Plek'ing: Worth it?

August 2019 is the first KVR Guitar Month so here's a new forum for discussion of all things guitar!
reggie1979
KVRAF
1587 posts since 26 Nov, 2018

Post Sat Sep 21, 2019 2:25 pm

I think that the Elite that I just got have higher frets than the deluxe I had before. Anyways, I wouldn't plek it, it's great the way it is.

Now my other strat, if I kept it would really require higher frets, then maybe a plek for that.

Mats Eriksson
KVRist
111 posts since 4 Sep, 2016

Re: Plek'ing: Worth it?

Post Sat Sep 21, 2019 11:41 pm

Hink wrote:
Sat Sep 21, 2019 1:18 pm
does the plek machine adjust the truss rod?
No, it seems that most people in this thread hasn't watched the video what Plek does and doesn't do.

I said too that Plek is mostly beneficial on instruments where there isn't any adjustable truss rod. Mind you, even huge guitar company Martin did finally succumb, and had to incorporate adjustable trussrod on all of their guitars not until in 1989-1990. Before that they had none. So there do exist a load of guitars where the neck has no truss rod adjustment.

Plek does measure up first, and tells you if you have to a) shim the neck b) adjust truss rod first before it makes any dressing or filing. Now I had one of my guitars on where there was a severe backbow of the neck in spite of it having a adjustable truss rod. The truss rod was a slack as possible but the neck wood, together with "formation" of the frets, PLUS abalone block inlays did the neck totally impossible to adjust forward so it had any relief at all. So the Plek was set to "dress" the frets in a relief manner, so the frets were lower at 12th fret and higher around it. Still haven't touched the truss rod since then.

No one who operates Plek machine as I know of adjust any guitar left in for treatment, to their own personal preferences. They always ask the owner, and ask him to play, and the do makes a lot of notes about it. There's no "one-size-fits-all" setup on Plek machine. They do not recommend "lowest of the low" setting to anyone though. Only if you exclusively use tapping like on a Chapman Stick.

- - - - - - - - - -

Plek machine can't - of course - adjust for seasonal adjustments. How cumbersome wouldn't it be if you had to do a Plek adjustment each time winter came, or summer came? You have to always be vigilant of the truss rod adjustment yourself, if you live in an area with huge shifts in humidity, that''s for sure, and I do not know any machine that could be made for that.

Also, Plek machine can't adjust acoustic guitars, no matter how much fret dressing needs to be done, where the joint between neck and body has started to shift, or the bridge has started to release from the body, and made a "Korea hump" along the guitar. Where the wood has started to twist and shift at the 12th-13th fret and so on. You have to address this first "manually" so to speak. By and large, if you have such guitars, no fret dressing is needed, and it's probably a guitar that ain't worth spending too much money on anyway. Sending it to a luthier to renovate the lot. And absolutely not Plek it. Then there are other areas of priority and importance first, and - believe me - Plek would be the last thing I would have in mind.

Same with guitars that has a reputation for going out of tune, or have bad intonation from the start on. People will think Plek does wonders to Gibson SG guitars, and Les Pauls in that department, but are let down and blame the Plek people when their guitars returns.

Don't try to polish a turd... :wink:

Mats Eriksson
KVRist
111 posts since 4 Sep, 2016

Re: Plek'ing: Worth it?

Post Sun Sep 22, 2019 12:05 am

So when they do - or if they're skilled at their jobs those who runs Plek - their MODUS OPERANDI are the following:

1. They let Plek scan the instrument first. It analyses within 4 thousands of a millimiter. What that says in imperial (inch) I don't know.
2. It tells you if a truss rod adjustment is needed. And they you take it out and manually adjust it.
3. In and let scan again. If it tells you it ain't enough, you adjust it again, out of the machine.
4. This is repeated until there's no possibility to get better results with the truss rod only.
5. After a few virtual, and computer adjustments made, especially for personal preferences...
6. The Plek starts to file or grind, with a hundreths of millimeter worth of accuracy on each fret.
7. You string and tune it up and let the Plek scan again.
8. If needed, it tells you that a) I must do one more run on certain frets b) or it is done.
9. On acoustics, it then takes care of nut, saddle and bridge. Nut on electrics. The adjustable bridges on most electrics is - again - a personal preference, and can't be done automatically by a machine.
10. Then you take it out of the machine, it's done, and you string it up, and starts to intonate it again, if needed.

