Gear Q&a

This is­sue: Pickup power, odd ac­tion and a gui­tar fit for bat­tle

Guitarist - - Contents -


I re­cently bought a new Les Paul Stan­dard. I’m gen­er­ally pretty happy with it – it plays nicely and sounds great (and looks fan­tas­tic) but there’s one thing that’s bug­ging me. Now, I don’t ven­ture up the ‘dusty end’ too much – I’m mostly a rhythm player, but I’ve no­ticed (mainly on the G string) that above the 12th fret and be­com­ing more no­tice­able the higher you go, there is a dis­tinct lack of sus­tain and some odd over­tones creep­ing in. Any ideas what could be caus­ing it and how I can cure the prob­lem? I would be grate­ful for any ad­vice. Paul Green, via email If the gui­tar is new you might want to have your dealer check it over. If you want to do it your­self, the first thing you need to de­ter­mine is if this prob­lem is caused by dead spots or some­thing else. A dead spot is an area on the fin­ger­board where a note has way less or no sus­tain com­pared to its neigh­bours. You want funk, but you get thunk…

It ac­tu­ally af­fects bassists more than gui­tarists. Dead spots are hard to shift but look on the bright side, your ac­tion could be too low or you might just have dud strings. When you’re ready, swap them out for a de­cent set and see if the prob­lem is re­duced or goes away. By the way, go­ing up a gauge in strings has helped some poor folk in the fight against dead spots. You could try that.

You may have a high fret that’s chok­ing the notes. Try peer­ing down the fin­ger­board from the head­stock end to see if there are any ob­vi­ous bumps in the frets near­est the body. Try rais­ing the ac­tion a lit­tle and see if that in­creases sus­tain. If you’re not sure what to look for or do, take the gui­tar to a qual­i­fied luthier or re­pair bod.

Your pick­ups might be too close to the strings. Un­less they’re ac­tive, pick­ups can ex­ert a mag­netic pull on strings if they’re set too high. Pull the neck pup down a bit and check if that works.

Also, en­sure that all hard­ware is se­cure, as you might be get­ting an un­sym­pa­thetic rat­tle from a loose ma­chine­head or bridge sad­dle, and make sure the truss rod isn’t rat­tling around in its slot, which can cause un­wel­come vi­bra­tions.

Fi­nally, if all else fails and you’re just glad that the prob­lem is con­fined to the part of the neck that you visit the least, con­sider this. Fender man­u­fac­ture a thing called the Fat Fin­ger, a hunk of metal that clamps onto your gui­tar’s head­stock. The idea is the ex­tra mass in­creases sus­tain and can im­prove dead spots. Some bassists swear by the Fat Fin­ger. Oth­ers say it moves the prob­lem to another fret. You’ll get one for less than £20, so it’s al­ways worth a punt.


I’m just about to start play­ing in a cov­ers band, and I have a cou­ple of nice cus­tom gui­tars. How­ever, I don’t re­ally want to use them while de­fend­ing my­self against rowdy wed­ding guests.

Pickup height can af­fect sus­tain

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