28 November 2013

General: comming soon

Comming soon

There are four gain pedals I REALLY NEED to test and, they will come very soon.
As soon, as I can put my hands on, I will create some review/demo video with all them alone and combined together.

Pedals to come are:

Jetter Jetdrive (which will take a bit longer to be delivered)
Suhr Shiba Drive Reloaded
Xotic SL Drive
Suhr Riot Reloaded

I am hopping to cover my gain needs with those and, if I like the Jetter, I am planning to get some more.
While I love Weehbo pedals, I am finding they are awesome alone but, hard to stack together and, I love to have gain pedals that work as pieces of a puzzle that I can redefine by combining several pedals together.
Also, Weehbo doesn't have a particular take of a TS alike overdrive neither a light all-purpose overdrive to enhance other overdrives or distortions.
I am missing that flexibility and, I hope the Jetdrive can fill that hole.

The Shiba seems also a good take of a TS and, lots of people talks about its goodness so, why don't try it.

The Xotic SL Drive seems to cover those Super Lead tones that I love so much, in a very practical and slim pedal. I was a bit disapointed with the amount of gain in the JCM Drive but, it seems that the JVM hasn't the same outstanding sound of the JCM Drive.
In my book, that SL seems to cover that intermediate gain I am missing between the JCM and the JVM drives.

The Suhr Riot is one of the most sought-after hi-gain distortion pedals but, the hearings I did of their first version, sounded to me a tad dark, noisy and compressed.
Suhr is now offering the Reloaded version of both, the Shiba Drive and the Riot.
I've seen the videos of Pete Thorn and, liked!.
Most of videos are focusing on D-tunning which is a bit deceptive to me, since I am usually working with standard tuning. But Pete's videos give me a closer approach to my applications.
So, I am expecting the Riot can do a better job than the Bastard, which still sounds to me as having a blanket on the cab (like an small Mesa combo).

Will I ever end my quest for tone?.
I dunno, but the trip is always exciting!.
I love (good) pedals so, I am waiting those with open arms.

Stay tuned

Accessories: Testing V-Picks plectrums with traditional shapes


Moved by the mood and own curiosity, some years ago I was testing some V-Picks plectrums.
In that time, I had the sensation that the material which they were made and their finishing were outstanding but, the size and shapes were uncomfortable for my playing.

Just by casuality, I've seen that V-Picks was delivering some picks with very accepted traditional shapes.
The shape I like more is the one that corresponds to Dunlop Jazz III pickups. This size is just perfect for me but, I can live with traditional Fender Shell pickups shape, as well.

So, I was very curious to test V-Picks take of those two highly accepted shapes and, I am really happy with results.

V-picks Small Pointed Pearly Gates and Tradition plectrums

See this picture (click for full size):

As you can see, they are close in shape to "originals" but, not exactly the same.

The Pearly Gates (first pick, on left hand) is close to the Dunlop Jazz III (second) but, while the upper angles of the Dunlop are smooth, the V-Picks has three clear angles.
That makes it a bit less comfortable on hand, to be honest but, in other side, you have 3 exactly-the same points you can use to play so, if one worns you still have two more to use, which gives a longer life to such a pickup.
One of the issues with those Dunlop Jazz III (even the Ultex model) is that they worn really fast, which affects to the accuracy of your picking technics.

The third pick is the V-Picks Tradition, compared to a typical Fender-alike Shell pick (forth).
See that, in this case, the upper angles aren't so smooth as in the original one, which makes that pickup slightly less comfortable. But, once again, they are sharped in a way that you could use any of the three points for your picking but, being the natural point more appropiated for that.

Even that shapes are, overall, very close to original ones, they aren't exactly the same. More than this, the materials are totally different and, the thicness is the most relevant difference.
V-picks seem to be twice thicker than the original models.

But, don't leave that thickness to fool you. Borders of those picks are so awesomelly beveled and filed that it's a pleasure to play with them. Also, that extra thinkness increases the grip of the pick so, it's really comfortable on hand.

It took me about 1 hour to be used to those V-Picks but, as soon as I was comfortable with them, I've noticed a better precision in my picking, playing smoothly.
Surprisingly, that extra thickness (and, at the end, mass) wasn't increasing the attack and making strings to bump out of the nut. I would say that they've worked smoother than the original ones.

After a couple of days, I went to test back the original ones and I had weird sensations. They seemed to me so slim that were tasteless to the touch and handling!!!.

It's really curious how picks impact to me.

Well, from those two models, I am feeling more comfortable playing those Pearly Gates, both because of its shape and because of its sound. I think it has a smoother attack than the Traditional, is more comfortable on hand and, better to get pinch harmonics.

Guitars: Testing wax potted Seth Lover with A8 magnet


In a previous article (http://hermeticoguitar.blogspot.com.es/2013/11/guitars-magent-swapping-and-wax-potting.html), I've shared with you the process of wax potting and magnet swapping that I did for a Seymour Duncan's SH-55b Seth Lover (bridge) pickup.

The aim of such a modification was to get rid of two issues.
First one was to remove feedbacj in such a pickup, which made it unable as soon as even the lightest overdrive was applied to the sound.
Second goal was to raise the output level of such a pickup, without compromising the tone, to achieve a better balance with that Seth Lover and the two Seymour Duncan's SM-1 Firebird mini-humbuckers on Neck and Middle positions.

Do I succeed?.
Well... partially.

Goal 1: to remove feedback by wax potting the pickup

As I've explained in article linked above, I wasn't using the correct wax / parafine proportion, since I hadn't any bee wax available. I was using a set of parafine candles to do the potting.

The bath needs 80% of parafine and 20% of true bee wax, to achieve the right balance to penetrate every quatter and to remain there. Parafine is very liquid and bee wax very dense so, just the proportion mentioned above is the right one for a right potting work.

I did that potting without following the right "formula" so, I wasn't expecting good results.
But, I would say that at least, I was able to remove around the 90% of the feedback issues.
Currently, I can use the pickup under overdrive and, I just have feedback under high gain distortion, which is more than I expected, to be honest.

I know there are still some things that I should do to try to fix the feedback issues, as by example, to substitute the springs with some rubber tube.
But there is also something that worries me. This guitar has metallic pickups rings, that could produce micro-vibrations against the pickup cover and, therefore be part of that feedback issue.

So, I am still not done with feedback issue but, there are some steps to follow first.

Goal 2: to increase pickup output without compromising its sound

This goal was achieved but, even that the original output was clearly raised, those mini-humbuckers are still having a huge output level.
At least, now I can better balance the output levels.
Respect of sound, if you are used to Seth Lover's sound YOU, better than me, should be able to determine if the original sound was preserved after swapping the stock magnet with an AlNiCo Roughcast A8 magnet.


I did a video recording the testing session I had.
The guitar isn't fine tuned, still. Action and rest of set up are still not finished so, the axe isn't comfortable to play, actually.
Also, pickups heights are a bit too much, to my taste so, the sound can go a tad compressed under gain.

This is also an oportunity to you to hear the Firebird style mini-humbuckers, if you never did it.
In a three pickups axe, as this Firebird of a friend of mine, the combinations with that middle pickup bring a broad spectrum of sound nuances. Just playing with volume pots in one or more pickups, the sound can change really radically, from warm to stratish single-coil.

I am quite sure that, once I fine tune this axe, it will be a real sound-making-machine.
I was greatefully surprised with the sound and power of those mini-humbuckers and, after this magnet swapping, the Seth Lover can be part of the sound equation.

20 November 2013

Pedal Effects: Hermida Audio Zendrive and Tiki Drive


Note: this article was already published in my old Spanish Version of this blog, around September 2011. I am just revisiting it here, in English.

One of the kind of effects I love the most is a good overdrive. The OD allows you to simulate the sweet spot of tube amps, without having to go so louder in that amp.

There are a lot of overdrives and, while some just try to "push" the tubes (as the Ibanez TS-808), others just overwrite amp's sound (as Boss SD-1). There are transparent (like the Timmy) or coloring ones (the most).

To my ears, those overdrives that push tubes sound best, because they can force the tube itself to extract its rich harmonical content but, of course, you need a certain minimum volume in your amp to have a good sound with some of those.

