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String Gauges for Balanced Tension

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String Gauges for Balanced Tension

Postby Anonymous » Fri Dec 28, 2012 7:41 pm

I noticed that my B string has a lot more relative give than the two adjacent strings, and I started wondering what affect that has on both sound and playing.

I found an interesting Interview with Roger Mayer

He mentions a choice of string guages that he claims provides more balance:

.010, .013, .015, .026, .032 and .038.

"The big difference there is that you're using the .015 for the third, because if you use the .017 for the third, the actual sound of the guitar is very G-heavy. The electrical output of the strings is dependent on the square of the diameter; if you square all the diameters and look at them, you can get much more of an idea about the balance of the guitar..."

"...Most people would say a .010 to .013 is the correct jump. And the .015 is much better for the G than a .017. An .015 squares out at .225 and .017 is 289. So you're going to get 28 percent more output just with a two-pound different in string size."


How does this differ from what is generally put into string sets today?

He also gives some interesting thoughts on pickups:

"Basically, what became very apparent with pickups is exactly what I thought before we started: They really don't make much difference! I would say they're one of the most vastly overrated parts of the guitar itself. If you understand electronics, you understand that as the inductance of the pickup increases -- that is, as the number of turns on the pickup increases -- all that happens is you get a larger output, and you effectively get less high-frequency response due to the fact that the inductance of the pickups rises. It's a trade-off."

Thoughts...?
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Re: String Gauges for Balanced Tension

Postby BigRedX » Sat Dec 29, 2012 9:21 pm

In the end you have to go with what feels and sounds right to you.

Tension figures from one make of string don't necessarily translate to another because differences in materials and construction all play a part.

Also when most musicians talk about string tension what they actually mean is compliance which is affected by even more things such as break angles over the bridge and nut as well the length of non-speaking portion of the string.
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Re: String Gauges for Balanced Tension

Postby Tony Raven » Sun Dec 30, 2012 1:56 am

Have a look at these:

http://www.zacharyguitars.com/Strings_Products.htm

I can't (yet) speak for quality, but I very much like the concept, & the strings are carried at a boutique shoppe that IME would NEVER stock shoddy merchandise much less broadcast the fact on its website.

However, be warned that Mr Zachary has more "attitude" than any ten men (since Attila the Hun died at least) & most of it could be characterised as "negative." Then again, every time I browse his site I laugh aloud, & as often as not find myself agreeing with his message if not his method.

So if you're in good humour:
http://www.zacharyguitars.com/Strings.htm
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Re: String Gauges for Balanced Tension

Postby zenguitar » Sun Dec 30, 2012 1:14 pm

He puts a LOT of effort into explaining why everyone who disagrees with him is an idiot, but is very light on the actual physics. Perhaps he would find far less idiots to rant and rave at if he actually made the slightest effort to explain the physics. Yes, he does claim that progressive tension is better because it's the laws of physics. But everything else is anecdote. Work through his writings and strip it all down and you are left with an assumption that equal tension or progressive tension is better, it's obvious because 'it's the laws of physics man', but 'I'm no scientist' so I won't tell you exactly which laws of physics I'm invoking because I don't know myself. But it really is obvious, and you really must be an idiot if you don't get it.

He is right. The tension of a wound string does depend on the core/wrap ratio and materials used. What he doesn't explain is why tension is so critical, what benefits specifically does he claim come as a result of a change in tension, the mechanism for that, and how that might affect other characteristics of the string.

There is a large body of hard academic research into the properties of vibrating strings, and how changes in materials and construction change the vibration characteristics of strings. He's read the part that allows you to control tension. But doesn't understand that that involves a trade off which can increase enharmonicity in the string.

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Re: String Gauges for Balanced Tension

Postby Random Guitarist » Sun Dec 30, 2012 3:20 pm

Do you mean anharmonicity?
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Re: String Gauges for Balanced Tension

Postby zenguitar » Sun Dec 30, 2012 3:32 pm

No, I mean inharmonicity. that's what comes from typing away without checking my spelling

Thanks for spotting it.

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Re: String Gauges for Balanced Tension

Postby Elephone » Fri Jan 11, 2013 4:05 pm

.010, .013, .015, .026, .032 and .038.

