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  1. #1

    How to set tailpiece height on R9

    I have a 2916 R9. Love it!

    I originally screwed down the tailpiece and tried top wrapping ala Joe Bonamassa. When I brought it to my tech, he recommened against that, and had a particular way of setting up the tailpiece where the treble size was higher than the bass...so the break angle on the Low E is steeper and the high E is very flat.

    I've never seen this done before, and the tech is kinda quirky...a bit too quirky maybe, as I've never seen anyone use this method before, though he swears by it. I think I'd rather just have it set up traditionally.

    As far as making the adjustment myself, how do I go about doing this and getting the optimal height for sustain, overtones, feel, etc? How do I balance tyhe two posts and make them "even"?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: How to set tailpiece height on R9

    Trial and error. The only "rules" are (1) don't have the strings touch the back of the bridge, and (2) have enough break angle so it doesn't buzz in the saddle slot.

    My personal preference is about halfway between those two "rules."
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  3. #3
    Les Paul Forum Member Big Al's Avatar
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    Re: How to set tailpiece height on R9

    Dump that so called tech, he is an idiot. What was YOUR problem with top wrapping?
    The older I get, the better I was.

  4. #4

    Re: How to set tailpiece height on R9

    the only thing I didn't like about top wrapping personally was the feel of the strings underneath my palm when it rested on the bridge...so I'm inclined to not Top wrap...

    though the treble side being significantly higher is something i've never seen on another LP, and while my tech has some genius level explanation, my instinct says look elsewhere...im going to find a new tech, though in the meantime i might experiment setting the stop tail myself so i can learn and practice and see what I like, so any advice helps
    Last edited by mikoo69; 08-10-19 at 12:10 PM.

  5. #5

    Re: How to set tailpiece height on R9

    I'd rather top wrap than have the stoptail too high and feel like it is in the way when I play. If I can get it all the way down without the strings touching the bridge, I set it that way.

  6. #6
    Les Paul Forum Member latestarter's Avatar
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    Re: How to set tailpiece height on R9

    We've had this conversation here before...and that thread had pictures of the same thing the OP is suggesting. Maybe same tech? Like Al alludes to, this isn't "the norm" or some new secret best-practice method. This is an anomaly and most techs would agree, I would think.

    In my experience, the treble strings need sufficient break angle (linked with pressure) over the saddles to ensure they have appropriate sustain and do not sitar. Having almost nil break angle sounds like a bad idea on that concept alone.

    Maybe we can get that tech, or similar, to explain the logic behind this thinking?
    Otherwise known as Grant.

  7. #7
    Les Paul Forum Member Big Al's Avatar
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    Re: How to set tailpiece height on R9

    Quote Originally Posted by mikoo69 View Post
    the only thing I didn't like about top wrapping personally was the feel of the strings underneath my palm when it rested on the bridge...so I'm inclined to not Top wrap...

    though the treble side being significantly higher is something i've never seen on another LP, and while my tech has some genius level explanation, my instinct says look elsewhere...im going to find a new tech, though in the meantime i might experiment setting the stop tail myself so i can learn and practice and see what I like, so any advice helps
    I'm confused. Palm muting the bridge? You play with your hand on the bridge?
    The older I get, the better I was.

  8. #8

    Re: How to set tailpiece height on R9

    Quote Originally Posted by Big Al View Post
    I'm confused. Palm muting the bridge? You play with your hand on the bridge?
    No but my hand will brush against it when I change knob settings, etc.

  9. #9
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    Re: How to set tailpiece height on R9

    I mute with my hand on the bridge all the time. I sometimes pick closer to the neck pup but more often further back so the bridge is where I mute. I can't really think why top wrapped strings would feel that different from regular set-ups. I've used both and it's never been an issue for me. As for the observation about the height of the tailpiece, it should be slightly reversed if the point is to try and clear the string from the backside edge of the bridge. The distance between top E saddle and the hole in the tailpiece is longer than the bottom E due to the angle of the bridge and the bottom E string is fatter so, to clear the backside of the bridge, the low E end of the tailpiece should be a little higher than the top E end.

    We've had this discussion many times; it seems that most players could not care less and crank the tailpiece down hard to the body even when not top-wrapping. They claim that this helps with sustain. To each his or her own.

