String Tension - Does Bridge Make a Difference?

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by t-ray, Sep 25, 2021.

  1. t-ray

    t-ray Tele-Afflicted Gold Supporter

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    I have read a number of posts here over the years discussing how different bridges have a noticeable effect on the tension or "slinkiness" if the strings. For example, how a top-loader has a different feel than a through-body bridge, some commenting that it feels more slinky. I don't get it. I think a guitar string needs to have a certain tension to tune to a specific note. So, wouldn't the tension on the high E on any guitar of the same scale with the same string be the same? And even as I think about this as I write, it seems a top-loaded string would be less flexible than a through body as there is less string to pull on between the bridge and the where the string end is seated. Just curious.
     
  2. Telenator

    Telenator Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    Some believe that guitars with a trapeze tail piece will have a slinkier feel stating that the extra, un-impinged string behind the bridge also stretches.

    Personally, I find that the slinkiness of guitars is most often credited to a really good set-up.

    There are some I've encountered that simply defy logic and play real slack. I don't have an explanation for that. But I like it.
     
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  3. Ebidis

    Ebidis Friend of Leo's

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    No.
     
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  4. Si G X

    Si G X Tele-Afflicted

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    I don't notice any ... so if it does, it doesn't matter to me.
     
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  5. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    I cant verify if the longer string length has more effect or the shallower bend over the bridge has more effect. But there is an effect. "Break angle" behind the bridge is known to have effect. More shallow, more slinky feel.
    I can verify break angle has effect though; when I had the Gibson Howard Roberts archtop, It came with this adjustable break angle tailpiece. Messing with it you can feel a difference. maybe less angle behind the bridge allows the string to stretch back there more? Using the length to better effect.
    [​IMG]

    Interestingly, I loved my old ES 335 (69?) and it had a tailpiece. Most of the modern 335 types I have tried with a stop bar, dont seem to feel as good, yet are popular...?
     
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  6. tap4154

    tap4154 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    This is has been discussed to death, but I have experienced that a top loader at the same pitch/ tension will feel slinkier than a back loader.

    My theory is that in a back loader the string is a little bit longer, so to get up to the same tension you're going to remove more of its elasticity than you do in a top loader. It's the same reason that a reverse headstock Strat has tighter bass strings, and slinkier high strings.
     
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  7. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I've owned and played string-through and top-load Telecasters, often on the exact same guitar, and I can't tell ANY discernible difference. Perhaps I'm just not astute enough, or others "sense" a difference that isn't there because they think they should......but it honestly eludes me. I currently play two Tele-styles that can be strung either way, and I use top-load on both of them. No difference in "feel" or "sound"....and I find top-load easier to change strings. And, like most people here, don't bother with any "scientific" studies or evidence to the contrary.....my mind's made up. ;););)
    It might be interesting to do some "blind" tests, using the ashtray to hide what someone was playing, and see what the results are. The power of suggestion is pretty amazing, sometimes.
     
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  8. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Tension is happening in different ways at different points on the guitar.

    The tension against fretting fingertips changes based on fret height. Lower frets mean the strings can't dig as hard into your finers before you hit fretboard.

    The tension of the string against the nut and the bridge saddles is determined by break angle, where no string tree and staggered tuners places a delicate tension on the high E in the nut, and likewise something like a vintage Jazzmaster bridge places so little tension on each string against the saddle that an astute picker can feel how delicate the anchoring of the strings is.

    The amount of force required to bend a note on same gauge same pitch same tension strings, varies basedon the length of string you're stretching behind the nut and behind the saddles. More string length to stretch feels more slinky, BUT, the string tension at pithc is the same. What's different is the increase in tension as you bend, where all the extra string length stretching gives a slower increase in tension.

    And if bending is where you judge tension, the the traction on the fretboard is part of the feel, where pressing against the wood and sliding across it takes more effort on low frets if the wood is sticky or grabby, and less effort if the wood is slippery or the frets are so tall you hardly grab the wood in bends.
     
  9. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I'm prettymuch in agreement about Tele loading except that I do notice how easily the strings slide across the saddles.
    I sometimes pick hard near the bridge and do not like it when that moves the string out of position on smooth top brass Tele saddles.
    But even a string through has that problem if the saddles are low in the overall setup.
    It's not just the fact that the strings may move out of place and out of tune, it's a feel we can feel at the bridge when picking, we can sense a hard anchor point as compared to a delicate anchor point when we pick the string. Might not think about it but we feel it regardless of no words forming in our mind. Same as balance when walking, we don't have to think "apply more force to right or left foot" to avoid falling down.

