HELP: How to setup Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge

Discussion in 'Gibson Les Pauls' started by mrjarvie, Mar 18, 2008.

  1. mrjarvie

    mrjarvie Junior Member

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    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?
     
  2. blueszman

    blueszman Junior Member

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  3. dwagar

    dwagar V.I.P. Member

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  4. magnido45

    magnido45 Senior Member

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    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.
     
  5. dwagar

    dwagar V.I.P. Member

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    I agree, I keep both of Dan's books close at hand.
     
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  6. sgstyle

    sgstyle Junior Member

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    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
     
  7. Liam

    Liam V.I.P. Member

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    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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  8. Pronstar

    Pronstar Junior Member

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  9. mrjarvie

    mrjarvie Junior Member

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    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
     
  10. Liam

    Liam V.I.P. Member

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    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.
     
  11. BDR

    BDR Junior Member

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    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.
    BDR
     
  12. decoy205

    decoy205 Senior Member

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    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?
     
  13. BDR

    BDR Junior Member

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    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
    BDR:confused:
     
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  14. idlewild south

    idlewild south V.I.P. Member V.I.P. Member

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    One cannot ever adjusts one's ax if one is too polite;this aint brain surgery guys!
     
  15. mrjarvie

    mrjarvie Junior Member

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    One would rather ask than risk impairing one's investment (£3800).
     
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  16. cistec

    cistec Senior Member

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    Ha Ha ...hurray for you say I!
     
  17. McCloud9

    McCloud9 Senior Member

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    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
     
  18. gtr-tek

    gtr-tek Fumble Fingers Premium Member

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    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!
     
  19. Centris

    Centris Member

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    I always use this method for setup and it is just fine for me.
     
  20. McCloud9

    McCloud9 Senior Member

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    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 :D 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.

    McCloud9
     

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