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As a first time guitar owner-and it is a used instrument but in like new condition when I got it 2 months ago, I have what may be a dilema.  I recently upgraded the plastic nut to a bone one-okay immediate improvement in resonance and sustain of the instrument.

 

But today when I was looking "down the neck" (from the body looking TOWARD the peghead) I noticed that the fretboard appears to "drop off" substancially on the top E string side from the 2nd and 1st frets.  the rest of the fretboard looks okay and nice and "level radiused" (Have a Gibson that has a 20 degree radiused fretboard), but these 2 frets on the high E string seem to have a substancial "drop".  Is this normal on acoustic guitars?  Don't have any player friends that I can ask close by, and the nearest music store is 14 miles away.

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Replies to This Discussion

I'm not sure what you mean by "drop off." In my mind, the real issue is how it plays and sounds. Does it seem particularly hard to play anywhere, but especially on the first or second string at the first two frets? Do the strings buzz anywhere on the fretboard? If the answer is no to these questions, I wouldn't worry about it. You could ask a guitar tech the next time you visit a store with a good one, and he/she should be able to let you know if you have a problem or one is developing.
Hi Forrest:
The first 2 frets on the high "E" appear to be much lower (and the guitar is almost new, so it is not a worn fretboard) than the rest of the fretboard. I play plenty of other fretted instruments, so I know my eyes are not deceiving me. I also work on old instruments-banjos, mandolins and have rebuilt many a fretboard and replaced a few in my time.

The instrument plays okay, and because the "drop off" is under the first string and only on the first 2 frets it is really not difficult. If it were say under the 6th string, that might be an issue.
I re read this. You should definitely have the nut slots filed down slightly by a luthier. The string height at the first fret should be less on the treble side than the bass side. You have a factory made guitar and they simply down do this. Take it to a luthier and pay for a full set up. You will be amazed at the difference. It will play more easily and sound better. The wound strings are significantly thicker than the straight 1st & 2nd so they need to be higher at the first fret. Don´t do this yourself you will take too much off and the strings will rattle. You will then have to have a new nut fitted. It is a job for an expert. If you have a plastic one, change it to a bone one. They only cost a few dollars.
Are you sure that it is the fingerboard istself which is dropping off or the nut? The higher strings require slightly less clearance at the first fret than the lower strings. A good set up normally results in the first fret having a clearance of about 10-12 thousandth of an inch, the sixth string normally has about 20 thousandth of an inch. This means that the nut normally slopes down slightly to the higher strings. Is that what you mean?

I would strongly recommend that you have you guitar properly set up by a professional guitar tech. It is always worth the money. You guitar will sound and play loads better.

Who fitted the nut? To do that right you need nut files which are themselves more expensive than a set up.You also need the measuring equipment (a micrometer made for guitar string height is best). This again on it own is not a cheap tool.

Splash out and get a set up`. I am sure you won´t regret it. Chord sound sweeter when the string height is correct.

The radius of Gibson guitars is usually 12". Vintage Gibsons sometimes have a compound radius which is more correct than a cylindrical radius becaused the string spacing changes towards the saddle.

John

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