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G'WAY an' quit dat noise, Miss Lucy, put dat music book away. What's de use to keep on tryin' ef you practise twell you're gray? - Paul Lawrence Dunbar's poem When Malindy Sings

Author Topic: slide set-up  (Read 3668 times)

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Offline unezrider

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slide set-up
« on: August 19, 2008, 11:16:51 PM »
hello friend,
i have an acoustic guitar that has some really low action on it, which is fine for finger picking, but i've been wanting to play slide on it more. & when i tune down to spanish, for example, the looser tension on the E's & A string are causing me some headaches. sometimes it's buzzing. other times i'm simply clanging the slide into the fret board. sometimes the strings seem to be slapping the fret board, as well.
i was wondering, would changing the nut, to raise the action a bit solve this problem for me. & if i did do that, would i have to change the saddle, too?
& just so i'm on the same page with everyone, i still want to be able to fret, in at least the first 3 positions - so a nut raiser is out of the question.
thanks everyone,
chris
"Be good, & you will be lonesome." -Mark Twain

Offline waxwing

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Re: slide set-up
« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2008, 11:59:50 PM »
Have you tried tuning Spanish at A, like a lot of the old guys did? Or, if you absolutely have to tune Spanish to G for your voice, you could try some heavier gauge strings, like mediums if you are now using lights. If your action changes so much that your strings are buzzing when you tune down, it should get that much better (for slide) if you tune up, and using heavier strings will also have a similar effect. I would try either (or both) of these two options first. If your strings are that loose in Spanish at G you probably have a short scale (around 24 3/4") and the guitar should be able to handle the extra tension.

You might find that you like the sound that the extra tension gives you, too. Maybe a little more volume and tone.

If you do change to a slightly higher nut (usually a luthier can just shim it) there's usually no need to change the saddle. Look at your guitar from the side and notice that if you raise the nut slightly, the strings are raised about half as much at the 12th fret as at the nut. If you raise the saddle a bit, same thing, the action at the 12th fret goes up about half as much as the saddle was raised, but not at all at the nut. If raising the nut makes the strings too high at the 12th fret you might want to lower the saddle a bit, but if you are only fretting near the nut this shouldn't be an issue. You are also not likely to change the nut enough to make that much difference at the 12th fret anyway.

Hope that helps.

All for now.
John C.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2008, 12:04:58 AM by waxwing »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
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Offline unezrider

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Re: slide set-up
« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2008, 11:10:21 PM »
thanks, wax
the guitar is a 1930 oscar schmidt first hawaiian - so yeah, it's a short scale. seeing as how i just got brave enough to put lights (.12) on it, after owning it for a year, a few months ago, the thought of tuning up to A, or even E never even crossed my mind.
as it were, i wouldn't mind having the action up slightly anyway, just out of preference. plus it's old, & shaved down ebony nut came with a little chip in it around the low E, so maybe a change in the future to a new nut, wouldn't be a bad thing.
i think i've read on here before, you mentioning how you have an old stella that just loves to be tuned up to A, right? i'll give it a go, too. those little ol' gals can take the extra tension, right? ;)
thanks again,
chris
"Be good, & you will be lonesome." -Mark Twain

Offline Richard

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Re: slide set-up
« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2008, 12:18:26 AM »
And of course you must use some Newtone strings with the hexagonal core... go read all about 'em on the website!
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: slide set-up
« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2008, 01:43:19 AM »
And of course you must use some Newtone strings with the hexagonal core... go read all about 'em on the website!

I thought the distinguishing feature of Newtones was their ROUND core.  I believe that Malcolm Newton's sales argument is that whilst hex. cores "bite" into the winding for a good grip, cavities are inevitably left where dirt, sweat, etc. can accumulate.  This is not the case with round core strings.

Newtones also (allegedly) reach pitch at lower tension, which may be a useful factor for delicate old instruments.  Whilst I am a big fan of Newtones, I tend to use Martins or D'Addarios on my two parlour guitars, as the extra tension gets the top working more.  I use Newtones on a couple of other guitars and whilst I may be deluding myself, I am convinced they have a nicer tone and last longer. And they're British.
"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 blueshome

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Re: slide set-up
« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2008, 01:51:57 AM »
Newtone make a Heritage set which tune at a low, equal tension, ideal for delicate old guitars - I have them on my koa 20's Supertone and they work fine. Problem is that's not going to help put more tension on for slide playing with a low action.

