String tension - through vs top loading

Discussion in 'Telecaster Discussion Forum' started by TokyoPortrait, Feb 12, 2019.

  1. TokyoPortrait

    TokyoPortrait Tele-Meister

    Dec 10, 2017
    Tokyo, Japan

    I was just following links and reading stuff, and came across this. Again. This time from the Andertons’ web page for the upcoming white / mirror non custom shop version of Page’s Tele.

    Now, I can barely count, let alone comprehend physics, but it seems to me that the ‘note’ a string produces is a function, in part, of its tension. Change the tension and you change the note. Like when you tune a guitar. Or, at the risk of repeating myself, surely two identical strings, of identical length, must have the same tension to play the same note.

    So, is this a load of old cobblers? Or, am I missing something?

    Here’s the relevant quote.

    “One of the more interesting things about the top-loader bridge is that you can choose to put the strings through the body as you normally would or through the back of the bridge plate. This gives you less tension and makes the strings easier to bend.”

  2. TheMindful

    TheMindful TDPRI Member

    Feb 7, 2019
    Sacramento, CA
    Jim Campilongo talks about his 59(?) Tele, which was the only year they made em top loaders, and how it makes his strings feel "rubbery". I guess it's to do with the break in the angle (or lack thereof)? Same concept as applied to string trees right?
    brookdalebill likes this.
  3. rze99

    rze99 Poster Extraordinaire

    Feb 26, 2014
    South London UK
    Yes. I have tried the top loaders on a couple of builds. There were, in my experiences, a slight decreasing of string tension as well as a slight decreasing of body resonance (acoustically) these were both using the inexpensive Wilkinson bridge and saddles. Not enough benefit to bother and I found the Wilkinson saddles a touch over compensated so it is in the parts drawer.
  4. Guitarteach

    Guitarteach Poster Extraordinaire

    Aug 6, 2014
    The extension past the bridge is longer in a through body which might suggest more scope for a string to stretch when bent making it feel slinkier. Although the break angle will alter the friction at the bridge too.

    Like trapeze vs stop tail vs top wrapped stop tail on my semis - they do feel quite different and in that case, the trapeze adds subtle overtones and rings to notes which are quite pretty to my ears as well as feeling like I can bend further.
  5. strat a various

    strat a various Friend of Leo's

    May 9, 2008
    Once I had a fun few hours on a Jazz forum where the nerds in Spiderman pajamas living in their parents' basements all lined up to argue the technicalities of the term tension. Good times, good times. Here's the dealio, the tension of the string between the nut and the bridge makes the note. That's all there is to it, for every specific string, there is a tension that will produce a certain note. Easy.
    That doesn't fully address "feel", so you have to consider friction, compliance, things like that. The longer the overall string, or the sharper the break angle over the bridge, the more you need to address the affect on the feel of the string ... how easy it is to fret, how hard it is to bend.
    Unfortunately, in the past, guitar makers (like Gibson) misused the word tension when describing certain tailpieces, and that engendered a technical objection to saying "tension" rather than "compliance". It snowballed into a classic case of OCD fretting on the part of physics students and teachers' pets.
  6. AAT65

    AAT65 Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    That’s true until you bend a note. Then the non-active lengths of string — above the nut and below the bridge — do have an effect, as will friction at the nut and saddles.
    I believe the theory of the ‘slinky toploader’ is that there is less string to stretch overall when bending (because the non-active parts of string will stretch too), so it’s easier to bend the active part to get the pitch change you are aiming for.
    The same argument gets used for the reversed Hendrix-style headstock.
    Piotr likes this.
  7. mgreene

    mgreene Tele-Holic

    Jan 27, 2010
    south carolina
    I have a top loader bridge on the guitar in my avatar. I was widely pilloried here when I suggested that top loaded really did seem to lower the tension.
  8. strat a various

    strat a various Friend of Leo's

    May 9, 2008
    When you bend the note, you're changing the tension. All kinds of complicated math can enter here, with friction, ductility, etc. It's easier to just find out if you can feel the effect. I can feel the difference between a frequensator or varitone tailpiece and a normal trapeze when just fretting the strings. Anyone who can't feel these effects with string through or reverse headstock should just let the sensitive players proceed with our delusions and stop feeble physics lessons aimed at our superpowers. We know what we feel with our fingers.
  9. TokyoPortrait

    TokyoPortrait Tele-Meister

    Dec 10, 2017
    Tokyo, Japan
    Hi everyone.

    Thanks for the responses, and sorry for my slow reply.

    Having read the responses & thought about it more, I had composed a reply, detailing my thought process, outlining my confusion and attempting to explain what I think might be happening. But I just realised it had grown far and away too long.

    So instead, I'll just give a summary, by stealing a line from Mr. Dylan - "Something is happening here/ But you don't know what it is/ Do you, Mr. Jones?"

    I'm Mr. Jones in this story.

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