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Author Topic:   adjustable bridge for the steel
Jeff Hogsten
Member

From: Flatwoods Ky USA

posted 28 March 2004 06:28 AM     profile     
In another post I had about tuning Paul Franklin posted the following

I believe the adjustable bridge has to be the next evolutionary step for the instrument.....Paul

I have heard this mentioned before. Does anyone know if it is being considered or researched by any of the manufactures

Jeff

C Dixon
Member

From: Duluth, GA USA

posted 28 March 2004 07:19 AM     profile     
Not sure Jeff,

But I doubt it. This would be some changer! Having a non solid Axle; as all modern changers have would be an engineer's nightmare. It would mean every finger must be supported by its OWN axle and it needs to be adjustable. Wow

As I posted in that thread after Paul said that, there is something on the Anapegs and the Excels that is interesting. And just may fall into the realm of the future (IF my suspicion is correct).

These two changers move left to right to lower or raise strings. IE, unlike all other changers being made today, they do not change pitch by bending the string around a common axle.

It would appear these changers would cause intonation problems. Yet those I contacted (including me) can't hear it. So it is possible, these changers have a built in "stretcher" or "intonation" corrector. And in essence aids intonation; instead of hurting it.

I am not sure.

Time will tell.

carl

Are you troubled? Try this

Bob Hoffnar
Member

From: Brooklyn, NY

posted 28 March 2004 08:55 AM     profile     
The first thing that comes to mind for me is the changer could work from the other side or could be set back a couple inches with the strings running over an adjustable bridge.

Another thing that comes to mind is that if a player cannot play a current pedalsteel in tune he won't be able to play an adjustable one in tune either.

Bob

C Dixon
Member

From: Duluth, GA USA

posted 28 March 2004 09:21 AM     profile     
Fender's first PSG's pulled the strings over a fixed bridge that could have easily been made adjustable. However, they as well as most who owned them found out that when you pull a string over a hill, you have created a positive string breaker.

Tell ya how bad it was. When I went to install Ralph Mooney's high G# to A string, there was NO way I could engage the pedal even a single time without it breaking. While subsequent attempts allowed me to pump the pedal several times, there was no case when I could get thru even a single tune without the string breaking.

We then changed the solid bridge to a roller bridge. It did not help one iota. Still broke strings galore.

Fender apparently realizing the goof, completely redesigned the changer and used a moving bridge type approach. Result, No more string breakage.

I agree with your last statement 100%. Jerry Byrd says, "don't try to play in tune by watching the frets when playing a steel guitar. Listen for it!!"

Now on a fretted instrument, that is an entirely different ballgame.

carl

ed packard
Member

From: Show Low AZ

posted 28 March 2004 10:05 AM     profile     
For a possible way to do this, see the Mar. 28 post in the "Strings, Gauges, Mechanisms" thread.

BH; A very astute observation, ..you must have heard my playing!

Edp

Eric West
Member

From: Portland, Oregon, USA

posted 28 March 2004 12:29 PM     profile     
Noting this some time ago, as the different lengths on electric guitars, I have been thinking and thinking, but nothing is happening. It seems the Hand/Brain Theory I proposed was dismissed out of hand. So it goes with my best thoughts...

I suppose you could have two slanted axles, and that would work, but it'd be non adjustable, and you think people bitch about cabinet drop now...

Also you could shape the changers of the individual string so that the apex was back slightly, with a common mill file.

The resulting minute lowering of the strings would never be noticed by the picking hand or the bar. It'd be on the order of thousanths of an inch. Differences in string pull at certain points would be negligible. If it indeed proved up with the "filed changer" he next logical step would be to mill one slightly off axis. No big deal.

At a certain point, I realised that what mr BYRD said was right, and that there's not a lot of serious intent behind this whole "tuning deal" or someone with the IQ higher than this dump truck driver would have done what I just proposed.

Three note slants have been used for the best part of last century pretty successfully.
More than "Tone", "Tuning" is All in the Hands.

You either play in tune, or you don't. The Guitar, like the tuning, is the least of it.

Prayer doesn't hurt either.

EJL

[This message was edited by Eric West on 28 March 2004 at 12:31 PM.]

Donny Hinson
Member

From: Balto., Md. U.S.A.

posted 28 March 2004 12:57 PM     profile     
Eric, I think you're right...most of it is in the hands!