In other side, those that overwrite the sound can work really good with solid state amps, since they deliver a tubular sound to those.

A transparent overdrive is what we need if we love the natural tone of our amp but, for this, a nice clean booster can work, also. A pushing colorant overdrive will push the tubes but will add something else to the sound and, that's something that we want some times.

Probably the most classic overdrives are the Boss SD-1 (overwriter), MXR Distortion+ and Ibanez TS-808 (and family).

Most of overdrive pedals that you can find in the market are just a redesign off one of those, trying to remove something that the maker didn't liked and to add something else that the maker wanted to hear.
From all, the TS-808 is probably the "father" with more "childs" world wide. It seems to be the "barely perfect" overdrive but, everybody tries to make it perfect (to his/her hearing!).

Yes, I've got an Ibanez TS-808 reissue and, it brings you that well known bluesy and rocky sound, with recesed basses and trebles and a good presence in mids and an overall tasty warm tone. But, it tends to go undefined when pushed hard, and specially when combined with other gain pedals.
Also, it delivers its best when your amp is already boiling, with a good volume level so, for quieter applications, if your amp has 30W or more and you have a quiet volume, this is not the best OD to choose.

I've got an OCD, also. Versatiler than the TS and, which can work better at quieter volumes. But, this is a pedal that tends to have some impedance issues and that react very differently depending on which pedal is stacked before and after.
The OCD has a broader dynamic range and a wider gain range, but it has excesive low content to my ears.
When pushed hard, it enters in tight distortion territory, with asymetric clipping (sharper and coder than TS).

As none seems to fully satisfy me, I am in the market again, searching for alternative overdrives. I was after some TS-alike overdrive but, clearer and with a better dynamics.
After watching some Youtube videos, three names where sounding as candidates: Paul C's Timmy (or Tim), Klon Centaur and Hermida Audio Zendrive.

As a transparent overdrive, probably the Timmy is the natural election.
To me, the Centaur and Zendrive sound similar but, I liked more how the Zendrive seems to retain the dynamic range and, its voice sounds more interesting to me, at this moment.

In other side, as classic distortions, the Boss DS-1 and MXR Distortion+ are the platforms that everybody seems to take as a basis for a re-design. The ProCo The Rat is a (successfull) derivate of the MXR Distortion+ and, from those, The Rat is the one that more organic and powerful sounds to me.

There are more modern designs, that more or less, try to mime the sound of the high gain channels of a certain amp (Mesa Boogie, Soldano, Diezel, Bogner, 5150, ...), totally overwriting the natural sound of your amp.

So, once more, I am in the market for a distortion unit, with a classic vibe (as the Rat) but, with a better EQ control, better note to note definition and more usable gain range. Hermida Audio Tiki Drive seemed to me so interesting as to try it.

So, I've finally ordered both pedals, the Zendrive and Tiki Drive and, that's all about this article.

Hermida Audio's (lack of) Customer Service

Before going to my impresions about his pedals, I would like to complain loud about the lack of customer attention of Hermida Audio.

Since you cannot buy his pedals thru any distributor but, only thru his web site, you have no other options than order there your pedals.

I've placed my order on 26th July but, because of an Internet issue, my order was duplicted.
Intantanely, I've sent a mail to Hermida, warning about the issue and, explaining that the first order was already paid but, that I needed them to delete the second duplicated one.
Up to now (September), they didn't answered back to that email and, my duplicated order is still there, in there web page.

I was also interested on to know if there was waiting queue and, which would be the expected delivery time.

A week later, I've received an standard mail saying that my order would be delivered soon, answering NONE of the questions in my mail.

On 10th August, I receive a Paypal mail saying that my order was delivered, via US Postal Service, with the tracking number and link to USPS page.

I was checking the status every day and, it never changed from "delivery documents received", as if Hemida wasn't delivered the parcel at all.

While I was waiting without news, I've sent one more mail asking for techincal questions, as the recommended way to stack both pedals and, asking about the status of my order.

On 25th August, already upset because the lack of attention and information, I've sent one more mail to the three addresses listed in Hermida's page, warning them about the fact that during 15 days, the tracking information didn't changed its status and that, in my understanding they didn't deliverd that parcel to USPS and, if they did it, I would like them to talk to USPS and investigate about my parcel situation.

On 28th August, without any mail, I see that USPS tracking page is updated. The parcel was received on 26th August so, just one day after my last mail and, the 28th it was ready on Spanish Customs.
The 31th August, I had those pedals at home, after clearing Customs taxes.

  • Mr. Hermida answers no mail back. It doesn't matter to me if he is really busy. It's his function to delegate to someone else that task. Otherwise, the customer feels like a shit and, with the suspect of 'I've lost my money'. Maybe he is really friendy by phone but, he cannot pretend that we waste more money in transcontinental calls than the pedals cost themselves!!!.
  • I supose that, to "calm down the beast", he indicated a false delivery date 15 days before the delivery took real place. If the intention was to calm, results were the oposite because, that lack of feedback was making me really nervous.
I don't know which kind of issues Hermida Audio has but, clearly they cannot attend questions of potential or real customers.

Seen that and, taking into account that the Zenkudo sounds as good or even better than the Zendrive and that, it's more versatile and every customer knows the status of his order at any moment, I will choose another continent next time.

Even knowing about the existence of that Zenkudo, I went for that Hermida Zendrive because some kind of "hispanic patriotism". I wanted to help to a smart hispanic with its business.
I am today doble upset with my decision, even that those two pedals sound really good.


Both pedals come in an annonymous cardboard box, without any indication, neither the maker or model.
Inside, the pedal wrapped in bubble plastic and, nothing else.
I am missing few words about how controls interact and, some sample settings to have a reference about possibilities of each pedal.

Size is more or less as MXR pedals and, they are coated just in the front side of the pedal but, with really good looking motives, to be honest.

They look sturdy and, made of quality pieces.
Inside the sensible components or key design parts are covered with some plastic substance to hide design decisions. Something that, seeing the amount of clones available in Internet, wasn't so successful.

Hermida Audio Zendrive

The Zendrive was designed to emulate the sound that Robben Ford was achieving in a very determined song, thru his Dumble amp.
At the end, Hermida ended with some kind of Dumble-in-a-box pedal.

I cannot confirm such a thing and, I doubt there is a lot of people that could ever compare his pedal to a real Dumble amp.

But, comparisons doen't matter to me. I am just interested on how it sounds, independently on how much it resembles that Dumble amp and, Youtube videos made me really interested on it.


Controls de overall output level of signal.

Controls the amount of gain given to the signal and, responsible to push the amp to excite its own harmonics.

Controls de amount of trebles and basses and, it's highly dependent on Voice settings.

This knob changes the overall character or voice of the overdrive. On left positions, the sound goes darker and warmer, more like a Bassman or Dumble. To right, the sound seems to bump mid-trebles, going closer to a Marshall.


Easy. You set the output volume and setup the gain level and, tweaking together Voice and Tone you look for your desired foundational tone for this overdrive.

My impresions

This pedal clearly colors the sound but, its clear and defined at same time. Without having the oportunity to plug my guitar in a Dumble, the sound can cover from Bassman to Marshall with a great detail and a very human-like voice.

The overall sound resembles an old-school tube amp, simple design, harmonical rich and very vocal sounding. It gives to me the impression of to be playing an amp on its right spot, where you can control the break up level with the strenght of your picking.

The pedals has great dynamics and perfectly responds to the strenght and attack of your picking, without loosign definition and, with that kind of "micro-tubular-explosions" that I love to dead.

Stacked with other gain pedals deliver excellent results. I've tested it with a RAT2 into the Tiki and into the Zendrive and, finally those to a Xotic EP Booster and, even that the resulting sound has an expectacular gain, it never looses note to note definition. Just what I was looking for.
Even with that excesive gain, to clean the sound with your guitar's volume knob is quite easy.

It delivers a great amount of middle-lows (similar to TS-808), which can make it a tad difficult to cut the mix but, with the help of Voice and Tone knobs, it's possible to find the right place in the EQ field.

Essentially, this pedal seems to get all the best from the voice of a TS-808, removing its deffects and enhancing its bests.

