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Author Topic: old guitars & strings  (Read 3969 times)

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Offline unezrider

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old guitars & strings
« on: May 18, 2008, 11:49:21 PM »
hello friend,
now i know i've come across this (perhaps here) some time ago, but i couldn't find any easy access in the TAGS links, so i'll ask it now.
a). when were phosphor bronze strings introduced? would a more "authentic" sound come from nickle wound electric strings? i'm very happy with my phosphor bronze, but i am just curious on what people's opinions are about this.
b). how much more tension would there be on the neck if an upgrade was made from .11's to .12's? the guitar is a 1930 first hawaiian, & i'd hate to add unneeded strain to the neck, but i'd like a bit bigger string, & i've been too timid to try ::)
thanks,
chris
"Be good, & you will be lonesome." -Mark Twain

Online Parlor Picker

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Re: old guitars & strings
« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2008, 01:19:31 AM »
As doubtless mentioned elsewhere on this Forum over the years, Newtone strings allegedly reach pitch at a lower tension than other strings, so if you are worried give them a try.  I really rate them, as they have excellent tone and seem to stay bright for a long time.

However I use Martins or D'Addarios on my two parlour guitars, as they need the extra tension to stop the strings being too floppy because of the short scale length and to get the top working more.
"I ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls,
So glad good looks don't take you through this world."
Barbecue Bob

Offline slidnslim

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Re: old guitars & strings
« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2008, 05:06:38 AM »
I was always under the imprssion that bronze strings were resent
invented(60'sor so)
But a few pickers I know in there 70's informed me that they were
using bronze strings as long as they can remeber!

one fella inperticulare informed me that his 1940's Martin 0-15
came with bronze strings!

 Kenny,

Offline rjtwangs

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Re: old guitars & strings
« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2008, 11:58:04 AM »
 It seems that a lot of people with old guitars are going for the Newtone strings made in England. I have just ordered 6 sets to try on a few of my guitars, check them out here...

  http://www.newtonestrings.com/about.htm

 RJ

Offline waxwing

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Re: old guitars & strings
« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2008, 07:19:34 PM »
I still don't get the Newtone thing. The reason one uses larger gauge strings is to get more tension to drive the top more, giving more volume and tone. Larger gauge strings that don't increase the tension just defeat the purpose, as far as I can figure.

Check out what happens if you lower the tension of your strings, like, by tuning down to D# maybe. Well, it's sure easier to bend notes, but half the volume and tone of the guitar are gone. To me, finding the right tension that makes the guitar really ring is the key.

For instance, I started out with extra-lites on my little Stella, thinking I should baby an 80 year old guitar. But I soon felt the strings weren't really moving the top. So I moved up to lites and got much more tone and volume. In fact, when I tune to either Spanish of Vastapol I tune up to A and E and boy does the little Stella like that. Sometimes I even think about moving up to mediums, or maybe building my own set that's somewhere between mediums and lites, but putting on strings that give less tension doesn't cross my mind.

UnEZ, to get back on topic, there have been threads here about using nickel wound strings. Try using the search function (in the left menu) for nickel wound strings. I know BHT is a big proponent and has posted some good info. I often think about trying them but never seem to get around to it. Plus I'm pretty happy with the volume and tone I'm getting from my guitars right now.

Also Google "guitar string tension calculator" and you'll find several sites that can give you tensions if you feed in scale length, pitch and string gauge.

All for now.
John C.
« Last Edit: May 19, 2008, 07:22:40 PM by waxwing »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
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Offline rjtwangs

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Re: old guitars & strings
« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2008, 11:18:35 AM »
Wax, this is a response from John Greven...

 Rick;
I will try to elucidate this issue a bit, although more from experience than the science behind it.
 
String tension for a given string length is a function of the pitch to which it is tuned, the mass of the string (along with the cross sectional diameter), and in the case of wound strings, the core size.  Basic concept; the bigger the string the higher the tension required to raise it to pitch.  The inverse is also true.   Light gauge (.012-.053) will have less tension than mediums (.013-.056) with the same string materials and construction.
 
Where it gets interesting is when materials are changed or the core is made smaller/larger.  It is the core of the wound string which has a major impact on the amount of tension required to tune it.  Windings are mass added to effect the actual vibrating wave form of the string and allow for lower pitches on the realtively short string length of the guitar (which would otherwise require strings unwound that were six feet or better long to achieve the same pitch!) .  The tone quality of low tension versus higher tension is different, similar to the difference tween coated and non-coated strings.  The former has a warm, fat sound, the latter more metallic and crisp.  Biggest difference is on creature comfort for the player wanting a light feel to the left hand.
 
