Tuning stability help needed (hockey stick headstock, Hipshot tremolo)

alexreinhold

Senior member
Messages
473
Hi experts,

I recently completed my first build and it has largely been a success. Tone, playability and looks are simply amazing (couldn't have done it without this community!). However, there seems to be an issue with tuning stability of the G/B/High-E strings. Here are some infos:

- alder body
- roasted maple neck hockey stick headstock, Planet Waves locking tuners, retainer bar, TUSQ 1-11/16” nut
- hipshot contoured tremolo (decked, i.e. not floating)
- areas of friction on the tremolo, nut and retainer bar have been lubricated to the best of my abilities (not sure though since it's the first time I did it)

Attached you can find some pictures. One assumption I have is that the retainer bar might not be low enough on the G/B/High-E end - but it's just a wild guess. 

I'm very curious if you could maybe help me pinpoint the problem or whether it's better to bring it to a guitar tech.

Best,
Alex
 

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BroccoliRob

Senior member
Messages
881
Yo i find the h-stox (headstock) with the super fanned out tuners, that lok nuts are really da only way to go. That angle from tuner to nut is pretty x-treme. but thats just me. I turn the mundane into the fun-dane
 

PhilHill

Senior member
Messages
1,654
alexreinhold said:
Mayfly said:
Yea I'd slack off on the retainer bar.  looks way too low to me.

Is there a rule of thumb as to how high/low it should be?

Basically you only want slight downward pressure on the strings as they leave the nut. The idea is to make sure that the strings are sitting firmly on the edge of the groove on the fretboard side. your just trying to make sure the string doesn't rise vertically off the nut and are following the round over on the tuner side. I would raise the retainer until it just touches the strings, then lower it just enough to push the strings down a small amount from there. Good luck on it................... :icon_thumright:
 
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swarfrat

Guest
I think it's no accident that most of the crazy string angle headstocks went hand in hand with locking tremolos.
 

rauchman

Senior member
Messages
771
swarfrat said:
I think it's no accident that most of the crazy string angle headstocks went hand in hand with locking tremolos.

Yup!

The problem with a headstock like that is the string is moving in 2 dimensions (forward/backward and left/right).  That lateral dispersion (left/right) is tough to compensate for since the string is being pulled laterally in the nut.  On something like a Tiltback Strat headstock, the strings are only moving in one dimension (forward/backward), since the strings are a straight line from the bridge to nut to tuner.  I'd recommend a professionally tweeked nut and maybe string trees with rollers.  That clamp going across all the strings is going to be a friction point and I'd guess tremolo induced tuning problems will occur.
 

gingataff

Active member
Messages
71
rauchman said:
swarfrat said:
I think it's no accident that most of the crazy string angle headstocks went hand in hand with locking tremolos.

Yup!

The problem with a headstock like that is the string is moving in 2 dimensions (forward/backward and left/right).  That lateral dispersion (left/right) is tough to compensate for since the string is being pulled laterally in the nut.  On something like a Tiltback Strat headstock, the strings are only moving in one dimension (forward/backward), since the strings are a straight line from the bridge to nut to tuner.  I'd recommend a professionally tweeked nut and maybe string trees with rollers.  That clamp going across all the strings is going to be a friction point and I'd guess tremolo induced tuning problems will occur.

I think string trees are the way to go. Not sure if it would work on a headstock where the strings are fanned out, but the Dynaguide string tree looks really intriguing.
 

TonyFlyingSquirrel

Senior member
Messages
4,244
Headstocks with a lateral string pull like that are ideally suited to have either a locking nut, or fixed bridge setups.  Locking tuners and no locking nut work best under straight string pull.
 

TBurst Std

Senior member
Messages
2,591
While not a fan of string trees/ retainers: how about a locking string tree/ retainer.  It would require no modification of the nut shelf.
No such thing exists: currently.
 
