Set neck versus bolt on & Intonation adjustment.

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When it comes to purchasing an electric guitar there are many myths about which type to buy and what makes a good guitar.

Top manufacturers names are automatically accepted as being 'better' without any real thought about what an electric guitar actually is....it is simply a musical instrument.

What is the most important part of an electric guitar? Maybe it's the pickups or the machine heads (tuners) or the wood it's made of?

Well in truth it MAY be all of these but let's take things back to basics and dispel a few myths.

 

A musical instrument should play in tune.  A rather basic thing really but often much misunderstood.

A string vibrating between two points.  This is what happens when you pluck or strum your guitar. Each string's vibrating length runs between a nut near the headstock and the bridge at the body end. It is this vibrating length of string that produces the sound of your instrument. An exact half way point of this vibrating length of string is your 12th fret position. If it isn't exactly half way it wont play in tune. What can be done to rectify this problem? You can't move the nut so you have to move the bridge section over which the string runs. Once this has been altered to make the length exactly half way, it will play in tune over the whole fretboard. This is intonation adjustment. You can't be expected to measure that distance for each string using a rule, so the best way is with a tuner, preferably electronic which will show you that the octave is perfectly in tune when the string is fretted at the 12th fret and when played open.  If it's sharp (too high) you lengthen the string by moving the bridge away from the nut. If it's flat (too low) you shorten the string by bringing the bridge closer to the nut. Many minor adjustments of the tuner have to be made each time to get the string back to pitch before you check the open and octave note but once done your guitar string should play in tune at all positions on the fretboard. Repeat this for each string. Job done.

Neck - Glued in (set) or screwed in (bolt on)? Which is best?

The simple answer is, it depends how it's been done. Two peices of decent wood with a good contact should transfer vibration. That's all there is to it. If you have ever seen someone use a tuning fork you will notice that the sound of the tuning fork is best heard when it is pressed against a wooden surface. If that surface is a cupboard or a box, the sound is amplified by the vibrations moving air within the box. It is that transfer of vibration that makes your guitar work. The better the transfer of vibration, the more 'alive' your guitar feels. Now, bear in mind that the point of a tuning fork is about 4 square millimeters and you can see that it doesn't take much to create a good contact.

With a set neck, usually the heel sits in a 'socket' area where both sides and the bottom are in contact with the body. A thin, strong glue will not prevent a good transfer of vibration.If a bad 'set neck' joint is filled with glue, the vibrations need to travel through that glue to bridge the gap between the two pieces of wood.  With a bolt on, the two pieces of wood are placed face to face and then pulled together by wood screws so the transfer of vibration will be good. The larger the area, the better the transfer. If those two mating faces of the wood are painted or varnished or aren't well 'mated', the transfer of vibration will be reduced. So, does it matter if it's set or bolt on?  You can't see either of them (don't try asking the shop assistant if you can take the guitar apart to check because I can't be held responsible if you end up sat on the pavement) so you will need to play the guitar to find out if it feels 'live'.

There is a lot more to take into consideration but I'll save that for another 'review' later on.

 

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