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Unread 03-18-2008, 08:06 AM   #1 (permalink)
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HELP: How to setup Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge

Hello folks,

I have recently acquired a Gibson Les Paul Custom R9 Standard VOS . I have come to the point of the 'first restring' and thought I would take the opportunity to try and set up the guitar for optimum intonation and lowest possible string action.
So if anyone knows the procedure or could point me in the direction of a decent tutorial I would be very grateful.
Also, I could do with a Stringing guide for the Gibson Les paul Tune-O-Matic (preferably Jimmy Page's method which I'm told gives better sustain and allows for easier bending and artificial harmonics...perhaps something to do with string angle?)

Any advice here would be very much appreciated.

PS - the spec online says my guitar has the "ABR-1 bridge with lightweight aluminium stopbar". I assume this is just a tune-o-matic setup?
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Unread 03-18-2008, 09:44 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: HELP: How to setup Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge

I'm not sure of the complete name, but the Guitar Player repair book - written by Dan Erlewine - is a great setup guide. You can find one at Stewart-MacDonald: Everything for building and repairing stringed instruments!
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Unread 03-18-2008, 09:50 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: HELP: How to setup Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge

go here:
Gibson Backstage Pass August 2006

Issue 2 has the standard Gibson setup.

IMO, lowest possible action isn't always the best though. YMMV.
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Unread 03-18-2008, 10:32 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: HELP: How to setup Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge

Quote:
Originally Posted by dwagar View Post
go here:
Gibson Backstage Pass August 2006

Issue 2 has the standard Gibson setup.

IMO, lowest possible action isn't always the best though. YMMV.
dwagar, This link is a great start for 1st timers as well as for quick reference...thanks for sharing...I feel Dan Erlewine's books are essential for all guitar owners...I use to think that I knew just enough to do a decent setup on my Les, but after reading a few pages off of Dan's books...my setup is now completely different and the guitar sounds a lot better. Super low action may be great for beginners, but I found as my playing evolved, raising the action was a big necessity for bends and vibrato.
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Unread 03-18-2008, 11:16 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: HELP: How to setup Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge

I agree, I keep both of Dan's books close at hand.
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Unread 03-18-2008, 01:24 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: HELP: How to setup Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge

My les is set low and you get a sucky tone around the 10th fret onward. Set it a fraction higher and thing improve. Gibsons are very finicky guitars
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Unread 03-18-2008, 04:24 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: HELP: How to setup Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge

FWIW, here's the spec I try to get to on my Les Pauls when setting up:

Neck bow - 0.010" measured at midpoint between frets 1 and 17 on G string.
12th fret action - High E 0.040", Low E 0.055"
1st Fret action, Low string to high string - 0.020", 0.016", 0.013", 0.020", 0.018", 0.016".

If the frets are level you can get to that without excessive fret buzz or choking, but they're often not that level.

Worth messing around with stop bar height to see what suits you, and what suits your guitar. I've got one that likes the stop bar screwed right down, and 2 that don't. Weird, eh?

My setup method goes something like:

1. Clean and restring being very careful not to kink new strings.
2. Tune to pitch.
3. Check/adjust neck bow.
4. Tune to pitch
5. Set action at 12th fret using height adjusters.
6. Tune to pitch
7. Play every string on every fret (luthiers do this faster than Yngwie Malmsteen would play it, they do it a lot) listening for buzzes. Bend in all your favourite place to check for "choking".

At this point, with a guitar I'm not familiar with I sometimes loop around steps 3 to 7 a bit just to find where it works best. Strats, Les Pauls and Teles I generally know what kind of neck bow I need and how low the action is likely to go.

8. Set intonation at 12th fret using intonation screws. You need a really accurate tuner for this. The only cheap fairly accurate tuner around AFAIK is the Korg CA-30 (or GA-30). You need to tune to plus/minus 1 cent at worst really.
9. Tune to pitch (I do this a lot, don't I!)

Finally:
10. Check/set action at first fret (laugh a minute, sweat profusely while filing nut, swear if I go too far). I also lube the nut slots at this point.

Never used to work to measurements, but it saves so much time if you know what you're aiming for. Set of feeler gauges is absolutely invaluable.