FWIW, If it were my Stella I would not risk winding it up to A or E but I would have a new nut put on, preserving the original. This would solve the real problem of the action being too low and probably improve the tone and volume as well.

Offline waxwing

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Re: slide set-up
« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2008, 08:53:54 AM »
Vintage guitars are not, by definition, delicate. After playing mine with extra lights I could feel that moving up to lights would not be a problem, and likewise tuning up to Spanish at A or Vastapol at E, which I now do regularly. Tension on a short scale at Spanish A is not much more than a long scale at standard with the same strings.

You are really going to have to make up your own mind on how the guitar feels. Tuning it up to Spanish A for a brief test is not likely to do any damage and you can see if the neck moves a lot or if it just moves enough to solve your problem. Play it a bit and see how it sounds. If it suddenly feels a lot more fragile in your hands, sure, tune it back down and have a new nut made..

I agree, using a string that tunes with less tension is going to defeat the purpose here. I've never really understood why less tension is considered a plus for strings. Working around lights, I've always found more tension to equal more tone and volume. Back in the day much heavier strings and greater tensions were used on these very guitars.

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

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Offline Richard

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Re: slide set-up
« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2008, 09:02:54 AM »
PP silly me, I had it facial about posterior  :o
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline unezrider

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Re: slide set-up
« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2008, 07:50:09 PM »
hello friend,
i gave tuning up to spanish A a go. ever since moving up to lights, i wouldn't ever consider going back to special lights (.11), or what ever they were called. so i figured wax's advice was sound enough. the buzzing was no longer there. i played a quick run through 'frankie' & 'stop breaking down' then i pulled the slide out for 'my black mama' & it sounded great. then i heard a creak, as i'll call it. a minute later i heard it again, & i was back in standard tuning quicker than you can bat an eye.
i'm not sure what the noise was exactly. & i don't think anything bad happend. but i don't know i'll be tuning up again. it still plays great as a finger picker.
but as a general question, if i put on a new nut, will that raise the tension, too? or doesn't it work that way?
thanks,
chris
"Be good, & you will be lonesome." -Mark Twain

Offline waxwing

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Re: slide set-up
« Reply #9 on: August 25, 2008, 12:09:41 AM »
No, changing the nut will not increase tension.

There is a relationship between tension, string gauge, scale length (nut to saddle) and pitch. For any given scale length, like let's say your 24 3/4", if you raise pitch on a given string, like your .012", you raise tension. Obvious, right? If you change to a heavier string, say a .013" you need to tune to a higher tension to achieve standard pitch (E). Still obvious, right? Also, if you switch to a guitar with a longer scale, say 25 1/2" with the same string set and tuning, obviously, higher tension. A new nut will not change any of these factors.

You can Google 'guitar string tension generator', or something like that and find several sites that will calculate the tension on your guitar after you enter scale length, string gauge and tuning. You can see just how much tension you added by tuning up to Spanish at A.

Okay, I got curious, Googled, and went to this site: http://www.mcdonaldstrings.com/stringxxiii.html. I entered 24 3/4 scale length and the string gauges from a set of John Pearse Lights, .012, .016, .024(wound), .032, .042, .053 (which the calculator rounds down to .052, only even numbers, I guess) at standard tuning. individual  string tensions, in lb. were 21.96, 22.07, 31.37, 28.29, 26.82, 23.12. Well, the first thing I noticed was the much higher tension through the mid-range. (These strings must be for a Gibson.-G-) Well, I actually use a plain .020 third string. (Or, as often, a plain .018 which has about the same intonation as a wound .024, but that's a different issue) The plain .020 gives a tension (at G) of 22.09, much more in line with the other strings. I may have to think about swapping the .032 and and .042 down to .030 and .040 which lowers them both below 24 lb.