I'm completely baffled by this!!!

I have tried a .038 for an E-String before and you can very comfortably bend it up 3 semitones (and sounds like an A-string that needs putting up a 5th). An .032 A-string can be bent up about 2 semitones with that same pulling tension (as can a .015 G-string), and I know the more familiar .010 and .013 strings for E and B can only be bent up 1 semitone with the same pulling tension.

I just don't get how that is anything like 'balanced' tension! Does Roger Mayer mean something else by this?
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Re: String Gauges for Balanced Tension

Postby Elephone » Sun Jan 13, 2013 10:39 am

I just read the comments under the article link. Someone wrote:

"I once asked Roger what he thinks of those string sets you can buy that are calibrated to have relatively equal tension to each other. He says that's pointless because players should be more concerned about the sound than the tension (although I guess if you're using a buttload of gain or compression it won't matter so much)."

So, according to Mayer, it's better to cope with a rather slack low E-string -and inconsistent tension overall- than to opt for equal tension!

Does anybody have any thoughts on this?
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Re: String Gauges for Balanced Tension

Postby zenguitar » Sun Jan 13, 2013 1:34 pm

The gauges that Roger quotes are not unusual. They are the ones from the Fender 150 set, which is exactly what Hendrix used. And as Roger had a very good relationship with Jimi and his sound, I wouldn't be surprised if that was the starting point for his thinking. And there is some logic to his position, the output of a pick-up is proportional to the mass of the string so he isn't just making it up as he goes along.

However, string choice is as much an issue of taste and preference as it is science. And the guitarist does develop quite good subtle control when playing, even if they don't realise it sometimes, so they balance out the compromises with technique.

And in the past I went through a period of using Dean Markley F150 strings, which are the same gauges as the Fender 150's, even though I didn't realise the Hendrix link at the time. I just liked them as strings. Gave up because they were hard to find reliably. Dean Markley still make them if anyone wants to try.

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Re: String Gauges for Balanced Tension

Postby Elephone » Sun Jan 13, 2013 2:08 pm

Cheers for that. This might be a silly question, but does the tension change between different brands of the same guage?

I mean, I tried a .038 as a low E-string once, but it was really slack. Might another brand be less slack, perhaps made from a different type of steel?
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Re: String Gauges for Balanced Tension

Postby BigRedX » Sun Jan 13, 2013 3:37 pm

James101 wrote:Cheers for that. This might be a silly question, but does the tension change between different brands of the same guage?

I mean, I tried a .038 as a low E-string once, but it was really slack. Might another brand be less slack, perhaps made from a different type of steel?

Yes they do. Tension is based on unit mass of the string which doesn't automatically equate to its thickness due to materials used and construction.

On top of that as I said in my original post in this thread a lot of the time when guitarists are talking about string tension what they really mean is compliance. Have a read of this article for further enlightenment.

IME when guitarists start going by specifications and numbers alone rather than what feels right to them it never ends well.
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Re: String Gauges for Balanced Tension

Postby Elephone » Sun Jan 13, 2013 4:33 pm

zenguitar wrote:Gave up because they were hard to find reliably.


It's strange that they still restrict us to packs. We should just be able to select and receive single strings in an envelope, but I suppose that involves human movement and perhaps they sell more when people have to buy multiple packs for a custom set.

BigRedX wrote:Yes they do. Have a read of this article for further enlightenment.


Thanks for the link. There some more charts here.

"For the sake of good tone, consistency and feel, electric guitar strings should gradually rise in tension as the diameter increases."
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Re: String Gauges for Balanced Tension

Postby BigRedX » Sun Jan 13, 2013 10:06 pm

James101 wrote:
Thanks for the link. There some more charts here.

"For the sake of good tone, consistency and feel, electric guitar strings should gradually rise in tension as the diameter increases."

Bear in mind that the figures quoted are only relevant to the actual brand and type of strings measured. Other brands of the same gauge will not have the same tensions if the unit mass of the string is different due to alternative materials and construction.
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Re: String Gauges for Balanced Tension

Postby Elephone » Fri Jan 25, 2013 6:20 pm

Wouldn't it be better to have a separate pickup for each string and have the right tension. I mean, adjust the tone for each pickup to get the right tone and volume. Is that possible?
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