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gbr13697

Variax Standard for Slide?

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Anyone tried using a Variax for slide?  I do have a couple of other guitars set up for slide, but on those I use heavier strings and a significantly higher action.  Using a Variax appeals because I could switch tunings instantly, but I don't want to put on heavy strings and raise the action if it is going to mess up the Variax electronic setup.  It's a lot of trouble to go to if I find it doesn't work, and have to put it all back as it was! 

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I keep a 500 with raised nut and bridge height setup to help figure out lap steel tunings.   I play in lap position using a fat bar.  The Paul/Special bridge delivers a pretty fat tone and the Tele isn't bad for poor man's "Fender Steel Six". 

 

Now, this is okay for live gigs and even a scratch demo track but when it comes to something very important and exposed, I generally tune a genuine magnetic pickup lap steel to whatever tuning found using the 500 and Workbench.  But the Variax is truly a marvel for playing with tuning combinations.  

 

I've been pondering transplanting electronics into a lap steel guitar body.  Tuning combos practically unlimited since you can change any string over 2 octave range.  Of course bump up string gauge to whatever tension you're looking for.  You do not need to use a standard E-E guitar tuning either.  I often start with D, E, G, resonator/Dobro tunings.  Merely keep track of what strings are tuned to what when digging around tuning editor.  

 

Main caveat about physical setup is to always treat the bridge pieces/pickups/piezos gently whenever adjusting height and/or intonation.  

 

Even normal string change it doesn't hurt to slap a piece of masking tape over the bridge to better secure it to the body as the string tension is released.  You do not want to wiggle those small wires which run into each bridge pole pickup.  

 

 

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Thanks Jerseyboy.  I have experimented with a Dunlop 741 Elastic Capo Slide Converter (much like an ordinary elastic capo but with a bar that sits on a fret to raise the strings) and the results were encouraging, particularly when using the electronics to switch tunings.  I wouldn't want to use it all the time as you lose at least one fret at the nut end, which does rather mess things up for open tunings.  However, I have struggled just trying to use a slide with normal strings and action.  I generally use 12s and a pretty high action on my other slide guitars, but I just leave them tuned to Open G, Open E, etc. If you have found that heavier strings and higher action work OK with the Variax pickups and electronics, it might be worth getting another Variax just for slide.

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Sounds like interesting piece.  Hard to beat Golden Gate F3303 extension nut for a temporary situation.  It sits on top of the current nut.  

 

For my 500 slide setup I simply made a tall bone nut and in addition to raising the bridge piezos as far as looked reasonable, I removed all compensation and simply angled the bridge pieces as if it were solid bridge centered on 25.5” scale length.  

Basically a long scale lap steel slide guitar.  But the tunings and pickup models - too much fun.  

 

Kinda shame Line6 didn’t try a lap steel version of Variax?  With only 6 strings, alternate “tunings” can make a formidable slide guitar.  

I’ve gone so far as to load up tunings and jump major/minor at the flick of a switch.  Helluva good cheat….

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I had forgotten about the nut extension - I never actually got one but  I did make a DIY version a few years ago.  It obviously didn't work very well, or I would still be using it!  Perhaps I should buy a proper one. 

 

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Hi Jerseyboy - I have only just realised how much your idea of removing the intonation compensation makes sense!  It is always stressed to slide beginners that the slide should be held over the fret but, if the intonation is set for fretting strings normally, a slide over a fret will be out of tune.  I suppose we all adjust the slide position by ear when playing, but precisely over a fret isn't necessarily right for a guitar intonated for conventional playing.  It had never occurred to me before!

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I use both a Variax Standard (studio) and Variax Acoustic 700 (live) for slide. No modifications to bridge or nut, just some heavier strings. Live is quick and easy for tuning changes. Studio work can sound convincing enough with typical levels of amp (real or modeled) and effects to cover up any modeling anomalies.

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On 8/8/2018 at 11:32 AM, gbr13697 said:

Hi Jerseyboy - I have only just realised how much your idea of removing the intonation compensation makes sense!  It is always stressed to slide beginners that the slide should be held over the fret but, if the intonation is set for fretting strings normally, a slide over a fret will be out of tune.  I suppose we all adjust the slide position by ear when playing, but precisely over a fret isn't necessarily right for a guitar intonated for conventional playing.  It had never occurred to me before!

Not sure how much sense it actually makes but for true "lap" style playing with a heavy bar I find it's a worthwhile trick.  Of course, I'm flush with several Variax guitars.  Maintaining an old 500 in "lap" setup happens to be very useful for me.  Dobro/Resonator brings formidable fun factor too.  

 

Playing slide parts on a hanging electric with finger slide of course just bump up gauges and/or perfect your touch.  Very nice and convenient to get those tuning "intervals" not normally found without a bunch of voodoo, hoodoo.  

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