Relief or no relief? What do you think?

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dadgad6strings
Posts: 75
Joined: Wed Nov 14, 2018 9:48 pm

Relief or no relief? What do you think?

Post: # 5716Post dadgad6strings
Sat Aug 06, 2022 1:29 pm

I know there are different schools of thought on the subject and many variables that come into play, but here's the question.

Can lower action and better playability be achieved with relief or a totally flat neck?

In addition, still considering a low action at the 12th fret, how does, if indeed it does, relief effect volume and/or tone?

To be clear - the intention of my post is see how others, whether they do their own set-ups or have a pro do it, have achieved their preferred action.

I’ve been doing my own set-ups for 20 years or so and have always preferred a fairly low action and a flat neck.

Recently, I acquired a really nice Collings OM1 that needed the action adjusted. The previous owner hadn’t played it in a long time and the action was much higher then I like.
There was a saddle in the case from the previous owner so I thought I’d try it. When I installed it, I found it to be much lower than the generally prescribed height that would be recommended.
The relief, as it came from the previous owner was more than I would normally set it so I made a slight adjustment. Much to my surprise, it played incredibly well with no buzz. I shared the experience on this thread -
https://www.collingsforum.net/forum/vie ... 5520#p5520

So…. That’s what got me to re-thinking my philosophy on what’s better – relief or no relief.

Frank Sanns
Posts: 126
Joined: Sun Oct 21, 2018 5:38 pm
Real Name: Frank Sanns
Location: Pittsburgh

Re: Relief or no relief? What do you think?

Post: # 5717Post Frank Sanns
Sat Aug 06, 2022 10:09 pm

You will probably get the purists saying that it has to be to the tenth of millimeter to be "correct" and you will get others that say to just play it. In the end I think both are correct.

Each instrument is a little different hence the strings will behave a little differently. I have not experienced any great volume differences when relief is put in or not. To clarify that though, a string can be plucked with a great variety of force. Somebody with a light touch can get away with just about anything. No so with somebody "working" the guitar strings hard with stiff pick. That latter condition will require a setup that can allow for the largest excursion of a string before buzzing with another fret. This is how I like my guitar setup. "

So at MY maximum plucking (it is different for all of us) at all frets and strings, the guitar will sometimes just give a tap of another fret being touched at the moment the string is released. When this is the worst case on open frets and all of the way up the fretboard, I am good. Anything short of that and I find myself compensating on a particular string on a particular fret. Sometimes, that is the compromise that is needed though and that is the stopping point.

For me then, it is about my particular playing style on a particular guitar with a particular string. Numbers? Well, a good starting point but not necessarily the end point.

dadgad6strings
Posts: 75
Joined: Wed Nov 14, 2018 9:48 pm

Re: Relief or no relief? What do you think?

Post: # 5718Post dadgad6strings
Sun Aug 07, 2022 2:32 pm

Good input Frank. I rarely ever measure the height of the strings off the frets at the nut or the relief. If it feels right it is. I do measure the action at the twelfth once it's where it feels right.

Interesting and troubling at the same time is that when I have my set-up where I like it, the measurements of the saddle height off the bridge and the strings off the sound board aren't what is generally recommended.

I probably shouldn't care about the numbers if it plays well and sounds good!

Derek
Posts: 21
Joined: Sat Nov 10, 2018 6:50 pm

Re: Relief or no relief? What do you think?

Post: # 5736Post Derek
Mon Aug 22, 2022 5:22 pm

"Can lower action and better playability be achieved with relief or a totally flat neck?

I wouldn't say better. Depends on what is going on with the rest of the setup and the typical relieve amount in a good setup is very, very, small to begin with.



"In addition, still considering a low action at the 12th fret, how does, if indeed it does, relief effect volume and/or tone?"

No change in tone however the maximum volume you can playing without fret buzzing likely would decrease (unless you already
have more significant volume limiting fret buzz at a fret not that affected by a small relief change (say a low nut slot)).

West R Lee
Posts: 29
Joined: Sat Jul 25, 2020 6:10 am
Real Name: J. D. Brown

Re: Relief or no relief? What do you think?

Post: # 5788Post West R Lee
Sat Oct 01, 2022 5:08 am

I set my guitars up, and Collings to me are really easy to get spot on to factory specs for relief via the truss rod/saddle saving, etc.

I'm 65, and have played for maybe 55 of those years, so I've heard read it all regarding relief. I've obviously heard other discuss loss of volume when lowering action, but as in the post about, haven't ever noticed a loss in volume, but I am one of those with that "light touch" discussed earlier. I very rarely play with flat picks or finger picks. As far a buzz, that one really gets me. I remember the first time I heard buzz in an acoustic and went into panic mode. Listen to Tommy Emmanuel play sometime.........every guitar he plays buzzes just a little, but that's the way he loves them. I've watched a James Taylor interview in which he stated that he sets his guitars up as close to "buzzing" as he possibly can.....right there on the edge.