Hermida Audio Tiki Drive

The Tiki Drive was specially designed for guitarist Ellion Aston, who wanted a Zendrive but, with lot of more gain available on demand.
That high gain ratio is achieved cascading a couple of amplification stages, each one with its distinctive voice.


Controls are exactly the same as the Zendrive but, with the exception that the Tiki Drive adds a second gain pot.


Each gain control has a slightly different voice so, you should check different mixes of Gain 1 and Gain 2 until you achieve the exact gain character you are after.
With Volume, we set up the output level and, with Voice and Tone we get the overall character and EQ of the distortion.

My impresions

This pedal delivers a gain very close to a RAT but, with posibilities to cover from the typical Zendrive settings (with Gain 1 off) up to the high gain levels of RAT but, always maintaining an outstanding definition.

As a difference respect to Zendrive, there are light touch of "fuzz" effect, that pops up sporadically.
The sound remains well defined note by note, even in extreme gain settings.

To play a bit, I've stacked a RAT 2 into the Tiki Drive, this into the Zendrive and, this into the Xotic EP and the results were impressive!. A massive gain but, with outstanding definition, like in a good Peavey 5150.

Even that it sounds awesome alone, I am really happy to see how good it stacks with other gain pedals.


A couple of pedals of this quality well deserve a detailed video, covering the full range of each control and, checking how well they combine with rest of pedalboard.

In those videos you will hear and see each pedal in detail so, you can take your own conclusions.


Tiki Drive

19 November 2013

Pedal Effects: TC Electronics Hall of Fame Reverb


Note: this is an article published around August / 2011 in my old Spanish version of this blog and, that I am revisiting here, in English.

The reverberation effect maybe was create to fix a "historical error".
In early times, musical recording where made by using a couple of mics, to get the stereo sound on the room, to be recorder in some tape system.
The issue with that method was that the whole band should work as a precision clock.
The smallest error would force to the whole band to record everything again and, recording sessions are expensive and time consuming.
Also, these kind of recordings were able to catch other unwanted noises that were present in the room without no one having noticed them but, you know, is surprisingly what mics can catch!.

With the born of multi-tape systems, also born the idea to record separately every instrument in a track so, this would let you to record again just the track of the instrument that failed during performance.
But, since the new recording was made without the rest of band, the ambience sound of the recorded track, didn't matched the ambience sound of rest of tracks.

So, there was the need to completely isolate each instrument from the rest.
For this, separated recording rooms were prepared and, acoustically treated to remove some sonical aberrations, as "comb effect", "room modes", etc. That lead to create "dry rooms" (where you can clap and have no echo feedback).

And all that was nice to isolate instruments and to focus just on the parts that failed before. That speeded up the workstream of recording tasks. But, the big drawback is that dry sounds doesn't like to human hearing. Together with the original source of sound, we need to hear the complex echoes that are being generated while the original source starts to bounce against the several objects it finds while traveling. This is key for us to clearly identify distance and direction of the original source. This was key for a hunters specie, as ours.

If in real world we can see vocals in a first line, with keyboards and guitars in a second and, drums and bass guitar in a third line, in a dry recording everything comes to a first line, going from a "3D picture" to a "2D picture".

So, we were successfull by isolating the instrument from the rest but, to that recording all the right spatial information was missed so, engineers started to test artificial ways to restore the ambience to push every instrument back to the line in that 3D representation of sound.

First reverberations were made as Reverberation Rooms, were they reproduced the dry sound and, they recorded again the reverberated sound produced in such a room. This is a complex reverberation information that depends basically on dimensions and material of the room. Have you ever seen a ROOM reverberation effect in any pedal or rack effect?. Then, you know what it means, now.

Fender made some boxes full of springs in their amps. The signal was sent to a springs unit. A tube was increasing the power of the signal to create some vibration on those strings and, the results of such a vibration was mixed with the original signal. This is the type of reverberation known as SPRING reverberation.

In studios, a new way of reverberation was used, by means of a series of metallic plates to generate such a reverberation, which delivered brighter echoes. This reverberation types is known as PLATE reverberation.

The in-depth study of spaces, how echos are being generated, mixed and spread, which frequencies are being reinforced or dimmed and many other variables, were key for a new reverberation approach and, we can see some emulations of the reverberation characteristics that can be found in certain spaces, like stadium, cathedral, bath room , cave and, anything else a sound designer was interested on.

That spacial emulation was evoluting to a impulses reverberation. For this, a signal is sent in a certain real space and, how the signal evolutes in time is being recorded in many variables at same time, creating an impulse file. This "sonic fingerprint" is being used to modify any other signal and, in that way, results seem to be closer to real world.
The big issue with impulse reverberation is the kind of algorithms that are needed for an accurate representation of the original impulse and, that means a lot of processor resources, what makes this kind of plugins really heavy for a PC.

The amp's reverberation (springs) is one of the typical effects that a guitarist uses but, such an effect is switched out when recording the guitar and, later, studio quality reverberations will be added to guitars track, by example.

Therefore, a reverberation pedal should be of help to us if our amp hasn't such an effect and, if we are playing with our band or alone with some backing track.
Usually, in a live performance, our sound goes thru a good mixing desk and, it's possible that the engineer will choose its own rack effects for that task.

Currently, I've go a Line6 Verbzilla that sounds with a certain "digititis" and, that doesn't fully convinces me. I am running it in front of the amp (the Night Train hasn't FX loop, by example) and, specially combined with gain pedals.

In studio world, reverberations from TC Electronics have a big reputation (specially those coming with their system 6000). As I already decided to go for a Flashback (delay) pedal, I wanted to test their Hall of Fame, as well.

And, this is all about this article. I will give my impressions will testing this pedal effect.

TC Electronic Hall of Fame Reverb


This pedal comes in a very small cardboard box, very "marketed" with serigrhapy.
Inside, the pedal, a user's manual (well, a DIN A2 sheet in several languages), some ads, a TC Electronics sticker and a USB cable.

The pedal has an unsealed battery inside so, you can choose to install that battery or to feed the pedal with son AC adaptor.

To open the pedal is really easy. The whole bottom plate is removed with the help of a big centered screw, with an slot where you can fit any coin so, you don't need a screwdrive for this.

Inside, the complete circuit is hidden by a metallic cover and, just the battery slot and, a micro-switch with two switches is visible.


On its sides, it has a couple of inputs and outputs so, it works in real stereo.
In the upper side, there is some USB port, that will allow to update the user bank (called Toneprint) and, an iput for a 9V adaptor.

Rest of controls lay over the frontal side and, are as follow:

Fx level
It's the volume of the wet (effect) signal. The amount of processed signal that is added to the original signal, which goes directly to output without processing.

Time of decay of the revereration effect, that is, how long is the effect respect to the original sound.

Allows to modify the overal tone of the reverberation effect.

Reverb Type Selector
Allows you to choose between 11 distinctive reverberation effects, which will be described below.

A toggle micro-switch allows you to choose between 2 different types of pre-delay. Up is a short pre-delay. Down, a long pre-delay.
Time between direct and indirect reflections.

Pedal switch
Switches the effect on and off.


Reverberation types

This unit includes 10 different types of reverberation. Following the order seen on the selector, these are the algorithms.

Corresponds to the very first reverberation type used in studios, as discussed in the introduction.
Is about an small room, where most of reflexions are being absorved by soft materials, being the sound reflected mainly by walls and windows.

Wide and diffuse reverberation. Like a big hall but, it adds somewhat an accoustic character to the sound. Very useful for percusive sounds.

Typical amp spring reverberation.

Studio plates reverberation type. Bright and diffuse.
Very useful as a clean reverberation for guitar.

It uses a gate to cutoff the decay in reverberation tails.
Broadly used in studios for snare and kick in '80s.

Reverberation modulated with a vibrato effect.

Dirty and low quality reverberation effect. For very special uses.

The kind of echoes you can hear in a bathroom. Strong effect.

Ambience reverberation. Very short and, simulates a very natural space. Very useful to give just a bit of ambience to dry recordings, with a very close mic.

Cathedral simulation. Wide and diffuse and, emulates the echoes procudes with tight objects of different size that you could find inside a church.

This is a user writable bank.
If you download the proper software from TC Electronics site and, you use the USB cable that comes with such a pedal, you can overwrite the stock algorithm with any kind of reverberation effect you like. You have complete control over every parameter.
You can, as well, download one of the professional Toneprint files that some people already designed.

