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Jerry’s Action & Pick Height!

PostPosted:Sat Aug 15, 2020 2:15 pm
by LazyLightning72
So since getting my Eastwood Wolf, I’ve been making adjustments to it, for my preferred play style.

I decided to look over at dozin, since I couldn’t remember what Jerry played at. I remembered it was higher than what’s typically considered “average”, but I had forgot how much.

Now as many of you already know if the numbers on dozin are in fact correct he had it set at 7/64" at the 12th fret, with . 030" relief in the neck

It also says as far as pickup height, neck and mid pickups were 10/64", and the bridge pickup sat at 14/64".

Pickup height aside, I decided to crank up my action to where he played, and boy did it take a toll. I mean I’m sure over time like all things my fingers would adjust and strengthen, but dang I felt like a no callous noob the other night.

Any of you ever crank it up that high and give it a try, or have it there now? If so what were/are your thoughts at playing that high? I mean it obviously worked for Jerry, so it’s just a matter of doing it.

Hope your all having good weekends!
Chris

Re: Jerry’s Action & Pick Height!

PostPosted:Sat Aug 15, 2020 4:19 pm
by PurpleTrails
At one point waldo, a former member here, had all those specs on his website from actual measurements he took on I think Tiger. Unfortunately his site is shut down now. I have no recollection of the pickup height measures, though.

The 7/64 sounds about right as I remember it, and yeah, I have a strat set up around that mark. I tend to like a little higher action on electrics because I find it less jarring switching back and forth from them to playing acoustics, but that one is set up a tad higher than the rest of mine.

Somewhere Steve Kimock posted that playing one of Jerry's guitars was a bit of a high wire act, in that you get great, deep tone but it's hard to hit exactly the right notes. With the action that high it's hard to get the intonation right and easy to have the note vary a bit by fretting the string too hard or soft.

Re: Jerry’s Action & Pick Height!

PostPosted:Sat Aug 15, 2020 4:38 pm
by LazyLightning72
Maybe I’ll temporarily set up my 2013 60s CV Fender Squire like that, and see how it is for a while.

I have 9s on it though, so it may not be too hard on the fingers.

Re: Jerry’s Action & Pick Height!

PostPosted:Sun Aug 16, 2020 7:50 am
by Jon S.
PurpleTrails wrote:
Sat Aug 15, 2020 4:19 pm
Somewhere Steve Kimock posted that playing one of Jerry's guitars was a bit of a high wire act, in that you get great, deep tone but it's hard to hit exactly the right notes. With the action that high it's hard to get the intonation right and easy to have the note vary a bit by fretting the string too hard or soft.
Kimock used to post a lot on TGP until he got tired of the arguments and split. Here are a brief sample of some statements Kimock posted on TGP in 2017 and 18 you may find interesting.

Garcia wouldn’t have had any interest in or use for “unusual accuracy” in the fret placement’s affect on intonation because he was already throwing the existing ridiculously accurate calculations out the window with his set-up.

His interest was more in consistency of intonation at the level he could he manipulate it by playing than “pitch accuracy” at the actual frets.

His action was high, strings relatively light, a LOT of relief in the neck, nut relatively high, none of which contributes to accuracy of intonation at the level of checking the string at every fret with a tuner and everything’s straight up.
The low register has to be sharp, a whole bunch of the middle of the fretboard is going to be randomly flat, things might settle out around the 12th for a few frets but it’s all going progressively flatter from there.
The point isn’t for the guitar to be accurately intonated fret-by-fret so much as it is flexible to intonation adjustment by the player.

The guitar was set-up to be brought into tune by player “English” pushing and pulling on the strings, bending, vibrato, left hand pressure, right hand attack, etc.

If the middle registers were straight up on the tuner with no relief in the neck, the strings would be less easily manipulated, the action “flat”, so vibrato sharp, although I think the relief on Garcia’s guitars had more to do with timbre than intonation.
It’s the high register stuff that suffers most in performance with respect to player’s intonation if the guitar is “accurate”.

It’s very hard to add “sing” to the vibrato without going immediately sharp if the high register is correct to the tuner.
And that’s where that stuff is most important.
If the guitar isn’t headed flat in a hurry past the 12th fret the player’s headed sharp if he’s trying to sell anything guiaristic. https://www.thegearpage.net/board/index ... t-26457705

Bridge?
Just an observation of Garcia’s preference for basic elements of design, which had to relate to playability for him or he wouldn’t have gone there so consistently.

That’s “initial condition” stuff for me, scale length, dead length, string gauge, neck/fingerboard/fret dimensions, string spacing at nut and bridge, radius, relief, action height, down angle, etc.

