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Loaded in the dog wagon, and down the road we go - Scrapper Blackwell, Penal Farm Blues

Author Topic: Unwound G tuning/intonation questions  (Read 1314 times)

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Offline obrigadotony

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Unwound G tuning/intonation questions
« on: October 21, 2014, 10:58:13 AM »
Apologies if this is not the correct forum to post a question of this nature.

I have a 1935ish old Stella I got from Neil Harpe.  Sounds amazing (especially for slide playing).  I use an unwound G to be bale to tune up to Open A and to get that bend in Green River Blues.

I'm a little concerned about tuning/intonation.  For example, if I want to play any Patton Tune in E (Green River, Some of These Days, Jim Lee) where I'm going to be using the G# on 3rd string/1st fret, I need to to tune the open G 'more' than a little flat - to the point where god help me if I wanted to strum an open C or G - way too out of tune.

Just wondering if this is normal for the other guys on here who use an unwound 3rd.  Do you need to retune after each song you play if you are going to change keys? 

Also can anyone tell me why the unwound G is so tempermental?  The hihg e and the b strings seem to do jsut fine....


Nick

Offline waxwing

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Re: Unwound G tuning/intonation questions
« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2014, 12:01:50 PM »
That's been my experience Nick, particularly with the little Stella, but I have other guitars strung with a plain 3rd as well. I tune the plain 3rd string in the root chord of the song, a little flat for E or A and closer to normal for C or G. Maybe someplace in between for F or D. The primary thing is to get the root chord sounding right. It sorta becomes second nature after a while.

If you wanna start playing jazz you might change back to a wound or use a different guitar. (wink)

Wax
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Offline frailer24

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Re: Unwound G tuning/intonation questions
« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2014, 06:39:22 PM »
My opinion is that the thicker wire used for a plain G is slightly unstable versus the B & E, thus tuning problems.
That's all she wrote Mabel!

Offline pete1951

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Re: Unwound G tuning/intonation questions
« Reply #3 on: October 25, 2014, 07:41:19 AM »
The thicker the core of a string (or the thicker the unwound string) the more it sharpens when fretted. Most electrics are now made with this in mind, and have `G`s that can be compensated (the scale needs to be a little longer than the `B`) However, on a `standard` guitar, where a wound `G` is the norm, a plain `G` will play sharp. You could (if it can be done without damaging the Stella)remove the saddle, and have a saddle made which compensates the `G` (then the guitar can be returned to standard, if you want to sell it)
PT

Offline frailer24

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Re: Unwound G tuning/intonation questions
« Reply #4 on: October 26, 2014, 11:09:28 PM »
Thank you, Pete, for confirming my theory!
That's all she wrote Mabel!

Offline waxwing

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Re: Unwound G tuning/intonation questions
« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2014, 02:23:42 AM »
Well, I agree that a plain .024" will have different intonation characteristics than a wound .024", but pretty much the whole idea with a plain 3rd string is to use a much lighter string as was generally the case with a lot of prewar players. Now the core of a John Pearse 80/20 .024" measures out to about .019. I use a .018 on my little Stella (recommended by Johnm long ago) so you might think the intonation would work out pretty similar, and at the 12th fret it's pretty close (no compensation to the saddle). But I still have to retune between E/A and C/G. The problem happens right up at the nut, where intonation issues are negligible. But the expressiveness you get with the much lighter tension of the .018" is the whole reason for using a plain 3rd (i.e. that Green River bend, virtually impossible with a .024" string , plain or wound.) and what do you know, it brings the intonation close to normal.

But there are a couple other variables to consider: tension and mass. As I mentioned, the tension of the plain .018" is much less than the tension of a wound .024". Let's look at this in context. Using the McDonald String Tension Calculator the JP 80/20 lights on my 24.75" little Stella, tuned to Standard, look like this:

.012" = 21.96 lb
.016" = 22.07 lb
.018" = 18.41 lb; .024"W = 31.37 lb
.032"W = 28.29 lb
.042"W = 26.82 lb
.053"W = 25.89 lb (the JP light 6th is actually .053" but the tension generator only does even numbers over .050")

Wow, that's some swing between the .018" and the .024" wound, eh? Interesting that the .024" has much greater tension than the rest of the strings and the .018", while lower than everything else, is actually closer to the 1st and 2nd string. Obviously the difference in mass between the 024"W and the .018 is pretty large also. How could these have an effect on pitch when fretting near the nut? Obviously more mass would create more momentum and therefore greater tension to slow the string down and pull it back at frequency/pitch.

