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  1. #1

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    My Gretsch 5120 feels pretty stiff with anything more than 11s on it. I use John Pearse silk 12s on my flat top Eastman. They are a softer set than usual 12s - they give more than any 12s I have put on my Gretsch. Including Thomastik 12 flat swings and Newtone archtop 12s... I cant get any pop out of em. Strange...

    The cheap Gretsch is really thick wood so nothing really gets it moving. With pickups, I guess theres not much point to using big strings, to an extent...

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  3. #2

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    Are the scale the same in both guitars?

  4. #3
    The gretsch is actually shorter at 24.5 and the Eastman at 24.9"

  5. #4

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    Gotta be scale length

  6. #5

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    Longer scale lengths definitely have a tighter string feel to them, but the break angle is also really important. You can adjust the break angle on 335s by adjusting those two big screws on the tailpiece, the higher the tailpiece the floppier the string feel gets. D'Aquisto also did this, some of the Fender D'Aquistos have a height adjustable tailpiece on them, it's a really simple design, I wish more archtops had the option to do it. It could be easily done by most manufacturers for most existing tailpiece designs except for those violin type ones like Benedettos.
    I found an article that talks about break angles in detail:

    Guitar strings tension

  7. #6

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    If the nut is too high, the action will feel stiffer, especiallially in the lower positions. Many guitars - also many new guitars from well reputed makers - suffer from this. Chris (PTChristopher) has written a lot about this regularly.

  8. #7

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    maybe the strings like one guitar better then the other if ya know what i mean... lol

  9. #8

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    >>> the higher the tailpiece the floppier the string feel gets

    I understand that this is a common opinion. The remotely arguable principle would be that the break angle can affect friction on the saddle. It is a longish story and beyond the scope of a web post.

    In practice the break angle will have no effect on perceived string tension. This is easy to test with a very simple spring scale.

    The linked Frudua article is an interesting study. The principle of non-vibrating string length and perceived tension is true and easy to measure. I do not see why he skips measuring anything. A few measurements would have brought some of his well described principles into perspective.

    I think some measurements would also have discouraged the description of attack and even perceived tension being affected by break angle in any practical way.

    To the OP: It is very hard to speculate on why you feel one guitar is stiffer than another. Oldane mentions a classic reason regarding the nut. But having the guitar and player in the room make such problems much faster and easier to attack.

    Chris

  10. #9

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    It is only scale length if the strings are locked at the nuts and saddle.

  11. #10

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    As 3625 says, scale length is only one factor. I've found break angle off the bridge and length of string behind the bridge can make a much bigger difference. Especially the break angle.
    MD

  12. #11

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    Silk .012's on the Eastman? Those are low tension strings, of course the Gretsch feels stiffer.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by mad dog
    As 3625 says, scale length is only one factor. I've found break angle off the bridge and length of string behind the bridge can make a much bigger difference. Especially the break angle.
    MD
    Don't forget inconsistency in string manufacturers string runs. I quit using one brand because of it and their Customer Service always said there were send a replacements and only once did. Most don't realize there are only a few companies that actually make strings and they all make strings that others put in there own packaging. Sometimes they make strings to the other companies spec's for them and others time it same strings in different package.

  14. #13

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    It is one funny world out there (which is I guess, "here") in public forum guitardom.

  15. #14

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    A correctly cut nut is probably the most important factor in getting a guitar to feel less stiff, but the thickness of the neck itself contributes to the perceived stiffness and tension. With a thinner neck, the player's hand is in a more closed position meaning that higher action won't result in a uncomfortably open hand position. Thick necks position the player's hand in a more open position which reduces the amount of force that the hand's muscles can produce. As a result, the same action on a thicker neck will feel stiffer than on a thinner one.

    Disclaimer: I am not a scientist, and the aforementioned theory is a poorly written elaboration based on personal experience.

  16. #15
    Yea there must be some other stuff goin on thats percieved so to speak. Thanks for all the info, folks...

    I really am not sure how you guys play regular tension 12s... my arm starts burnin, de quarvains kicks in... wish I could do it though...

    Allot of the stiffness I feel with my picking hand. Its like Im out of my comfort range with allot of the regular 12 sets. I just cant get those strings moving sometimes....

  17. #16

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    Nut height, relief, action, fret shape (height/width) all influence playability.