Fine tuning the reverberation effect

Once you choose the type of reverberation, you should fine tune the sound, controlling tails with Decay knob.

You can drastically change the effect with that Pre-Delay switch, for any type. This switch controls the time between the direct and indirect reflexions. The greater the pre-delay time, the closer it sounds (more "in your face"), because early direct reflexions mean closer walls.

Bypass y Kill-Dry modes

As we mentioned, when removing the bottom cover, there is a small micro-switch with two switches.
One of them controls if the pedals should work as True Bypass or Buffered Bypass.

When the virtual length of the cable from guitar to amp is long enough, there is clear lost in tone and, the chain can benefit of a buffer at the beginning and the end of the chain. But, to activate a buffer before vintage pedals like wah and fuzz can be worst than leave that tone as is. So, you should try how it works in your case.

When we activate the Buffered Bypass mode we can, also, to remove the original (dry) signal in the output of this pedal. This is useful if you are using this pedal inside a Parallel FX Loop in your amp.

My impresions

My main interest on this pedal was to cover the lack of reverberation that some of my amps have and, therefore, I was more interested in to use it in a conventional mode, without excentitries.
Because of this, I think there are videos enough in Youtube that you can check and, I wasn't thinking on doing one by myself, because I think I couldn't add anything else.

So I was trying the different options to finally choose that one that better worked in my case.

To me, the sound has some digitits that its more clear while playing the guitar alone. Some settings, where the level of effect is high and the decay is long, show that digital artiffacts, which are more clear during the attack phase of the sound (where you could even hear some kind of chask) and, during the release phase (some metallic touch).

As discussed, those artiffact are usual in digital pedals and, you can hear them more or less depending on the quality of its converters and signal processors.

But, once the sound is being integrated in the mix, it's excellent!.
I've tested it with some backing tracts and that digitits sensation disapears (it also helps to reduce the amount of effect or the decay time) and, the sound is, overall, very satisfactory.

I went for every reverberation type and, in my opinion, the guitar sounds better with not so wide reverberations, defined and not so long.
For a classic sound, the SPRING type gives us the typical amp reverberation sound.
The PLATE type is more bright and helps to clean the sound.

Wide reverberations, as CATH or HALL, seem to push the sound of the guitar to the back and, can be of interest for more ambiental sounds.

Compared to the Line6 Verbzilla, the Hall of Fame seems to work better and, very specially under distortion, where the Verbzilla goes dark and confuse.

Esentially, this pedal brings you 10 different modes of reverberation and, each one is very distinctive of the rest and has some specific application, which gives a great versatility to it.
While the SPRING mode is the one closer to amp's reverberations, it hasn't the warm character of the real deal, sounding to me more metallic but, I recognize that, once in the mix, the results are really good.

I was combining thsi pedal with the rest of the pedal board, getting a great sound (barely studio-alike) and, it work really good together with the TC Electronics Flashback Delay (already reviewed in a previous article).

Guitars: Magnet swapping and wax potting a pickup


When I was working on the Epiphone Firebird of a good friend of mine, I decided to go with a couple of Seymour Duncan's SM-1 (Firebird mini-humbuckers) for Neck and Middle positions and, I (wrongly) bought a Seymour Duncan's SH-55b (Seth Lovers) for Bridge.

I've found two issues with Seth Lovers. First, those mini-humbuckers have a hot output and, far away of the weak output of the Seth Lovers. Second, that Seth Lovers comes unpotted (to be period-correct), which results in an awful feedback, as soon as the slightly amount of gain is added (even with a light overdrive).

Issue with feedback is usually fixed by wax potting (or re-potting) the pickups, but output can be changed  well re-winding coils (more turns and/or thicker wire), which would dramatically change the foundational tone of such a pickup or, well swapping its magnet, which could eventually modify the tone, as well but, not so dramatically as re-widing it.

Well, I am not an expert (by now!, he he he) on which effect in tone has a certain magnet in a certain pickup so, I went to Seymour Duncan's forum and asked there to the experts. My forum mate LtKojak was so kind to send me one of the series of A8 magnet bars that he makes / sells for this mod.
If you are in Europe area and your are in the market after some good magnets for guitar applications, don't hesitate to contact that guy. He knows his stuff and will guide you about the right magnet for your needs.

This blog's article is all about how to swap a magnet and, even how to wax potting your pickup, with some guidance and the help of some pictures.

I will add some "magnet tonal guide", as ellaborated by people that knows that stuff really good.
This should help you to choose which magnet can bring you what you are a missing in your current pickup.

As a side note, I would say that A8 was selected in this case because, it clearly increases de output, respect of stock magnet and, because it does it in a very transparent way (without re-equing the pickup).

Magnet Swapping

To me, the really hard part of Magnet swapping is just the difficulty to remove pickup's cover.
For this, be sure to have on hand a soldering iron of 80W or higher!.
Pickup cover and plate have a big surface to disipate the heat so, you will need there a powerful iron that could instantaneusly heat the area were cover and plate were soldered together in factory.

Here we have the Seth Lover, a manual unsoldering pump and a 80W soldering iron (click on the picture for full size):

Focusing on pickup, highlighted in red we can see the two soldering spots that link together the cover to the plate and, in green the four screws that retain the coils against the plate.

Our first task is to heat those two soldering spots with the iron and, to remove the solder with the help of the pump. On the picture below, you can see the cover already removed and, the two coils lifted from the plate (once the four screws were unscrewed).

That little black bar you can see on the plate up, is just a spacer.
Coil screws are inserted thru a drilled metallic bar. Between that bar and the poles of the slug coil you can see the magnet bar.
I've used a mark pen to write the down face, left and right sides, to be sure I am mounting the new magnet in exactly the same position.

Notice that highlighted with a red square there is one more soldering spot. This one corresponds to plate ground and, the bare wire of that 4-conductors humbucker is soldered there.

Now, we can pull that magnet out and get the new one.
We need to check up / down, right/left and lateral up / lateral down.

Move the new magnet over the old magnet, if their faces attract, they have same polarity so, you should use the reverse face to have the magnet in same position. So, the down face of the old magnet will attract the up face of the new magnet.
Mark the new magnet upper and bottom faces with some pen.

Now check left an right sides. The right side of old magnet should attract left side of new magnet.
Identify sides (left and right).

Now check the lateral sides (height of the magnet). The upper lateral face of the old magnet should attract the bottom latteral face of the new magent.
Identify positions.

Now, you should install the new magnet in the exact same position your old one was. This is necessary to maintain the right magnetic polarity and hum cancelling properties of your pickups. Also, this ensures your pickup will not enter in out-of-phase mode when combined in (a natural way) parallel with the other pickup.

Just mount everything again, as it was before.
Be sure screws are in the right place thru the cover holes.
Press the cover against the plate and be sure everything is ok.
Then, apply some solder to same stock spots and, you are done!.

Wax Potting

Once the cover is removed. There is still one more solder spot to unsolder, as shown in the previous picture above. This corresponds to the plate ground (linked to the bare wire).
You should unsolder the plate ground to completely free the two coils of the pickup.
Pull up that black cable that holds the 4 conductors, to remove it from the pickup's plate.

Ok. We have the two coils ready for a warm wax bath.
You could even remove the black tape around coils but then, be very careful handling coils, because wires are so thin that you can easily break them.

To prepare the wax bath, you will need wax bee (20%) and parafine (80%).
In my case, I've just used some cheap candles (mostly parafine) but, a correct bath should have mentioned composition.

If you use candles, cut them in half (at least) to remove those parts that aren't wax.
Be sure you get a cheap pot that you will never use to cook.

Prepare a wider pot with watter inside, for a "bath Maria" operation and, insert your wax pot inside.

I had to wrap some thermal tape to lock the pot's handle and to avoid the inner pot to touch the walls of the outter pot.

Once the wax was melt and, it isn't smoking (careful!, really hot then!), you can throw some clean pebbles over the bottom of the pot, to avoid the coils to directly touch the metallic bottom.

Just be sure the wax isn't so hot. The outter watter shouldn't be hardly boiling, you wax neither and, wax shouldn't be smoking. Those pebbles should cold a bit the wax for a while and, that's ok.