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swarfrat

Guest
I think it's been done, but a poorly cut nut can still stick. I think it's less movement, because the windings are the thing most likely to move, but still... Why if you're going to the trouble and drawbacks of a locking nut, would you still have a regular ni
 

rlefty

Active member
Messages
62
Honestly, with a non-direct string pull and that retainer bar, you're always going to have tuning troubles. Maybe it would worth a shot to try staggered locking tuners and completely lose the bar. But the string angle will always give you some trouble.
 

alexreinhold

Senior member
Messages
473
PhilHill said:
Basically you only want slight downward pressure on the strings as they leave the nut. The idea is to make sure that the strings are sitting firmly on the edge of the groove on the fretboard side. your just trying to make sure the string doesn't rise vertically off the nut and are following the round over on the tuner side. I would raise the retainer until it just touches the strings, then lower it just enough to push the strings down a small amount from there. Good luck on it................... :icon_thumright:

That's an awesome advice! Will try that tonight and let you know how it went!

rauchman said:
Yup!

The problem with a headstock like that is the string is moving in 2 dimensions (forward/backward and left/right).  That lateral dispersion (left/right) is tough to compensate for since the string is being pulled laterally in the nut.  On something like a Tiltback Strat headstock, the strings are only moving in one dimension (forward/backward), since the strings are a straight line from the bridge to nut to tuner.  I'd recommend a professionally tweeked nut and maybe string trees with rollers.  That clamp going across all the strings is going to be a friction point and I'd guess tremolo induced tuning problems will occur.

Right, but there are so many counterexamples. Kramer, Gibson, Dean and others have put out soooo many guitars with angled headstocks and no locking nut (see e.g. Michael Schenker and Dime). That's why there must be ways to at least optimize albeit the tuning not being as perfect as on a straight headstock.

Also, why would the trem play any role when it's decked?

What I will do now is to follow @PhilHill's advice of raising the bar. The nut seems well cut, so if raising the bar won't help, I might bring it to a luthier for him to take a very close look.
 

TonyFlyingSquirrel

Senior member
Messages
4,244
Even if you deck the tree, once you use it, you’ve actuated the strings across a known friction point of counterintuitive design.  When the strings come back across the nut from having gone flat, they will not come back to the same pint or “return to zero” that they were prior to using the term.  Too many variables are working against it. Locking tuners alone won’t be enough to counteract the lateral bind that the hockey stick design has introduced.  This is why straight pull is most ideal.  The only way to ensure tuning stability on a hockey stick design when using a term is the locking nut.  Without the locking nut, best to treat as a hard tail.
 

alexreinhold

Senior member
Messages
473
@TonyFlyingSquirrel thanks so much for the explanation. I guess these are the things are meant to go "wrong" with a first build. The guitar plays amazing, sounds great and tuning stability is OK. Now I guess I should try as much as possible to make it as stable as possible given the trem/no-locking-nut/hockeystick combination.

I guess the answer is:

- set the retainer bar as right as possible
- keep the trem decked (which was my intention anyway)
- lube like crazy

Anything else?
 

stratamania

Senior member
Messages
9,214
alexreinhold said:
Anything else?

You could plan for a future possible build, change out the neck on this one to one with a straight string pull and put this neck onto a hard tail...just a thought.

 

TonyFlyingSquirrel

Senior member
Messages
4,244
Well, ideally, you have to work with what you have.
To make what you have work well, don't use the bar, and you should be able to keep tuning stability reasonably consistent.
Use the bar, you are going to go out of tune.  Not an emotional expression, not casting judgement.
Just physics.
 

alexreinhold

Senior member
Messages
473
TonyFlyingSquirrel said:
Well, ideally, you have to work with what you have.
To make what you have work well, don't use the bar, and you should be able to keep tuning stability reasonably consistent.
Use the bar, you are going to go out of tune.  Not an emotional expression, not casting judgement.
Just physics.

by "bar", you mean the retainer bar, right?

stratamania said:
You could plan for a future possible build, change out the neck on this one to one with a straight string pull and put this neck onto a hard tail...just a thought.

well, the tuning stability is really OK, it's not great but definitely not horrible. Like with a baby or a partner, I will live both the strengths and the weaknesses of my first one. Am way too much in love with the guitar to use parts of it in a future build  :icon_tongue:
 

alexreinhold

Senior member
Messages
473
TonyFlyingSquirrel said:
I am referring to the tremolo bar.

Oh, that one's gone. I wanted to replicate a strat as much as possible on the body. But even with strats, I always deck and remove the bar (even if it doesn't make much sense, i prefer the feel to a hardtail)
 
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