 Jan 04 - 02:16 PM

Whatever else Clean Syupper, you've shown us how we ought to respond when someone points out a mistake. It's very rarely done as honestly and graciously as you just did it!

And you are quite right to have the attitude that, if it doesn't work too well, maybe there's something simple you could do to make it sound better. Often enough that's quite right. Even if what you did wasn't strictly necessary, it sounds as if it worked out all right anyway.

...................

A mild protest at the assumoption that "What you pay is what you get" and the implication that cheap is nasty, pricey is good. Fortunately, there are plenty of excellent cheap instruments. (And there are probably expensive instruemnts which are pretty dodgy, but I don't have much experience at that end of things.)

If we spend a little time finding out what it is that does suit you, and take the care to check that what we are buying meets those requirements, and looking around at alternatives, there are plenty of excellent cheap instruments to be found. Particularly when it comes to guitars, and secondhand guitars at that.


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