Update - Classical guitar strings: normal or hard tension?

Discussion in 'Acoustic Heaven' started by LGOberean, Jul 21, 2014.

  1. LGOberean

    LGOberean Doctor of Teleocity

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    I started a thread about normal or hard tension strings back in April, when I picked up a used Hohner HG-14 Japanese vintage classical. I haven't owned a classical in 31 years, and I was asking about pros and cons of hard tension strings. I had never used them before (I had a classical from 1973 to 1983), and wondered if I'd like the feel of them better than normal tension strings.

    I put a set of D'Addario EJ-46s on my guitar tonight. It's still too early to give my impressions, because the strings need to settle. I tuned them up, played them, and they went out of tune right away. Tuned and played them several more times. They're still going out of tune right away.

    It's been a while on all of this, so I'm not sure how long a settling in period to expect. I'm thinking at least several days. What do y'all think? Longer, like a week?

    Also, I'm getting some string buzz. Will that go away once they've settled?
     
  2. H. Mac

    H. Mac Friend of Leo's

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    Classical guitar strings stretch a good bit, and don't stay in tune very well for several hours, maybe even a day or so.

    I'm not sure about the string buzz that you're experiencing because buzz usually results from one or more strings interacting with another part of the guitar.

    When new strings stretch though, they're at a lower than normal tension, so they vibrate a greater distance than a properly tuned string. This allows them to vibrate against the frets. Once they stretch out and stay in tune, the fret buzz disappears.
     
  3. Ian

    Ian Tele-Afflicted

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    Try a week!!
    Classical guitar strings are definitely a different animal, that WILL try your patience. The payoff though is the amazing sound!!
    I've been trying hese Flamenco strings lately,with good results...

    image-340685179.jpg
     
  4. P Thought

    P Thought Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    You can hurry the process by pulling up on the strings, gently but firmly, to help them take out the slack at the bridge knot (if there is one) and around the tuning posts.

    How 'bout a picture of that Hohner, Larry?
     
  5. LGOberean

    LGOberean Doctor of Teleocity

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    Thanks for the replies, fellas.

    About the fret buzz, I'm hoping that it is just a matter of the strings settling in and staying up to pitch.

    And I can believe it'll take a week to settle. The process I went through last night--tune, play, repeat--was frustrating, in that they would go flat right away. Even while playing, I wasn't in tune. By the time I finished tuning the low E to pitch, the first string was already out.

    Yes, I did tie the strings, although doing so made me feel like a novice. Like I said, it's been 31 years since I've owned a classical, and that long since I've tied bridge knots. Got 'er done, though, and they're holding. Now if they'll just hold a pitch...

    I'm a lousy photographer, so I tend to wait for my wife's help. And she's a busy lady. She's a midwife, and owns and operates a free standing birth center here. Hopefully soon, though.
     
  6. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Poster Extraordinaire

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    Just my very limited, (yet now predictable) experience:

    I have found (in my less than one year of playing a classical, but 40 years playing gtr), that when changing strings ( note:I have settled on D'Addario or La Bella, normal/medium tension and rectifed trebles) that it takes constant tuning>playing>tuning etc. for about 2 days for all the strings to settle in. But also it seems that every day after this period, all the strings seem to uniformly go just a little flat or sharp, depending upon room temp- (I leave any guitar that I may play at home for 3-4 days straight, on a stand, not in case...), then I retune, and the classical will stay in tune all day- no issues.
     
  7. LGOberean

    LGOberean Doctor of Teleocity

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    Good to hear. And FWIW, I'm already hearing improvement (in the strings' stability, not my playing :oops:). I've already played her a couple of times today, and I was able to get the guitar in tune and play a couple of songs before needing to re-tune.

    And about the guitar stand thing, I'm doing the same with this guitar. When I first got her back in April, I played her several times every day. Then I cycled back to my teles and the classical got some case time. But since re-stringing her last night, she's been out on a stand. And I've just left the clip-on tuner on the headstock.

    Oh, and it may still be too early to tell, but I think I may wind up liking these hard tension strings. The total set tension is 89.94 lbs., which is less than the hard tension of some other brands. But they don't feel as loose or as "floppy" as the normal tension strings did. Time will tell, though.
     
  8. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Poster Extraordinaire

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    I actually enjoy the process of changing strings on a classical-can't explain it, but I enjoy the discipline of doing everything right (the windings, knots, the string ends, the tuning break-in) as this is all relatively new for me), the time it takes to do that, then the payoff in tone and feel...
     
  9. P Thought

    P Thought Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    Haha, me too! I change mine every four or five years whether they need it or not. I do enjoy the sound and feel of playing a classical. I keep mine at my mom's house, and play it when I visit with her, every couple days.
     