    What happens to the non-sounding parts of the string (break angle over the nut or saddle, distance to anchor points at bridge/tuner) affect string stiffness, not tension.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by achase4u
    I really am not sure how you guys play regular tension 12s... my arm starts burnin, de quarvains kicks in... wish I could do it though...
    Years of playing acoustic guitars with 12s or thicker. Focusing on keeping my hands relaxed so I don't hurt myself. Keeping my instrument setup such that I'm not fighting to play them.

  19. #18

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    Nice distinction between stiffness and tension.

  20. #19

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    It's an habit. I use 014 these days so... My picking does not like 011 gauges. And I use action as low as possible. On acoustics 11 is fine for whatever reason.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by achase4u
    Yea there must be some other stuff goin on thats percieved so to speak.
    Break angle.

    The angle at which the strings leave the bridge or nut. The steeper the angle the higher the tension.

  22. #21
    "
    What happens to the non-sounding parts of the string (break angle over the nut or saddle, distance to anchor points at bridge/tuner) affect string stiffness, not tension."


    Interesting - Im not sure I understand this though...

    The guitar has allot of break angle to the front and back of it...

    I started out on acoustic with 12s moons ago but I just couldnt ever seem to get to the point where I could play them comfortably... guess that may just be my fault. Cant figure that one...

    I do have the nut adjusted so that should be ok... I wonder what else... I remember Dan Erlewine thought that more relief meant stiffer near the first fret and looser toward the middle in feel...

  23. #22

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    >>> Break angle. The angle at which the strings leave the bridge or nut. The steeper the angle the higher the tension.

    With all due respect this is simply not true at all. It is an enduring myth that seems resistant to all the sense, simple physics, even simpler measurement, and extremely patient attempts to clarify what is (and mostly what is not) happening.

    Somewhat incredible that it persists.
    Last edited by PTChristopher; 09-08-2012 at 03:07 PM.

  24. #23

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    Gents,

    It seems a waste of your time for someone (me in this case) to say the same thing over and over. Must be almost as tiresome to read it as it is getting to write it.

    If it makes business sense at some point to start a blog on the subject, that would be a better avenue I think - vs. responding to the same things over and over, to no apparent end.

    Anyway - thanks for patiently (hah, with a couple of exceptions) passing through the same "It does not work that way, for #u(&'s sake." posts.

    Time to drop it; it does not really matter. Onward and sideward.

    Chris
    Last edited by PTChristopher; 09-08-2012 at 03:15 PM.

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by PTChristopher
    >>> Break angle. The angle at which the strings leave the bridge or nut. The steeper the angle the higher the tension.

    With all due respect this is simply not true at all. It is an enduring myth that seems resistant to all the sense, simple physics, even simpler measurement, and extremely patient attempts to clarify what is (and mostly what is not) happening.

    Somewhat incredible that it persists.
    No need to get upset, perhaps I should have used the words feel and not tension

    I just googled for an image and found this. Which may go some way to explain what I FEEL and you KNOW.

  26. #25

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    Not upset SMP - definitely carry on as you see fit with no need to respond to my views at all.

    If the linked web article (no peer review, etc.) included any measured data whatsoever, we would be able to discuss what could one possibly be actually feeling (appreciate your distinction here) in practical use of the guitar.

    As it is, if the article and your views work for you and others, and that makes you want to make great music on your guitar, then the details (even the made-up ones) are of no consequence.

    Many thanks for the response, but I'd do best to drop any comment on the material aspects of this at this point.

    Thanks again.

    Chris

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by PTChristopher
    Not upset SMP - definitely carry on as you see fit with no need to respond to my views at all.

    If the linked web article (no peer review, etc.) included any measured data whatsoever, we would be able to discuss what could one possibly be actually feeling (appreciate your distinction here) in practical use of the guitar.

    As it is, if the article and your views work for you and others, and that makes you want to make great music on your guitar, then the details (even the made-up ones) are of no consequence.

    Many thanks for the response, but I'd do best to drop any comment on the material aspects of this at this point.

    Thanks again.

    Chris
    No thanks necessary. I was trying to help the OP with a 'possibility' for his original question. He then stated -

    "The guitar has allot of break angle to the front and back of it..."

    ...so I googled for an image to help explain this to him.

    "Many thanks for the response, but I'd do best to drop any comment on the material aspects of this at this point."

    Really have no idea what you mean with this comment.

    Anyway, look forward to reading your blog on break angles.

    Over and out.

