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Thread: Silhouette [and Special] owners: string action?

  1. #1

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    Question Silhouette [and Special] owners: string action?

    I recently dove into Silhouette ownership, picking up a couple used Silhouette Special models. Try as I might, I can't get the action nearly as low as it is on my JPs without buzzing. I do my own setups, starting with fresh strings, adjust the truss rod so that there is just a hint or so of space under the strings when fretting the first and last frets, then set saddle heights and intonation.

    I usually aim for 3-4/64ths on the high E, 4/64ths on the low E; a little more on some guitars just because they need it. But I'm at over 4-5/64ths on high E and 6/64ths on low E for the Silhouettes, and I still have buzzing on the low strings and the high strings are subtly muted so that they do not ring out as they should. This is essentially up and down the whole neck, fretted notes.

    Maybe I just need to take it to a good tech who can diagnose why I can't get the setup right? I though of PLEKing, but not sure I want to commit to this just yet. I even though maybe the magnetic poles on the pickups are pulling the strings slightly as they vibrate, but I lowered them and it did not change anything.

    Where do my fellow Silo owners have their action at?

  2. #2

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    Mine are set to factory height and I've only adjusted the pickup height to suit.

    I agree with your thought of taking it to a tech to have the frets looked at. Maybe the guitars need a fret level or the truss rod needs adjusting.
    2000 & 2003 SOLOuette Special

  3. #3

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    My standard setup is...

    Neck Relief: 0.008" / 0.2 mm neck relief (capo 1st fret, hold down at 17th fret measure at 7th fret with feeler gauges). Set this first, then string action after. I don't go below this number, and don't recommend more than 0.014" /0.35 mm. If you don't have feeler gauges, use a standard business card - if you can fit it under the strings you have too much.

    String action to between 4/64" and 5/64" string action (1.6 mm to 2.0 mm) from bottom of string to top of 12th fret. I usually have the low E a little higher than the high E but my Cutlass is currently straight across all the same and I like it fine.

    Remember - that's *my* preference that works for how I hit the strings. Your mileage my vary! And the lower the action is the more gently we have to play to avoid string buzz. A little buzz now and then is perfectly acceptable to me if it is not intrusive when I actually play real music.

    Case study - John Petrucci. Crazy low action, very light touch, accepts some string buzz as necessary to play comfortably.

    If notes on the high strings are not ringing clearly, I'd look at the saddles. All saddles wear a little over time and may need a light filing or sanding or polishing to bring back a clean break point. If I can find a before/after set of photos, I'll post them here later.
    Forum Moderator, Guitar Teacher and Guitar Tech, Folder of Underpants, Stubber of Toes.
    Irish/American in Paris

    Silhouette Special (2005 Buttercream Limited Edition)
    Cutlass HSS (2018 Roasted Special, Ivory White)

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  4. #4

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    Found it!

    If necessary I use a small fine needle file on the edge of the slot where the string passes up from the bridge plate (see the indentation?). But on the saddle top can use 450 or 600 grit wet and dry abrasive paper, either
    a small piece either folded or rolled tight allows to be quite accurate. Finish with finer paper and/or steel wool and/or micro mesh. if you use steel wool, keep the saddles away from the guitar!

    I find this the high-E string is most prone to these kind of problems and sometimes swapping the saddle to the different position solves the problem.

    Last edited by DrKev; 09-15-2021 at 10:33 AM.
    Forum Moderator, Guitar Teacher and Guitar Tech, Folder of Underpants, Stubber of Toes.
    Irish/American in Paris

    Silhouette Special (2005 Buttercream Limited Edition)
    Cutlass HSS (2018 Roasted Special, Ivory White)

    Click here for my Music Man photo albums


    Ernie Ball Customer Service
    Music Man Customer Service


  5. #5

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    Thank you Pink, and DrKev - fantastic guidelines you have!

    Probably over the weekend, I will start over, checking my relief with your method and proceeding from there. I am trying to use light strings (8.5 - 42, balanced tension), and also tried going up a gauge recently but the buzzing persists.

    I will report back with how it goes.

  6. #6

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    Update: I got the relief to right around .008" at the 7th fret of the high E with the feeler gauge (while capoing 1st fret and holding down the 17th). It is actually around .009" - .010" on the low E, so that goes in my favor as the buzzing is worse on the lower strings. Set the action to about 4/64ths on the high E, progressively going up to about 5/64ths on the low E. It still buzzes on the lowest 3 (wound) strings, from the first fret all the way up to around the 12th fret. I may just be getting used to it, but it might not be quite as bad as before. I have yet to be able to play through an amp at a high enough volume to hear if it carries through the speakers.

    After all this I picked up a JP6 with the same gauge strings and tuning, which has just slightly more neck relief and the same action (around 4/64ths high E to 4.5/64ths low E)... barely a hint of buzz! So, it seems like I'll just have to live with the Silhouette the way it is for now until I can have someone check the frets and perhaps perform a leveling.

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