#1
Hi all,

I'm looking for some advice, and think it would help to give you my background info first. I took a few months of acoustic guitar lessons a few years back and remember just enough to pluck a chord or three, but not much else. My current work schedule makes it tough to take regular lessons, but I recently found out about Rocksmith so I'm giving that a shot. I loved the Rock Band videogames, and that kind of learning style definitely keeps me interested.

Before I bought my guitar I did a fair bit of research and looking around. I wanted a decent guitar that'll hold up over time but didn't want to drop more than a few hundred bucks. Not knowing much about the differences in guitars, I looked up what some of my favorite bands use to give me some ideas. I've got more 80s and 90s alt-rock than blood running through my veins, so I went out and found a used Squire Jazzmaster, the J Mascis signature series (made in China). Even though it's technically used it's absolutely beautiful, and looks in brand-new condition.

My problem is, it won't stay in tune for longer than a song or two. A small bend can cause it to lose tune immediately! I dusted off my old $100 Squire acoustic and tooled around on it for awhile, and it holds a tune for as long as I feel like playing on it. Might there be something wrong with my jazzmaster, or am I possibly doing something wrong? I bought it from Guitar Center, so I can easily return it if need be ... but I REALLY like the look and feel of it, so I'd rather not return it.

I've read that a lot of people replace the bridges on these cheaper JMs, but I can't imagine that the stock one is so bad that it won't hold tuning for 5 minutes of a newbie's tentative strumming!

Thanks in advance for any advice
#2
How old are the strings on it?
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#4
Unless they actually specify new strings, I'd assume they were ancient to be honest. I had the same issue on my TAM10 which culminated in me breaking a string anyway.
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#6
Quote by PSimonR
Tremolo arms on guitars less than $500 will cause tuning to go out.

Only expensive trems are good.

If you don't use it alot I recomend you block it out with some wooden wedges in the back.

Not entirely true. It's more to do with setup and generally on cheaper guitars the tremolos are poorly set up from the factory. There's not really very much that can go wrong with a Jazzmaster tremolo unit, mechanically - normally the only mechanical issue is that they can start to feel a bit rough to operate, or get noisy, due to poor maintenance, but they usually return to pitch well enough, provided there isn't any other issue anywhere else. Even some more mechanically complex tremolo units can work fine if they are properly set up and maintained, provided there are no manufacturing defects.

Tuning issues when bending strings sounds more like an issue with the nut, which is a common problem on cheaper guitars, tremolo or not, due to the fact they usually have a plastic nut that is cut badly and causes the strings to snag. I've had this problem with many guitars, and a quick solution always seems to be to get some graphite in the nut slots to reduce the friction - the quickest easiest way to do this is to just colour in the nut slots with a sharp pencil - sounds ridiculous but it usually helps, if only temporarily. Friction is our biggest enemy, when it comes to tuning stability, and is the cause of pretty much all tuning instability. In the long term, it's probably better to have the nut slots cleaned up by a competent guitar tech or even have the nut replaced.

(Also, there's a much simpler way to block a Jazzmaster tremolo - just tighten the screw that's in the center of the plate until it bites, this means the tension screw is fully compressed so the plate can't move)

People usually replace the bridge on most Jazzmasters because they typically have all kinds of annoying issues with the design, but that doesn't apply to the J Mascis model which has a totally different bridge already.
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#7
Besides new strings, it might be a good idea to check intonation as well and sort that out.
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#8
Quote by Homsetead
I've read that a lot of people replace the bridges on these cheaper JMs, but I can't imagine that the stock one is so bad that it won't hold tuning for 5 minutes of a newbie's tentative strumming!
I can. But yeah, the J Mascis model already has that problem solved. Blompcube has the right idea. Personally, the first thing I'd changed would be the string tree(s), because it's such a cheap mod and even if it doesn't solve your problem it'll still make for better stability when you've found the main culprit. Beyond that, lubricating the nut is free but might not be enough if the slots aren't big enough, in which case they'd need enlarging. I'm told this is manageable oneself but I'd get a tech to do it myself cause messing it up would be bad news.