    Easier string bending on a toploader Tele?
    Nope!
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2021
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  10. That Cal Webway

    That Cal Webway Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    String "break angle" CAN make a diff.

    Fun to experiment.
     
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  11. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    Depends who you ask.
    What I’ve learned in my life as musician with an engineering degree, when we debate vibrations and tensions and stresses there is a 50% camp that sides with “I Like” and summarily dismisses the physics. The arguments between top load / through body and tone woods and hollow vs. solid or ebony vs maple fingerboards or nuts versus zero fret, it is the same argument.
    The issue is that we cannot settle physics using philosophy. So yes, the answer of the OP question is that it fully depends who is asking.
     
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  12. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    Very simply, the string piece behind the saddle to the anchor point is under exactly the same tension as the piece between the nut and the saddle (and for that matter, the piece between the nut and tuner unless its a locking nut. What is different is the length of that piece will stretch slightly as you play - you might be able to feel that. Some archt top builders think it is important and vary the different strings - frankly I worry about other things a lot more.

    IMG_5234.JPG

    IMG_5233.JPG
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2021
  13. Ringo

    Ringo Poster Extraordinaire

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    I kinda think a lot of it is the set up or lack thereof. And some strings are just "slinkier" than others (not necessarily Ernie Balls either!)
     
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  14. vintagelove

    vintagelove Tele-Meister

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    It is 100% true that top load vs back changes both the feel and the tone.


    If you're not playing complex things with a light touch, you probably don't notice it. If you do, it's night and day.


    What you gain in playability, you do sacrifice a little in the tone department. That's less important to me.
     
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  15. Old Deaf Roadie

    Old Deaf Roadie Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    To achieve any specific pitch, length of the vibrating portion of the string factors into the equation, as well.
     
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  16. tap4154

    tap4154 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Like a reverse Fender headstock, that staggered bridge arrangement will give you tighter bass strings, compared to if they were all anchored at the same point.
     
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  17. Boreas

    Boreas Poster Extraordinaire

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    It likely makes a slight difference, but it is among about 20+ other string, fingerboard, fret, and setup parameters that likely matter more. Plus - my definition of slinky may differ from yours.
     
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  18. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    No it doesn't. The tension in the string (I guess that is what you mean by "tight") is given by the equation we all know and love that says its the unit weight of the string (which can be obtained from D'Addario's site) times the quantity two times the frequency times the length squared, divided by a constant. The length is the distance from the nut to the break point of the saddle. The section of string behind the saddle will follow the same equation and has the same tension, otherwise it would slide at the saddle to equalize the tension.

    The only thing that might happen is the section of string behind the saddle will stretch, not much but it will, as you fret of bend a note. The longer that section the more it will stretch more, it might therefore feel like the bass strings are a little softer. Obviously that also assumes that the strings have been selected so they have pretty much the same tension which is also not true.
     
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  19. tap4154

    tap4154 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I don't think you're understanding what I said previously about this. Steel strings, rubber bands or anything has a certain amount of elasticity. If you keep stretching it, at one point it's going to break, and leading up to that point of breakage it's going to become more and more hard and brittle.

    No matter what the distance is between the nut and the bridge, if you have a longer string and stretch it to a certain tension, it's going to take a lot more stretching than if you have a shorter overall string with the same distance between nut and bridge, to get to that same tension.

    So the overall longer string is going to be closer to the breaking point, and more brittle and hard.

    If you've ever played a reverse headstock Fender, you'd see exactly what I mean. The bass strings are tighter, and the high strings are looser. Not only does it give you a different feel, but a slightly different sound as well. You could easily test this by having a standard Strat and a reverse HS Strat with the same strings and bridge, and play them.

    And I'll just leave it at that. We've had this discussion here many times, and I know some people are never going to accept what I'm saying, and I welcome other opinions, but we can just agree to disagree on this.
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2021
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  20. Wound_Up

    Wound_Up Tele-Meister

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    Then how do you explain it taking MORE force to bend strings that are top wrapped on a Les Paul vs standard wrapped? Yes, it works exactly opposite of what everyone thinks. Top wrapping doesn't make your strings slinkier. It's only a few ounces but it still takes more force to bend a top-wrapped string to pitch vs non-top wrapped. Those strings don't have as much break angle yet they take more force to bend to the same pitch. That would tell me they're actually LESS slinky even with that lessened break angle.

    So you can't just generalize that a smaller break angle gives you slinkier strings.
     
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