  10. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Poster Extraordinaire

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    ^ Playing the classical (BTW, I don't play classical guitar, I'm a jack-of-all trades that was recently given a cheap classical...) has really 'paid off' as well in my steel string playing-explain:

    It might be the wide distance between the strings+plus ease of playing and the vibration (tone/sound) especially of the bass strings @ low frets when barring chords as well as doing runs, but this has made me be less appprehensive about trying these things out on my Martin steel string. (playing simple melody lines, say while holding/moving a barre)
    Also, constantly going back and forth between the two guitars has strengthened my hands and fingertips as each guitar requires its own 'touch' so playing both seems to keep me 'on my toes' with both, duh...;)
     
  11. LGOberean

    LGOberean Doctor of Teleocity

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    Well, I hate to sound like the Grinch or Scrooge or something, but about enjoying the string changing process..."Bah! Humbug!" :p I don't like changing strings on any of my guitars, the classical least of all. I do relate, though, to the "payoff" feeling after new strings are put on.

    And for me, playing a classical is probably the least comfortable guitar I play. My hands are kinda funny... :oops: ...a wide palm with short fingers.

    (Kinda like my feet, I guess, I wear a 9 1/2 EEE width. The manager of the local Red Wing shop once got my foot in one of those contraptions they use to measure your feet, and after he cinched up those doo dads he exclaimed, "My goodness! They're SQUARE!" :mad: ;))

    But I digress. My hands don't find the flat fretboard radius and the wide reach of 2" at the nut that comfortable. Hand fatigue has never been a problem on my steel strings, especially not on my teles. But this classical, if I play for an hour straight, I notice it afterwards.

    So far, though, I'm working on the assumption that playing this fat, flat, wide neck is going to help strengthen my hands. The tone is definitely something I've missed, and I'm glad I have it back in my sonic arsenal.
     
  12. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Poster Extraordinaire

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    ^ Keep playing all of 'em!
    I find changing up between classical, steel-string acoustic, and electrics (for me it's Strat/Tele/Dano) all keep my hands/arms/wrists/fingers and tips happy- The constant changeup is good and actually cuts down on stuff I have problems with years ago with numbness/carpal tunnel...
     
  13. LGOberean

    LGOberean Doctor of Teleocity

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    May I call you "Doc"? 'Cuz that sounds like a prescription I can take! :D

    Really? I wouldn't have expected that. I sure would like to think that this would work for my carpal tunnel issues as well.
     
  14. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Poster Extraordinaire

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    ^ I know this sound very general, (I probably read this in a guitar mag article) but I just remember reading that 'if you are having numbness or carpal tunnel issues, change your technique/positions, don't keep doing the same thing- plus do anything (non-gtr related) to improve blood circulation going...' (all parphrased and maybe even made up, by me-it's been a while, but it works...)

    Can't explain why, but I love the big fat neck on my classical- it is very comfy, and I think it is because it is so round (like a rubber ball cut in half), and does not have the 'oval edge' profile like sone other fat necks, where there is almost a squaring-off thing going on that can really get to the 'pocket' between the thumb and index finger-an edge where the fingerboard and neck meet that just cuts in; painful and fatiguing... My hand is very well supported and just fits the neck, and the extra fretboard width just seems more in reach, easy to play.
     
  15. DavidM1

    DavidM1 Tele-Holic

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    Just saw this thread. The time it takes for classical strings to settle also depends on how frequently you tune them and how long you play - if you tune a lot it only takes a day or two. A lot of players will just replace the bass strings rather than all six because the treble strings last longer than the bass and the bass strings settle down quicker.

    There is generally no need for extra high tension strings on a well made guitar but they might be useful if the action is very low. From the mention of buzzing it might be the right string for the op. It is generally easy to sort out the cause of buzzing - it will be nut slots cut a little too low if it occurs on open strings. Anywhere else it may be inconsistent fret height. However, on classical guitars the frets can be the right height but the buzz might be at one of the node points (also known as a wolf note) where the width of string vibration at the beginning of the note is greater than for those around it because the energy is released very quickly. In this case check to see if the wolf note sound occurs at the same pitch but on different strings.

    Never play with pain or numbness. Too many players do themselves permanent damage by assuming it will pass or that it doesn't matter. It does matter. Loosen your technique, reduce overuse, take breaks and only play when your hands feel great.
     
  16. LGOberean

    LGOberean Doctor of Teleocity

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    Thanks, David, for all that helpful input.

    I'm playing and re-tuning several times a day. Each time I pick up the guitar, the strings are a little flat. So, I re-tune and then play for 15-20 minutes, maybe a little longer. And as I said, I do this several times a day. It's going on 2 days now, and each time the strings are a little less out of tune and easier to get up to pitch, and they mostly hold their pitch for the 20 minutes or so that I'm playing. In the words of Paul McCartney, "I've got to admit it's getting better/A little better all the time." ;)

    As for string tension, so far I'm really liking these EJ46s. Bear in mind that the total set tension of these D'Addario Hard Tension EJ46s is 89.94 lbs. Compare that to Savarez' New Cristal Classic normal tension strings, which is 92.25 lbs. total set tension. So what I've put on my HG-14 is not extra hard high tension. They're just a little more than the normal tension strings by D'Addario, e.g., EJ45s at 85.85 lbs.