HTH

Liam
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Unread 03-18-2008, 07:16 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: HELP: How to setup Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge

Not super deep in details but its a starting point.

YouTube - Gibson Les Paul: Electric Guitar Setup : How to Set the Intonation on a Les Paul Guitar
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Unread 03-21-2008, 04:34 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: HELP: How to setup Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge

Many thanks for the information chaps, very helpful indeed.
I noticed that in the Gibson Backstage Pass August 2006 Issue 2 recommended that during the setup process, for the abr-1 bridge, the tailpiece should be flush to the guitar body. When I changed my strings for the first time I intended to do this (the low-E side of the tailpiece is perhaps 1.5mm above flush, the high-E side is pretty much there). I tried, using a coin, to screw down the tailpiece. The tailpiece screws felt very tight so I was wary of doing damage to or stripping a thread - I'm not sure how the tailpiece is threaded. I'm sure it is just a simple case of cranking the tailpiece down, but I am a little paranoid as it's such a beautiful instrument (not to mention an expensive one) that I'm working with. So, is it just a case of beating the resistance and screwing the tailpiece down to the body?
Also, if anyone has any detailed pictures of the tailpiece screws out of the body that would be interesting. Oh, I used the top wrap stringing method.

Best regards all,
Adam
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Unread 03-21-2008, 07:59 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: HELP: How to setup Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge

Have a play with the tailpiece when the strings are off. There shouldn't be a great deal of resistance to turning the screws. (Coins are good for this like you say, or a real chunky screwdriver).

FWIW all the way down on the top, and a little more elevated on the bottom works for my old LP Standard, but I'm not a "top wrap" kind of guy, so YMMV.
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Unread 03-22-2008, 08:27 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Talking Re: HELP: How to setup Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge

Hello Folks,
Another new guy here, I just wanted to comment on the bridge adjustments.
Let me start by saying that I usually work on and play strats, but I have my high school Les Paul Custom 1970 ( I think) I never play it out at jams just for saftey sake but there it sits and it needs to be played. I too have the Latest Dan Earlwine book but never paid much attention to the parts about LP's. Yesterday and today I spent almost the entire day working on that LP, bringing it back to life.
To be honest it has always been hard to play, and back in the day when I bought it I really didn't know the difference. I quit playing to raise a family and do the parent/business/earn a living thing. But I got back into guitars about 6 years ago and have been working and playing strats and keeping the LP in the closet.
Well I too had the sagging bridge so I followed the book and re-bent it back to flush on the top, I smoothed all the saddles as Dan recommended and did as you are all commenting on, I strung it thru and over the stop tail and took the stop back down to the body....
I play Blues and bend allot so that is one of the reasons I haven't been too thrilled with the LP lately, it hurts these old hands to bend the way I like to.
But as of this afternoon, it plays really well, I do sense a little more sustain now ( could be all in my mind) but it feels much better. I followed that book page for page and reset the lugs in the pickups as well and I have to say I feel like I just brought home a new guitar.
Thanks for all the great suggestions you guy's post on here, hope to visit as much as I can.
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Unread 03-31-2008, 02:54 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Question Re: HELP: How to setup Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge

Quote:
Originally Posted by dwagar View Post
go here:
Gibson Backstage Pass August 2006

Issue 2 has the standard Gibson setup.

IMO, lowest possible action isn't always the best though. YMMV.
This link is cool however its kind of hard to follow some of it. Step 6, 5th page that show's the truss rod adjustment says "when the neck is straight the E string will run flat against the top of the frets." Does this mean when you hold the strings down at the 1st fret and 17th fret? Or does this mean you should tighten the truss rod until the strings hit the top of the frets and then put some relief back in?
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Unread 03-31-2008, 05:23 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Re: HELP: How to setup Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge

Quote:
Originally Posted by decoy205 View Post
This link is cool however its kind of hard to follow some of it. Step 6, 5th page that show's the truss rod adjustment says "when the neck is straight the E string will run flat against the top of the frets." Does this mean when you hold the strings down at the 1st fret and 17th fret? Or does this mean you should tighten the truss rod until the strings hit the top of the frets and then put some relief back in?
I think he used the term flat but really meant parallel, thats how most necks are checked during the neck adjustment series.
I have to say I am no luthier but anybody who uses steel wool is pushing their luck around pickups even with tape on them, and he mentions using linseed oil but doesn't specfy boiled ( which will dry) or raw which gets gummy. I know the difference but does everybody, I think that whole article could have been written better.
Hey I'm no writer...LOL
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Unread 03-31-2008, 05:34 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Re: HELP: How to setup Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge

One cannot ever adjusts one's ax if one is too polite;this aint brain surgery guys!
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Unread 04-16-2008, 07:18 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Re: HELP: How to setup Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge

Quote:
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One cannot ever adjusts one's ax if one is too polite;this aint brain surgery guys!
One would rather ask than risk impairing one's investment (3800).
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Unread 04-01-2009, 08:40 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Re: HELP: How to setup Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge

Ha Ha ...hurray for you say I!
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Unread 06-16-2011, 11:54 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Re: HELP: How to setup Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge

Great information about setup etc. I've been playing just over a year and have been wanting to learn how to do all this cool stuff and so really appreciate all the input here. Also by the time I was done reading here I had ordered Dan Erlewine's book from amazon. Thanks all!

McCloud
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Unread 06-17-2011, 03:10 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Re: HELP: How to setup Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge

Quote:
Originally Posted by decoy205 View Post
This link is cool however its kind of hard to follow some of it. Step 6, 5th page that show's the truss rod adjustment says "when the neck is straight the E string will run flat against the top of the frets." Does this mean when you hold the strings down at the 1st fret and 17th fret? Or does this mean you should tighten the truss rod until the strings hit the top of the frets and then put some relief back in?
This means when the E string is fretted on first & last frets or the first & 17th. Don't tighten it so much that the frets come up to the strings unfretted!
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Unread 06-17-2011, 05:29 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Re: HELP: How to setup Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge

I always use this method for setup and it is just fine for me.
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Unread 06-22-2011, 01:56 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Re: HELP: How to setup Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge

So after reading this thread I ordered Dan Erlewine's book, it is just what the Dr. Ordered. Now I just need need a "victim" guitar to practice on I think I have just the ticket. I don't want to mess up my brand new Epiphone 57 Gold Top reissue that I just purchased so I think I will try it out on a clunker guitar I bought off craigs list for 50 bucks awhile back. Gain a little experience before I do any experimentation on my new toy. It has a ton of great info and photos that is exactly what I needed. Thanks for all the info guys.

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Unread 06-22-2011, 02:30 AM   #21 (permalink)
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Re: HELP: How to setup Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge

Having the saddles filed to open the slots a little more then smooth them with 1000 grit sand paper will help intonation greatly. Alot of time a bridge that never had the saddles filed will end up with the strings diging into the brass and causing a pinch point, pinching just like on a nut will make intonation be off, strings won`t sustain as well, tone will suffer, and strings will be more apt to break. Bridge saddles are a common weak link in the tone chain, I always file mine so the 1st and 2nd string have a 3rd string sized fileing, 3rd and 4th have a 5th string sized fileing, 5th and 6th string saddles I usually file them with a .056 file,, don`t be afraid to open the saddles up your strings won`t move around when bending and your guitars tone and tuneability will improve 100%
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Unread 06-25-2011, 07:40 AM   #22 (permalink)
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Re: HELP: How to setup Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge

does any1 here have the les paul handbook ?
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Unread 06-25-2011, 08:14 AM   #23 (permalink)
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Re: HELP: How to setup Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge

Quote:
Originally Posted by Liam View Post
10. Check/set action at first fret (laugh a minute, sweat profusely while filing nut, swear if I go too far).


Thanks for the informative post, Liam! (From three years ago!)

I really got a kick out of the portion quoted!

Well done!
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Unread 06-25-2011, 09:14 PM   #24 (permalink)
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Re: HELP: How to setup Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge

Quote:
Originally Posted by dwagar View Post
IMO, lowest possible action isn't always the best though. YMMV.
I agree. I had the action on my AFD REALLY low, and what ended up happening is I'd either fret out, or the strings that I'm not playing would slip under my fingers while doing a bend.. Was good for playing really fast without bends tho... I keep my action at a medium level now .. just perfect!
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