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Best guitar strings for a small guitar?

28 Aug 06 - 07:18 PM (#1821114)
Subject: Best guitar strings for a small guitar?
From: bluemountainbluebird

I have a small Gibson guitar I bought decades ago, and though it doesn't ring out like a full bodied Martin, it has a nice sweet tone, that has mellowed nicely over the years. I use light gauge strings (recommended b/c guitar is small and also action is a little high) and can't quite find a brand I like. I'd like the guitar to sustain notes a little longer, I prefer more bass sound - I still want to keep the guitar. Any suggestions for a more full bodied tone?

(PS Some of my favorite guitarists are/were John Fahey, Danny Kalb, Bill Staines, and a guy from the Great Lakes whose name I forgot but has a very sweet lyrical sound to his guitar- sings a lot of sea/lake chanties).


28 Aug 06 - 08:33 PM (#1821173)
Subject: RE: Best guitar strings for a small guitar?
From: Bert

Try bass strings.


28 Aug 06 - 11:57 PM (#1821327)
Subject: RE: Best guitar strings for a small guitar?
From: GUEST,Songster Bob

Strings are so personal (for mass-produced items) that you need to try several kinds before choosing. That said, I'm partial to John Pearse strings. They come 'pre-broken-in,' in that they don't have that harsh brightness some bronze strings have when first installed. But they keep their tone as long as some of those bright ones, so it's not like they're pre-dead.

You might try different gauges, or even try some of those Ernie Ball sets that are light tops/heavy bottoms. Like i said, experiment.

And if no string sets sound good, sell the thing as a vintage instrument and get a good player instead, even if it doesn't have the cachet of an old guitar. It's the sound and the playability, not the age or name on the headstock. I have a wonderful old Harmony Sovereign that's a killer, despite its lineage. In fact, whoever owned it earlier liked it so much that when the peghead veneer came off, he painted the headstock and put 'Harmony' in silver paint on there. Now, if only I could find a replacement bridge (this one's split) in the fancy shape of the original. Of course, I just violated my own advice, 'cause I'm talking about a vintage instrument and keeping it 'original' in appearance, but a foolish consistency is the hob-goblin of the small mind, as they say. (Do you know the origin of 'hob-goblin?' Good.)

Bob


29 Aug 06 - 12:12 AM (#1821337)
Subject: RE: Best guitar strings for a small guitar?
From: Bert

I was going to say "SMALL ONES" but that wouldn't help.

Try tuning the guitar down a tone or two.


29 Aug 06 - 12:54 AM (#1821358)
Subject: RE: Best guitar strings for a small guitar?
From: M.Ted

Small guitars tend to have shorter necks than big guitars, and that means that the tension actually is less than on the big guitars, meaning that the strings tend to being slack and rubbery, and not to speak as well as they should.

I had an old Gibson archtop, a seemingly fragile and frail instrument that sounded and played best when strung with heavy strings--the action was still easy, but the thing rang like a bell--clean and bright--counter-intuitive advice perhaps, but worth considering--


29 Aug 06 - 01:38 AM (#1821385)
Subject: RE: Best guitar strings for a small guitar?
From: mrdux

Songster Bob --

the full quote from Emerson: ""A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines."

Since you asked, "hobgoblin" comes from Middle English: hob, hobbe, from Hobbe, nickname of Robert or Robin, as in Robin Goodfellow. a "hob" is a clownish oaf in some UK dialects, so a "hobgoblin" is a mischievous or impish goblin.

michael


29 Aug 06 - 02:39 AM (#1821399)
Subject: RE: Best guitar strings for a small guitar?
From: s&r

Get a good setup and use medium strings.

Stu


29 Aug 06 - 04:43 AM (#1821455)
Subject: RE: Best guitar strings for a small guitar?
From: GUEST,Anon E Mouse

If the guitar instructions said use lights, under NO circumstances use mediums at standard pitch. You will belly it, fold it, or rip the brigde off.

There are two standad scale lengths for US built middle-aged guitars, 24 7/8ths inches and 25 1/2 inches. The difference is not enough to let you get away with mediums on a guitar that is specified to need lights.

Get the action right. If the action is too high and there is not enough spare tomake the adjustment at the saddle, you will need a neckset. Check this first.

Then, first step, neck relief. Put a capo on so the strings are fretted at the first fret. Use your finger to fret the bass string at the point the fingerboard goes over the body. At the halfway point between the two you want just enough clearance of the string from the frets so that it is almost easier to tell by tapping than by looking by eye to check whether the string does in fact clear every fret. Ie the figerboard has a very slight forward curve while the neck is under string tension. If you play VERY VERY hard you may want a little more curve but only a smidgeon. In theory the strings should leave the fret at the same angle all the way along the neck.   If you have a truss rod, adjust this curvature with it. You may need to slacken the strings, tighten the truss rod,then tighten the strings again, possibly repeatedly. I think all Gibson trussrods are right hand thread.   Some of them have a trussrod nut at the headstock end that is a little sod to get a socket spanner onto properly, and you may need to buy the special tool for the job, usually available from Stewart-MacDonald.