(11). What Plek does better than manual labor is on necks with conical or compound radius, as well as the "fall off" of all frets above 12-14th fret.

- - - - - - -

What people misses on these more modern electric guitars with compound or conical radius of the neck (fretboard really) is what happens when you just do a relief with the adjustable truss rod. What happens is that somewhere along the neck the relief is greater than it is on the top frets beyond 12-14th fret, becuase the frets are "flatter" there and not as much radius. It's because a truss rod adjustment impacts the whole plank of wood equally and makes a dip around 12th fret (relief) all over the neck, and doesn't take into account that some frets are flatter (less radius) than some (more radius). Think for yourself what happens if the radius isn't uniform ACROSS the neck (i e from low e-string to high e-string) and you do an adjustment of a truss rod that just "whacks" the whole wooden beam or "log" one way all over. This was one of the reasons such companies such as Rickenbacker had TWO adjustable truss rods installed, which opened another can of worms, way back in the 60s.

The thing you'll discover is that the relief is the best, and even optimal for the "middle" strings like D-string and G-string, but if you compare that with the two outermost strings high E and low E you'll get different relief.

Also block abalone inlays (hi Gibson!) are of a harder material and can induce a slight "brake" or "obstacle" as they don't move with the wood evenly. But that's a select special case.

Jafo
KVRAF
1910 posts since 20 Dec, 2002 from The Benighted States of Trumpistan

Re: Plek'ing: Worth it?

Post Sun Sep 22, 2019 12:35 am

Hink wrote:
Sat Sep 21, 2019 2:07 pm
gary moore preferred higher action with lighter strings... A higher action imo often does open up the sound
Cool. I thought I was the only person who did that. But then, I also seem to be the only guitarist in Michigan who isn't a shred-dude!
Joy and kindness are acts of resistance -- fight the power!

Mats Eriksson
KVRist
111 posts since 4 Sep, 2016

Re: Plek'ing: Worth it?

Post Sun Sep 22, 2019 1:20 am

Higher action with lighter strings is quite common, especially if you're a blues bender. And you just have to comply to higher action than needed if you have severe radius of the fretboard...
OTOH...higher action is what is needed if one pesky fret should stick up a tiny bit higher, and you get rid of the fret buzz just because of the higher action. A catch 22.

One other, subtle thing, I've noticed when doing a Plek, is that the electric guitars sustains more, whenever doing a glissando along one string/fretboard. Let's say you pluck a note on first fret high e string, and slides the finger up to well above the 12th fret (while holding it down to keep the note running) whenever it ends on 14th fret, it still has a lot of volume and sustain, because it hasn't been dampened as much on it's way up between those two points. A la "Robert Fripp" if you like. On all other regular fret/dressed guitars, more often than not, the ending note up there is somewhat the harmonic node of it and not the fundamental. It's just a phenomenon I discovered. As well as the finger pads glides a tad more smoothly too. How much others reads into this may be of personal preference and priority.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Let's condlude this with that even Plek german site, states this in their "ad" for the technique:

"If you're happy with your guitar tech, then by all means stick with him or her."

"On a good-quality instrument with an already good setup, the results may be more subtle. So subtle that it is neglible. Maybe you even have an instrument that was Pleked during production. Neither you or we can tell"

So there, even from the company that invented it. Go figure, and make your decisions based upon that.

User avatar
The Noodlist
KVRian
1138 posts since 16 Aug, 2017 from UK

Re: Plek'ing: Worth it?

Post Sun Sep 22, 2019 7:06 am

What is the cost?
I usually acquire second hand or budget instruments.
I suppose, it might be an option if someone had an expensive guitar, or are semi pro/pro.
Currently trying to turn noise into music. :neutral:

Mats Eriksson
KVRist
111 posts since 4 Sep, 2016

Re: Plek'ing: Worth it?

Post Sun Sep 22, 2019 12:29 pm

Cost varies greatly from coast to coast in US, and of course, overseas...cost in which country and which state (if you're in us).

tapper mike
KVRAF
5099 posts since 20 Jan, 2008

Re: Plek'ing: Worth it?

