Dealing with Dead Spots on the Fretboard
Q: I’ve played a Fender ’61 Anniversary Precision the last year or so. It sounds great and is very comfortable to play, but I have drama with the G note on the E string being noticeably “plonky” sounding. A slight truss rod adjustment clockwise moves this down a semi tone. I’m fearing a dead spot… I’ve had a few guys look at it and claim it’s fine, saying the frets are perfect. The nut is okay too. I’ve tried mucking around with a G clamp. No joy there. Unless it’s a big stage with an SVT, the blah G is noticeable. Front of house operators just shrug. Recording seems to pick it up, though in play back it’s not so obvious. It has me stumped. Big round E and F… F#, less so. G… plonk. G# better. A is huge. Thanks for any insight. I’m not ruling out that this could be a Fender thing or that I might be OCD.
A: My understanding is that dead spots happen when the neck vibrates at the same frequency as a certain note, effectively canceling each other out just a bit. It definitely sounds like you either a dead spot that a change in mass can fix (clamp or some other options I’ll mention) or it’s a physical issue with the neck or frets (or, possibly some self-diagnosed OCD).
For starters, you might get some 2nd and 3rd opinions about your neck and frets, just to be sure.
I’d assume that this has been happening for a while an you’ve changed strings since you noticed it, at least once. You never know, it could be a string defect, although I don’t really know if that could actually effect just one note on the fretboard.
If everything checks out, it’s time to experiment with mass. Adding or subtracting different amounts of weight from the headstock essentially shifts the dead note to somewhere else. Often, it moves upwards if you add weight and isn’t as noticeable in higher registers.
Aside from the usual “Fatfinger” clamp or good old fashioned G clamp, here are some inventive and less clunky ways to fix it. Fatfinger now also makes brass plates that affixes to the rear of the headstock.
Before doing some of these, it’d be best to suss out what weight seems to solve the problem before just adding a plate or weights to the instrument. Often, just a few ounces will do it (so I’m told).
Check out these novel approaches to fixing dead spots:
- Article: Kill That Dead Spot
- Discussion: Anybody ever heard of a Fathead?
- Article: Treating your bass’ deadspot
- Video: How To Adjust Dead Spots In A Guitar’s Neck
Best of luck! Let us know if you try any of these ideas and what the results are.
Readers, how do you go about dealing with dead spots? Please share your thoughts in the comments.