Gently, leave the coils over the pebbles and, wait for between 15 to 20 minutes, when you cannot see more bubbles being generated.

Now, you can pull out those coils and, with the help of some fabric or cooking paper, you should gently remove the excess of wax, specially on metallic parts (poles and screw heads).

Those coils have both very short wires, black (negative or start) and white (positive or finish) and, each of those was soldered to one of the 4 colored conductors (red of screw finish, green for screw start, black for slug finish and white for slug start).
Those twisted and soldered wires had some isolant tape wrapped around and, a couple were lost in the bathing.
So, I had to wrap some new isolant tape around those, to avoid shortcuts.

Wrapped some isolant tape aroung both pickups, to stick them together and to maintain controlled the 4 conductor junctions inside the wrap.

Once done, I've mounted everything back (includeing that new A8 magnet bar!), soldered the cover to the plate and, installed back the pickup on the axe.

Well, that Firebird has the two SM-1 and that SH-55 (potted and with an A8 magnet) back.
I will test if there was some improvement in a new blog entry.

Magnets Tonal Guide

As you know, every pickup is a compromised solution of the several constitutive parts to achieve some determined goals (EQ, output, resonance, etc.).
If we preserved rest of components always the same and, we did just a magnet swap, these are the effects that the different magnet types do in pickup's tone.

Some overall considerations

Magnets are made of different compositions but, they are usually of AlNiCo (Alluminium, Niquel and Copper) or Ceramic, even that there are more types (neodynium, samarian cobalt, etc.).

From those, AlNiCo, that presents several different formulations, are considered as more organic, less defined note by note but with a complexer voice while, ceramics are considered as more defined note by note but, somewhat plain sounding.

For sure, a good pickup maker can do a good job with either but, some seem to fit better certain styles than others and, remember, we are considering here what a magnet swap can do to the exactly same pickup, in any case.

Also, AlNiCo magnets are less powerful than ceramics, that tend to be used in high-output applications.
Some other magnets seem so be so expensive than aren't usually seen in pickups and, more specially, as spare parts.

To describe tone is always hard to do with words so, get everything with a pinch of salt.
We are just going to discuss the several AlNiCo magnets available in the market and, even being just a handful of types (formulations), they can be finished in very different ways, what opens the possibilities and considerations about tone.

By example, some magnets can be oriented or unoriented. This refers to the arrangement of its particles. Oriented magnets have their particles aligned in a certain direction, while unoriented ones have each particle randomly oriented.

It seems that, as happens with regular and scatter winding of coils, unoriented magnets have slightly more complex tones and, sound more musical to the hearing, while oriented ones are more accurate reproducing the note.

They can be polished or roughcast. Polished has slightly more output and more trebles.

And to make things even more complex, they can be fully charged or aged or degaussed (de-magnetized).

Ceramic ones, overall, have more present mids than A5 (AlNiCo 5) magnets, more output, controlled basses and a bit piercing trebles.

AlNiCo Magnets

Take into account that even that there are AlNiCo Magnets formuled from A1 to A12, we are going to describe the more usual in guitar pickups.
(this info was compiled from comments of some serious users).

Overall, good cleans on neck position. For chords and melodies.
They overdrive the amp really nice, a tad darker but liquid solos (think on Slash).
A tad weak on bridge position, a tad piercing on highs.
Works for old-school riffs but not enough power to deal with AC/DC stuff, by example.

Really great cleans on neck position. Belly highs, full mids, few basses. Awesome for clean stuff.
Under overdrive, similar to A2 but, less basses and more highs so, it sounds clearer but, without any special character. You miss something.
Slightly less output than A2.
In Bridge pickup, very bright but not piercing, tight drived sound but overall weaker than A2.
Good for Jazz, Funky, etc.

Probably, the most EQ balanced magnet.
In Neck, delivers sweet sounds and, under overdrive, stays clean and defined.
Bridge delivers what you have in your head respect of vintage PAF pickups.
I personally love PAF necks with A4 magnets.

UOA5 (UnOriented A5)
Jimmy Page's tone there.
Like a succesfull mix of A2 and A5 magnets. The mids from A2 and, adds a bit more basses, trebles and tightness.

Scooped mids, slightly boomy basses and slightly piercing highs.
This a very often seen magnet in production pickups and, very specially, in bridge positions.
It cuts as a razor under overdriven situations and, has a lot of presence.

More output than A5 (practically the same as ceramic) and, EQ-wise similar to A4 and, therefore, very even balanced.
Maybe because of that extra output, not so sweet as the A2 or A4 and, a tad more plain on harmonical content.

I hope this little guide can be of your help.
Anyway, contact one of those magnet wizards (as LtKojak in Seymour Duncan for more accurate guidance).

In a new article, I will comment about my impressions after swapping the original A2 magnet with a Roughcast A8 magnet that LtKojak sent to me, to increase the output of that Seth Lover Bridge, to better balance its output with the output level of the SM-1s, without loosing too much of their original character.

13 November 2013

Guitars: typical measures equivalents with handy objects


This article was already published in my old Spanish version of this blog. I am picking it up because it complementes my previous article.

In the previous article (http://hermeticoguitar.blogspot.com.es/2013/11/guitars-please-lend-me-your-card-and.html) we discussed the steps and handy-objects that can be used as tools to do a basic guitar setup.

Since, early electric guitars were manufactured in USA, maker's meassures are always given in inches or fractions of inches (1/16", 3/31", 5/64", etc.).
Asian makers are usually manufacturing using milimeters.

So, there is often the need to translate units from one to the other side.
At the end, to properly measure you will need to use quality rules or gauges but, could be use some well know and handy objects to do our measurements?.

Yes. We can. As soon as we measure first the thickness of common objects we have a way to simplify everything together.

We are going to use money for everything better than to buy an instrument: to setup it!.
Stay reading...

Long life to Euro!

One day, I was using a caliber to measure the thickness of the several Euro coins (but, you could even find those measures in some official page, for any coin).
Most of thickness are really close the measures usually handled with guitar makers for their setups and, therefore, combining some coins we can measure and adjust practically everything in an axe.
Interesting, right?.

These are the thickness of the several Euro coins:

2 Euros = 2,2 mm
1 Euro = 2,32 mm
50 cts = 2,38 mm
20 cts = 2,14 mm
10 cts = 1,93 mm
1/2/5 cts = 1,67 mm

You can check your own coins to stablish a direct relationship between typical measures and one or more coins.

Typical measures used in guitar setups

Pickups heights

Depending on pickup class, output range and magnets strength, recommended pickups high varies but, heights are mostly determined with very few values.

By example, Dimarzio recommends following clearance from pickup poles to string:
First measure is for low string (6th) and second for treble string (1st).

Low output pickups (rails or AlNiCo II, III magnets and alike):

Normal setup
Neck & Middle: 2.4 mm /  1.6 mm
Bridge: 1.6 mm /  1.2 mm

Open setup (weaker but clearer)
Neck & Middle: 3.2 mm / 2.4 mm
Bridge: 2.4 mm / 2.0 mm

High output pickups, humbuckers and AlNiCo V, IV, VIII and alike

Normal setup
Neck & Middle: 3.2 mm / 2.4 mm
Bridge: 2.4 mm / 1.6 mm

Open setup
Neck & Middle: 4.0 mm / 3.2 mm
Bridge: 3.2 mm / 2.4 mm

Some makers also give some specific measures.

Gibson recommends following pickup heights for their humbuckers:
Neck: 3/32" (2,38 mm) both sides
Bridge 1/16" (1,59 mm) both sides

Fender recommends different heights, depending on type of pickup:
4/64" = 1,6 mm
1/8" = 3,2 mm
1/16" = 1,6 mm
3/32" = 2,38 mm (2,4 mm)
5/64" = 1,98 mm (2.0 mm)

So, in fact, measures are usually between 3/64" and 10/64":

1,2 mm (3/64")
1,6 mm (4/64" = 2/32" = 1/16")
2,0 mm (5/64")
2,4 mm (6/64" = 3/32")
3,2 mm (8/64" = 4/32" = 2/16")
4,0 mm (10/64" = 5/32")

And here is where we can use the closer Euro coins to measure those gaps:

3/64" --> 1 / 2 or 5 cts. coin (closer)
4/64" --> 1 / 2 or 5 cts. coin
5/64" --> 10 cts coin
6/64" --> 50 cts coin
7/64" -->  50 cts coin (closer)
8/64" --> 2 coins of 1 / 2 or 5 cts
9/64" --> 2 coins of 10 cts (closer)
10/64" --> 2 coins of 10 cts

So, with a couple of coins of 5 cts, a couple of coins of 10 cts and a coin of 50 cts. we can cover any pickup height.