  28. #27

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    To paraphrase Ken Parker, ,,,only two things can change the dynamic tension of a string, break angle and afterlength. (He uses "dynamic tension" although I prefer "feel", since "dynamic tension" can be confused with string tension .....different.) IMO afterlength or really overall string length is the bigger contributor. Lowering break angle at the bridge reduces the downward force and can certainly alter how an archtop is made (ie lighter...see Steve Grimes & his "low-stress" archtops).
    With afterlength, my best visualization is a short piece of wire and a long piece, both stretched over a pair of "saddles" a foot apart, tensioned and anchored at their ends so region between the saddles plucks the same pitch. Plucking or stretching the closely anchored wire, it feels tight...only a short amount of wire to accomadate the stretching. Do the same on the long wire and it "feels" much more supple ... twice the length of wire to take up the stretching. This translates to the distances between the bridge and the tailpiece, or nut and machine. Longer & the string feels more yielding. (Jimmy D'Aquisto used the analogy of two rope bridges over the same gorge... one closely anchored & one long ...and a guy in the center easily getting the second to move up & down, but not so easily the first.)
    A couple of examples... John Monteleone keeps afterlength fairly long and actually reversed the typical D'Angelico "long bass/short treble" afterlength tailpiece because he wanted to make the bass strings feel less sloppy and the treble strings more supple. I understand Ken Parker's archtops stayed with six-in-line style head was partly for the same reasons (as well as reduced breakover, less weight and obviously great aesthetics)
    Anyway, I agree that lots of things contribute to how a guitar plays..... great, aren't they??

  29. #28

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    Looked at the cited website with the break angle diagrams. Frudua may have made guitars since before the coming but any mechanical engineering student would question his diagrams without even breaking out their calculator. Maybe if he justified it somehow..

    Focusing on the string and the elements that interact with it, 'feel', if defined by how hard it is to press the string down and bend it, comes from tension on the string between the nut to the bridge. The number of pounds of tension to get to a certain pitch is defined by string material, construction, and scale length.

    Assuming you have enough break angle for the bridge to do it's job.. I don't see how this has a bearing on tension.

    To DaveS' discussion, I am pretty sure that Parker understands mechanical elements very well.. however I must be missing something. Downward force may change guitar construction and sound, but tension, what we feel, is still measured in pounds in between the nut and bridge.
    Last edited by Spook410; 09-08-2012 at 05:58 PM.

  30. #29

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    Hi Dave,

    Oh now this is unfair. NOW you come in with a serious post on the subject?

    Hee-hee. Dave, thanks a million for posting this.

    100% clear on the overall string length and feel.

    Now if zero friction over the nut and bridge would make the overall string length have the most effect (which it would),

    AND,

    Break angle can affect string friction over the nut and bridge (which it does),

    Then certainly break angle can affect the now so called "stiffness" or "perceived tension".

    The challenge seems to be getting across just how little the practical changes we experience in break angle really affect bridge and nut friction.

    On a Les Paul (the seeming root of so much guitar mythology) we have very little string behind the bridge, and considerable friction throughout most of the practical adjustment range of the tailpiece. Even the most modest effort at testing the effect of break angle will quickly suggest no practical effect whatsoever.

    On our archtops we are usually talking about the string lateral movement to fret a note. When doing so it is very easy to test of there is any actual string movement through the nut or bridge. Pluck the string length between the bridge and tailpiece (or nut and tuner) and measure the frequency with a tuner (an accurate tuner with the range needed). Now fret a note and repeat.

    Does friction through the bridge or nut really haver a bearing on stiffness? Sure if there is a loooong length of string involved and you are at remarkably low and unlikely break angles. (Fender G strings will move very easily through the nut with no tree.)

    In actual use and with the "adjustments" many describe, I do not experience any significant effect whatsoever.

    EDIT: Now this is leaving out things like a Strat or Bigsby vibrato. There you get actual friction issues through the nut (and bridge on the Bigsby).

    It is tricky to mix in the real mechanics of the situation with the "I read it somewhere,..." misapplication of the principles involved. Best of luck if you will stick around and help through this sort of stuff.

    **********************

    As for reading a question, Googling the subject, then answering the question: I invite anyone to pick subject they really know inside and out - winemaking, geology, fractal geometry, knitting, breadmaking,...

    Now imagine a few questions that may come up n this area of your expertise. I mean questions that are just a little fraught with potential misunderstanding. Maybe how yeast works at altitude or how long is a coastline really, or sulfites.

