My thoughts on the Buzz Feiten Tuning System

I’d like to share my thoughts on the Buzz Feiten Tuning System….
I have great respect for Buzz as a guitarist and I was excited when he came to visit me in late 1985 or early 1986. I do remember it was at my old shop at 33rd and Madison. I was already the leading guitar tech in NYC for improving tuning stability and intonation for the studio pros in town. After Buzz explained his system to me, I agreed to make two electric guitars and incorporate his “system”.
Six months later the guitars were done and I invited several players I respect to play them and compare them to my regular guitars. The consensus of all the players was the difference, was at the most, “slight”. My feeling at the time was if I was going to pay a license fee to use the system and promote it as an “improvement”, the difference needed to be “smack in your face” obvious. It wasn’t.
There are two main features of the Buzz Feiten tuning system. First, it involves moving the nut about .020″ (twenty-one thousandths of an inch) closer to the first fret. This is to compensate for the increased stretch of the string, the closer you are to the nut. The stretching of the string drives the note sharp, so moving the nut closer to the first fret compensates for this. Regarding the nut location, this has been in the guitar building literature for 150 years…..so except for the fact that Feiten was the first to patent this, there is nothing new here. I have been incorporating this compensation into my guitars for the last 30 years. The second feature of the Feiten system is a set of offsets for intonating the guitar at the bridge. These offsets range from plus or minus 1 or 2 cents (a cent is 1/100th of a tone). The problem I have with this part of the equation is that I pretty much defy anyone to play a note 10 times in a row in 1-2 cent tolerances. How close your finger is to the fret, which finger tip you use, which part of the fingertip you use, how much finger pressure you use, etc, etc, etc, all contribute deviations greater than 1 to 2 cents. In addition, as your strings age, the intonation changes. And every time you change strings, let alone brands or gauges, all of this changes as well.
So with all repect to Buzz, I really think the system is one of “smoke and mirrors”. If you have paid good money to have your instrument fitted with the Feiten System, you will hear the difference because you want to feel you got your money’s worth. On a properly built instrument, with the nut cut at the right height and placed at the correct location, and a properly intonated instrument, I doubt if you will hear any difference at all.

August 15, 1945 VJ Day

Today is the 65th anniversary of V-J Day, the day that the surrender of Japan in WWII was announced. As a result of the news coverage, I was looking at the famous photo taken on that day by Alfred Eisenstadt. I had looked at this photo many times, but always assumed he was facing south. But this time, I realized he was facing north and the building in the background is 1600 Broadway, the home of Sadowsky Guitars from 1986 to 2002! We had the southwest corner on the 10th floor and I drew an arrow to indicate where the shop was.

From Sadowsky Guitars

From the Archives! Roger-Circa 1981

Here is a photo of me shaping a neck for one of my early guitars. This was my first NYC shop at 33rd and Madison Ave. I am guessing this was taken around 1981.

From Sadowsky Guitars

From the Archives! Peter O’Toole

From Sadowsky Guitars

This photo dates back to the early 80’s. One of my early Sadowsky Guitar owners, Stu Ziff, was hired to be in a “band”, as part of this film that featured Peter O’Toole. On a break from shooting, Peter O’Toole pickup up Stu’s guitar and started noodling around on it. He is making an acceptable G chord!.

This guitar is one of my first 20. They had the logo “Dr Frets”, which I used for a year until I switched to Sadowsky Guitars. This batch of guitars was chambered. They were so light, I had to put lead fishing weights in the control cavity to get them to balance properly. I stopped making chambered guitars in 1983 but returned to chambering again in 2004.

Stu Ziff is currently living in LA. He teaches at MI (The Musicians Institute) and plays in the band WAR.
http://www.mi.edu/faculty/ziff-stuart?page=5
http://www.wartheband.com/bio/stuart.html