Other thing I'd check, I don't know what kind of tuners the JM JM has but quite often when you buy a guitar especially with the vintage style split-shaft tuners there are way too many winds round each tuner which will likewise give you trouble in the tuning department. When I string vintage tuners I pull the string taut from the bridge and cut it off about two tuners' distance past the tuner it's going into, then put it in the hole, bend it to keep it in place, and wind. The top couple strings (as in the thinnest ones) get a little extra length to make up for their lesser traction. With regular tuners other people have their own rules of thumb - I haven't used those in a while so I don't have any I can vouch for but my point is especially with tremolos you want the minimum amount of winding necessary round the post for the string to stay in place.
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#9
I had a similar problem with tuning, what worked (or helped a lot any ways) was to take a number 2 pencil and rub it in the nut slots.
Detune it enough that you can lift the strings out, rub the lead end in the nut slot so it's dusted up nice then place strings back.
Sounds odd right? It did to me any way, but I tried it and the guitar stopped making that "*ting*" sound when I tuned and the tuning was smother, basically you're just lubing the nut and as the person above stated it's the nut a lot of the time.

What happens is the string binds in the slot, when you bend a string it moves in the slot but doesn't go back to tune due to the binding, a little lube (pencil lead in this case) lets it slide.
New strings never hurt either =)
#10
Hey, wow, thanks for the AWESOME replies! I've got tons to look into now. The only thing I don't really get is
Quote by K33nbl4d3
.. the first thing I'd changed would be the string tree(s)...
Can you explain the string trees and how they change tone stability?

I took the guitar back to where I bought it and had one of the techs look at it. He tightened up the tremolo a LOT, and that helped quite a bit. Unfortunately it's still slowly falling out of tune, so I've just now loosened up the strings and colored in the nut grooves with an old Ikea pencil stub. It looked like the previous owner had a similar idea as there was a faint line at the bottom of each groove. I didn't spare the graphite, and rubbed plenty all inside each groove. I never heard pings when I was fiddling the tuners, but I'm about to go down for another practice session to see if that solves the mystery.

If not, I picked up a set of ernie ball regular slinky 10 strings, and will try to put those on. The tech said the strings I currently have are d'addario 9s and looked in decent shape, but that the store never re-strings used guitars when they buy them so there's no telling how old they are. Each string currently has 2-3 winds around the peg, so based on what I've read that doesn't seem excessive. I've also read a bit on how to change the strings and that doesn't seem too onerous, but intonation will be interesting since I'm not great at playing harmonics yet.

Anyway, thanks again for all the help. Seems like an awesome community you folks have here. I'll post again when I've got an update.
#11
Troubleshooting 101: do the simple stuff first. Try a string change...probably won't help much because you have shitty cheap tuners on your guitar (no offense...probably every guitar under $300 has shitty tuners).

Tuners are cheap, get some good ones. I've got 18:1 tuners on a couple of my guitars and it's like fucking an angel. Since you are going to be doing that, go ahead and replace the shitty plastic nut/saddle with Tusq or bone. Tusq probably would be more resilient and about as good. Plus...cheap.
Last edited by TobusRex at Jan 29, 2017,
#12
Quote by Homsetead
Can you explain the string trees and how they change tone stability?
Sure. They're there to put downward pressure on the string coming through the nut so it doesn't buzz or jump out of its slot, but in doing so they create friction when the string slides back and forth, just as the nut does. So if it shifts one way during a bend, said friction might prevent it sliding all the way back afterwards, or it might get caught when tuning the guitar and then jump when something shifts later on. My experience is that that's especially apparent on lighter strings that don't necessarily have enough tension on them to overcome that friction.

There are a few options for when they're an issue, though I've only tried one. You can get roller string trees for next to nothing on eBay and they'll do the job, though they tend to be a bit cheap and nasty. I'd imagine at least one name brand produces slightly nicer ones, but I haven't seen them around. You can get DynaGuide string trees which have a retaining bar that can move with the strings, which I think look a bit nicer, but I haven't tried them myself. Fender's own solution, which appears on a lot of American models, is a stationary design that's just shaped to produce less friction. Those are a bit pricier and I believe they require an extra small hole in your headstock to install them. Graphtech makes a self-lubricating design for about the same money. The most expensive option is staggered tuners, which eliminate the need for string trees in the first place by making the higher strings' tuners lower in height, but at that point it's no longer costing next-to-nothing so not necessarily something you want to do experimentally.

Regarding stringing, for what it's worth I got my rules-of-thumb from this guide, and it generally works for me, though as I said I tend to give the top two strings a bit of extra length, maybe another inch or two. On the lower strings you really only need one or two winds, since they generate plenty of friction to stay in place.