    Now Google the topic and see just what a mess of half efforts, absurd misinterpretations, re-telling of previous "Googles", and propagated myths you will find.
    Last edited by PTChristopher; 09-08-2012 at 05:28 PM.

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by Spook410
    .....tension, what we feel, is still measured in pounds in between the nut and bridge.
    I guess IMO (& some others mentioned above), is that that's the falicy of the thinking. While what we hear happens between the nut & the bridge, what we feel happens between the tailpiece and the tuning machine.
    I'm inclined to agree about the minimal contribution of breakangle to "feel" as I tried to imply. I might even go so far as to say I agree with Chris' earlier "In practice the break angle will have no effect on perceived string tension. " I just don't know enough to be sure

  32. #31

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveS
    I guess IMO (& some others mentioned above), is that that's the falicy of the thinking. While what we hear happens between the nut & the bridge, what we feel happens between the tailpiece and the tuning machine.
    I'm inclined to agree about the minimal contribution of breakangle to "feel" as I tried to imply. I might even go so far as to say I agree with Chris' earlier "In practice the break angle will have no effect on perceived string tension. " I just don't know enough to be sure
    I find many things counter-intuitive (Quantum non-locality comes to mind). However, if the real answer is that the nut and bridge are not absolute endpoints relative to what we feel as tension, OK. I think this is beyond my understanding of how guitars work, but I'm OK with that. Brings up other questions like what happens when you increase the virtual scale length and it isn't the same string to string and what happens to string vibration based on what's happening on the other side of the nut/bridge but I guess that's another discussion.

    off topic: took a look a Stewart Archtops - What's New. Jeez. Beautiful stuff.
    Last edited by Spook410; 09-08-2012 at 06:48 PM.

  33. #32

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    To quote myself from a post a few days ago:

    The pitch of a tuned string is a function of the tension of the string. There's one and only one tension at which a given string at a given length will play at a given pitch. The higher the tension, the higher the pitch. The break angle doesn't affect this.

    Anyway, let's for a moment assume - falsely - that the break angle does affect the string tension. If we increased the break angle and thereby the tension (which still won't happen in real life), the pitch would sharpen, and we would have to slacken the strings (= decrease the tension) at the tuner to get it back in tune.

  34. #33

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    Nobody else has noticed that the OP is using different types of strings on his two guitars, in the same gauge?

  35. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by oldane
    To quote myself from a post a few days ago:

    The pitch of a tuned string is a function of the tension of the string. There's one and only one tension at which a given string at a given length will play at a given pitch. The higher the tension, the higher the pitch. The break angle doesn't affect this.
    Very true
    Quote Originally Posted by oldane

    Anyway, let's for a moment assume - falsely - that the break angle does affect the string tension. If we increased the break angle and thereby the tension (which still won't happen in real life), the pitch would sharpen, and we would have to slacken the strings (= decrease the tension) at the tuner to get it back in tune.
    Also true. But, to quote Chris, we are talking about "percieved string tension" or "feel" (a perfectly descriptive term, but often taken to mean string tension, as I mentioned earlier.)

    I guess the real question re break angle is ....does a guitar, with a 14 degree bridge break angle and tuned to pitch, "feel" different (ie any less supple) to play than the same guitar, with an 11 or 9 dregree bridge break angle also tuned to pitch (everything else unchanged)

  36. #35

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    Good point Mr B. That's probably more relevant to the OP's situation. I guess I raised the break angle factor due to the thread title.

    DaveS, on a Fender D'Aquisto Elite I played, after adjusting the height of the bridge a set of 12 Thomastiks (to me) felt like 11's, to mention one example in my experience. I guess D'Aquisto wouldn't have put it there if it didn't have some kind of effect, maybe you know more about this and could share with us if that's cool
    My only real reason for giving my opinion on this is if someone might be having hand issues (tendonitis etc.) and this info might help them in some way instead of having to go down a string gauge.

  37. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by jorgemg1984
    It's an habit. I use 014 these days so... My picking does not like 011 gauges. And I use action as low as possible.
    Moi aussi. 14-55 to be exact. I just love the feel of it, particularly finger style. I know that legend says that heavy strings equates with high action and plectrum (the Freddie Green chink-chink thing), but. It's all good and everything is personal. One has to arrive at a point where one recognizes one's own sweet spot and preferences, and 14s and low action are where it's at for me. Too.

