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String gauges and tuning

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String gauges and tuning

Postby George Reiswig » Fri Aug 19, 2016 7:41 pm

So I recently wanted to try an experiment with my Lowden. I find myself capoing up a lot, whether in standard, DADGAD, or other tunings. This is just to get my voice closer to its sweet spot.

So using the string tension calculator at http://chordgen.rattree.co.uk/tensiontool.php , I figured that to be able to tune up one whole step from what I have been doing with medium strings. (.013-.056) I could use a set of "custom lights" (.011-.052). The calculator told me that the total tension was right about 183lbs for each set, standard tuning E-E with mediums and standard tuning D-D with the custom lights. A .010-.048 set of extra lights would be about 165lbs total according to that calculator.

The action looks okay, but...boy, those strings feel tight. Is that that calculator wrong? Is there a rule of thumb for this kind of thing, or a better calculator, or is my "feels right on the edge of breaking as I tune it" feeling just likely to be off in this case?

I am loving reading through old posts here, by the way. So much to learn!
George Reiswig
 
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Joined: Fri Aug 12, 2016 8:51 pm

Re: String gauges and tuning

Postby Clay Schaeffer » Sat Aug 20, 2016 9:04 am

"Is my "feels right on the edge of breaking as I tune it" feeling just likely to be off in this case?"

Plain strings (not overwound) of a given alloy will break at a given - pitch - irrespective of their thickness. The thinner string will have less tension to reach breaking pitch but will not tune any higher than the thicker string. Tuning up one step will put you that much closer to "breaking pitch".
Clay Schaeffer
 
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Re: String gauges and tuning

Postby George Reiswig » Sat Aug 20, 2016 3:36 pm

Clay Schaeffer wrote:"Is my "feels right on the edge of breaking as I tune it" feeling just likely to be off in this case?"

Plain strings (not overwound) of a given alloy will break at a given - pitch - irrespective of their thickness. The thinner string will have less tension to reach breaking pitch but will not tune any higher than the thicker string. Tuning up one step will put you that much closer to "breaking pitch".


Thanks, Clay. This is an interesting part of the physics that I didn't know about. And surprising! I had made an assumption: since going up in gauge size tends to let one tune down a bit for the same scale length and still get strings that aren't flopping around, that going in the other direction would let me tune up.

So the only effective way to change the pitch and have comparable tension is to change the scale length, either with a capo or with a new instrument?
George Reiswig
 
Posts: 10
Joined: Fri Aug 12, 2016 8:51 pm

Re: String gauges and tuning

Postby Alan Carruth » Sat Aug 20, 2016 5:46 pm

"So the only effective way to change the pitch and have comparable tension is to change the scale length, either with a capo or with a new instrument?"

Pretty much, yes.

The piano tuner's rule of thumb is to run strings at about 75% of their theoretical ultimate tension. This gives a good sound and keeps you from breaking too many strings. On guitars we tend to gauge them a bit lower; fretting may make them less reliable. Since all of the strings on most guitars are the same length the high E is the only one that's that close to it's breaking tension, although wound Gs can be right up there too. Thus one obvious work around is to use a shorter scale for the High E and make the lower strings longer: the so-called 'fanned fret' or 'multi scale' guitar.

There's a lot to learn about strings, if you look closely. I did some fairly extensive experiments on them some years ago, and found that even though they're the simplest part of the system, they're far from simple.
Alan Carruth
 
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Re: String gauges and tuning

Postby George Reiswig » Sun Aug 21, 2016 12:36 am

Love it. Always something new to learn! Many thanks.
George Reiswig
 
Posts: 10
Joined: Fri Aug 12, 2016 8:51 pm


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