Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafesj

Post to this Thread - Sort Descending - Printer Friendly - Home


Small Guitars/Slack Tuning, etc.

27 Oct 98 - 12:41 PM
Songbob 27 Oct 98 - 12:54 PM
Bert 27 Oct 98 - 01:10 PM
Chet W. 27 Oct 98 - 01:35 PM
Allan C. 27 Oct 98 - 03:10 PM
Peter T. 27 Oct 98 - 03:17 PM
Bert 27 Oct 98 - 03:23 PM
Chet W. 27 Oct 98 - 05:01 PM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 27 Oct 98 - 06:31 PM
Barbara 27 Oct 98 - 07:02 PM
Roger in Baltimore 27 Oct 98 - 07:21 PM
Barry Finn 28 Oct 98 - 02:25 PM
Peter T. 28 Oct 98 - 02:27 PM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:





Subject: Small Guitars/Slack Tuning, etc.
From:
Date: 27 Oct 98 - 12:41 PM

This is sort of a small guitars question that growed. (1) Can you retune a small guitar down a few semitones, even though it is made for higher, to compensate for the size (obviously losing some of the sound quality)? (2) On a big guitar -- apart from open tunings -- do people out there have any experience in tuning the whole thing down (so that for instance standard E-E tuning would require a capo at 2 or 3rd fret or higher)? Is this bad for the guitar? Are there any things one should know? I ask this for two reasons -- one, I read an interview with Paul Simon where he talked about slacking his strings to outrageous levels from time to time; and two, my voice is in a different range from the guitar, and doing a lot of transpositions is difficult. This sounded like something like a solution, but I am too chicken to try -- for instance, can you tune with a capo on to make the tuning easier? Anyone have any words of wisdom on this?

Yours, Peter T.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Small Guitars/Slack Tuning, etc.
From: Songbob
Date: 27 Oct 98 - 12:54 PM

Well, of course you can tune a guitar down. Like you said, there is a cost in tone (and tunability -- too-slack strings don't fret the same as those at tension), but it can be done. I'd recommend not going more than a whole tone, though, to minimize the "cost" as mentioned. Some guitarists who play with reed sections of bands tune down one fret's worth, so that Ab, Eb, etc., are easier to accomplish than usually.

The main problem I see is simply keeping "up" with other players, since, just like when you use a capo, you have to think at odds with what your fingers seem to be doing. Watching the other guitarist(s) becomes harder when you aren't in the same tuning (whether it's "standard" or not).

And the feel of the strings (tension, etc.) is different, too. You can fret too hard if the strings are loose, and hard picking gives you odd "effects," and not necessarily the ones you want.

But you can do it. Let us know how it works.

Bob Clayton


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Small Guitars/Slack Tuning, etc.
From: Bert
Date: 27 Oct 98 - 01:10 PM

From the mechanical point of view you would probably need to do one or more of these three things as well.

1. Raise the action, a piece of business card under the nut and a higher bridge insert. But don't make too much of an adjustment to the truss rod.
2. Use heavier strings.
3. If you use all of the fingerboard, change the intonation.

Bert.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Small Guitars/Slack Tuning, etc.
From: Chet W.
Date: 27 Oct 98 - 01:35 PM

I had the experience of tuning down when I was playing guitar with a Dixieland band. Lost an awful lot of volume and tone, and it was more difficult to keep in tune. The answer lies in the heavier strings. Depending on your guitar, I would get a "heavy" set, which most stores don't seem to keep in stock, if you're going to permanently tune down two or three frets. If it's only one fret, usually mediums will do it, medium-heavy if you can find them. Don't ever try to tune your guitar back up to standard with heavy strings, at least not for more than a very short time, especially if you have one of the lighter-braced Martin-style guitars. One more thing to keep in mind, with winter coming on, don't let your guitar get too cold, especially if it's more heavily strung.That glue that holds the neck on tends to get brittle and give up.

Good luck, Chet W.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Small Guitars/Slack Tuning, etc.
From: Allan C.
Date: 27 Oct 98 - 03:10 PM

Peter T., you asked about tuning with the capo on and if it would be easier. On the surface this would seem a simple enough thing to do - but it isn't. Yes, you can tune the strings UP with the capo on with some small assurance of them staying tuned. I have always found that tuning DOWN - or slackening the string while the capo was on resulted in a string which would quickly go out of tune. The slack is not always properly transferred to the portion of the string farthest from the tuning keys. So, I guess what I'm getting at is that: it is unlikely to cause any damage to tune while the capo is on; but it generally is no shortcut at all. It is usually more satisfactory to place the capo over strings which are already tuned. If the capo is properly seated, the pitches you were after should be there and no additional tuning should be required.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Small Guitars/Slack Tuning, etc.
From: Peter T.
Date: 27 Oct 98 - 03:17 PM

Thanks for the swift replies. As you can tell I am a novice at guitars, period, having always shied away from them in favour of other instruments largely because of the range issue. I was sort of looking for a guitar-viola, I guess. So thanks. I will give it a whirl. Are the heavier strings to give it more volume, or to hold the tuning? -- I have a good guitar, b ut I assume that there must be some slippage from a "natural" position on the tuning nuts -- or is this just paranoia?

