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Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups Warmoth.com

Got a question about string tension...

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by cwadams, Mar 23, 2003.

  1. cwadams

    cwadams TDPRI Member

    5
    Mar 23, 2003
    The other guitarist in my band also uses a Tele, and we (currently, anyway) use the same gauge strings, .009-.042. But for some reason, the tension on his seems to be considerably less, allowing for easier bends. Our string height is pretty close to the same, and both guitars have 6-saddle bridges. The string trees are different, though - a single barrel type on his and 2 roller types on mine - and mine has a graphite nut. Any ideas as to what might account for the differences in tension???
     

  2. Mark Davis

    Mark Davis Telefied Ad Free Member

    Mar 2, 2003
    Bakersfield Ca.
    If there are 2 guitars alot alike and one playes easier its usually because its neck is less bowed or straighter on the one thats easier to play. The neck radius and fret size can also affect string tension.
     

  3. Ian

    Ian Tele-Afflicted

    Mar 17, 2003
    Alberta, Canada
    Even with the same diameter, some brands have different tensions. Fenders feel stiffer to me than say Ernie Ball's of the same guage. Are you both using Nicklewound's ? Mabey thats the reason. Hummm...
    Cheers!!
     

  4. The Snowman

    The Snowman Tele-Holic

    685
    Mar 16, 2003
    Philly Pa
    I have to Asat's that come to mind...both have the same setup...same strings but one is easier than the other...not by much but noticable....never figured it out.....don
     

  5. cwadams

    cwadams TDPRI Member

    5
    Mar 23, 2003
    Hmm. Food for thought. I haven't checked the relief on Joe's Tele, but mine is *almost* dead flat. However, while his is a standard, mine is a custom with compound radius and small frets.

    As far as strings, I've noticed the same thing, different strings feel "harder." I've been trying different brands and gauges, but usually end up going back to either Fender or D'Addario, and I think Joe uses mostly GHS, which always felt stiffer to me than the Fenders.

    Dunno, but I'd like to figure it out. Thanks for the input.
     

  6. James

    James TDPRI Member

    45
    Mar 17, 2003
    Which GHS's?

    Boomer's do have more tention, but nickel rockers have considerably less. It sounds like all the stings you mentioned were Stainless Steel- there is a huge difference in tention between SS an nickel IMHO.
     

  7. cwadams

    cwadams TDPRI Member

    5
    Mar 23, 2003
    Nope, unless the set didn't specify on the package, I don't use stainless in anything. I tried a couple sets on another guitar and didn't like'em *at all.* I stick with nickleplated steel - 250s in the Fenders. Wanta hear something *really* odd? I just recently bought a Jay Turser resonator guitar - same scale length as my Tele, and lower string tension, even though I have an .011 set on it!
     

  8. Phil Jacoby

    Phil Jacoby Tele-Meister

    279
    Mar 18, 2003
    Baltimore, MD
    This is one of the great mysteries of lutherie.

    In 97 I bought a refin 71 type I thinline. It felt hugely stiff compared to the other Teles floating in the shop at that time: a beater 68 with 6100, a 68 Thinline with 6105, a 94 MIJ 50s with 6105. All excepth the 68 Thinline had flatter radii.

    So I refretted the 71 with 6105, new bone nut, flatted the radius. Still mondo stiff. I mean .010s felt like .012s, seriously. I passed it around the shop and got the same reactions. Note: the action was measured to be the same as the other Teles, measured with feeler gauges and straightedges and a machinist's rule - relief, bridge and nut height, same strings on all - Daddario EXL110s. The 71 compared to the others was significantly stiffer, but had more acoustic sustain and top.

    So here is where I went after that: I swapped each of the three other Tele necks onto the 71 Thinline body. Geuss what: every neck felt stiff on that body. They all felt more or less the same, a median, on their "home"bodies.

    I wound up stringing the 71 with .009s. After a while I sold it to a buddy who uses it for slide. It has a wicked slide vibe.