Anyway, he preferred the non-adjustable radius TOM and some kind of stop-tail so that’s where I’d start to meet the initial condition/physical balance of resistances that get the party started for “technique in the style of”.

I happen to agree with his preferences mostly, and I’ve done a bunch of experimenting along those lines with various guitars and luthiers, but it really is just personal preference.

If you really like your bridge, there’s no reason to go with something new and potentially uncomfortable.
Jerry’s trip was obviously way more about his musical approach than the hardware, so I don’t want to be one of those guys hung up at the DiMarzio/JBL/MuTron level.

Kinda superficial, but from my guitar nerd perspective I do have to acknowledge the basic “vibrating string” parameters because I think they’re critical to an understanding of his technique.

That was a fairly nerdy elaboration, don’t you think?
Grain of salt, .02c, ymmv, imho, up to you, etc. https://www.thegearpage.net/board/index ... t-25803050

Ordinarily for me “accuracy” in that context would be about intonation, but if the quote was “whisper down the alley” several times removed from source it could be about neck shape, radius, fret profile, upper fret access etc. relative to personal preference.
It might not have anything to do with “slots”. Dunno.

I have two Cripe guitars, they’re extraordinary instruments, and there’s a third in the family, another Lightening Bolt type guitar that kicks my two Strat types ass in a lot of ways.
I’ll have it in my possession next week to have a look at the intonation on the 24 fret neck and compare to my guitars.

Honestly, the intonation angle on “accuracy” at an objective level with Garcia’s guitars doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
His set up was peculiar and I think it had more to do with the ease, flexibility, and range of available pitch than any idea of more accurate intonation resident in the actual fingerboard.

If accuracy meant Garcia felt like he was able to execute his chit more accurately higher on the neck because of neck profile around the heel I could believe that.
There’s no heel at all on those guitars really, neck-thru, the neck just disappears into the body.
It’s not like a Strat or a Les Paul where the thumb quits the back of the neck in the high register.
You’re pretty much “in position” with the thumb behind the second finger all the way up, and if you’re “thumb over” for leverage that lasts all the way to the highest frets too.

The “usual accuracy” wrt intonation depends on what you’re comparing to.
Les Paul’s are a little weird.

The less resonant low strings/high frets thing is normal, that’s just how short fat strings behave. https://www.thegearpage.net/board/index ... t-26376245

Yeah, it’s not a comment about the guitar’s accuracy it’s a comment about the player’s ability to get his fingers down to the frets with greater accuracy “to play where he usually avoided” which would have been in the high register.

In the implied Irwin vs Cripe comparo that’s a comment on neck profile at the heel.

I’m not gonna bother linking pics but if you’re interested just Google images for the two guitars, compare heels and do your best to imagine upper fret access.

The Irwin’s have a genuine traditional heel, which is kinda hip in a way, I like the effect of getting up over some mass on that part of the neck, but it does mean “thumb position” on some level.
I remember playing “the new guitar” when Jerry got it, expecting it to feel like a fancy Strat but it handled more like an L5 at the top of the neck.

When you got to the heel it was FAT and massive in a very agreeable way, but there it was.
The Cripe is essentially heel-less, the body is undercut where the neck joins, smooth and slim, and the upper fret access is a lot better.

If anybody here has a Les Paul for comparison purposes, slide up the neck with whatever you’ve got for a normal left hand fretting position and see where the heel starts pushing your hand away from the neck.
For me that’s right up around F# or G.

After that my thumb has to come around to the treble side of the neck, which isn’t a huge big deal but it does change the way you approach the high frets.
You don’t hit that wall on the Cripe until B or C, and then the body’s dressed away in such a fashion you don’t have to bring your thumb around, it just gets left behind for the last few frets.

Pretty sure that’s what the quote was referring to.
An ergonomic issue, and certainly not a Cripe exclusive ergonomic tweak, plenty of other instruments make use of the feature, but relative to Garcia’s guitars that would have been the first of his primary stage instruments with so obvious a diff to the previous #1, so I can see how it could be comment worthy.

FWIW, Wolf had better ergonomics in that area compared to the later Irwin’s imho.
The shape and contour of the lower cutaway, relatively petite heel, effortless upper fret access.

Final thought.
There’s an undercurrent of “How could one guitar be so much better?” in this discussion.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to actually play the exact same guitars we’re discussing here. Use them onstage.
The first time I played Wolf I couldn’t even pick up any of my own instruments for a week.
They all felt like toys.

The diff between the absolutely top-shelf sh*t like an Irwin and the garden variety boutique and vintage stuff 99% of are used to is inexpressible until you actually experience it.
I couldn’t believe how much better an instrument Wolf was compared to anything in my woodpile and I’ve got some really fine guitars.