Quick pickup adjustment trick.

If you don't know recommended height or you are in a hurry, following procedure will give you usable sounds with humbuckers and single coils:

A 50 cts. coin in both sides of Neck pickup.
A 5 cts. coin on both sides of Bridge pickup.

Single Coils:
Two coins of 5 cts. on Neck' sixth and, one coin of 50 cts on Neck's first.
One coin of 50 cts on Middle' sixth and, one coin of 10 cts on Middle's first.
One coin of 10 cts on Brigde' sixth and, one coin of 5 cts on Bridge's first.

From there, you should probably have to low a tad the pickups (1/4 of turn to each side each time).
Seems stupid, right?. Just check it!.


  1. Put the coin (or coins) between pickup's pole and the bottom of the string with guitar in a horizontal position.
  2. Push the string on the last fret.
  3. Raise the pickup side until the coin gets trapped between the pole and the string.
  4. Put the guitar in a vertical position (as if you were to play).
  5. Lower the pickup side, step by step, until you notice the coin moving or falling down to floor
  6. You are done!

My card has not credit but, still useful!

With coins we can measure gaps greater or equal to 1,67 mm but, there are some other adjustments that need inferior measures as, by example neck's curvature.
Depending on the maker, heights are in values between 0.008" (0,2 mm) and 0.014" (0.36 mm).

You can do a quick check and setup just with a credit card or any other plastic card, as explained in previous article. Just leave a clearance enough to make the credit card to slightly lift the string.

OMG, I can reuse my broken strings!

Don't throw your used strings!, wait a momment?.

Which are the gauges of strings? they are between 0.008" to 0.054" and, even greater values.
Probably, one or more of your strings can be used to measure some gaps.
You just need to attach those strings to any piece of wood or cardobard and, you have some gauge there!.


With that tedious coins that are only adding weight to your purse and, that you never see the oportunity to pay with them and, some old plastic card and your used strings, you have a lot of measurement tools to do your basic setup without the need of expensive tools.

Do you like it?

Guitars: Please, lend me your card and a couple of coins to set up my guitar


Note: this is an article long time ago published in my old Spanish version of this blog, that I am revisiting here because I believe it could be of help to lots of people.

If you are already used to set up your guitars to your needs, this article will have few interest for you but, if you never did it or if you don't feel comfortable doing it, I bet this article can be of your help.
Also, for experienced people, here there are some easy tricks to quickly check your set up status.

Many people buys a guitar, tunes it and starts playing it. If it becomes unconfortable, he/she ends setting it appart and buying a new one and, this happens several times.
I should confess that I was myself doing the same for years and years and years, never taking care of guitar' set up, basically because I've never understood what should I do and why.

You should know that factory set ups are very generic and, their goal is to be a good starting point for everyone but, not necessarely the best for someone in particular.
Anyway, for well known brands, factory set ups work the most of times and, you just need to fine tune them, if you are a bit picky.
But, dude, cheap guitars are always far away of a playable set up and, very specially, those axes currently build in China for a budget.

Be aware that set ups doesn't stand for long, even in the best guitar.
While some synthetic materials are structurally very estable, wood is a living being and, reacts to variations on its environment, as humidity, temperature, among other variables.

Usually, it's necessary to check your set up twice a year, commonly, in Summer and Winter, when temperatures radically change.
If your guitar remains in an estable environment, it is possible that your set up can last for longer periods but, some or other day, you will need to revisit your set up. That's for sure!.

Usually, wood used to build guitars needs long periods of drying, to make them structuraly estable but, even being carefull, they could eventually twist or bend with the time.

If you deal with a twisted or bend neck, forget it. Substitution is the only possible cure there but, there many other little things that we can do by ourselves to make that guitar usable for us.

By example, not barnished fretboards tend to dry and, they need to be nurtered, both, to enhance their look and to enhance the instrument feel. If you don´t care about your fingerboard, it will start to crack.
Appart of this, there are still some other little operations that can help us, as to lubricate the spots where strings touch the guitar, neck curve, strings height, pickups height, intonation, etc.

A nice starting point for your set up is to follow maker's recommendations and, from there, you can fine tune the settings to your particular taste and needs.

Even that a professional set up would need of good tools, I will present some easy-to-have-on-hand things that will help us to do a quick inspection and emergency adjustments. Between brackets, I am indicating the "tool" to check or measure each of the basic setup steps.
I hope you will like it.

Quick Inspection

For a quick inspection, we will need very few "tools" and, they are so common that you should be able to do it on any place.

Neck Curvature (credit card or similar plastic card)

Neck Curvature is a KEY set up step. Depending on your neck curvature, you could have issues like fret buzzing and, the need of raising the string height and bridge height to fight against such a buzz.
A correct curvature allows you to lower the strings and bridge heights while providing the right sound. This makes your playing faster, since you have less troubles by walking the fretboard so, take it seriously!.

Steps for a quick inspection
  1. Put a capo on the first fret, to maintain strings pushed there.
  2. With one finger, we press the sixth string in the very last fret of the fretboard.
  3. Introduce a credit card between the fret and the string, around fret number 7 (9 for some guitars). Check your guitar with maker's instructions.
  4. If the credit card slightly lifts the string, you probably have a good curvature there (recommended to read makers' specifications and check it with more accurate tools).
  5. If there is so little clareance that the credit card clearly lifts the string , is very probable that you are having a very soft curvature, and you should have to increase it.
  6. If there is no clearance (string lays over the fret), you probably have a negative curvature and, this is a clear source of fret buzzing and high strings and bridge heights!.
  7. And, if the card isn't touching the string, that means that we have a high curvature there and, we should reduce it to enhance playability.
Why a neck should have some curvature?

If you look carefully to the way strings vibrate, you will see that strings vibrate wider on their center than on their extremes. To don't interrupt such a center vibration, we should leave the neck with an slight curvature (probably even not visible to the eye), to leave room to the string to freely vibrate.

If the neck is so straight, the string hasn't room enough to freely vibrate, which kills the sustain and introduces fret buzzes (hiting on frets).
If we relax neck' strength very much, there is a risk that strings hit the lower frets of the fretboard, which will obly us to raise the bridge, or saddles to increase strings highs.

So, a subtle curvature is a desirable setup in our guitar's neck!.

How can we modify neck's curvature?

Every guitar (even the cheapest ones) usually have a neck's thrussrod, which at the end is some kind of cable made with a twisted thread of steel wires, ended with a couple of nuts. Each nut is being anchored to one extreme of the neck and, one of those nuts can be screwed by us.
When we screw the nut, the steel thread twistes and, that stress is being transferred to the neck, obblying it to move their extremes down and pushing the center up.

Single thrussrods work just in one extreme of the neck (the closer to the peghead) so, the neck is bend from, more or less, its center to the peghead (that is the extreme that has the more visible movement).
Double thrussrods work in both extremes and, therefore, allow more accurate works.

So, to be able to increase or decrease the stress in the neck, we need to work on the thrussrod and, for this, every guitar has some place where we can reach the nut or screw that handles the thrussrod.

Usually, such a nut is found on the union of the neck with the peghead. In case of most Fender's guitars, that nut is easily visible and accessible, since there is no cover that hides it but, in most of other guitars, the thrussrod nut is being covered with an small plastic cover.

Usually, we rotate such a nut with the help of an Allen key, which usually comes with your guitar by default.
You could need to firstly remove the thrussrod cover to move that nut.

To which direction should we rotate thrussrod nut?

If you screwed and unscrewed a screw or nut a day, you will always know to where to move the nut.