  10. #10

    Re: How to set tailpiece height on R9

    Yup, your tech is too quirky.

    A Les Paul strung normally with the stop-tail all the way down results in a steep angle at the bridge. A steeper angle after the bridge will transfer more of the tension of the string down into the bridge which translates to a stiffer feel. Said another way, the steep angle means more downward force at the bridge and "takes up the slack" of the string and the slinky feel is gone. Raising the stop-tail reduces the string angle and the downward force at the bridge and so results in the slinky feel. In other words, there's less downward force at the bridge to overcome when playing i.e., there's more slack string to play with and so the action feels slinkier.

    Top-wrapping is just one way of reducing the angle and downward force at the bridge. I like top-wrapping better than raising the stop-tail because the six strings suspended between the bridge and the stop-tail feels better on my right hand. It's personal preference and I've been top-wrapping for almost 30 years.

    The overtones are enhanced with a steep angle at the bridge. More of the energy put into the string by your fingers/pick stays in the sting between the nut and bridge which means your string wiggles more, i.e., the mini-wiggles (aka overtones) are enhanced along with a slight increase of sustain. With top-wrapping, some of the energy gets lost to the slack string between the bridge and stop-tail. The result is a (slightly) mellower sound with a tiny bit less sustain. Caveat: overtones depend on where the string is plucked! If you pluck/strum in the middle of the string you'll emphasize the big wiggles (aka fundamental tones) while if you pluck/strum away from the middle, nearer the bridge you'll emphasize the little wiggles/overtones.

    In short, top-wrapping affects the slinky feel more so than the tone, but both feel and tone will be altered when changing the angle of the string at the bridge - when top wrapping. It's a matter of personal preference.

    Back to your quirky tech's recommendation: If anything, I'd imagine that the exact opposite of what he suggests would be pretty cool. Lower the treble side f the stop-tail and raise the bass side. I think that Joe B. has done something similar to this. I recall seeing pictures where he top wraps the EAD and strings the GBe normally...or maybe it was the other way 'round? But again, it's personal preference.

    After all, Jimmy Page's tele was a top-loader. The strings did not go through the body as normal. The action must have been super slinky with light strings. The guitar tone on LZ I? - it's awesome. Who's to know what's going to sound "better?"

    Experiment!
    Last edited by brandtkronholm; 08-25-19 at 01:19 PM.

  11. #11

    Re: How to set tailpiece height on R9

    Another vote for top wrapping and screwing the tailpiece down.

    My quirk, that I don't expect anyone else to copy, is that I don't screw the tailpiece all the way down to contact the wood, but I leave like a half mm to a mm of space so that it can vibrate and ring as it may, unimpeded from contact with the top of the guitar, as I think that I get better sustain that way as the tailpiece can vibrate away like a tuning fork of sorts. BUT this may be a placebo effect for sure. Lots of guys buy into the transfer the tone into the wood thing by screwing it all the way down, so you'll have to of course experiment for yourself.

    But the only time I don't top wrap is when the neck angle is super low and the break angle across the bridge becomes too shallow and down pressure over the bridge saddles becomes too low. I think that can detrimentally affect sustain, and if the strings don't have enough break angle and pressure over the saddles, you can get buzzing and even strings popping off in the most extreme examples. I have a Firebird type guitar for example with a very low neck angle, so I simply cannot top wrap it, so I go the regular way.

    Also, I honestly cannot imagine how your hand will be significantly bothered in any way shape or form from the strings wrapped on top of the tail piece. That's a bit of a WTF for me honestly. But we are all our own shade of "special", including me, I understand that. But, since the benefits are many, I would suggest you try top wrapping for a week or two, and I almost guarantee that you'll forget about any hand discomfort you may have.

    Lastly I understand what your tech is trying to do I guess...but that's just unnecessary, and just weird, in my opinion.

    Best of Luck with your awesome guitar!

  12. #12

    Re: How to set tailpiece height on R9

    Your tech may be warranted in your case, what string size do you use? If it’s like a 9-42 I would also not recommend top wrapping. It looks cool but isn’t ideal for strings that light.

    Top wrap isn’t a requirement, it’s purpose is to be able to keep the stop bar flush with the guitar body for better sustain and tone yet give the strings a slinky feel like the stop bar is raised.

    That’s all.