I've got one guitar that is set up REALLY low. That particular guitar, a Guild DV72 plays just fine all year long, but on the coldest and driest winter days, which tend to be few here in Texas, it'll buzz just a bit and that's at room temp and fully humidified.......don't ask me why, but those conditions will sure move a guitar around, or at least that particular guitar.

I've got feeler gauges, micrometers and all the other tools here at the house, so when I get a guitar, I first go to factory specs, and check them. If those specs are spot on as far as relief, then I go to the saddle if I prefer a tad lower action.

I bought a '18 D2HA a few years ago used, and there was indeed some bow in the neck. I followed Collings instructions to the letter, and there was no need to adjust the saddle. They are all just a tad different it seems.

I may not have answered your question, but you can take my opinion, and about $8, and you might get a cup of coffee at Starbucks. :D

West

West R Lee
Posts: 29
Joined: Sat Jul 25, 2020 6:10 am
Real Name: J. D. Brown

Re: Relief or no relief? What do you think?

Post: # 5789Post West R Lee
Sat Oct 01, 2022 3:56 pm

I set my guitars up, and Collings to me are really easy to get spot on to factory specs for relief via the truss rod/saddle saving, etc.

I'm 65, and have played for maybe 55 of those years, so I've heard read it all regarding relief. I've obviously heard others discuss loss of volume when lowering action, but haven't ever noticed a loss in volume, but I am one of those with that "light touch" discussed earlier. I very rarely play with flat picks or finger picks. As far a buzz, that one really gets me. I remember the first time I heard buzz in an acoustic and went into panic mode. Listen to Tommy Emmanuel play sometime.........every guitar he plays buzzes just a little, but that's the way he loves them. I've watched a James Taylor interview in which he stated that he sets his guitars up as close to "buzzing" as he possibly can.....right there on the edge.

I've got one guitar that is set up REALLY low. That particular guitar, a Guild DV72 plays just fine all year long, but on the coldest and driest winter days, which tend to be few here in Texas, it'll buzz just a bit and that's at room temp and fully humidified.......don't ask me why, but those conditions will sure move a guitar around, or at least that particular guitar.

I've got feeler gauges, micrometers and all the other tools here at the house, so when I get a guitar, I first go to factory specs, and check them. If those specs are spot on as far as relief, then I go to the saddle if I prefer a tad lower action.

I bought a '18 D2HA a few years ago used, and there was indeed some bow in the neck. I followed Collings instructions to the letter, and there was no need to adjust the saddle. They are all just a tad different it seems.

I may not have answered your question, but you can take my opinion, and about $8, and you might get a cup of coffee at Starbucks. :D

West

Red Oak
Posts: 395
Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2021 4:00 am

Re: Relief or no relief? What do you think?

Post: # 5922Post Red Oak
Wed Nov 30, 2022 2:47 pm

West R Lee wrote: Sat Oct 01, 2022 3:56 pm I set my guitars up, and Collings to me are really easy to get spot on to factory specs for relief via the truss rod/saddle saving, etc.

I'm 65, and have played for maybe 55 of those years, so I've heard read it all regarding relief. I've obviously heard others discuss loss of volume when lowering action, but haven't ever noticed a loss in volume, but I am one of those with that "light touch" discussed earlier. I very rarely play with flat picks or finger picks. As far a buzz, that one really gets me. I remember the first time I heard buzz in an acoustic and went into panic mode. Listen to Tommy Emmanuel play sometime.........every guitar he plays buzzes just a little, but that's the way he loves them. I've watched a James Taylor interview in which he stated that he sets his guitars up as close to "buzzing" as he possibly can.....right there on the edge.

I've got one guitar that is set up REALLY low. That particular guitar, a Guild DV72 plays just fine all year long, but on the coldest and driest winter days, which tend to be few here in Texas, it'll buzz just a bit and that's at room temp and fully humidified.......don't ask me why, but those conditions will sure move a guitar around, or at least that particular guitar.

I've got feeler gauges, micrometers and all the other tools here at the house, so when I get a guitar, I first go to factory specs, and check them. If those specs are spot on as far as relief, then I go to the saddle if I prefer a tad lower action.

I bought a '18 D2HA a few years ago used, and there was indeed some bow in the neck. I followed Collings instructions to the letter, and there was no need to adjust the saddle. They are all just a tad different it seems.

I may not have answered your question, but you can take my opinion, and about $8, and you might get a cup of coffee at Starbucks. :D

West
Great line about Starbucks!!! I “invested” in a good home espresso machine. It didn’t take long for it to pay for itself.

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