Post Thu Sep 26, 2019 10:34 am

Plek machines in Europe
https://www.plek.com/en_US/kontakt/get-pleked/europa/

I don't see any plek machines here in Michigan.
https://www.plek.com/en_US/kontakt/get-pleked/usa/


Might have to ship mine off to Sweetwater.

tapper mike
KVRAF
5099 posts since 20 Jan, 2008

Re: Plek'ing: Worth it?

Post Fri Sep 27, 2019 8:58 am

Jafo wrote:
Sun Sep 22, 2019 12:35 am
Hink wrote:
Sat Sep 21, 2019 2:07 pm
gary moore preferred higher action with lighter strings... A higher action imo often does open up the sound
Cool. I thought I was the only person who did that. But then, I also seem to be the only guitarist in Michigan who isn't a shred-dude!
Hey, I'm in Michigan and mostly not a shredder. I do play with lighter gauge strings on my solid bodies but I don't like high action. High action means playing with a lot more aggressiveness, and floppy strings. When I started playing out live I was always nervous and always breaking strings trying to accent notes. It took me about a year to chill out. The fact is you don't have to hit the strings harder to play out accents just put more pick into the strings.

Moreover to my Jazz chord melody even though I have smaller wimpy hands I like my boxes to have higher frets but lower action with heavier tension. On jazz boxes the tailpiece extends the string length and there for decreases the downward tension but increases the side to side tension for bending/vibrato. What's more if you try to go crazy with vibrato or bending you are likely to displace the floating bridge. You need a heavier tension for a fuller tone, an crisper attack especially on the lower strings which can get quite floppy. Having heavier gauge strings with low action and slightly higher than medium frets means less work for the left hand fingers to make the string connect to the fret. Yingwe Malmsteen uses a scalloped fretboard because he doesn't need to have his finger to connect with the fretboard He just makes a a solid contact with the string to the fret. Which takes time to develop but it results in actually less "grip" tension.

Mats Eriksson
KVRist
111 posts since 4 Sep, 2016

Re: Plek'ing: Worth it?

Post Fri Sep 27, 2019 12:47 pm

tapper mike wrote:
Fri Sep 27, 2019 8:58 am
On jazz boxes the tailpiece extends the string length and there for decreases the downward tension but increases the side to side tension for bending/vibrato.
All other than this, I agree with you. Were did you hear/get this from?

https://www.liutaiomottola.com/myth/perception.htm

I've done the above tests too (explained in the link), blindfolded and I couldn't even feel/hear or detect the slighest difference. The only instance of where excessive/or shorter length behind the nut and or bridge plays any role is with floating tremolo bridges, and how deep you can bend/dive with the whammy bar.

lfm
KVRAF
5014 posts since 22 Jan, 2005 from Sweden

Re: Plek'ing: Worth it?

Post Fri Sep 27, 2019 11:47 pm

Mats Eriksson wrote:
Fri Sep 27, 2019 12:47 pm
tapper mike wrote:
Fri Sep 27, 2019 8:58 am
On jazz boxes the tailpiece extends the string length and there for decreases the downward tension but increases the side to side tension for bending/vibrato.
All other than this I agree with you. Were did you hear/get this from?

https://www.liutaiomottola.com/myth/perception.htm

I've done the above tests too, blindfolded and I couldn't even feel/hear or detect the slighest difference.
I clearly felt the difference more than hearing anything on guitar with tailpieces - and those for hollow bodies as well.

It's about string pressure on bridge saddles, because the more that goes down the bridge the higher the tension of string to vibrate at the right pitch. It's the sum of tension of string to tailpiece and down the bridge saddles that must be compensated for. This is my take on explanation anyway.

This is expressed as "The breakover angle of the string at the bridge and/or the nut" in the link you gave. But it's about how much of force goes down the bridge and will be "lost" you could say, and vibrating part needs more tension.

And the higher string tension in string in part vibrating - the harder it is to bend or vibrato.

My alternate explanation could be - that how much tension is in string that goes from nut to string post as well as from bridge to tailpiece - makes a difference how much force is needed to bend the string. Because if more goes down in nut and bridge must be compensated for to get the right pitch in vibrating part, and tuners are tightened a bit the more breakover angle in bridge(more force down the bridge).

Some claim with no hesitation you should have tailpiece on a Gibson all down to the body - but I don't like that - far too much breaking angle over bridge and too much string pressure down the bridge.

