classical spanish string spacing for small female player

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Layne Campbell
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Joined: Sat Jan 14, 2012 5:38 am

classical spanish string spacing for small female player

Post by Layne Campbell »

Hi, so I am making my first acoustic using "tradition and technology" and I am basically following the book, but the guitar will be for my girlfriend who has, small but strong hands, and is a very skilled player. The string spacing and fingerboard width of her Ibanez steel string feels very small when I play it. compared to the electric that I made, which is just under 1 9/16" string spacing at the nut.

I know that traditionally classical spanish guitars have a wide flat fingerboard, so I would want this guitar to be wider then her Ibanez, but they are also traditionally made for men's hands. I would like to reduce the string spacing and fingerboard with a little to suit her hands, but I am not sure how much would be a good compromise. Cumpiano recommends 1 13/16" string spacing at the nut, what would you guys recommend.

Thanks.

Chuck Tweedy
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Re: classical spanish string spacing for small female player

Post by Chuck Tweedy »

The width of the nut itself is the issue. The string spacing arises from that.
A classical guitar will have a 2" nut (some 2 1/16" but almost none < 2")
I'm tempted to say "You should build it with a 2" nut." ... but that may be too black-and-white.

Check out some youtube videos of women with small hands playing standard classical guitars. It is generally done that way.
Likes to drink Rosewood Juice

Layne Campbell
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Re: classical spanish string spacing for small female player

Post by Layne Campbell »

Hi Chuck,

Sorry, I can't watch youtube with the internet we have in Papua New Guinea but She can play a standard classical, she can very well. I just want to make the guitar ideal for her, and the standard width is probably not ideal.

I don't want to commit a heresy, but I do want to make the string spacing on the small side without getting so small that I get excommunicated from MIMF. If 2" is ideal for the nut size on a classical guitar for a small fingered guitarist, then I can make the nut 2", but it could just as easily be 1 15/16" right?

based on your response, I am much more seriously considering making the nut 2" unless some other folks jump in with a good experience going smaller. I don't want to turn it into a toy.

-Layne

Steve Senseney
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Re: classical spanish string spacing for small female player

Post by Steve Senseney »

I made a copy of a Lacote which had a 50 mm nut width. I also made a copy of another "romantic guitar" with a similar neck width.

These are not "classical" guitars by the Spanish standards, but are easy to play and sound great. I think the nut could be made even smaller.

Here is the link to the Crane guitar site. He has well drawn plans for the Lacote.

http://www.crane.gr.jp/MakingGuitarZero/e_index.html

Clay Schaeffer
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Re: classical spanish string spacing for small female player

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

Martin used a nut width of 1 7/8th inches (471/2mm) on the early 20th century guitars that were designed for gut strings along with a 24.9 inch(632mm) scale length. They are very playable even for the average large handed player.

Rodger Knox
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Re: classical spanish string spacing for small female player

Post by Rodger Knox »

I don't build classical guitars, but...
It seems that all the classical builders are opposed to anything other than tradition mainly because their customers insist on tradition.
If this is for a specific player, and she's in favor of a narrower nut/string spacing, I see no reason not to do it.
Steel string guitars typically have 1 7/8"or less nut width, and electric guitars are even less.

The other issue is string spacing at the bridge. I believe that classical guitars have the same spacing at the nut and bridge, there's plenty of classical builders to correct me if I'm mistaken. So a narrower spacing at the nut would require either narrower spacing at the bridge or a tapered fingerboard. Check with your client, she's the one to decide how far from tradition is acceptable.
A man hears what he wants to hear, and disreguards the rest. Paul Simon

Layne Campbell
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Re: classical spanish string spacing for small female player

Post by Layne Campbell »

well, she's not a customer, she is my girlfriend, hopefully she will be my fiancee before too long. But I will talk to her and see what she thinks.

I think if she is open to it, I will copy the martin dimensions.