Just stand the guitar with the peghead facing you (to see the thrussrod nut) and the body far away from you.
If you move the nut in clockwise, you are screwing so, increasing the stress, straightening the neck and, reducing the curvature. You are compensating strings stress.
If you move the nut counter clockwise, you are unscrewing, relaxing the stress, allowing the neck to create a curvature (because of the stress that strings produce in its extremes). String stress is higher than thrussrod stress.

How many turns should we rotate the nut?

Be carefull, thrussrod is a delicate piece and, as said, a key one!.
If you find high resistence there and, it doesn't disappers with some kind of 6x1 lubricant spray, don't force it. You better go to a luthier for an in-depth inspection.

If you can easily rotate that nut, just try between 1/8 and 1/4 of turn by session.

Very good woods react inmediatelly to changes but, most of woods take between 24 to 48 hours to settle so, leave the guitar to rest and, after a couple of days, tune it and re-check curvature.

Do further adjustments, depending on the results of your previous session.

Once the curvature of the guitar is the right one, we can follow with rest of setup.

Strings Height or action (a 5 cts of Euro coin)

You will measure the clareance between the fret 12th and every string.
Put that 5 cts coin over the fret wire and below the string.
For guitars with independently adjustable saddles (as Fender) you should check EVERY string.
For guitars with one-piece bridge (as Gibson) you can check just the first and sixth strings.

If the coin lifts the string, we potentially have a very low height. If you don't have fret buzzes and, you don't feel its sustain as affected and, if you feel that height as comfortable. No issues.
If guitar' sustain is being affected or you have fret buzzing or the height is uncofortablely low for you, you should raise the height of strings.

If there is some gap, between the coin and the string, you potentially have a high strings height and, you should considere to lower your strings a bit.

Which is the recommendable strings height?

The height of your strings should facilitate to you to push them down, in a way that to walk the fretboard can be confortable but, always just the minimum height that is free of fret buzzing and, that allows the free vibration of strings, to preserve guitar' sustain.

Additionally to this, the height of each individual string is in direct relation with the curvature of your fretboard (radius). In bridges, with adjustable saddles (like Fender's ones), each string should be evaluated separately.
Maintaining same height string by string, respect to the radius of the fretboard, we will achieve the best action for our pickup.

There is a big exception in all this. Those guitars that are being prepared to work just with Slide, will need high heights to facilitate the sliding of the tube, without hiting any fret.

How do I correct strings height?

Well, this will depend on the type of bridge of your guitar.

Usually, you will deal with a monoblock (single piece) bridge, like Gibson's ones or, a traditional floating bridge (as Fender's ones) or, a modern floating bridge (as Floyd Rose, Kahller, etc.).

The quicker bridges to work are Gibson-alike.
You need to screw or unscrew the screw on each side of the bridge to raise or lower it.
Just lower or raise each extreme until the string slightly touches the coin.

Bridges Fender-alike have independent saddles that you have to adjust.
You should check a single string each time and, use the two (in a balanced way) small screws on the extremes of each saddle to raise or lower the saddle, until the string slightly touches the coin.

For moderner bridges, like the Floyd Rose things are a bit more complex, because their saddles aren't adjustable in height with screws. To raise a saddle, you need to insert some kind of steel micro-plates that are sold in a single gauge (I don't remember which one but, they are really slim).
So, you could eventually need to insert more than one of those slim plates under each saddle to get the right height.
But, those kind of bridges are so accurate that the whole system (locking nut, bridge...) is very well set up from factory. So, at the end, guitars with such a kind of bridges are the ones with less string height issues.

Intonation (tuner)

Intonation consists into oerform the necessary steps to achieve that your guitar can give the exact same note with the string open and on fret number 12 (one octave higher).
Intonation is fully related to scale length.

Intonation is checked string by string and corrected string by string.
Any previous modification to setup (neck curvature, string height) will directly affect the intonation so, you should check intonation after having solved previous issues.

Intonation should be checked every time you mount a new set of strings, if they aren't exactly of the same brand/model/gauges that you used to intonate the guitar. You should wait for a couple of days, until the strings maintain their tuning.

The process is very simple (but boring as a hell):
  1. You should tune all strings the best possible. It's very important to use the tuner with higher precision we can have and, specially some stroboscopic one, with a precision of a cent or a lower value.
  2. You play the string open and, you re-tune it if necessary. Tuning should be accurate.
  3. Then you play same string on fret number 12 and you check tuning.
  4. If it sound flat or sharp, you will need to move horizontally the saddle to correct the defect.
  5. After each saddle adjust, you need to repeat steps 2 to 4 until you get perfectly tuned notes open and on fret 12.

Monoblock bridges, even not having independent vertical adjustment for saddles, have a way to move horizontally the saddles to adjust the intonation. The six screws on the front or rear (depending on how it was mounted) are the ones that you need to toutch for intonation.

Fender alike bridges have also a screw to move horizontally the saddle. In Telecasters, the adjustments are shared by two contiguous strings, unfortunatelly so, you should reach a compromise solution.

Bridges type Floyd Rose, have also long screws on rear side, just to control de horizontal adjustment of their saddles (please, don't confuse them with the micro-tuners, that are over the saddles).

Which are the issues related to a bad intonation?

Usually, the issue is easily heard, if the difference between the tuning of the string open and the tuning of the same string on the 12th fret is important. While we play over the 12th fret, will be sound more or less well but, when we started to play below that fret, we can feel that the note isn't "exact" and, we will probably try to compensate it by doing small "bendings" to tune the note, while playing.

Also, depending on the individual descompensation of each string, chords, triads and diads below the 12th fret will start to sound disonants and, very specially when using high gain or distortion.

Pickups height (50 cts, 10 cts y 2 x 5 cts coins)

Well, from all setup steps mentioned in this article, probably the pickup height is one of the most subjective and personal but, there are some physical facts that we cannot overlook.

If pickups are very close to strings, as soon as we play the lower frets of the fingerboard, the strings will hit the pickup, killing the sound.
Also, if the magnets of the pickup are strong enough and, the pickup is close to the string enough, magnets can excesivelly attract the string, slowing its vibrational movement and, therefore, killing the sustain of the sound.

The closer the pickup to the string is, the stronger the output but, reached some spot, the strength of the magnetic field distorts the note and, an excesive output can also make to sound bad your pedals and your amp.

The farest the pickup to the string is, the cleaner and tuned the sound is but, the signal weaks.
Excesivelly away, the pickup can sound plain in attack and brightness and show a very smooth character.

For all this things, to find the sweet spot for each pickup in each guitar is a matter of patience and interest.
It's incredible how much can the sound of a guitar vary depending on the respective height of its pickups.
And, together with everything mentioned above, we have to take into account that we have to balance the output of the complete set of pickups to don't suffer of excesive volume bumps or drops when switching from one to the other.

Even with all those considerations in mind, there is a quick procedure for checking and adjusting pickups that will give overall good results and, that we will fine tune later.

We will use two "modes", "open" and "regular".

For "open mode" we will set the pickup to a high were the clarity and note by note definition is excellent, as well as the sustain but, the output can be of low intensity (something that you can enhance with a clean booster or a good buffer or, just with the gain knob of your amp).

For "regular mode" we will set up the pickups to a high were the notes will be less defined but, with greater attack and strength.

We will use the following set of (euro) coins to establish the different heights we will need for those modes.

2 x 5 cts. coins
1 x 50 cts. coin
1 x 10 cts. coin
1 x 5 cts. coin

We will need just an screwdriver to move up and down the pickups and, those coins to "meassure" the height.

The height is being measured by pressing the string (sixth or first) on the last fret, while we measure the gap between the upper face of the magnet or screw and the bottom of the string itself.

In the case of having three pickups, the middle one should have same height than the neck one or, an intermediate height between neck and bridge pickups.

To correct the height, we will use a screwdriver in the lateral screws that come with each pickup (warning: a Telecaster bridge pickup uses 3 adjusting screws, as well as other pickups and, some humbuckers use up to 4 screws).

The trick is to insert the coin between the magnets and the string and then raise the pickup until the coin keeps retained between the pickup and the string. Then, start lowering the pickup step by step until the coin falls to floor or slides over the pickup.

Regular mode

Humbuckers are usually setup having same height in both sides (first and sixth strings).

Neck humbucker will need a 50 cts coin in both sides.
Bridge humbucker will need a 5 cts coin in both sides.