Yours, Peter

Yours, Peter


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Small Guitars/Slack Tuning, etc.
From: Bert
Date: 27 Oct 98 - 03:23 PM

The heavier strings do two things. Firstly they give more volume, secondly they compensate for the loss in tension when you tune down.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Small Guitars/Slack Tuning, etc.
From: Chet W.
Date: 27 Oct 98 - 05:01 PM

Another good point, if you use heavier strings, you may have to widen the slots in your guitar's nut. Allan's point is well-taken, but I think it would not apply if you change your strings often. Older strings become harder to tune because they lose their uniform thickness (by wear and from accumulation of grime between the string windings), which would of course vary in different areas of the string (the places where you touch them, and the places where you don't). In the really old days, players of gut strings had to adjust their fingering for each new string, because they pretty much never had uniform thickness to begin with.

Again, good luck, Chet W.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Small Guitars/Slack Tuning, etc.
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 27 Oct 98 - 06:31 PM

Some small guitars don't have a truss rod, but rather the neck is "sprung back" a little so it will to into the correct position when under tension. The Martin BP seems to be that way.

If that is the case, you are sort-of stuck with a small range of tensions.

So if use heavier strings, make sure you stay tuned down.

Also, the slack strings will wreak havoc if you want to play bottleneck guitar. The slide will push the string down to easily.

I think the Latin Americans (Mexicans?) have a tenor guitar. You migtht look into that.

Murray


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Small Guitars/Slack Tuning, etc.
From: Barbara
Date: 27 Oct 98 - 07:02 PM

Also, if you buy a kind of capo you can just clamp straight on to the neck, and DO that, rather than sliding it up after clamping it on you will avoid going out of tune when you put the capo on. I like Shubb, myself, and a number of my friends like the Kratar - is that right? - because you can move it one handed. It's kind of like a heavy duty clothes pin, squeeze the grip open, position it and let go. Clomp. Those capos with stretch elastic straps get in your way and are just about guaranteed to pull your strings out of tune by the time you have them on and in the right place.
Blessings
Barbara


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Small Guitars/Slack Tuning, etc.
From: Roger in Baltimore
Date: 27 Oct 98 - 07:21 PM

Isn't that Kaypro Barbara.

I use a capo frequently. The Shubb and the Kaypro seem to do a good job of not putting your strings out of whack. As Barbara said, the old elastic ones are notorious.

Step One: Make sure your strings are in tune before you put the capo on.

Step Two: Hold the capo against the strings as you "tighten it up." This increase the chance of getting even tension across the fret board.

Step Three: Check the tuning. If it is seriously "out of whack", repeat Steps One and Two.

Step Four: Adjust as needed. The problem should not include more than one or two strings. The tension and bend that the capo puts on the strings tends to make them a bit sharp, hopefully in a uniform manner. If one or two are out they tend to be sharper, not flatter.

I have a notoriously tin ear when it comes to tuning. I use a Sabine electronic tuner. It has a capability of setting the pitch outside of A = 440. I find this helpful when a string or two is out due to capoing.

If you tune down, you probably shouldn't go more than one whole step (two notes) with the strings you normally use. If you want to lower the strings more, you will find a heavier gauge will give you more tension for the same note (which is why you shouldn't use heavy gauge at concert pitch which can lead to inadvertant folding of your guitar).

As Chet said, you may have to widen the slots on the nut, but that may not be a problem unless you get extra-heavy strings.

Another option, is to transpose the song into another key. If the guitar work is vital, this may cause problems. However, it also may call upon your creativity and you may end up with a "unique" version of the song.

Good luck with all of this.

Roger in Baltimore


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Small Guitars/Slack Tuning, etc.
From: Barry Finn
Date: 28 Oct 98 - 02:25 PM

Peter, you may want to pick up a book on the Hawaiian slack key tunings, they have over 250 different tunings & are the masters of the style of guitar playing. Barry


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Small Guitars/Slack Tuning, etc.
From: Peter T.
Date: 28 Oct 98 - 02:27 PM

Thanks again, it is always a pleasure and a privilege to listen to experts at their craft (a Mudcat speciality). Yours, Peter T.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
  Share Thread:
More...

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
From:
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")


Mudcat time: 3 August 7:30 PM EDT

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.