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Waddy Thomson
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Re: classical spanish string spacing for small female player

Post by Waddy Thomson »

Rodger Knox wrote: The other issue is string spacing at the bridge. I believe that classical guitars have the same spacing at the nut and bridge, there's plenty of classical builders to correct me if I'm mistaken. So a narrower spacing at the nut would require either narrower spacing at the bridge or a tapered fingerboard.

Classical fingerboards are tapered already! String spacing at the nut can vary a lot. The nut width is much wider than the string spacing. My string spacing at the nut is about 42.5 mm center to center, and the nut is about 52.5 mm. Spacing at the bridge is 59 mm center to center.

Brad Heinzen
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Re: classical spanish string spacing for small female player

Post by Brad Heinzen »

When narrowing the neck, a little bit goes a long way. 48mm feels WAY narrower than 52mm. I wouldn't narrow the neck up much unless you're specifically trying to make a crossover guitar. Remember that you can always just narrow up the string package when you slot the nut. A little wider margin in the bass side of the fingerboard won't bother anybody much. If you're really dealing with small hands though, I'd seriously consider a shorter scale. For my money, I'd say that 640's play much smaller than 650's, without narrowing the nut/string package at all.

Also, as others have said, the main reason for sticking with standard dimensions is market acceptance. That being said, I can sell a 640 scale length more easily than a 48mm neck. The problem with selling a narrow neck as a crossover is that folks buying crossovers really seem to want a radiused fingerboard instead of a standard flat classical one.

Clay Schaeffer
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Re: classical spanish string spacing for small female player

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

You might try building a Martin size 1 guitar. It combines the narrower neck and shorter scale with a smaller body. They are great little guitars.

Douglas Ingram
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Re: classical spanish string spacing for small female player

Post by Douglas Ingram »

The older Spanish traditions actually use a narrower nut that many contemporary guitars do. The Torres guitar typically used a 49mm nut. This is the size that I use and I like it a lot and I don't have big hands It makes a considerable difference from 50-52mm. None of the serious players who have played my guitars made any disparaging comments about how I strayed from tradition (returned to!).

While you are at it, you might also consider using a slightly smaller plantilla. The Torres FE19 is a nice size, just slightly smaller than more modern guitars, but it hits the sweet spot for traditional building. Many of us here can provide you with the essential dimensions if you can't get them on your own.
I may be crazy...but I'm not insane.

Simon Magennis
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Re: classical spanish string spacing for small female player

Post by Simon Magennis »

Have a look at "Harald Lane Classical spruce 2009" in the guitars for sale section over on the classicalguitardelcamp forum. He has pictures of a standard length scale with a 48mm nut. It was built for a jazz player rather than a classical player. Might give you some ideas.

Alan Carruth
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Re: classical spanish string spacing for small female player

Post by Alan Carruth »

Every time I've made a classical guitar with a nut narrower than 45mm or so, the buyer has come back later asking if I can make it wider. If you make the neck wide, it's (almost) always possible to carve it down, and you can cut the string slots closer to the treble side to experiment with different spacing too. Widening a narrow neck is _not_ fun.

Scale length is another consideration. Alicia Kopfstein-Penk wrote a small book entitled 'The Healthy Guitar' wherein she details the ideas she came up with as a 5'2" (1.57m) woman trying to make the stretches.

Alan Carruth / Luthier

Layne Campbell
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Re: classical spanish string spacing for small female player

Post by Layne Campbell »

She said she would prefer smaller then standard width, but she would definitely like it to still feel wider then her steel string. So it seems like 48-49mm is a good compromise. I think I will go with that and a 24" radius fingerboard. Not quite a crossover, but it should feel very proportional to her hands, and not uncomfortably different from the guitar she usually performs with.

I really appreciate all the input.

Kary Karahadian
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Location: California

Re: classical spanish string spacing for small female player

Post by Kary Karahadian »

I made a 49mm @ the nut classical for someone who was used to steel string necks. I play classical and normally like a 52mm. The 49 was actually very nice to play. (my hands are on the larger side).

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