Well, it looks like a more complex issue to me, since it happens even when intonation at the 12th fret is pretty close. But the bottom line is that those guys did use lighter plain 3rd strings and if you want to emulate the effects they achieved you're probably gonna want to slap one on, too. To me playing with an .018" third is just more fun. Having to tune that string in for a key change now and then becomes second nature, as I'm sure it will for you if you stick with it. Have fun.

Wax
« Last Edit: October 27, 2014, 02:26:48 AM by waxwing »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
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Offline pete1951

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Re: Unwound G tuning/intonation questions
« Reply #6 on: October 28, 2014, 12:43:13 PM »
One of the other factors on any guitar is the height of the nut, too high and it will play sharp at the nut (plain strings sharpen most) This is quick it find out, just put on a capo, if the intonation is much better, the nut is at fault. Also strings tend to sharpen more, when close to the nut (see all the stuff done by Buzz Feinton, hope I spelt his name ok).
PT

Offline GrasshopperBlues52499

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Unwound 3rd Setup
« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2017, 07:57:58 AM »
Hi forum!

So I need to get new strings for my Regal parlor guitar, and I'm planning to string it with Martin's Retro strings and an unwound (electric) nickel plated G -- 0.18, if I'm not mistaking. With a solid peghead, I normally put the string all the way through, kink three fingers in from the dead side, and pull back to the kink. Would I have to include an extra finger or my thumb in the G's kink to add tension? I would love to have this setup for bottleneck and songs in E where I have to bend the G more (like Tommy McClennan's "Deep Sea Blues"). Any help would be appreciated!  :)

Cameron

P.S. If you're reading this, Wax, please feel more than free to jump in!  O0
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Offline waxwing

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Re: Unwound 3rd Setup
« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2017, 04:19:36 PM »
Hi Cameron,

There are lots of other folks here who know plenty about using a plain 3rd string. Roll over the "Tags" link just below the WC header and select "Tag Index" (which we find is hella more useful than the "cloud"). Scroll down until you find "unwound third string", select and you'll find several topics labelled just that, as well as a few where the plain third is mentioned in discussions about specific players. Lots of good info. (Probably Johnm will be prompted by this to string those appropriate into one topic.)

I don't think the string needs to be designated "electric". Most string manufacturers produce ball end plain strings up to around .026" or so. I would just get a plain string that is the same as those that come with the set you put on. (Also, I wouldn't spend extra money for "Retro" strings. I like 80/20 bronze for ladder braced guitars, and others like nickel wound.)

With a set of light strings (.012" high E) I use a plain .018". (I think you're decimal point is off?) This gives the right expressiveness for my playing, and many of the players of ladder braced guitars that I emulate use the midrange of the guitar heavily in their arrangements, and most likely a plain 3rd. Another thing about the .018" is that the intonation is very close to that of the .024W I am replacing. This is due to the fact the the winding does not effect intonation, only the stretch factor of the core, and according to my calipers the core of a John Pearce .024" is a scant .019". The result is that the string plays in tune up the neck.

Not much else to say about it. Read through those other topics for more history and theory. I don't know much about locking string wraps on a paddle head, but whatever works is fine. I prefer calling them "plain" strings as "unwound" seems to imply all strings start wound and need to be unwound to be plain.

Wax
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
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Offline alyoung

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Re: Unwound 3rd Setup
« Reply #9 on: April 08, 2017, 04:08:03 AM »
Hi Cameron,


I don't think the string needs to be designated "electric". ....


Wax

It does seem these days that all nickel strings are designated "electric". I use nickel strings on several of my acoustic instruments, including Nationals and an early 20s Stella (I doubt it has ever known anything but nickle) and they all seem to come in packaging that suggests they are for electric guitars. Well it ain't necessarily so!

Offline waxwing

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Re: Unwound 3rd Setup
« Reply #10 on: April 08, 2017, 12:31:38 PM »
I use these on my goatskin head Singer guitjo:   http://www.juststrings.com/jps-960l.html   (I add a .009" first and move the whole set up one string, dropping off the .054", and giving a plain .016' 3rd string)

But on all these sets, bronze wound, nickel wound, whatever, the plain strings, which is what we are talking about here, are steel. Like these:  http://www.juststrings.com/plainsteeljohnpearseguitarsinglestrings.html  which, as you mentioned, Cameron, are silvered.

Wax
« Last Edit: April 08, 2017, 01:07:21 PM by waxwing »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

Willie Brown's Liquor at CD Baby

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