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Date this web site was last edited:  12/06/2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Do I Get My Strings As Close As Tommy Emmanuel?

by Joe Glaser - Founder, moontoast.com - 615-294-1139 - joe@moontoast.com

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

Palmer,

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

Joe

Guitar Set Up Technical Tips email - by Joe Glaser

Hello Palmer,
 
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 threshold throughout.
 
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