Single coils are usually setup having less height in their low string (sixth) than in the treble string (first).
Neck single will need two 5 cts coin in sixth and a 50 cts coin in first.
Middle can have 50 cts in sixth and 10 cts in first
Bridge, 10 cts in sixth, 5 cts in first.

Open mode

Neck humbucker, 2 x 5 cts coins on both sides.
Bridge humbucker 1 x 10 cts coin on both sides.

Single Neck, 3 x 5 cts coin in sixth, 1 x 50 + 1 x 5 cts coins in first.
Single Middle, 2 x 5 cts coins in sixth, 1 x 50 cts coin in first.
Single Bridge, 1 x 50 cts in sixth, 1 x 10 cts in first.

Other way

Instead of use those coins to measure the gap between pickup and string, we can use several 5 cts coins to set up the initial height, respect to the pickguard or body and then to fine tune the height with 1/4 of turn of their screws.

For singles, you put a coin over the pickguard or body, on the side of the sixth string and, you lower the pickup until the pickup cover reaches same height than the coin.
Then, put a pair of 5 cts coins on the side of the first string and lower the pickup until it reaches same height as those two coins.

For middle pickup, use two coins on sixth and three on first.
For bridge pickup, use three coins on sixth and four on first.

For humbuckers, use same trick but measure from over the ring of the pickguard.

If you want to start with an opener setup, just add a coin by side to the list above.

My way

I usually prefer first way for humbuckers and that last one for singles.
In any case, I focus first on Neck pickup.

I know most of people focus first in bridge pickup but, I find myself that the pickup that brings the best tones from your axe is the neck pickup, probably because is the closer to the center of vibration of the string and, gets a very rich harmonical content.

I love neck pickups sounding bodied but crystalline clear and, with a very vocal voice under the 12th fret. I specially check the sound of the neck pickup there and, I just leave the height fixed when I like how it sounds in that area.

Following steps will be to balance the output of the middle and the bridge pickup but, for me, the key pickup is the neck one.

But, take into account that most of people goes the oposite way, that is, controlling first the sound of the bridge and then, balancing the output of the neck and middle pickup (what in my opinion gives you good bridge lead tones but often ruins the nice clean and overdriven neck tones!).

In a next article, I will give you the most common measures used in guitar' setup and, their correspondence with our "measuring tools" (coins, cards, etc), together with some other little trics for cheap but handy tools.

Care and clenaning

Even that these operations aren't directly related to the setup itself, have importance for the "health" of your instrument and, for your pleasure playing the guitar.

Cleaning and nurturing the fingerboard

In every musical intruments store you should be able to buy any proper product to clean the fretboard.
Usually, it will be some kind of spray, which liquid will be never aggressive with the wood and that will volatilize quickly, what will let you to easily remove the dirt with a cloth.

In my opinion, is a good oportunity to make a nice cleaning and nurturing of the fretboard, every time that we need to swap our strings.

Before using the cleaning liquid, is a good idea to softly scratch the borders of the frets with the help of a plastic card, because lot of dirt is being cummulated there.

Once the fretboard is clean, we should nurture it, if the wood isn't coated with some barnish.

Rosewood or Ebony fretboards (and practically any other kind of wood, except for mapple), are usually uncoated and, they tend to dry, cracking and leaving open their pores, what (appart of the sthetycal impact) grants the cummulation of dirt and, the risk of a definitive malfunction of the fretboard, that can end totally cracked.
Those kind of fretboards go immediatelly healty with a bit of luthery special oil or, with the those products used to care woods.
Any instruments store will have such an oil.

The oil should be applied in a slim layer (to moist, not to flood!).
You wait for a few minutes and, with the help of a soft cloth, you remove the excess of oil that the wood wasn't able to absorb.

Together with enhancing the look of the fretboard, this subtile layer of oil will help you to make your fretboard walking quicker and comfortabler.

If you don't have an specialized oil for luthery, you can use any of those commercial products specially designed to care about your furniture (Politus, Pronto, etc.), as an emergency resource.

Cleaning the rest of the guitar

Instrument stores will have also proper products to clean the rest of parts of the guitar.
In an emergency situation, you can use those speciallized products for furniture's care but, be very carefull with axes that were covered with nitrocellulose paint, because those need very specialized products.

Nitro paint is really delicate and, entering in contact with certain chemical agents can ruin or "wash" it. Please, verify the kind of finish applied to your axe and, ask the maker in case of doubt.

Lubricating the pieces

Even the best mechanized pieces, with the best finish can end breaking your strings, just because of friction.
I have the habit of lubricate EVERY spot where the string enters in touch with other piece, with some kind of lubricant.

Most people uses graphite grease and, I am lately using liquid teflon but, in an emergency case, you can use some of those lips care sticks that you can buy in any pharmacy store.
You could even use the  pencil lead (which, at the end, is graphite) to lubricate those areas.

If in your guitar same string is the one that breaks, and always by the same spot, it's clear that you have an issue in that spot. Lubricate the area around where the string enters in contact with other piece (a saddle, the nut, the tuning key, or whatever else).

If the string breaks close the the tuners posts then, the hole of the post can have be so sharp that breaks the string.
If the string breaks on the strings tree, the issue is the friction of the string against it.
If the string breaks on the nut, the issue is in its slots.
If the string breaks on the bridge, issue is in saddles.
If the string breaks on its ending ball, the issue is in the piece that retains the string.

And, if the string breaks on the middle then, the useful life of that string is over and, it's a good time to swap the whole set.

So, you can apply a drop of lubricant on each of those contact spots and, this will make the life of your strings clearly longer. Try it.
You will loose also the fear for extreme bendings, because now it will be really difficult to break the string with one.

Guitars with a Floyd Rose have just two spots of contact, the saddles and the locking nut and, therefore this operation isn't usually necessary.

The kind of guitars with more issues are those with vintage floating bridges (like the Strato). In those guitars, there are a bunch of contact spots (including the block of the floating bridge, where strings are being inserted).

Guitars with fixed bridges, like LPs, have less contact spots (stop tail, bridge, nut and key posts) but, you should take care of those few, also.

In those guitars where strings tresspass the body, you should care also about the holes where the ending balls of the strings are being retained (bottom side of the body) and, the output holes (upper side of the body), as well.


A Luthier makes things way more importants and of a deeper impact than everything that was mentioned here but, it could you demand between 60 and 100 Euros for a basic setup as the one explained here.
And, after his work, maybe which he/her considers a nice setup could be not the best for your particular taste.

At the end, it's your axe. You should care about the setup to make that guitar to be played as a dream.
You see, a few coins, a plastic card, a screwdriver and an allen key is everything you need to set up your guitar.

From all the operations described above, clearly, the thrussrod adjustment is the one you should take the best care to don't force it. Repairing a broken thrussrod isn't cheap and, your guitar will remain out-of-order until the thrussrod can be replaced.
Be patient, give maximum 1/4 of turn by session and, wait 2 days to leave the neck to estabilize.
If the nut seems locked and, some special lubricant oil doesn't unlocks it, stop. Go to a luthier.

A guitar is a balanced system. Any change in its pieces affects that balance.
If in your guitar A works better a set of strings D'Addario of 0.10" and, if in guitar B, a set Ernie Ball 0.09" and, in C a set of Pyramid 0.11", every time that you swap strings use exactly the same maker/model of strings, to keep your instrument balance. Otherwise, a new setup will be necessary.

Even respecting this game of substituting the old strings with a new set of same maker/model, the guitar is a living being and its balance is being altered also due to environmental changes.
It's very usuall to have to check and adjust the guitar setup twice in a year, around winter and summer, where the temperature changes are more dramatic.

Now, you know the goals of each operation, easy tools and, with just a little of interest and patience, your guitar will seem to you better than ever. Maybe you will end loving that axe that was so painful to play before.


Sometimes is easier to understand what you see than what you read so, here you are three videos with some explanations about this basic setup.

First video introduces our "measuring tools" and "adjustment tools", also explaining how to check and adjust neck's curvature. It also discusses about the different types of thrussrods.

Second video talks about the check and adjustment of string and pickups heights.

And, in the third video, wi discuss about the intonation issue and, several care and maintenance recommendations.