|Preface - by Palmer
Moore, Organizer - Ohio Fingerstyle Guitar Club
A year or so ago when the very talented Adam
Rafferty came to Columbus, Ohio to play at the McConnell Arts
Center I noticed that his Maton guitars were set up VERY LOW
- just the way I had been trying, unsuccessfully, to get many of our
local "techs" to set up my new Stonebridge acoustic I
purchased at CAAS a few years ago. I also noted that his frets
were a lot wider (fatter) than mine - or, the ones I had seen on
"out of the box" Matons. He explained that Tommy
Emmanuel had advised him to use the services of Joe Glaser of
Glaser Instruments, Nashville, TN and that when he purchased a
new guitar he immediately ships it to Joe for set up. Adam
explained that Joe puts on a set of "jumbo" frets - and, then
sets it up very low.
So, I emailed Joe a request not only for
his set up parameters - but, also asked him for permission to publish it
on my club website for all to learn from. I never really expected
to hear back from a "stars guitar tech" - but, not only did he
get right back to me he graciously accepted both requests:
Permission to publish
email/disclaimer - by Joe Glaser
Feel free to share that email as it still
seems true to me even after a safe time interval in which to renege.
It is worth noting that Tommy is an
incredibly great player and as he plays he continually adapts
his attack dynamics to get the note clarity and intonation he wants
and this mastery transcends setup -- even on random instruments with
radically different setups.
At his normal LOW action, playing fast
strings of notes, he does attack with aggression since the strings
are not going to ring long enough to buzz in a way that we hear easily.
Obviously, he can play with a delicate precision and does so when he
wants long clean notes. Also, there is a component of his tone
that is built around a certain raw tone like what a sax player
cultivates and in that way, fret slap and growl are beautiful
things and some of the sounds in his palette. I have had the
true pleasure of watching him run all kinds of stuff here and I can
tell you that even in this world of many, many gifted players, his
technique, control and expression are striking -- particularly
at a close and lethal range
Guitar Set Up Technical Tips email
- by Joe Glaser
The key to Tommy's setup is very, very low
action and a neck set fairly straight even for how low the action is.
Necks need bow or relief but corresponding to action -- the lower
the action, the straighter the neck. The lower the action gets,
the more important that absolute fret accuracy becomes.
While every guitar is dressed as accurately as possible, skill
varies widely and desire and accuracy are unrelated. Success
should yield very low action with equal clarity or equal buzz
That said, here are the specs from Adam's
guitar. The finished frets average .045" high, varying
+/- .001. This is what I would consider a true medium height and
they were a medium narrow width. His action went out at
.054 under the low E and .050 under the hi e' at the 12th. fret.
This is data as measured by the PLEK machine so it is not the starting
height of the raw wire but what we dressed it to.
Good luck and keep me posted, Joe