    If you use 11 - 52 strings you’ll probably top wrap, if you use 9 - 42 set you’re defeating the purpose by top wrapping as your slinky feel is being changed to be like having a set of 7s or 8s.

    THERE IS NO SET RULE.

    If one guy plays Jazz and uses 11 - 52 he’s not going to want a top wrap. If a guy plays bendy blues or hard rock and he also uses 11 - 52 he’s going to need a top wrap. BUT only if he wants the stop bar flush on the guitar body.

    My Historic I got recently has the old style longer studs so I can’t imagine there being a benefit to top wrapping tonality wise.

    People really snake oil these topics to death. This is almost entirely about break angle tension over the saddles.

    Sometimes you even see partially top wrapped guitars because they use a hybrid string set. The plain strings would be too slinky if top wrapped.
    Last edited by megatrends; 09-04-19 at 07:36 PM.

  13. #13
    Les Paul Forum Member Big Al's Avatar
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    Re: How to set tailpiece height on R9

    Quote Originally Posted by megatrends View Post
    Your tech may be warranted in your case, what string size do you use? If it’s like a 9-42 I would also not recommend top wrapping. It looks cool but isn’t ideal for strings that light.

    Top wrap isn’t a requirement, it’s purpose is to be able to keep the stop bar flush with the guitar body for better sustain and tone yet give the strings a slinky feel like the stop bar is raised.

    That’s all.

    If you use 11 - 52 strings you’ll probably top wrap, if you use 9 - 42 set you’re defeating the purpose by top wrapping as your slinky feel is being changed to be like having a set of 7s or 8s.

    THERE IS NO SET RULE.

    If one guy plays Jazz and uses 11 - 52 he’s not going to want a top wrap. If a guy plays bendy blues or hard rock and he also uses 11 - 52 he’s going to need a top wrap. BUT only if he wants the stop bar flush on the guitar body.

    My Historic I got recently has the old style longer studs so I can’t imagine there being a benefit to top wrapping tonality wise.

    People really snake oil these topics to death. This is almost entirely about break angle tension over the saddles.

    Sometimes you even see partially top wrapped guitars because they use a hybrid string set. The plain strings would be too slinky if top wrapped.
    Nope.
    The older I get, the better I was.

  14. #14

    Re: How to set tailpiece height on R9

    Pics of these set ups?

    I would be unhappy if I had an R9 where the strings didn't clear the back of the bridge with the TP screwed down to the body.

    I may still want to top wrap or raise the TP, but clearing the back of the bridge is a basic way to judge build tolerances, imho.

  15. #15
    Les Paul Forum Member Big Al's Avatar
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    Re: How to set tailpiece height on R9

    Quote Originally Posted by mdubya View Post
    Pics of these set ups?

    I would be unhappy if I had an R9 where the strings didn't clear the back of the bridge with the TP screwed down to the body.

    I may still want to top wrap or raise the TP, but clearing the back of the bridge is a basic way to judge build tolerances, imho.
    Again, nope. There is nothing in the build spec that insures the strings won't hit the bridge with the tailpiece screwed tight to the body. I've owned two vintage 50's Lesters that had this happen. The short distance between stop bar and bridge makes this likely to occur on some guitars. I wouldn't use this non spec as a build quality qualifier.
    The older I get, the better I was.

  16. #16

    Re: How to set tailpiece height on R9

    Quote Originally Posted by Big Al View Post
    Again, nope. There is nothing in the build spec that insures the strings won't hit the bridge with the tailpiece screwed tight to the body. I've owned two vintage 50's Lesters that had this happen. The short distance between stop bar and bridge makes this likely to occur on some guitars. I wouldn't use this non spec as a build quality qualifier.

    That's nice.

  17. #17
    Les Paul Forum Member Keefoman's Avatar
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    Re: How to set tailpiece height on R9

    Quote Originally Posted by mikoo69 View Post
    No but my hand will brush against it when I change knob settings, etc.
    You mean the end twinings of the string at the back of the stop tail? In that case, remove the ball ends of your old strings, thread them on the new strings before restringing. The end twinings will then be hidden inside the stoptail.

  18. #18
    Les Paul Forum Member latestarter's Avatar
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    Re: How to set tailpiece height on R9

    Quote Originally Posted by mdubya View Post
    Pics of these set ups?