There will also be a trade off in overall power between lights and mediums as the lower tension drives the system (guitar) with less string energy than does the higher tension.  HOWEVER, it is very important to remember that not all guitars are created equal, old or new.  A lightly built, super responsive instrument will sound great and powerful with any string on it.  A more heavily built guitar will require greater energy input (higher tension or heavier strings) to increase its output and it may never have as big a sound as the lighter guitar.  Then there is top materials and bracing and so many other factors that impact the whole thing...
 
I find that a wide range of guitars sound pretty good with a stock, light gauge phosphor bronze strings as a starting point, mediums if the guitar is to be played hard or flat picked.
 
 Individual instruments can be tonally tweaked by string choice.  For a rich, fat, vintage tone, Nutones and (sometimes), Elixer strings might work well.  For more edge to the sound, the 80-20 or the phosphor bronze might work better.  Depends a great deal on the individual guitar's responsiveness and inherent voice. Guitars that are edgy to start with can be mellowed with coated strings.  Muddy guitars can be helped with 80-20 strings and a harder saddle material.  Quiet guitars require more string energy (tension or mass) than loud guitars.  Etc., etc.
 
When it comes to strings, try different brands and constructs until you find one you and the guitar like...it is one of the simplest ways for the player to make small changes in the tone and power of his instrument.
 
As I get older, comfort is a major factor in whether or not I pick up a guitar and play it.  I have gone to short scales, 1 13/16 necks (to avoid hand cramps)and a mix of medium and light strings, with medium bottoms and light tops.  That combo gives me the power I seek, but remains relatively comfortable to play on.  I also use low tension coated strings for the small body guitars, liking the piano like tone they create.
 
So the bottom line is; it is as much about the guitar and what it is capable of doing (its voice), what you like to hear in a guitar, and finding a string gauge and construct that best approaches what you are seeking.  Other than tension and mass, when it comes to output and tone quality, the guitar will determing the sound envelope far more than the string used. String choice will only somewhat moderate the tone and power components.
 
John
 

Offline waxwing

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Re: old guitars & strings
« Reply #6 on: May 20, 2008, 07:18:23 PM »
Exactly! So I don't really see why a string identifies itself by stating that it gets less tension than a similar gauge string of hexagonal core, I understand that it's a difference, but I don't see it as necessarily a positive one, tonally. But sure, if you haven't found a string that does the things John mentioned for your guitar, then I guess it's worth a try.

I certainly agree with John's appraisal of the relationship of the string to the guitar. And I like his mix of lite and medium strings. That's kinda what I was thinking of for the Stella where I already use a plain third, which, even at .018" you'll realize, is perhaps about the size of the core of a wound .024". And I mostly use a .020"

On my German silver Style O I use a medium-lite-medium mix to give more thump to the bass and really clear liquid treble by sacrificing some of the guitar's powerful midrange. Also with a plain third.

I also agree with John's favored guitar specs, altho' the Stella is just a bit wider at the nut.-G-

I prefer 80-20s at the moment, which work well both with the woodiness of the Stella and the lively mellowness of the German silver. But I haven't experimented with nickel wound yet. I guess I don't have a lot of motivation as I'm kinda happy with how things sound now.

All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
CD on YT

Offline unezrider

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Re: old guitars & strings
« Reply #7 on: May 22, 2008, 11:30:38 PM »
thanks guys, thats some interesting stuff.
i went & took the plunge -  & so far so good!
one of the first things i did when i bought the guitar last summer was to restring it w/ lights (.12's), & that led to some very unsatisfying results; the action rose a bit, & there was some very annoying buzzing going on. so i went back to the 'special lights' it came with. (& those things went away).
after giving it some thought, & realizing (after about the third time i restrung the guitar) that maybe the problem was me & not the strings. the B string can be troublesome. after awhile the tuner gets a little stiff, & initially that scared me. so i would tune slow, & with much precaution. & when you do that, & don't rest your palm on the bridge pin, the pin will rise up as your tuning the string. thus causing some undesirable effects. even with 'special lights' i learned i had to pay attention to that while tuning it, & not to worry about the B string - there's really nothing wrong with it, the guitars not going to break in half, it just likes to be difficult.
so given all of that, & from what you guys had said, i decided to give lights a go again. & as i said, so far so good! ;D
i still stuck with the d'addario PB, but those .12's really filled out the first string, & added a nice extra 'umph' to the guitar. she really has a nice loud, throaty voice. world of difference.
thanks again,
chris
« Last Edit: May 23, 2008, 12:18:28 AM by unezrider »
"Be good, & you will be lonesome." -Mark Twain