Just to be clear, my opinion is the quote was ergonomic in nature relative to the heel of the Cripe, but that doesn’t mean some guitars aren’t a whole lot better than others. https://www.thegearpage.net/board/index ... t-26395673

Re: Jerry’s Action & Pick Height!

PostPosted:Sun Aug 16, 2020 7:50 am
by Jon S.
And a few more.

I like the height adjustment on the Strat for radius purposes, I like my bridges flatter than my finger boards, but I’m fine with the stock Gibson bridge radius with stock Gibson fingerboard.

The Irwin and Cripe Jerry guitars had the Schaller style, those didn’t have individual height adjustment, just plenty of fore-and-aft travel, so the fixed radius bridge shouldn’t necessarily be a problem wrt to intonation.
I’m a tuning geek, worse than most on an over investment level trying to figure it all out, and my current thinking “final answer” is consistency is more important than adjustability.

Even if the guitar has a straight saddle like an acoustic flat-top, or a one-piece carved wooden bridge like an archtop, and you’re chasing it around with string gauge and tuning tweaks, you still eventually wind up with individual guitar specific strategies for what works and what doesn’t.

Which is the same deal for the multi-piece, fully adjustable bridges.
You get it together on a guitar-by-guitar basis, and some things always work better than others when your done, which is never.

The diff between the one-piece non-adjustable and the progressively more “little bits” adjustable bridges is the simpler stuff tends to sound a little better overall, and the upside of being able to adjust everything has the downside of everything needing adjustment as a function of things inevitably falling out of adjustment.

Anyway, there’s always trade-offs to consider, and at the same time it seems like anything and everything works from the perspective of player’s intonation on any specific instrument as long as the mechanical intonation is consistent. https://www.thegearpage.net/board/index ... t-26468023

It’s crazy how fine the adjustments can be on Gibson scale with light strings.
Sometimes it feels like turning the height up or down much beyond just putting pressure on the adjustment is enough to change where the pressure of the string acts against your fingertip in the high register.

Same deal with the translation between playing a Fender vs Gibson in my opinion.
Fender’s like big inputs, Gibson’s favor a more measured touch.
They dial in like they play for me, but I’m no Johnny Thunders.

The relief in the middle of the neck probably plays into how quickly the intonation goes south at the top of the neck, but with light strings, high action, AND a bunch of relief, the pitch under any string at any fret is more of a suggestion than a rule.
You’d need to be playing it into tune constantly, which Jerry certainly did, but I don’t think that’s why he went with so much relief.
The hippie sandwich neck-thru guitars with a perfectly flat board are normally kinda cold.
Relief helps warm them up.
I’ve got a bunch of them, they all behave similarly wrt more or less relief.

I wouldn’t worry about it right now.
One change at a time, live with it, if it’s not broken don’t fix it. Etc. https://www.thegearpage.net/board/index ... t-26474428

You can’t have Super-low/super-light action without sacrificing something in the trade-off.
Some of that will be restricted dynamic range, some of it will be be restriction in how far you can deflect the string.

It’s more of a technique issue than anything else as far as bending the strings is concerned, the diff in action height between playability with no issues and hitting a wall wrt to right hand input or extent of deflection isn’t much, if anything. https://www.thegearpage.net/board/index ... t-26593464

What I was trying to say is if the set-up’s light and low enough to fret out against the radius, it’s too low to avoid smacking the frets as a result of string excursion on the attack anyway.
You need a little clearance to allow the guitar to speak whether you’re bending the string or not, and the diff in action between a set-up that works well enough all around and one that doesn’t is negligible.

I always have one or two guitars set shred low and light to amuse myself with at home, they just don’t translate well on stage. A teeny bit more height or a gauge up and they’re back in the ballpark. https://www.thegearpage.net/board/index ... t-26597464

[Discussing Wolf] The neck-thru thing is tricky, there's so much stiffness and rigidity in the basic design that there's no way to get them to behave like a bolt-on or set neck.
I'm reasonably convinced Garcia adopted the extreme relief strategy with the later Irwin's to address that "overly efficient" fundamental presentation.
I can't say exactly why it happens, but as the relief increases and the action goes up on the neck-thru, you get a little closer to a normal plucked string sound, "plunk", relative to the same guitar with the action low and the neck straight.
That's how it seems on mine anyway. https://www.thegearpage.net/board/index ... t-24238918

Re: Jerry’s Action & Pick Height!

PostPosted:Sun Aug 16, 2020 7:51 am
by Jon S.
And just another several.

Hey, it's not a dull thing the neck-thru's do, there's just so much sustain the balance of overtones and how they change over time is much slower.
You have to cripple that efficiency somewhere, somehow, a little bit to get them in the ballpark of a set-neck or bolt-on in terms of spectral envelope modulation.