Re: the adjustable bridge...it wouldn't require separate axles! All you would have to do would be to have the top (1/4") section of the finger machined as a separate piece, and then this could slide back and forth in a dovetail which would be machined on the top of the finger. A small hex-head machine screw would provide the fore-aft adjustment (probably best accessible from the pickup side of the changer).

ed packard
Member

From: Show Low AZ

posted 28 March 2004 02:37 PM     profile     
Donny, ..I like it! That would solve the string length variation puzzle for the PSG, and allow variation at will (giving pickers an adjustment could be dangerous).

To all invloved, what is the sonic advantage to be realized from the variable string length?

Roger Shackelton
Member

From: Everett, Wa.

posted 29 March 2004 03:01 AM     profile     
A S-12 PSG was played at the Steel Guitar Convention in St. Louis in the 1970s, by the son of the owner of the Howard Guitar Co. This guitar had both individual movable bridge levers(L & R) and individual height adjustable nut rollers.

BTW:The mans name is Jerry Stark.

Roger

[This message was edited by Roger Shackelton on 30 March 2004 at 02:57 AM.]

Greg Vincent
Member

From: Los Angeles, CA USA

posted 29 March 2004 09:54 AM     profile     
I'm confused:

Why does a PSG need adjustable string lengths? The reason it's necessary on a fretted guitar is that the strings are being pressed down and thus stretched, and so the fretted note is sharper than it should be. Adjustable string length compensates for this.

We steelers don't press down on the strings, we're just using what is essentially a "moving capo". So why the need for different string lengths???

-GV

Bob Hoffnar
Member

From: Brooklyn, NY

posted 29 March 2004 05:05 PM     profile     
Greg,
The reason that a guitar has an adjustable bridge isn't because of the strings being pushed against the frets.

Bob

C Dixon
Member

From: Duluth, GA USA

posted 29 March 2004 06:13 PM     profile     
I agree with Greg on this. The reason that a slanted bridge won't cut it exactly, is because of the string gauges not varying linearly.

If it is not because the strings are being pressed against the neck "sharpening" the strings, I can't imagine what it would be used for.

I believe the way they tune the adjustable bridge proves that. Do they not harmonic the open string at the 12th fret, THEN pick it at the 12th fret and set the bridge adjustment for the same pitch? What are they compensating for? It's the same string.

If I am incorrect, I am very much interested in this, and I will stand respectfully corrected. Because that is what I have been taught and heard for years.

carl

Donny Hinson
Member

From: Balto., Md. U.S.A.

posted 29 March 2004 06:25 PM     profile     
I think Carl is right...at least, that's what I've always understood! If the action is set higher on a straight guitar, the string length will have to be adjusted to maintain intonation due to the increased tension caused by fretting the string.

On a pedal steel, we're not depressing the strings nearly as much, but the bar pressing down on the strings still probably has a measurable (though insignificant) effect.

To answer Greg's question, as referenced in another post by Paul Franklin, adjustable bridges on a PSG would allow the steel to be "stretch tuned" to match the stretch-tuning method used on pianos.

Bob Hoffnar
Member

From: Brooklyn, NY

posted 29 March 2004 07:47 PM     profile     
Greg,
I talked with a guitar tech and it turns out you are right about the fret thing. There is another issue though that applies to guitar as well as steel.

Each gauge string vibrates just a little different from each other. For the best intonation you want those vibrations to line up perpendicularly with each other on the neck. The adjustable bridge helps compensate for that.

Bob

Ron Randall
Member

From: Dallas, Texas, USA

posted 29 March 2004 10:30 PM     profile     
I hope to add something here.
On a six string fretted guitar, a slanted bridge is a compromise. The really good acoustics have a bridge that is filed in such a way as to adjust each string's length. If one changes gauges, or goes from a plain to a wound, you get to start over. It may look slanted, but close inspection will show peaks for each string.
The electrics with an adjustable bridge for each string, can have almost perfect intonation.

I wonder why we don't compensate for intonation at the nut? Move the rollers back and forth a wee bit to set the intonation.

Carl, fyi... the most troublesome string on a six string fretted guitar is the B string. This plain string ends up being the longest most of the time. IT is also a third in the GBD triad.