I had a Korea Gibson(Epiphone) and distance bridge to tailpiece were a little more, and you could get tailpiece all the way down without disturbing where string touches the tuneomatic bridge from saddles.

On my ES175 copy, Ibanez 2355, the tailpiece goes all the way back on body and very flat breaking angle over bridge. So strings feel a little bit like rubber bands to play and bend.

I looked all over - and found this solution of tailpiece where you can adjust a little bit that more string pressure on this kind of tailpiece on jazz hollow bodies.
https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail ... n-sunburst

So you can increase breaking angle over bridge a bit by screws there and how much force goes down the bridge.

So my summary would be - the less angle over bridge - the more rubber band feel to strings - and you have to move string a longer distance to bend a half note.

The more angle, the more force down the bridge - and harder to bend, but shorter distance is needed for a half note. Some claim you get more harmonics in vibrating part of string this way - but can't say I heard that. But difference in feel to bend it is clearly there(but don't have lumber jack hands).

So a Fender with 25.5" scale length is harder to play than a Gibson 24.75" since string tension needs to increase as the same mass of a string guage and longer string - to get to the same pitch. I'd say to play 009 set on Fender is about the same as playing 010 set on Gibson.

But if you go to Fender Jaguar, it has more like Gibson scale length - and also often referred to as having worse sustain, but more like Gibson to play.

I read on forums that some claim breaking angle over bridge also affect sustain of guitar - but cannot say I can confirm that. But the extra tension in string - like having more breaking angle or longer scale length - is no doubt making it harder to bend and for vibrato.

Those that want to go wild in calculating this bending and pitch raise and forces involved in string tension
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/String_bending

It was part of a project where I tried to calculate the pitch raise fretting at 12th for a certain string guage and action at 12th fret - so how action influence where bridge saddles should be to intonate properly. This was mostly for acoustics since you have so little to work with to intonate. You pretty much are boxed in which strings and neck relief you need to use to get a well intonated acoustic. Neck relief does change scale length just a little bit, and also affect where notches on saddle should be

So take the edge of a pick, put at 12th and pick string so it's harmonics sounds - and press down slowly just until you are about to fret it, but not quite - that raise in pitch is by action alone. Then to intonate well - fret it as well and it should sound the same as open string harmonics(before pressing pick down, just having it in place). This affect distance where saddle should rest string, if notch forward or more backward for an acoustic.

So a Plek of an acoustic is maybe less of value - if fret dressing is at least almost ok - since the full instrument is so regulated as it is manufactured. An electric has so wide range of adjustments you can do - but acoustic is very much as manufactured.

I have two book of Erlewine "how to make you electric guitar play great" and "guitar player repair guide". He lists various guitar brands factory setup guides and typical setups he encountered and what he felt was optimum.

It was Ibanez that had factory setup 0.8 mm 1st string, and 1.2 mm 6th string action. That is shredder style setup.

But having shredder setup you also need meticulous string muting of strings not sounding. With higher action setup the strings above/below naturally mute as you fret string in middle.

But I cannot get anywhere near Ibanez setup on my Gibsons - it's more like 1.5 mm 1st string and 1.8 mm 6th or similar, or too much buzz to my liking and playing style.

But Erlewine list various setups he encountered - so it can go lower on certain individuals. Really good books to invest in if you like to be self sufficient on guitar work.

tapper mike
KVRAF
5099 posts since 20 Jan, 2008

Re: Plek'ing: Worth it?

Post Sat Sep 28, 2019 9:03 am

There is an alternative to the GB tailpiece
Most notably the finger tailpiece, which allows one to set the pitch of the individual strings. These are sold anywhere from $85 to $300
https://www.google.com/search?rlz=1C1CH ... j_Jma4Z808

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPoLXBO_o4o

If you notice in Conti's playing it still has a somewhat "crisp" attack

Also a note about "Gibson Scale" while it's true LP's 175's and Birdlands do have a 24.75 many of the hollow bodies do offer 25.5 (L5, Super 400)

I had a 17 inch full bodied archtop with a floating bridge and it was 25.5
I currently have a 16 inch (es 175 type) with a 25.5
This one...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vgtop5a ... A&index=52

lfm
KVRAF
5014 posts since 22 Jan, 2005 from Sweden

Re: Plek'ing: Worth it?