  38. #37

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveS
    Also true. But, to quote Chris, we are talking about "percieved string tension" or "feel" (a perfectly descriptive term, but often taken to mean string tension, as I mentioned earlier.
    The medical profession is my main source of income, so I'm very familar with the term "placebo" - the phenomenon that the mere fact of getting a treatment does induces a feeling of improvement in the patient, whether the medication actually containes any active substances or not. Thus when testing antidepressant drugs of the Prozac type in randomized double blind studies, one finds that about 2/3 af the tested patients respond positively when getting the active substance, while about 1/3 responds positively when getting an inactive pill. Across many types of health problems and many types of treatment, this 1/3 placebo effect is a very common finding.

    I figure there's quite a lot of "placebo" in the music world - as everywhere else. The old British classical clarinettist Jack Brymer, who wrote books about the clarinet, said about the ligature (the metal band clamping the reed to the mouthpiece) that one should choose the one which sounded best to ones ears - "for good reasons or none at all" as he put it.

  39. #38

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    Quote Originally Posted by NSJ
    Moi aussi. 14-55 to be exact. I just love the feel of it, particularly finger style. I know that legend says that heavy strings equates with high action and plectrum (the Freddie Green chink-chink thing), but. It's all good and everything is personal. One has to arrive at a point where one recognizes one's own sweet spot and preferences, and 14s and low action are where it's at for me. Too.
    Yes. Jazz is all about finding your own path - in gear / improvisation / composition. If it works you it's all that matters

    PS - Bernstein and Lund also use 14. A friend of mine (Virxilio da Silva) also. Martino and Wes used 15 I think. So we're not alone!

  40. #39

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    Hey Oldane,

    Here's some 'evidenced based medicine'. I've checked all of my too many guitars and basses and discovered that I'm using lighter gauge strings on all of the ones with a short 'after-lengh' (either at the bridge or nut or both). The most stiff feeling strings are the 10s on my headless travel guitar, which has essentially zero after-length both fore and aft. On my biggest archtop, with a giant after-length on both sides, I can bend 14s (to an extent).

    Put me in the Parker camp...

  41. #40

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rustic
    Hey Oldane,

    Here's some 'evidenced based medicine'
    Not quite. We would call that a casuistic report. Now, casuistic reports are of great interest because they let us become aware of questions needing further investigation. But casuistic reports can not answer these questions by themselves.

    In order to determine if there really was a difference and not only "placebo" - a bias based on what you expected to find - we would have to blindfold you and hand you guitars which weren't your own well known ones. All the guitars would have to have the same scale length, setup (same strings, action, frets and relief). We would have to repeat the test several times with the guitars in random order each time. We would also have to do the same test with many guitarists. Even then it would be difficult to double blind the trial, but we would come closer.

    Another - even more scientific and also easier - way to go would be, as PTChristopher suggested in an earlier thread, to simply measure the tension of the strings on the guitar tuned to pitch with a spring gauge (measuring how much force it takes to flex a string laterally by a certain fixed amount or measuring how much the string is flexed when applying a certain fixed amount of force).
    Last edited by oldane; 09-13-2012 at 09:57 AM. Reason: Spelling errors

  42. #41

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    I think what people feel about the sealing o-rings on a rocket fuel booster container is of no importance. If they seal, we do not blow something up. How we feel about it has no bearing.

    On guitars, how a player feels about it can make a remarkable difference in how they play - even if there is absolutely no direct mechanical reason for a given player's feeling about some aspect of the guitar. So I do not ever mean to belittle the sense of feeling a player has. I do, however, think that when a leap is made to unlikely causal claims, it may be a good idea to take a real look.

    And more importantly, it is still a useful thing to actually know what is going on when you are called upon to fix or improve something.

    As Oldane suggests, I see no reason to have players test lateral string forces at a given actual tension until we see if there are in fact any practical differences.

    It is absurdly easy to make such tests with almost no equipment at all. I have used nothing more than a simple spring scale.

    For fun, try a Tele D string and the same string on an Epi with a Frequensator. Run the D on a roller bridge. Block up the Frequensator to get a break angle of maybe 3 or 4 degrees.

    Now try the same thing on a Les Paul and adjust the stop tailpiece through any sort of remotely arguable "normal range" - maybe a 7 degree break down to as low as it goes (with strings hitting the back of the bridge body).