Hope this helped

Ron

SKIP MERTZ
Member

From: N.C

posted 30 March 2004 01:23 AM     profile     
It doesnt seem that it would be that difficult to make the roller bridge adjustable, possible with precision bearings
David L. Donald
Member

From: Koh Samui Island, Thailand

posted 30 March 2004 02:34 AM     profile     
Carl I don't think a separate axel for each finger is needed, just a sliding top piece with set screw.
Actually not that hard to do.
Dustin Rigsby
Member

From: Columbus, Ohio

posted 30 March 2004 02:42 AM     profile     
Ah,but the tuning for guitar is a temper tuning too ! That is why Buzz Fieten(sp?) developed his patented tuning system.If you tune a guitar to a piano,it will not perfectly intonate,therefore you compensate by tuning to the E and then use your ear(JI) for the rest. It also has to do with your feel on the guitar,which is why every guitarist should learn to intonate his own guitar,because everyone's touch is a little different.

------------------
D.S. Rigsby
Carter Starter and various six string toys

John Floyd
Member

From: Somewhere between Camden County , NC and Saluda S.C.

posted 30 March 2004 08:44 AM     profile     
quote:
I wonder why we don't compensate for intonation at the nut? Move the rollers back and forth a wee bit to set the intonation.

Ron Thats a very good Idea and the Microfrets Guitar co in Frederick MD had the same idea in the late 60's - 70's. Works great and it is adjusted for intonation at the First Fret after the bridge saddles are adjusted of perfect intonation at the 12th fret.

Greg Vincent
Member

From: Los Angeles, CA USA

posted 30 March 2004 02:13 PM     profile     
A staggered bridge on, say, a Les Paul, is there so that each individual string will fret in tune up the neck. You adjust the length of the string so that the harmonic on the 12th fret matches the fretted note at the 12th fret.

We steelers don't fret the strings, so I don't see how this adjustment is relevant to steel guitar.

How does a piano's stretched tuning have anything to do with how our steel guitars intonate as you move up the neck? That's dependent on bar position & bar pressure.

-GV


[This message was edited by Greg Vincent on 30 March 2004 at 02:17 PM.]

C Dixon
Member

From: Duluth, GA USA

posted 30 March 2004 05:29 PM     profile     
quote:
"How does a piano's stretched tuning have anything to do with how our steel guitars intonate as you move up the neck? That's dependent on bar position & bar pressure."

I could not agree more with Greg,

carl

Eric West
Member

From: Portland, Oregon, USA

posted 30 March 2004 06:22 PM     profile     
Greg. It IS relevant, but only to three or more note chords. Then, only by the desire to have one of the middle strings intoned better. Also I suppose with two notes played on adjacent strings where they get that "guitar effect" as you noted. Myself, I appearantly slant automatically. I've been testing myself on it, and I find that I slant a lot more than I "wobble".

This is getting interesting.

I'm still wondering about the IIIm in a harmonized scale having to be 5 or more cents flat to "sound good".

I'll check back later.

EJL

Jack Anderson
Member

From: Scarborough, ME

posted 30 March 2004 07:03 PM     profile     
A movable top piece for the changer fingers sounds like it might not stay concentric with the axle, but maybe I am just not visualizing the idea correctly. Taking another tack, staggered changer axles, as such, sound difficult; but staggered "knife edge" pivots for each changer finger shouldn't be.
C Dixon
Member

From: Duluth, GA USA

posted 30 March 2004 08:17 PM     profile     
Jack,

I have the same questions. I can visualize no workable way to shift a moving bridge without having individual axles. Remember all but two changers change pitch by concentrically moving the string around and axle.

This means that no matter what you tried to do the only way to shift one absent the other would be to use a separate axle. I hear and read what some posters are saying. But the more I think about it, the more I have a problem with a common axle.

But then again maybe. I would have to see it work however,

carl

ed packard
Member

From: Show Low AZ

posted 31 March 2004 07:13 AM     profile     
IF you can't have individual axles, you do have individual axle holes in the fingers. Try the idea of drilling those off center by the amount that you want that string lengthened/shortened. This would mean "knowing" what you want for string length compensations before assembling the changer.

Now for a variable/adjustable finger, ..trickier machining, but make the axle hole in a separate piece that fits into a slot in the finger (where the axle hole was) and can be positioned via a screw thread through the separate piece, either above or below the axle.

If you can't move the axle, move the hole.

I am still not sure what the sonic advantage would be. As far as I know, the staggered bridge came about on the old arch top guitars (before pickups). In those days there was the problem of playing with the big bands without amplification. This meant having the strings rather high above the neck, hence the apparent need for some type of compensation re intonation. If the staggered bridge was patented, there would be a reason given in the patent for the staggering. My Martin has a slanted (but not staggered) bridge.

Luthiers also added "resonators" (various length fingers of metal) to which the strings were attached, ..do we need these also?