On intonation, it's something people do disagree on, but I tend to take the view that you want to compare the fretted 12th fret to the open string with a tuner, rather than the harmonic, because notes lower on the string tend to be thrown a tiny bit sharp by the action of picking (even with a light touch), whereas the harmonic does so much less. If you intonate the 12 fret to the open string, then, the guitar will be in tune with itself on the areas you actually play. That means, of course, that the harmonics won't be perfect, but intonation is never perfectly accurate on a guitar so it's better to get it right for the bits where it matters more, basically.

Quote by TobusRex
Troubleshooting 101: do the simple stuff first. Try a string change...probably won't help much because you have shitty cheap tuners on your guitar (no offense...probably every guitar under $300 has shitty tuners).

Tuners are cheap, get some good ones. I've got 18:1 tuners on a couple of my guitars and it's like fucking an angel. Since you are going to be doing that, go ahead and replace the shitty plastic nut/saddle with Tusq or bone. Tusq probably would be more resilient and about as good. Plus...cheap.
I have to say I completely disagree on the tuners. Cheap tuners might make it a bit harder to get a guitar in tune in the first place, but tuners that actually slip are pretty much mythological. Tuners are practically never the cause of tuning instability, and when they are it's almost always to do with how the guitar is strung rather than the tuner itself.
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Last edited by K33nbl4d3 at Jan 29, 2017,
#14
Thanks again for the great replies! And that explanation made sense, thanks Keen. I also like your ideas on intonation - open vs 123 fret tuning is certainly a lot easier for me, at any rate!

So the graphite didn't help, and intonation isn't perfect on every string but pretty darn close according to my Snark clip-on tuner. I changed the strings to the slightly thicker ernie balls (one string at a time), tuned it all up, stretched them out a bit, tuned again, and still it goes out of tune within a few minutes of just regular one-note plucking around. I tried playing and re-tuning for a good while to see if the strings would settle in, but no dice. Taking a hint from what I saw the guitar tech doing, I messed with the whammy bar a bit and it immediately shot the tuning across the board. I also noticed that sometimes when I push the bar in I feel a kind of sharp clicking or cracking coming from the tremolo area. Hopefully that's some kind of clue that you folks can guide me on?
#15
Homsetead
Potentially if the tremolo spring isn't seated properly it could cause issues by shifting around, but I wouldn't give up on the nut just yet. Try loosening the strings some and by hand just slide each string back and forth through the nut. If there's substantial resistance to that movement, like the string is being squeezed there, then the slots might need to be enlarged a tad. Ideally it shouldn't be harder to move the strings in their slots than it is to slide them across the top.

If that still doesn't seem to be the issue, you can try loosening the strings and taking the tremolo assembly out and just working the bar a bit to see if the spring is jumping or anything. Should you do so, you might also want to take the time to flip the outer screws holding the pivot plate while you're down there (as per the "String breakage" section of this article). It's nothing to do with your problem but those screws have been known to cause string breakage from time to time so you might just as well take the precaution.
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#16
I'd actually read that trick about sliding the strings through the nut, and I did that with each of the old strings as I replaced them. They all ran through nice and smoothe, I didn't feel any hitches. I even sawed them a few extra times to possibly file the grooves a tad deeper.

I'd also looked at that article in my previous googling, and it seems more complicated than I want to try on my own. Perhaps I'll take it back to the store and see if I can get a tech to walk through that with me. I feel like there's too much chance for me to screw something up there.
#17
After playing with it some more I'm fairly sure I'm going to return the guitar if the store tech can't fix it this next go 'round. Anyone have suggestions for other guitars around that price that would be good for an alt-rocking beginner like myself?
#18
Ok, so I'm a bit bummed. I took it back into the store and another tech said there's nothing he can do about it, so I returned it.

I'm looking for suggestions on a replacement, if anyone cares to chime in. I was thinking about the Yamaha PAC 112v, it seems really versatile and from what I've read it has good stock gear. I'm rather partial to the blue color, too.
#19
Homsetead
Yes, Yamaha PAC 112v (UG score 9) is a good choice in your price range. Also, you can check these alternatives:
Squier Vintage Modified Stratocaster (UG score 8.7)
Good for country and rock players who love classic Strat sound.
Epiphone Les Paul 100 (UG score 8.3)
Good for all genres of music, but rock guitar players in particular may appreciate the growl and grit of the SG.
Squier Standard Telecaster (UG score 8.7)
Good for guitarists who like a hard-driving rock and players who are into a wide range of styles, from country to rock to jazz, especially beginners who don't feel like dealing with a tremolo system.
#20
Thanks, udjine! I had no idea there were guitar reviews on this site. I'm going to poke through those for more info.
#21
I have a Fender Blacktop Jazzmaster which is about $500 new give or take, I had tuning stability issues when I first got it I did a small bit of modification and some set up and now it is golden.