    The buzzing has largely settled down. It was occurring on the D string. I'm not noticing any buzz now played open, so maybe it's inconsistent fret height, as you suggested. I did buy this guitar used, and it's possibly 36 years old. There is some wear on the fret wires, so maybe that's the culprit.

    As for playing with pain, I've often quoted a great line from The Princess Bride: "Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something." :lol:

    Seriously, though, I get your point. My issues have to do with two things: (1) left hand fatigue; and, (2) carpal tunnel syndrome in my right wrist. Playing the classical, I'm more likely to experience the former rather than the latter. Again, my short fingers don't find the wide board and flat radius that comfortable.

    I take your advice to loosen technique and take breaks as wise counsel. As I said earlier, I seem to naturally play 20 minutes or so at a time. Does that sound about right to you?
     
  17. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Poster Extraordinaire

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    ^ sidebar:
    Speaking of The Princess Bride, I now play the Theme from The Princess Bride ('Storybook Love Song', Mark Knopfler) on the classical. I had to learn it for a wedding gig 2 years ago (before I had a classical), and now play it at solo gigs, plus it's a great tune to practice for me, on any guitar, but it sounds great with the classical. It's not hard but it takes (me) brainwork to execute it properly. Something I'm sure that is very rudimentary (beginner level) for a real classical player;)
     
  18. LGOberean

    LGOberean Doctor of Teleocity

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    Yeah, I'm no real classical player, either. I've never had any guitar lessons, just sat down with a Mel Bay chords book more than four decades ago and started trying to figure things out by ear. I'll have to listen to The Princess Bride theme again. Maybe I can add that to my repertoire as well.
     
  19. DavidM1

    DavidM1 Tele-Holic

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    Could be. If you really want to check it out you could give it to a guitar maker. Sounds like it's not too bad though and maybe for the cost of the guitar it's not a big problem.

    20 minutes or so shouldn't cause grief and I'm gad to hear you aren't getting much pain from carpel tunnel in the right hand. There are a couple of things I can suggest to help make technique lighter and looser. The fringe benefit is that it tends to be quicker and more accurate too.

    If this is all old news then feel free to dismiss it as meaningless forum spam. :p

    Left hand: People often use much, much more pressure than they need. Check that you are using the very end of the finger - like you are pushing a hole through paper - the end of the finger lets you apply the most pressure with the least effort. Check also that you are as close as possible to the fret - so close that it looks as though you are virtually on top of the fret and any further forward would damp the string. Now the best bit, play a repeated note and release the left hand finger pressure until you find that point where the note starts to buzz against the fret. Get really good at finding this buzz point. See if you can play a scale where every singly note buzzes through insufficient pressure. The buzz point gives great feedback - a fraction less and the note is muted, a fraction more pressure and you have a clear note. This is how much pressure you need all the time - a fraction more than the buzz point and no more.

    Right hand: The biggest problem people have with the right hand tends to be due to how they hold the guitar - if the far right edge of the guitar is too far away you will end up compensating with a greater wrist angle to let the fingers reach the stings. Experiment with bringing the the edge of the guitar further back towards you under your arm and watch your wrist angle flatten out. The thing to remember about the wrist is that like other joints it is freer and works best when it is near the mid point in its range of movement. Let your hand fall forward at the wrist and then let it fall backwards. Visually check the range of movement and then find that point half way between. This is pretty much where your wrist needs to be and you should adjust how you hold the guitar to let this be comfortable.

    I hope this all helps!
     
  20. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Poster Extraordinaire

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    ^Great advice on technique and hand position. Now I should try to heed it:

    I have been playing forever now it seems (steel-string acoustic, and electric, classical guitar, not quite a year) and though my hands/arms/wrists are not in pain now, I still have this weird sensitivity issue where I have really built-up calluses on my left hand fingertips (kind of permanent grooves in the tips where strings often to my detriment, just go to, and this messes up clean fretting, and is painful too...) yet my nerve endings on the 'other side' of the callus always hurt (burning sensation) within minutes of playing, and I wonder if this is just from fretting too hard (on any guitar) for +40 years- like boring a hole (subconsciously) into the fingerboard.
    I live with it and try to adjust- but I can't stop playing the damn guitar!;)

    BTW: I just tried out a new set of La Bella 2001 Medium tension (rectified trebles) strings on my classical, and I'm trying to be subjective here (give them a few days) and though they sound nice (no tuning/buzzing/intonation issues) they sound 'soft' or mellow by comparison, to the D'Addario (I think EJ30's w/rectified trebles) I have been using. Less snap on the trebles, and not the 'growl' and volume from the bass strings I get from the D'Add's. I'm splitting hairs here as both brands sound just fine, but I miss the 'edge' of the D'Adds.
     
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