You hit a note on a decent neck-thru with an arrow straight neck, low action, and a light string and absolutely nothing happens.
The note just stays hit.
Doesn't matter if it's dull or bright, the spectral balance hangs in there long enough to be considered monochromatic by a lot of folks.

I'm ok with thinking that same behavior, emphasis on other than the attack portion of the envelope, is generally true of all guitars on the heavy side relative to lighter weight guitars, but it seems to hit its peak with the hippy sandwhich neck-thru's.

I love them personally, but they do not set-up like a Strat if you want em to speak. https://www.thegearpage.net/board/index ... t-24247073

My set up is pretty much opposite of Garcia's, really heavy strings, really weak pickups. Hard to judge relative action height after so many years. . probably similar with Jerry's a little higher from greater relief.
It's been a long time. . : (
No electronics on board, but that's a very fine distinction imho, plenty of stuff downstream from the pickups in any case.
His sound was just him, he sounded like that on any guitar or amp. https://www.thegearpage.net/board/index ... t-14081861

Re: Jerry’s Action & Pick Height!

PostPosted:Sun Aug 16, 2020 7:57 am
by Jon S.
And now my own advice to the OP.

Kimock wrote, "His sound was just him, he sounded like that on any guitar or amp." https://www.thegearpage.net/board/index ... t-14081861

This, to me, is why, although I, too, often chase the Jerry dragon, in the end, there's still that song.

You're not Jerry Garcia. You're yourself. So be yourself. For isn't being yourself the most Jerry thing we can do with our music and gear?

In the end, set your guitar up the way YOU like it. Be soulful, musical, and comfortable. Don't overly stress your ligaments and tendons by setting up your guitar like someone else's if that's not what truly fits YOU.

Kimock recommends essentially this, too. Hard as it is to believe now in our calmer days here, we used to have huge arguments over it. But isn't just a restatement of "to each his own - respect diversity?"

“[P]ersonally I disagree with the general philosophy of ‘genre equals gear’ at anything beyond a cosmetic level. I think the right idea is to find the right amp for you, and then play whatever kind of music you like. The 'Jerry Thing' was just Jerry. It wouldn’t have mattered what he used and he used a lot of stuff.”

Steve Kimock (The Gear Page 04/08/18) https://www.thegearpage.net/board/index ... t-26194277

Re: Jerry’s Action & Pick Height!

PostPosted:Sun Aug 16, 2020 8:48 am
by NeilG1
Absolutely fascinating. Gonna have to digest this for a while. Thank you for posting!

Re: Jerry’s Action & Pick Height!

PostPosted:Sun Aug 16, 2020 12:59 pm
by LazyLightning72
Thanks for this wealth of info on the topic. It’s far more involved then I had anticipated when I posted the question, In the best possible way though.

Re: Jerry’s Action & Pick Height!

PostPosted:Sun Aug 16, 2020 2:38 pm
by PurpleTrails
Thanks for posting the Kimock stuff from TGP, Jon! The one I was thinking about wasn't in that bunch, but a lot of other stuff I hadn't seen is. I'm also going to have to spend some time digesting this stuff.

Re: Jerry’s Action & Pick Height!

PostPosted:Thu Sep 17, 2020 1:50 pm
by LazyLightning72
I was going to try this setup on my 60s Classic Vibe Strat, but decided 2 weeks ago to try it on my Wolf.

The only difference is I stayed at .020 relief, where he was at .030. At first it feels a little “springy”

I’m still not completely used to it, but it’s staring to sound nice.

Intonation is a bit of a pita though.

Re: Jerry’s Action & Pick Height!

PostPosted:Fri Sep 18, 2020 9:33 am
by TI4-1009
LazyLightning72 wrote:
Thu Sep 17, 2020 1:50 pm
Intonation is a bit of a pita though.
Jerry used A LOT of finger vibrato.

Re: Jerry’s Action & Pick Height!

PostPosted:Fri Sep 18, 2020 12:14 pm
by LazyLightning72
I will probably keep it setup like this for the foreseeable future. I might even make another adjustment to get my relief from .020 to .030, but right now I like where it’s at.

Re: Jerry’s Action & Pick Height!

PostPosted:Thu Oct 01, 2020 5:13 pm
by TI4-1009
I was listening to The Pizza Tapes a few days ago. One of the tracks is Jerry playing Tony Rice's famous D-28. Tony offers it to him, Jer picks it up and plays one or two very Jer runs and says something like "Ooh, you can't really dig in." His runs sounded pretty buzzy, so it sounds like Tony had pretty standard or low action and Jerry had to back off to avoid the buzz. He plays it for another 4-5 minutes, but a bit softer and with less volume, adapting to the setup.