Some Stromberg banjos had resonator tubes of different sizes "under the hood", I have not seen this on the PSG yet; Why not?

Edp

Jack Anderson
Member

From: Scarborough, ME

posted 31 March 2004 10:29 AM     profile     
Pivoting changer fingers like those in the Fender 800/2000 on separate "knife edges" that could be moved along the axis of the strings would seem like the way to go, but the same idea could be implemented with a more "conventional" finger whose top end pivots around, and has a radius concentric with, a round axle.

This is easier to draw than to describe, but here goes: picture conventional "axle" holes in each changer finger, but with an opening from the axle hole all the way out through the side of the changer finger that faces towards the nut, with the opening being somewhat narrower than the axle diameter. For each finger there would be a separate stub "axle" only as wide as the finger, and each of these axles would be at the end of an integral mounting "tab" whose width is also about the width of the changer finger, and whose thickness is somewhat less than the opening in the side of the changer finger. These tabs would be perhaps an inch or two long. From the side, the axles with their tabs would resemble lollipops on fat sticks. The axle would be inserted from the side into the changer finger, the dimensions being such that the finger couldn't fall off the axle while changing strings, but could still rock sufficiently on the axle.

Without having tried to build this, I don't know if there would be a problem with the strength of the changer fingers resulting from the opening in their sides, but I don't think there would be, even with the Ron Lashley-prescribed ratio of axle radius to finger radius, because I don't think that side of the finger adjacent to the axle is bearing much of any kind of a load.

The rest is similar to what I had in mind for the separate knife edge idea: the tabs would extend towards the nut, and each tab would be anchored separately to the neck (or the guitar body) with a bolt going through a slot in each tab. They might have to sit in channels in the neck, or nestle snugly beside each other in one big pocket, to help hold them in place. The slots in the tabs for the hold-down bolts would allow the tabs to be moved fore and aft along the axis of the strings to adjust intonation. The details of how the tabs are attached to the neck and/or body presumably would affect tone, although not necessarily adversely.

So, like a lot of PSG ideas, this shouldn't be that hard to do, but is it worth doing? Frankly, for my style and modest level of playing, I doubt it, but that's not to say that others wouldn't appreciate the benefits.

C Dixon
Member

From: Duluth, GA USA

posted 31 March 2004 10:30 AM     profile     
The steel guitar does not have the limitations of a fixed fret. Also there is really only ONE fret (save fret 0) in any given instance; and that is of course the bar itself.

Since the location of this fret (bar) is totally under the control of the player (a human) and is 99% of the time a moving fret, I simply do not see any advantage of building a "Rube Goldberg" into the changer to get around a problem that may or may not exist.

To me it is like "going all the way around one's fist to get to their thumb!"

Who on this earth could ask for a perceived "intonation" on the steel guitar, superior to what a JB or LG has given us since day one? Or A BE, or a PF, etc, etc? And as far as I know, each of these greats have always played the steel guitar with a fixed bridge.

Now for the late Chet Atkins or Larry Carlton, etc, etc, now that is a horse of a different color; since these players DID have the disadvantage of the fixed fret anamoly.

But lets say someone did find a way to build a PSG bridge with intonation adjustment, HOW would it be adjusted? Remember how a regular guitar is adjusted. You hamonic the open string at the 12th fret. THEN you fret the string at the 12 fret and tune for equal notes.

How in the name of heaven could one do this using a bar in the 2nd step; and not have all kinds of errors such as parallax errors, etc?

carl

Greg Vincent
Member

From: Los Angeles, CA USA

posted 31 March 2004 11:49 AM     profile     
quote:
But lets say someone did find a way to build a PSG bridge with intonation adjustment, HOW would it be adjusted? Remember how a regular guitar is adjusted. You hamonic the open string at the 12th fret. THEN you fret the string at the 12 fret and tune for equal notes.

How in the name of heaven could one do this using a bar in the 2nd step; and not have all kinds of errors such as parallax errors, etc?


My point exactly, Carl! Bar position is too "subjective" to make this adjustment.

-GV

[This message was edited by Greg Vincent on 31 March 2004 at 11:50 AM.]

[This message was edited by Greg Vincent on 31 March 2004 at 11:50 AM.]

[This message was edited by Greg Vincent on 31 March 2004 at 12:20 PM.]

ed packard
Member

From: Show Low AZ

posted 31 March 2004 01:56 PM     profile     
This thread has been a good mental exercise for us, whether it solves a "pickers problem" or not. Most of the Instrument makers read the forum, ..most wisely do not post often. Items/thoughts placed here are ingested by the maker folk, they are PUBLIC DOMAIN if not otherwise labeled, so don't be surprised if your idea, or some form therof shows up in an instrument at some point in time.