    I never figured out exactly why this Tele was so stiff. My geuss is that is has something to do with breaking angles: over the saddles, out of the bridge plate holes, over the nut, perhaps the neck joint has something to do with it. Quite clearly something about the body was causing all the tension.

    I've noticed over time as a repairman that some guitars feel stiffer than others, some looser, most in the middle. Once in a while and exceptional guitar will come along that will play super loose and low yet not buzz excessively (after measuring all criteria). Sometimes a guitar will be stiff and no monkeying will alleaviate it to the satisfaction of the owner. My conclusion, guitars are like people in that they are all unique, esp for those of us that look at 'em so closely.
     

  9. cwadams

    cwadams TDPRI Member

    5
    Mar 23, 2003
    Ouch. Well, looks like I've got my work cut out for me. If I come up with anything, I'll post it back, but I may just have to live with it. Shame, cause I really like everything else about the guitar. Thanks.
     

  10. Phil Jacoby

    Phil Jacoby Tele-Meister

    279
    Mar 18, 2003
    Baltimore, MD
    Some fun stuff that deals with tension:

    Angle of the string over the nut. Tall tuners ala Schaller, less winds on tuner post, high or no string tree create less of an angle, thus less downward pressure.

    Height of saddles off the bridge plate. Less heigth generally means less downward pressure.

    Length of string from saddle contact point to string thru hole in bridge plate. Generally a longer length indicates less downward pressure because it is dispersed over a longer area.

    Downward pressure at the points of contact is good because it ensures a good mechanical transfer. Too little and the string will move laterally at the point of contact resulting in a loss of string energy. Severe dp could be more than some folks want for feel.

    Height at the nut is critical too. If the nut is too high, the whole guitar will feel stiff regardless of how the relief and bridge are set. Some folks can get away with .010" height of the high E at the first fret with no buzz (gradually rising higher for the bigger, lower tuned strings) and that's pretty good, a nice easy feel right from the 1st fret on...
    -Note, I prefer to refrain from giving hard measurements because I view measurements as reference only, not live and die by the ruler. Some interenet experts like to debate minutia. The acceptable limits of guitar and player and the bond between them is unique and should be treated as such in my view. Guitars play different from others, so do people etc...

    Action/set up is personal preference. How hard is your attack? A string vibrates in an eliptical pattern once it settles from the shockwave of the initial attack. Some folks strike the string in such a manner that puts the greatest travel of the elipse perpendicular to the fret, thus creating buzz at a greater string height than other folks can get away with for the same amount of buzz. How much buzz/fret rattle/string gargle is aceptable to you?
    -I know a local gigger that has super super low action on whatever his current guit of the moment is (1/32 at the 12th fret) and plays with a medium to hard attack (blues rock) - he swears it doesn't buzz at all, but I hear it. He plays thru an EL 84 equipped VHT and never plays truly crystal clean, so he doesn't notice it. The amps gain gives him back the sustain he loses from limiting string travel. I can't play his guitars, but he can and does and likes it that way and since he's playing 'em, thats all that matters - it works for him.
    -The lighter the touch, the less string excursion, thus less height required.

    Relief is measured best with a straight edge. Sighting down the neck or using the string as a reference isn't accurate enough. Measuring tools are great because while specs are not written in stone, an absolute point of reference is handy for making judgements.

    Regarding bending, I find lower frets, vintage style mediums etc, to make bending harder. This is because the higher fret allows me to get a better purchase on the string as it puts the string closer to the middle of the ball end of my finger. My personal fav is 6105 with a straight 12" radius - its flat enough not to fret out on Albert King step and a half bends with low action and still round enough for chords and arpeggios all over the neck - even up high. 6105 is tall enough for bends and hammer on/pull off stuff (slurs), but narrow with a nice contact point for precision and intonation. There's definately nothing vague about that fretwire. YMMV...


    Best wishes. If you go to the "microscope" level and try playing with all or most of these factors and your Tele is still tight feeling, you got a tight one...Not every tight feeling guitar is a bad feeling guitar. Like that crazy 71 Thinline I had, it may have more acoustic energy and bang, it may have a niche in your guitar world. Good luck!
     

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