Folk instruments for tuning in fifths? Or tips for acoustic gtr?

  1. Adrian71
    Hey, everybody. I'm new to the group. Explorer already knows of me, as I posted a question he answered yesterday.

    Anyway, I hope this is the right place to ask this question. I noticed some photos pinned to this group that have some Iberian folk instruments on display. I'm curious if anyone knows, before I put the money down for one, if something like the viola amarantina, viola da terra, or viola caipira could be successfully tuned in fifths. I'm determined to find an instrument with a guitar-ish tone that I can tune CGDAE. If I could get a sixth string tuned to B, that would be a bonus, but I could settle for a five-string (or five courses of strings) that would still have the range of a standard-tuned six-string acoustic anyway. If I could find a five-string tenor guitar, that would be fine too, but so far I've found nothing, and my budget precludes having a luthier make a custom instrument for me.

    Barring any of that, if I managed to convert a six-string acoustic to fifths, is there an ideal scale length and/or string gauge I should be focusing on? It seems that with a bigger guitar, the C2 would sound good but the B4 would be more prone to snapping, but with a smaller guitar, the B4 might work at a small string gauge but the C2 would be floppy and mushy.

    Any thoughts are welcome. And forgive me if I'm saying anything stupid. I'm a rookie when it comes to stringed instruments, but I know enough to know what kind of tuning I'm after. Thank you.
  2. lucho
    it is late but..... the violas portuguesas have short scale length dificult for 5 courses in fifth ... the same applies to spanish la˙des so most used tunings are in fourths o close to it..... The viola caipira from Brazil has a longer SL that goes from 58 to 61 cms that is able to hold fifth tuning using octave stringing for the coarser string ... so the neck may hold it without trouble...
  3. Explorer
    Sorry for the late reply to this, but I want to put this down for posterity....

    One can restring and retune a classical guitar to full fifth more easily than a steel string. Getting up to high B4 with a steel string at a 25.5" scale length requires a custom wire, so far only available from . On a classical/nylon-strung guitar, one can use one set of strings for the lowest-pitched five courses, and then use 0.5mm monofilament fishing line as the high B4 string. There's a fair amount of stretch with the line, so there is a bit of a settling period initially, but soon enough that fishing line will hold tune.

    So, here's the stringing and tuning:

    Low C2 - uses the normal low E2 string, tuned down
    G2 - uses the normal A2 string, tuned down
    D3 - uses the normal D3 string, pitch unchanged
    A3 - uses the normal B3 string, shifted over one position and tuned down
    E4 - uses the normal E4 string, shifted over one position, pitch unchanged
    B4 - 0.5mm monofilament fishing line

    The pitches are lower for three strings, so there is less tension on the instrument as a whole.

    I have done this restringing on two different instruments, although I no longer have either. One was a good Spanish-built guitar, and the other a Yamaha Silent Guitar. I was pretty surprised at how well this worked on the acoustic guitar in terms of not losing volume. However, as I've probably posted elsewhere, the scale length is a bit challenging for melodic work.

    If anyone else tries this. be sure to post about it and let us know how it's working out!
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