Anyway, getting back to the diff from Standard to Spanish at A. Total tension for the JP light set in Standard tuning is 153.63 lb. Total tension for the same set in Spanish at A is 174.86, an increase of 21.23 lb. or 14.5 %. For comparison, the same light strings on a 25 1/2" scale length in Standard gives 163.11 lb.  And BTW, substituting a plain .020 third string gives 163.18 lb. in Spanish at A on the short scale, only a bit over 6% more tension than the normal set at Standard and pretty much the same as lights on the long scale.

Geez, Chris, I sure hope nothing happened when you heard that creak. Wood does creak and it may just have been settling into the added tension. Did you keep an eye on how much the action was raised at the 12th fret when you tuned up? The first place I would look for any damage would be at the back of the bridge. Any sign of a crack between the bridge and the top? I guess I have a lot of faith that, even if the bridge raised up, or whatever, my luthier, who is very good, could fix it.

But, sure, go ahead and have a new nut made to the action that you want. It will not have any effect on tension. You should be able to get a good balance between picking action in Standard and slide-able action in Spanish at G.

Here's what my little Stella looks like now:



You can tell how much the top is bowed in by the way the shadows of the strings curve. Also notice the jagged cracks above the sound hole where it was obviously once bashed in, long ago. I guess whoever had it back then felt the same way as I do about it's voice and felt it was worth fixing. Also notice that the tortoise shell (real tortoise shell) pick guard is inlaid into the top. The wood beneath it is about a 1/16th of an inch thick.

Listen to the mp3 below to hear what it sounds like tuned to Spanish at A and played with, uh, feeling.

Or, better yet, check out my CD at CDBaby for a much better quality version. -G-

All for now.
John C.





[attachment deleted by admin]
"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
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

Offline blueshome

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Re: slide set-up
« Reply #10 on: August 25, 2008, 02:16:27 AM »
unez - Now that you've settled on a light set, another answer for slide would be to tune down but put a 13 on top to give more tension there. I still think having a luthier adjust the action up slightly is the way to go ultimatey.BTW if the guitar creaked (not the strings at the nut or saddle) then you were right to wind down as I don't think that's what a guitar is supposed to do. Is your guitar a tailpiece or pin bridge type?

Waxy - In my previous post I mentioned Newtone Heritage strings which are made to have even tension thus the heaviest set is: 12(22lb);16(22);20w(21);28(22);38(22);51(22) total 131lbs. I find them great and they give great tone, also my friend with a modern Fylde parlour has great results. However, I know that Parlour Picker has had less success on some (not all) of his guitars. They also feel  a little strange to play at first but are really easy on my old fingers.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: slide set-up
« Reply #11 on: August 25, 2008, 06:12:00 AM »
unez - Now that you've settled on a light set, another answer for slide would be to tune down but put a 13 on top to give more tension there.

I agree - I frequently switch out the 12 or 11 in light strings for a 13 on top. And I also agree that it sounds like a visit to the shop is the right thing to do to solve your slide preferences.

Re. Creaking. I guess it depends on the creaking. One possibility is the strings slipping in the nut. I can certainly see that phenomenon being described as creaking. Usually it would be accompanied by the string going out of tune.

Offline Richard

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Re: slide set-up
« Reply #12 on: August 25, 2008, 11:46:26 AM »
Hell, I creak as well d'you reckon I should go and have setup as well  :-X
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline unezrider

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Re: slide set-up
« Reply #13 on: August 25, 2008, 04:57:50 PM »
hello friend,
thanks for all the input, guys!
i've given her a good go-over, & i can't see anything new, or bad to report on the guitar's condition. so good news there. & she still plays great as a finger picker in standard. no rattles, no buzzing, no harm done.
to answer a few questions (hopefully i remember them all)
blusehome, it's a pin/bridge.
wax, as stated above - everything is cool with her. & it is 24 3/4 scale. & by the way, i don't think i've ever seen a guitar with the pickguard actually insetted.
uncle bud, (dog-gone-it) my first thought was perhaps that it was a string, but when i heard it again, right after, i immediately tuned down. thats not to say that it wasn't still the string, but i didn't hang around long enough to hear if something was off key.
& sort of an aside, if i change out the nut sometime in the future here, would going to a bone nut change the sound of my guitar, that right now has an ebony one? i've read that bone is brighter, while ebony has a warmer, or mellower tone.
thanks guys, your always a help,
chris
"Be good, & you will be lonesome." -Mark Twain

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