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Thread: Tunings and string gauges

  1. #1

    Default Tunings and string gauges

    Hello everyone! Hope you're keeping well.

    I've been playing tenor guitars for the best part of a year now (after 14 years of ukuleles), but have been having a couple problems!

    I have a Cromwell 1935 archtop - from bridge to nut is 23", with strings 11, 14, 22w, 32w. The A string never lasts more than 3-4 re-tunes. It breaks between the tuning peg and nut. The nut is clean and lubricated.

    I have 2 other tenor guitars:

    1930 National triolian, 23" scale, 10,13,24w,30w, CGDA
    Tonewood T-1, 20.5" scale, 10,14,22w,32w, CGDA

    I have found that on both these instruments, the D string 2nd/3rd fret is ALWAYS sharp by as much as 5Hz. I tend to tune the string down to counter this, but wondered if i'm doing something wrong with gauges?

    Any advice appreciated!

  2. #2

    Default Re: Tunings and string gauges

    11 gauge "A" @ 23" scale = over 28 lbs. - seems a bit excessive. It's a vintage instrument perhaps a little lighter gauges would be more appropriate? Have you tried 9's (19 lbs.) or 10's (23 lbs.)?

  3. #3

    Default Re: Tunings and string gauges

    Quote Originally Posted by HQentity View Post
    Tonewood T-1, 20.5" scale, 10,14,22w,32w, CGDA
    Your current set is a little light. Do you feel that these gauges are a little floppy? (Except the "A").

    0.0100 in. 18.68 lbs
    0.0140 in. 16.31 lbs
    0.0220 in. 15.95 lbs
    0.0320 in. 14.88 lbs

    Your tuning may benefit from a little heavier gauges.

    0.0100 in. 18.68 lbs
    0.0150 in. 18.72 lbs
    0.0240 in. 18.90 lbs
    0.0360 in. 18.54 lbs

    I tend to bend notes sharp by putting too much pressure behind the fret if my strings are too light.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Tunings and string gauges

    So I was using a 10 before with the Cromwell, but I struggled even to tune it up once without it breaking! So I went to a guitar shop and they suggested I tried 11? If I use a 9, will that possibly survive instead then?

    The Tonewood gauges do feel a little floppy to what I prefer, yes! So that means I need a higher gauge? Is there a rule for how high you can get before it is dangerous?!

  5. #5
    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tunings and string gauges

    Well try and get you head around this as it is surprising but a .9 tuned to A on a 23#» scale will be close to its natural breaking strain but... so will a .10 or a .12 or a .20
    The thicker strings will be under more pressure to reach pitch so still close to breaking strain.
    That is a basic statement but basically to get a lower tension feel with the A string ... you need to drop the scale length not increase the string size.
    More to the point ...you can expect the A string on a 23’’ instamment ‘no matter what string you choose’ to be short lived especially if you play hard.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Tunings and string gauges

    So, I guess I would be better off not tuning to that tuning then! Food for thought. I did consider tuning down (Bb F C G) and using a capo.

    How do I decide how high gauge I can safely go before damaging the instrument? I like high tension!

  7. #7
    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tunings and string gauges

    There are already hundreds and hundreds of post on here about string choice ....
    Firstly ... it is still very popular to tune CGDA on 23’’ tenor guitars and tenor banjos and has been for a long time.
    Lots of folk dont have issues but there is no doubt many do!
    Personally I prefer GDAE on 23’’ scales and CGDA on 20-22’’ scales.
    Most Tenor guitars seem to be happy with around 70-85lbs of total tension over the four strings or 20lb per string.
    Vintage guitars might suit more delicate tensions and some mass production new guitars might except a bit more.
    You can study one of the On line string tension charts and spend hours playing with tunings and tensions ha ha ha.....
    Buy single guitar string and make your own sets ........
    Last edited by fox; Nov-13-2020 at 3:17pm.

  8. #8
    Registered User liestman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tunings and string gauges

    Quote Originally Posted by HQentity View Post
    Hello everyone! Hope you're keeping well.

    I've been playing tenor guitars for the best part of a year now (after 14 years of ukuleles), but have been having a couple problems!

    I have a Cromwell 1935 archtop - from bridge to nut is 23", with strings 11, 14, 22w, 32w. The A string never lasts more than 3-4 re-tunes. It breaks between the tuning peg and nut. The nut is clean and lubricated.

    I have 2 other tenor guitars:

    1930 National triolian, 23" scale, 10,13,24w,30w, CGDA
    Tonewood T-1, 20.5" scale, 10,14,22w,32w, CGDA

    I have found that on both these instruments, the D string 2nd/3rd fret is ALWAYS sharp by as much as 5Hz. I tend to tune the string down to counter this, but wondered if i'm doing something wrong with gauges?

    Any advice appreciated!
    On the National and Tonewood, I would have a knowledgeable person / guitar tech check out your nut and saddle. My guess is that the either the saddle is not compensated (and maybe it needs to be) on your D strings or the nut slot is cut too shallow on the D string (which makes the lower fret notes to play sharp) and one of those is what is causing the out of tune D string.

    On the Cromwell (and the National), presuming you are using CGDA on each, just use a well-planned tenor banjo set designed for 23" and CGDA, such as the D'Addario EJ63 set 10, 16, 23 wound, 30 wound. The 10 should stop the breaking on the A string. You could go down to a 9 too.
    John Liestman -
    Eye new ewe wood lye kit!

  9. #9

    Default Re: Tunings and string gauges

    Quote Originally Posted by liestman View Post
    On the Cromwell (and the National), presuming you are using CGDA on each, just use a well-planned tenor banjo set designed for 23" and CGDA, such as the D'Addario EJ63 set 10, 16, 23 wound, 30 wound. The 10 should stop the breaking on the A string. You could go down to a 9 too.
    John,

    I'm curious why you would recommend the banjo set over a tenor guitar set?

    EJ63 Tenor Banjo Strings (Has a 9 not a 10 according to their website).

    0.0090 in. 19.05 lbs
    0.0160 in. 26.82 lbs
    0.0230 in. 21.23 lbs
    0.0300 in. 15.97 lbs

    EJ66 Tenor Guitar Strings

    0.0100 in. 23.52 lbs
    0.0140 in. 20.53 lbs
    0.0220 in. 20.08 lbs
    0.0320 in. 18.73 lbs

    Or better yet, change to a 9 for a more balanced set.:

    0.0090 in. 19.05 lbs
    0.0140 in. 20.53 lbs
    0.0220 in. 20.08 lbs
    0.0320 in. 18.73 lbs

    Just my opinion. I respect your experience so I'm curious for your answer.

    Thanks,
    Huck

  10. The following members say thank you to Huck for this post:

    fox 

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