Offline waxwing

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Re: old guitars & strings
« Reply #8 on: May 23, 2008, 07:38:53 AM »
Chris, if you are still having trouble with a bridge pin rising up, it means that the bead on the end of the string is not correctly seated on the underside of the bridge plate but has snagged on the bottom of the pin, which it should be next to. I was having this problem from time to time on my little Stella, and also, once very disturbingly during a recording session, on my Sovereign 12 string.

To insure that this doesn't happen, I now remove all the strings when restringing, so that I can reach my hand inside the guitar. I put each string into the pin holes and seat the pin, using my fingers to set the string bead correctly next to the pin. I then put the strings into the tuning machines, working from the outer strings toward the middle. Haven't had a problem since starting to do this procedure. It's particularly useful on the 12 string, which has a 6 pin bridge, because getting the strings to have the right separation by coming out of either side of the hole is important to get good spacing over the saddle.

It's also nice because you can dust the areas of the top under strings more easily and oil the fretboard lightly when needed. (Don't do this with a resonator guitar, folks, as the cone will be loose and could move around, causing you to have to reset the intonation every time.)

Don't be overly worried about a little rise in action. Just keep an eye on the lower side of the bridge. It is quite normal for a very lightly built ladder braced guitar to have some movement as you increase tension. I always have to retune twice when I change from Spanish at A back to Standard, or vice versa. Once to get close to the right tension and then once to fine tune each string.

If I were you, considering your description of the "throaty voice" of your guitar, I would give a set of 80-20s a try. You just might find, as John Greven indicated above, that you get a little more projection and may not need the mellowness of PBs with such a mellow sounding guitar. I find that once the 80-20s play in, after an hour or so, they really sound great on the Stella, which is quite loud, and I also feel they don't need to be changed for quite some time.

Enjoy that old guitar!

All for now.
John C.
« Last Edit: May 23, 2008, 07:49:43 AM by waxwing »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
CD on YT

Offline NotRevGDavis

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Re: old guitars & strings
« Reply #9 on: May 23, 2008, 09:02:06 AM »
I don't know if you already do this but I put a 90 degree bend near the ball end because the bridge pins lifting were a constant problem on my Kalamazoo and not so vintage 000-50. I face the bend towards the soundhole pull it up snug to the underside of the bridge then insert the bridgepin. Seems to work pretty good.

As far as strings I received a POC 30's ladder braced guitar, water stains, trout etching on back, headstock looks like a 3rd grade class project. BUT it sounds great- it came strung with Thomastik Infeld Plectrum 11-50's the plain strings are brass coated steel, the wound strings have a silk inlay in combination with a highly flexible steel core. The A,D and G are flatwound and the E is roundwound- unique combination. 
Newtones are great strings until you try to re-string a slothead then it gets interesting.
Got the name, still workin' on the licks!

Offline waxwing

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Re: old guitars & strings
« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2008, 09:07:14 AM »
I do that a bit, too, Gary, but not as severe as a 90 degree bend. I had a couple strings break right at the bead, mid string snap, so I take it a little easier. Being able to feel with my fingers that everything is seated correctly gives peace of mind and I haven't had a string break down there in a while.

All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
CD on YT

Offline unezrider

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Re: old guitars & strings
« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2008, 03:28:54 PM »
thanks, wax
i usually try to give a nice tug on the string, while resting my palm on the bridge pin before i slide the string into the tuner, to tune up. & then before i get a tight tension on the string, i do that again. but what you said makes sense.
now, i had heard a long time ago, it's always better to restring a guitar one string at a time, so the neck never loses it's tension. though, if you've been doing it that way for some time, i would imagine you haven't noticed any ill effects?

gary,
i've never tried that, but that too makes sense. i imagine it helps keeping the ball in the right direction, & seated correctly?

thanks guys,
chris
"Be good, & you will be lonesome." -Mark Twain

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