Strings for my Broadway...

Discussion in 'Acoustic Heaven' started by LGOberean, May 27, 2020.

  1. LGOberean

    LGOberean Doctor of Teleocity

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    I hope y'all aren't already tired of me posting about my new old birth year Harmony Broadway archtop guitar. In my defense, this post isn't so much about showing off my guitar as it is getting input about strings for it.

    The guy I bought it from said something about stringing it with mediums and tuning down a step or so for shipping it. However, I was able to pick it up personally. The strings feel like mediums, and the color-coded ball ends tell me it's a D'Addario set. The strings also look and kind of sound like 80/20s, not phosphor bronze. So I'm thinking it's strung with a set of D'Addario EJ12 80/20 Bronze Medium (.013-.056).

    It's not like the guitar strung with mediums is unplayable to me, but I don't play as cleanly with as light a touch on mediums. Also, the guitar is fairly bright naturally, and some I'm wanting strings on the warmer side of the spectrum. On my other acoustics, I always use EJ16s, D'Addario's regular light phosphor bronze strings (.012-.053). I'm thinking these would really fit the bill. And I already have a supply of EJ16s on hand.

    The only thing that's giving me pause is the difference in string tension. D'Addario's mediums have about 20 lbs. more string tension that the EJ16s (180.28 lbs. vs. 160.54 lbs.). The Broadway has no truss rod or even steel reinforcement; it's just a baseball bat. I'm wondering if the seller strung it with mediums for purposes of string tension on the neck.

    So, whaddaya think? I will change metal alloys, from brass (80/20) to phosphor bronze. But should I stick with mediums or 13s for the sake of the neck, or would 12s be okay?

    Oh, and if someone wants to steer me in the direction of flatwounds, I'll consider that. But I've never used them in my life, so it might take some convincing.
     
  2. Ricky D.

    Ricky D. Doctor of Teleocity

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    If it was mine I would start with 12s. It probably shipped new with 13s, but that was then. The heavier 12s would drive the top a little harder, give you more low end.
     
  3. LOSTVENTURE

    LOSTVENTURE Tele-Afflicted

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    It should not hurt to try the 12's. And I might recommend looking at some of the Elixer strings to help dampen the brightness of the instrument.
     
  4. teletimetx

    teletimetx Doctor of Teleocity

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    welp, there's all kinds of things to worry about. In general, with mechanical devices, lower pressures tend to be more stable; higher pressures tend to pull or tear things apart.

    What do you think might happen if you were to take the strings completely off for some period of time? Will the neck go crazy? After this many years, I'm thinking maybe not.

    There probably will be some period of adjustment for the temperature/humidity of where the guitar was and where it is now. I wouldn't make too many radical changes just right away, but changing to lighter gauge strings? I don't really see that as a radical change.

    In other words, yeah, maybe higher pressure will prevent backbow, but it also could encourage separating the heel of the neck from the body. Or, over a period of time, the higher pressure will collapse or sink the top around bridge, where the bridge is unsupported - it's a free floating bridge, right?

    glad I could alleviate your anxiety...:twisted::D

    but overall, I'd say try out the lighter gauge strings. Shouldn't make that much difference. I think the real key is to keep an eye on things and try to keep that box in a stable temperature humidity environment. My two cents. Probably get a more useful response from @Freeman Keller...
     
  5. Mart the Hat

    Mart the Hat Tele-Holic

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    If you want to get mellower than bronze for an old archtop, I quite like the John Pearse pure nickel strings, or there are a couple of companies making Monel strings which are meant to do a similar job. I can't imagine changing from 13s to 12s would do anything drastic to the neck, so if you're curious I'd just try a set. I've had both 12s and 13s on my old Kalamazoo archtop with no truss rod - I feel like the 13s get a slightly bigger sound out of it but both worked fine.
     