    Agian, nothing wrong with a given player feeling one way or another about anything at all.

    Chris

  43. #42

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    What was the question again?
    Overall "feel" of the tension or is it specific to bending?

  44. #43

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    I guess we can maybe describe things so that we use tension only in one sense.

    "Tension" - this is the force along the length of the string in pounds or kg. It is described as a fixed value for the open string at rest. It is only affected by string mass, pitch, and scale length. Redundantly, nothing else affects tension.

    "Stiffness" - this strikes me as a reasonably useful colloquial term for the lateral string force encountered when you fret a note. It is affected by the tension of string length between the nut and bridge. It is also affected by the string length past the nut and bridge, but this is limited by friction over the nut and bridge.

    If you had a 25" scale, and 25" of string span past the nut and bridge, AND there was zero friction over the nut and bridge, then in principle you would have 1/2 the stiffness of a string that somehow terminated right at the nut and bridge.

    "Bending Force" - this is another colloquial neologism for how much force it takes to bend a strung up a given amount, say a full step. This is NOT AFFECTED by stiffness. If you have less stiffness, you also have to bend the string farther to get the same pitch change.

    Further, practical bending force will be possibly increased by less stiffness if it means you need to plow more adjacent strings along as you do your "Freebird" solo.

    *****************
    EDIT: This makes various claims to easier bending particularly hard to fathom. Even if a break angle change could drastically reduce bridge friction (often it has no effect whatsoever), and if this released an extraordinary distance of extra string into the picture (on some very unusual guitar configuration), it still would not make bends easier. The string would move sideways more easily, BUT YOU WOULD HAVE TO MOBE IT FARTHER TO CAUSE THE SAME PITCH CHANGE. The final force required would be the same. (Actually probably greater as you need to move adjacent strings more too, but never mind.)
    ****************

    Bending force does not change with stiffness, but "Bending Distance" does.

    Sooooooo,...

    There is "Tension", "Stiffness", and "Bending Force" in this proposed vocabulary (and I suppose "Bending Distance"). All have at times been described as tension.

    A player who does not bend will enjoy some decrease in stiffness in some cases. A player who bends a lot, may find it as much a problem as a benefit to possibly reduce the stiffness.

    I stayed away from springs in a Vibrato system. We struggle enough with the normal guitar situation.

    In practice (and in my opinion I suppose), there is not nearly as much stiffness change as one might expect when goofing with the tailpiece and bridge break angle on an archtop.

    This is all very easy to test at home.

    [Sambooka] >>> What was the question again?

    I think it was will you have the Pino Nero or the Montepulciano d'Abruzzo?
    Last edited by PTChristopher; 09-13-2012 at 04:34 PM.

  45. #44

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    +1 to Jeff's point about the OP using same gauge, different brand.
    I will not be convinced that a TI .011 and a typcial stainless .011 do not
    feel very different. The alloy used or in the case of the TI's the plating
    has to have some bearing.

  46. #45

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    >>> I will not be convinced that a TI .011 and a typcial stainless .011 do not
    feel very different.

    I am not familiar with a stainless steel plain guitar string?

    This is another situation where the prose can confuse.

    We say stainless strings meaning the carbon-steel core is wrapped in stainless steel on the wound strings.

    The plain strings are carbon steel, not stainless. The cores of wound strings are carbon steel.

    >>> The alloy used or in the case of the TI's the plating
    has to have some bearing.

    I recall a US rep for Pyramid grasping at straws and claiming a superior steel alloy (there was even some "nationalism" involved). But I have not heard of any reasonable claim that one carbon steel makes for a superior string vs. another.

    Like tone caps (oh god,...) there can be simple tolerance variation that is mistakenly associated with some other conjectural parameter. Tolerance in the diameter, roundness, or the consistent maintenance of these parameters may make one set of drawn wire superior to another. But as for the actual steel itself, I do not know of any bona fide distinction in this amongst guitar strings.

    >>> the plating has to have some bearing.

    I am not sure why it has to.

    The plating makes up a very small amount of the mass of a plain string. Most strings are plated in either tin, silver, or brass. I do not see any reason to link this thin (and prone to wear) plating to any systematic tone difference.

    I have never heard a difference.

    I do not want to slog through another tone cap experience, so I'd like to call this my opinion and recognize that others may differ in some ways that can help considerably, or passeth all understanding.

    Chris
    Last edited by PTChristopher; 09-13-2012 at 07:16 PM.