Post Sun Sep 29, 2019 6:58 pm

tapper mike wrote:
Sat Sep 28, 2019 9:03 am
There is an alternative to the GB tailpiece
Thanks, seems like a cool solution.
Especially on archtops it can be a delicate thing which pressure overall is on bridge, how some resonance transfer to body and such. My 2355 has a supporting block near where bridge is located not to have top collapse, I suppose. That's a true hollow body.

Then guitars with neck through is a different story. You can go wild with bridge down pressure and also fit the tail piece right there behind the bridge - not having to go all the way back on instrument body.

If on individual strings matter when bridge is one piece, hard to tell. My main goal was not individuall strings so much as angle and down pressure on bridge as a whole.

But some swear by it on solidbodies as well - tail piece should be down at body, and some do wraparound of strings to lessen bridge downwards pressure, never tried this though.

One thing is that 6th string is usually higher action - and that means bridge a bit more upwards - if tail piece then goes down all the way, angle over bridge for bass side strings is steeper. So I just adjust so treble and bass side has just about the same angle over bridge saddles.

Most recommendations on videos I saw was that tail piece is not more down than string goes from saddle to tail piece without touching bridge itself.

Sometimes for effect you can actually play a bit on string between bridge and tail piece, and sound comes through in pickups. This means it probably goes the other way too - some resonance float over to tail piece side and might influence some harmonics in tone maybe. So where string touches could matter, don't know if for good or bad.

We mustn't forget that very reason we have different guage on the strings is that we keep bass side string on par in playability even though pitch goes down - so higher mass means higher tension needed. Or it would be rubber band feel on bass side. So guage of strings matter a lot for tone you get.

tapper mike
KVRAF
5099 posts since 20 Jan, 2008

Re: Plek'ing: Worth it?

Post Mon Sep 30, 2019 7:44 am

lfm wrote:
Sun Sep 29, 2019 6:58 pm
tapper mike wrote:
Sat Sep 28, 2019 9:03 am
There is an alternative to the GB tailpiece
Thanks, seems like a cool solution.
Especially on archtops it can be a delicate thing which pressure overall is on bridge, how some resonance transfer to body and such. My 2355 has a supporting block near where bridge is located not to have top collapse, I suppose. That's a true hollow body.

Then guitars with neck through is a different story. You can go wild with bridge down pressure and also fit the tail piece right there behind the bridge - not having to go all the way back on instrument body.

If on individual strings matter when bridge is one piece, hard to tell. My main goal was not individuall strings so much as angle and down pressure on bridge as a whole.

But some swear by it on solidbodies as well - tail piece should be down at body, and some do wraparound of strings to lessen bridge downwards pressure, never tried this though.

One thing is that 6th string is usually higher action - and that means bridge a bit more upwards - if tail piece then goes down all the way, angle over bridge for bass side strings is steeper. So I just adjust so treble and bass side has just about the same angle over bridge saddles.

Most recommendations on videos I saw was that tail piece is not more down than string goes from saddle to tail piece without touching bridge itself.

Sometimes for effect you can actually play a bit on string between bridge and tail piece, and sound comes through in pickups. This means it probably goes the other way too - some resonance float over to tail piece side and might influence some harmonics in tone maybe. So where string touches could matter, don't know if for good or bad.

We mustn't forget that very reason we have different guage on the strings is that we keep bass side string on par in playability even though pitch goes down - so higher mass means higher tension needed. Or it would be rubber band feel on bass side. So guage of strings matter a lot for tone you get.
All great points.
I've had two neck through guitars. A Washburn Falcon with a fixed bridge and string through neck design. It came off at a fairly hard right angle and the bridge was flush with the body. I also had one of the first JB Players made in US with a recessed accutune (Kahler type) bridge and was neck thru (not set nor bolt on)
jbbridge.jpg
The guitar didn't have enough mass nor pup output to make it a shredder. But it did have lots of overtones and sustain.

If you are considering a Tremolo unit on a guitar and Don't do dive bombs where the strings hit the pups. Consider getting a fixed bridge guitar and installing one of these.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjMgnYlJBu8
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

Mats Eriksson
KVRist
111 posts since 4 Sep, 2016

Re: Plek'ing: Worth it?

Post Tue Oct 01, 2019 11:36 am

Derailing a bit aren't we? From Plek's worth to alternative tailpieces for Gibsons and whatever, wraparound.

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