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  6. LGOberean

    LGOberean Doctor of Teleocity

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    Thanks for the replies. I was hoping that I was right in thinking that the slight difference of string tension wouldn't be a problem. Good to get the confirmation.

    And I will be keeping it in a consistent and stable environment. I picked up the guitar in Athens, Georgia, and as near as I can tell the weather conditions there aren't drastically different than here. Corpus Christi is generally just a little warmer and a little more humid. So no drastic changes. But I won't take this guitar to outdoor gigs. I've got a gig at a marina this weekend that I'd kinda like to take it to, but I won't. It would be a hassle to mic it up anyway.
     
  7. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    Thanks (I think). I am not very knowledgeable about archtops - I have built one hollow body electric and work on some owned by friends. Most of them will run one of two choices for strings - either light gauge PB's for pure acoustic sound or if they are playing amplified, flat wounds (11's or 12's). My jazz guitar gets 12 gauge Thomastiks - they are expensive but I love the sound and feel.

    Setting up an archtop is similar to any other guitar but you do have to think about the break over at the bridge and how much downforce is being applied. I would base some of my string decisions on actual measurements of the action.
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2020
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  8. LGOberean

    LGOberean Doctor of Teleocity

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    I wasn't going to use this video, since it was just a goofing around/one take kind of deal, and I wasn't the real star of the video anyway. Our dog Bella was being cute and my wife wanted to capture it on video. My playing in the background was just incidental to the proposition. This is the only video of it thus far, but I guess it'll do for now. I'll do better.

    We were camping in our trailer at Table Rock State Park in South Carolina. It was a week ago today, the evening of May 20th and starting to rain. Bella was being so darn cute, and I just happened to be in the background playing “Blue Moon” on my 1953 Harmony H954 Broadway archtop guitar. The strings on the guitar are D'Addario mediums, I think the EJ12 set.

     
  9. zombywoof

    zombywoof Friend of Leo's

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    I only own one archtop which lacks any kind of neck reinforcement - a 1935 Gibson-made Capital.

    When it comes to strings though, I have to admit that mention of an archtop immediately conjures up images of a set of flatwound strings with a wound G. Plenty of folks though go other routes. At the heart of the whole thing tough is the need to transfer as much energy to the top as possible. And that generally means a heavier gauge.

    With the Capital I tend to compromise by stringing with 12s but go with at least a heavier gauge high E and at times both a heavier B and E. While I have no string loyalty, you might try a set of the D'addario Nickel Bronze.
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2020
  10. rangercaster

    rangercaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    Flats would good on that guitar...
     
  11. LGOberean

    LGOberean Doctor of Teleocity

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    As I said at the outset of this thread, I'm thinking it came strung with a set of D'Addario EJ12 80/20 Bronze Medium (.013-.056). I'm willing to consider other sets, but as I also said, i have a stash of nearly 2 dozen sets of D'Addario EJ16s, (regular light phosphor bronze strings, .012-.053) on hand. So my plan as of now is to change to a set of EJ16s.

    I will have my wife take video footage of me playing several different things (jazz standards, blues, folk, fingerstyle, slide) the way the guitar is strung now, then record the same things but with the guitar strung with EJ16s. I don't have the skills to do that kind of editing. My wife says she'd need to find an app for that. (I guess there's an app for everything these days.) So it may take a while to get this project done, but that's the plan.
     
  12. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    Something that might be kind of interesting is to measure the setup with both sets of strings - see if you can detect a difference in relief and/or action with the heavier gauge. You are also changing three different things at the same time (gauge/tension, composition, age of the string) so your results might be a little muddy but it will interesting to see what you come up with.
     
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  13. LGOberean

    LGOberean Doctor of Teleocity

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    I'll see what I can do. The thought that the results might be affected by age of strings occurred to me. I don't know how long the mediums were on there before I picked up the guitar, and I've played it daily, almost exclusively, every day since (13 days). Still, I'm hoping there will be some benefit to the comparison.
     
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