Most of the mechanical design problems/answers in the previous posts in this thread would not have been necessary if the changer and or tuner were not on the right end of the instrument.

The solution that I have inplemented in my RFQ re the next instrument, is to combine the changer and tuner, then move them to the left end of the instrument. Among other things, this leaves the right end open to many things; For the "adjustable bridge", any number of standard guitar approaches can be implemented. The vibrating end of the string can be Anchored on, in, or thru the body (another much discussed sonic advantage issue). If one wanted, they could even add a tremolo handle/mechanism (whammy bar), or look at the capability for palm/wrist levers.

Some of this theme is/will be in the thread on "Strings, Gauges, and Mechanisms" in greater detail.

This has been the best thread re mechanical creativity in a long time.

Edp


Donny Hinson
Member

From: Balto., Md. U.S.A.

posted 31 March 2004 01:56 PM     profile     
Try this little experiment...(using the fanciest and most expensive digital tuner you can find).

1.) Tune every string to it's perfect pitch ("dead-on"), no pedals.

2.) NOW, place your bar perfectly straight at the 12th fret by making sure the 1st string and the 10th string are now "dead-on" one octave higher.

3.) Now (without moving the bar!) tell me what your tuner says about all the strings in between.

(I suspect you may be surprised. )

Jack Anderson
Member

From: Scarborough, ME

posted 31 March 2004 06:06 PM     profile     
Ed, if your left-end tuner-plus-changer is practical, your solution to the intonation "problem" -- if it really is a problem that merits solving -- is better than mine. Apart from that, whether or not your fixed bridge permits individual string length adjustment, I bet it will work well for "tone" purposes. But as usual, it's hard not to agree with Carl: although these are interesting mental exercises, a lot of people sure have managed to sound awfully good without solving these "problems." Donny, I am going home to try your experiment.
ed packard
Member

From: Show Low AZ

posted 01 April 2004 05:59 AM     profile     
Jack; Maybe not better, just a different approach , with different possibilities. At all times in the past, it was possible to say "if it was any good it would already exist", or "if it was any good some name would have tried it". We would still be stuck there if everyone had paid attention to that mind set.
Edp

RON PRESTON
Member

From: Dodson, Louisiana, USA

posted 01 April 2004 05:15 PM     profile     
Very well thought out ideas here.
Why not forget the CHANGER, and, Concentrate on the ROLLERNUT? Seems to me, IMHO, It would be MUCH easier to "Stagger" the Roller nuts "Forward" & "Backward" (Independently) to tune for Correct Intonation. (Can be done) But, concerning the CHANGER, I have a "Drawing" that I did quite a while back in "CAD" Class (1993) that is quite simple to "Set the Intonation" on a "FIXED, SOLID AXLE" Changer, NO "Staggering" at all. But, the roller nut Idea would be something to think about. The only reason I never thought any more about it, is what several others said earlier,..Don't really need it. Especially when The "Big E" and all the other "Greats" have been doing it for SO LONG IN TUNE. If it ain't BROKE, then don't FIX IT.

C Dixon
Member

From: Duluth, GA USA

posted 01 April 2004 08:18 PM     profile     
I will say this,

IF any steel manufacturer spends time on designing and installing an intonation adjuster for the steel guitar; BEFORE he designs and builds adjustable nut rollers that would render the tops of all strings dead coplaner level; he needs to be tarred, feathered and sent out on the next one way mars shot.

Becuz tell ya sunthun pahdnah, I have never heard an intonation problem that I could not deal with easily. But that dang string rattle at the first couple frets; requiring me and 6 men and a boy plus, the "fat lady sings" weight on the bar to keep it from happenin at the first fret, is enough to justify that trip! ANY day, and twice on tunesdays.

Oops

carl

RON PRESTON
Member

From: Dodson, Louisiana, USA

posted 02 April 2004 05:26 AM     profile     
Brother Carl,
You tickle me to Death. You a Funny Man.
I am SOOO GLAD I've NEVER had that problem that you seem to have at the First fret. I BET you "FRET".....Ha, couldn't resist.
I WOULDN'T BE LAUGHING AT ALL myself if I had to deal with it.
If I can figure a way to post a picture of my Ideas on BOTH the Changer AND the ajustable roller nut, I would like to get some feedback.

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