    I would be unhappy if I had an R9 where the strings didn't clear the back of the bridge with the TP screwed down to the body.

    I may still want to top wrap or raise the TP, but clearing the back of the bridge is a basic way to judge build tolerances, imho.
    Can you post a shot of your R9 with this in play?
    Otherwise known as Grant.

  19. #19
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    Re: How to set tailpiece height on R9

    Quote Originally Posted by mdubya View Post
    Pics of these set ups?

    I would be unhappy if I had an R9 where the strings didn't clear the back of the bridge with the TP screwed down to the body.

    I may still want to top wrap or raise the TP, but clearing the back of the bridge is a basic way to judge build tolerances, imho.
    I'm with Al here. I've only ever owned one LP (still do, same one) but I've played many others and own other Gibsons with Tune-O-Matic set-ups and I've never seen a bridge set so low that the tailpiece can be cranked down without string contact on the backside of the bridge. As Al notes; this is not a formal build specification however neck set angle is. If the neck is set too shallow (out of spec), then the bridge will be very low to achieve "normal" action and in this extreme case, it's conceivable that the tailpiece can be cranked down to the body with free string paths to the saddles. The pups would also have to be cranked all the way down too to clear the strings. Not good. All three of my Gibsons are very similar in terms of saddle height above the body when set with typical low action (5/64", 3/64") and all three require a lifted tailpiece for a clear string path between the saddle and tailpiece hole (not top-wrapped).
    Last edited by rick c; 09-12-19 at 09:22 PM.

  20. #20
    Les Paul Forum Member J T's Avatar
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    Re: How to set tailpiece height on R9

    Quote Originally Posted by Keefoman View Post
    You mean the end twinings of the string at the back of the stop tail? In that case, remove the ball ends of your old strings, thread them on the new strings before restringing. The end twinings will then be hidden inside the stoptail.
    I do that on my R4, but never saw the need to do that on a guitar with a bridge and stop tail.
    The farther you go, the closer you are.

  21. #21

    Re: How to set tailpiece height on R9

    Quote Originally Posted by Big Al View Post
    Nope.
    Would you care to elaborate or would you prefer to tell me I’ve been doing this wrong for the last 30 yrs professionally with another condescending arrogant “Nope”?

  22. #22
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    Re: How to set tailpiece height on R9

    Quote Originally Posted by megatrends View Post
    Your tech may be warranted in your case, what string size do you use? If it’s like a 9-42 I would also not recommend top wrapping. It looks cool but isn’t ideal for strings that light.

    Top wrap isn’t a requirement, it’s purpose is to be able to keep the stop bar flush with the guitar body for better sustain and tone yet give the strings a slinky feel like the stop bar is raised.

    That’s all.

    If you use 11 - 52 strings you’ll probably top wrap, if you use 9 - 42 set you’re defeating the purpose by top wrapping as your slinky feel is being changed to be like having a set of 7s or 8s.

    THERE IS NO SET RULE.

    If one guy plays Jazz and uses 11 - 52 he’s not going to want a top wrap. If a guy plays bendy blues or hard rock and he also uses 11 - 52 he’s going to need a top wrap. BUT only if he wants the stop bar flush on the guitar body.

    My Historic I got recently has the old style longer studs so I can’t imagine there being a benefit to top wrapping tonality wise.

    People really snake oil these topics to death. This is almost entirely about break angle tension over the saddles.

    Sometimes you even see partially top wrapped guitars because they use a hybrid string set. The plain strings would be too slinky if top wrapped.
    I have to agree with the snake oil comment. I believe in physics. The string tension to achieve a tuned note is a function of the string length, string gauge and the string tension between two points; the nut and the saddle. It can be argued that if there is a long string length between the tuner and the nut and/or the saddle and the bridge connecting point then there may be an extra amount of slinkiness as there's more total string length to move when bending. On my old LP Custom, the difference in excess string length between top wrapping or the regular stop piece hole is minimal; I've tried both methods and it makes no difference but I should note that I like lighter gauge strings. The break angle over the saddles argument is a weak one; my EBMM Majesty has a longer scale length, 10 - 46 strings and pretty much a 90 degree break angle and it's pretty slinky. Of course "slinky" is subjective; ever played 007"s?

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