Bridge: original Jazzmaster bridges are poorly engineeed IMO and the vibration of the strings can cause the saddle height adjustment screws to back out allowing the saddles to drop it is gradual but wreaks havok during the process.

Fix: prior to adjusting the individual string height I used some low strentgh Loctite thread lock (pink or purple IIRC) on the saddle adjustment screws once I adjusted them into position I had no more problems with the dropping the Loctite is low strentgh so it can be broken free easily enough with a hex key.

Nut: I could have replaced the nut but opted to apply a small amount of graphite lube and it works fine.

String trees: the factory trees were terrible I replaced them with these made by Fender for less than $10



Roller trees would be even better if you want to spend the extra cash.

I spent less than $20 to fix the issue, now I do not play my JM daily so if you are going to be playing yours daily you might want to opt for the TUSQ nut and maybe the roller trees (although the trees I used should be adequate), I will stand by the Loctite for the bridge though it is a cheap but effective fix.
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Last edited by Evilnine at Jan 31, 2017,
#22
Homsetead
They're worth looking at, but do always take them with a pinch of salt.

Of the models Udjine mentioned, I can certainly back the Yamaha and the Vintage Modified Strat recommendations. My experience with Epiphones is that the lower-end ones can be hit or miss, but I've been increasingly impressed with the brand in recent years so that may well extend to the cheaper stuff. Squier's standard range I don't have very much experience with, but in general you can't really go wrong with a Telecaster. As it happens, I got my first Tele after an experience similar to yours with one of the Squier Vintage Modified Jaguars. Where a Jaguar/Jazzmaster (as much as I love both) has lots of little bits to go wrong, a Tele is nice and simple and is a pretty good antidote do that.

All that said, it does somewhat depend what kind of alt-rock you're after - it's a pretty broadly defined term, and while any guitar will be fine for pretty much all of it, certain bands will, of course, be easier to sound like with a model similar to the ones they use. So, if you name some favourite bands we might be able to offer better recommendations. Beyond that, definitely don't give up on secondhand gear, as it can make a big difference at that price point.

Evilnine
I totally agree on the Loctite in principle - my Bigsby Telecaster has the traditional offset bridge and that's got a thorough dose of Loctite keeping the saddles in place - but the J Mascis model has a TOM-style bridge, so that's not the issue in this case.
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#23
Quote by K33nbl4d3


You're right, alt rock is a varied genre - almost by definition! I love the pixies, weezer, ween, stone temple pilots, the shins, breeders, the cure, space hog, blind melon, talking heads, radio head, QOTSA, flaming lips, everclear, the strokes, hot hot heat, franz ferdinand, Eddie Vedder and Kurt Cobain were my childhood heroes... I could go on for days for what I'd consider good alt-rock bands, though some of that's probably not technically alt-rock.

As for used gear, I'm all for it if I can buy it from a reputable store with a good return policy. I'm less confident about auction sites or posted sales, because I just don't know enough to tell a lemon from a good deal.

A couple people on a different post recommended checking out Rondo. You've given me some great advice K33nbl4d3, and I'd like to know your thought on them vs the Yamaha.
#24
Homsetead
Yeah, thinking about the bands on that list I'm more familiar with, I don't think there's any particular tendency towards one kind of guitar or another, you should be able to cover that quite happily with any of the guitars already mentioned. I might tend towards the Yamaha since there are a few that would benefit from having a humbucker in the bridge position. If you want a broader selection of recommendations, you could make a new thread including the details in the first post of this thread, so more people will see your question. Didn't realise you'd already done that

I'm afraid I don't have any experience with Rondo, as they don't really show up here in the UK.
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Last edited by K33nbl4d3 at Feb 1, 2017,
#25
K33nbl4d3

Yeah I am cheap that is why I used Loctite I thought about putting a TOM on it but not if I am going to have to pull the inserts for the studs and replace them I would need one to fit the existing studs and have the correct radius there may be one out there but i have not really researched. Mastery bridges are way too expensive for me to justify putting on a $500 Blacktop.

I have quite a few guitars and don't play the JM too often if I only had a couple of guitars and played it heavily i'd be inspired to search for a direct retrofit TOM.
"A well-wound coil is a well-wound coil regardless if it's wound with professional equipment, or if somebody's great-grandmother winds it to an old French recipe with Napoleon's modified coffee grinder and chops off the wire after a mile with an antique guillotine!"
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Live my twisted dream
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