  47. #46

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    I will take it on faith that things happen across the nut and across the bridge that influence what happens on the fret board because experience does matter and it almost always trumps intuition. However, it does pique my curiosity.

    So.. what would be a simple experiment? I'm about to replace the nut on a guitar. I could make sure the strings don't move across the current nut by applying some bone powder and CA (super glue) to the tops of the strings passing through. I could then clamp the strings immediately behind the bridge with a simple jig of wood and wing nuts. After doing my strings should feel different. Probably a bit 'softer' reflecting the shortened scale. Or will the change be so small I'll miss it because neck relief, string gauge, how strong my hand is from day to day, and my playing position trump the virtual tension so much it will overwhelm observation?

    I'm not trying to be pedantic.. I really am curious. Note that I didn't say anything about uf's from one string brand to another.
    Last edited by Spook410; 09-13-2012 at 05:57 PM.

  48. #47

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    Hi Spook,

    You can do your test, but to maybe clarify:

    >>> experience does matter and it almost always trumps intuition.

    Well maybe, but both take a distant back seat to principle and test - which can be no fun sometimes.

    >>> After [gluing my strings to the nut] my strings should feel different.

    Only if these was significant movement through the nut while playing, AND a significant length of string behind the nut, AND you are objectively sensitive to a rather small effect if it is occurring.

    >>> Probably a bit 'softer' reflecting the shortened scale.

    No and no.

    >>> >>> Probably a bit 'softer'

    In principle, the strings will feel stiffer with the locked position at the nut IF you can actually and genuinely sense any difference at all.

    >>> reflecting the shortened scale.

    The "scale" on a guitar refers to the distance between the nut and bridge. It is staggeringly important to not confuse the scale (which truly affects tension), with total string length.

    The scale is not shortened when you glue the string to the nut.

    >>> Or will the change be so small I'll miss it because neck relief, string gauge, how strong my hand is from day to day, and my playing position trump the virtual tension so much it will overwhelm observation?

    There may be no change at all for reasons covered quite a few times now, so I won't bore you with another pass through them. Actually measuring for genuine change is pretty easy, also as belabored earlier, sorry for that.

    There is no virtual tension, but I know what you mean.

    I think you are right that many factors can overwhelm accurate observation and even enable creative sensory almost-experience.

    The test is interesting in concept, maybe a little sticky in practice - and begging for a simple objective measurement in there. In my opinion.

    Good luck with it.

    Chris

  49. #48

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    ok....point taken...carbon steel rather than stainless.

    All I know is if I lay out a TI plated string and a carbon steel string of the same gauge, the TI remains curled and feels noticeably stiffer while the carbon steel string pretty much lays flat. I *seem* to notice a difference in feel between them on the guitar as well.
    Now....two un-plated carbon steel strings, for instance, A'daddario and Ernie Ball, I don't notice a difference at all.

  50. #49

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    Hi jazzrat,

    Both Ernie Ball and D'A plain strings are plated. EB will be tin, and it escapes me what D'A are plated with.

    Sometimes people say "silver" as a description of color and this is possibly mis-understood to mean the actual metal. If anyone described a string as "silver plated" this could be accurate, but I'd suggest stressing the source a little to see if they may be mistaken. (Sources seemingly hate to be stressed, particularly if there is good reason to do so.)

    But in the end I do not expect that the plating metal will have any impact to speak of. But I also thought that of "American Idol", so there you go.

    The cost to plate in silver (or tin or brass) is very low. We are talking about extremely small amounts of the metal here.

    I have no solid info on the plating thickness or the effect that this very thin coating could have considering the differences between the plating metals.

    Chris

  51. #50

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    I've often wondered what makes one guitar more "playable" than another.

    Using PTChristopher's terminology, I understand that 2 guitars with the same strings and scale length will have the same tension regardless of any other factor. But unless you tune to open E and just strum along to Smokestack Lightning, does tension have much effect on playability?

    It seems that stiffness would have the greater effect. However, if I'm reading it right, stiffness is predominantly a function of tension, with only slightly measurable variances being influenced by other factors.

    What about action? Higher action means that it requires force over a greater distance to fret the note. Once the note is fretted do any other factors impact the bending force? Or is it just of function of tension, meaning that our two similar guitars will require the exact same bending?

    I think what we're left with is that barely measurable differences can have an exponential effect on subjective, immeasurable "playability". Maybe.