If you have a non-adjustable neck and the curvature is more than that, it is possible sometimes to re-fret with frets with thicker tangs to straighten the neck a bit more. It is also sometimes possible to plane the finger board to correct profile, or to cap it with a tapered piece of wood to avoid having to do a neck set. These options require great expertise and a fair expense.

Once the neck profile is right, do the saddle height. The profile of the saaddle needs to be determined by teh radius of the fingerboard, so that there is a nice steady progression in action at the 12th fret, probably from about 1.6 mm on the treble side to about 3 mm on the bass side - less if you play very lightly and want the action to be easy (BUT THEN THE GUITAR WILL BE QUIETER), more if you hammer it like hell or play bluegrass bass runs. You may want to put B-compensation in the saddle at this time. You should now have a guitar that, if you capo it at the first fret, plays evenly all the way up with no rattles until you get carried away.

Now and only now do the nut. You will ideally need nut files but you can manage with a selection of files and small hacksaw blades although the rounded nut slot you get with the right tool is a plus.

There is only one "right" height for the nut slots. It is so that the action at the first fret with no capo on is the same as the action at the second fret with the capo on the first fret. However, if you habitually dig in much harder on root chords than up the neck you may want it about half a thou higher.

If this does not result in the guitar playing right, you have either a twisted neck or frets that need stoning or replacing and then stoning.

Until the guitar is playing right, you cannot really judge the sound, or try to select strings that suit the guitar. Having said that you may want to try a lighttop/medium bottom set (most of the usual makers do them). I find the Elixir Nanoweb 12/56 both smooth and present in sound, and they last well too (even me belting them with a flatpick) - but if you use metal fingerpicks you may fray the coatings too fast. If so, try D'Aquisto Brass Masters - for me they twang a bit less than the Phosphor-Bronze. Others like the NewTones.

Do make sure the inner bridge plate is in good condition. If the ball ends have, over time, ripped it up you can try EZ-Pegs to get the balls to bear the other side of the plate, or there is a cunning gadget - a thin brass plate - that you can get on the internet. It is put with suitable adhesive (and filler if the bridge plate has really been chewed up) on the inner bridge plate and it is shaped to fit a bit round the pins. Thus the ball ends bear on the brass plate, so there is no cushioning caused by chewed up bits of wood.

Also make sure your saddle is tight-ish in the bridge plate. You should not be able to pull it out with fingers alone. Some say you sould, using pliers, be able to pick the guitar up with it but I think that it soo tight. Do make sure there is no fluff or grit or other stuff under it - you need a good continuous contact from one side to the other. I theorise that a three-piece saddle ought to create even contact between saddle and bridgeplate for all strings, but some think this heretical.

Make sure, if the guitar has been polished with wax polish, that you have all wax removed from the top (face). It makes a non-resonant coating that deadens the sound a bit. The best tool is a luthier's buffing wheel, but massive patience, elbow grease, and soft lavatory paper will get there in the end...

If this still leaves the guitar too quiet, or with insuffient bass for you, it is time to get a new guitar.


29 Aug 06 - 08:09 AM (#1821537)
Subject: RE: Best guitar strings for a small guitar?
From: Grab

Martin Fingerpickers have a very rich sound with lots of overtones - they might suit you. If the guitar's got plenty of overtones itself then they might fight it though and leave you with a messy sound. Newtones have a rich but balanced sound, but they might be a bit more pricey over in the US (they're made in the UK). Thomastik are good too, but expensive. I've just tried Elixir Polywebs and they seem to have a nice clear ringing sound too.

D'Addarios are my "reference" string for checking stuff against. They have absolutely zero personality, so you can tell what characteristics your strings need to match the guitar. I never use D'Addarios for actually playing though, because they're just blah.

Graham.


29 Aug 06 - 08:11 AM (#1821540)
Subject: RE: Best guitar strings for a small guitar?
From: GUEST, Anon E. Mouse

Second that on D'Addarios, and the EXPs are even less use.


29 Aug 06 - 10:36 AM (#1821676)
Subject: RE: Best guitar strings for a small guitar?
From: Strollin' Johnny

NEWTONES. They're the dog's bolleaux, don't waste your money on anything else.
S:0)


29 Aug 06 - 12:17 PM (#1821762)
Subject: RE: Best guitar strings for a small guitar?
From: GUEST,Jim

My wife has a 1921 O18 which she strings with Martin SP XLs.


29 Aug 06 - 12:29 PM (#1821775)
Subject: RE: Best guitar strings for a small guitar?
From: BTMP

I just put a set of John Pearse NuAge on my Martin 0-28, and so far I like what I'm hearing. I have been using the high end Martin SP strings and Thomastiks. I would definitely not use anything heavier than light gauge, something like 11-52 for the E strings - max. The Pearse NuAges I put on are 10-47 and are just a little light. If I like these, the next time I will try the NuAges that are just a bit heavier. The best thing to do is try several different sets and find the one you like. Good luck. -btmp


29 Aug 06 - 12:52 PM (#1821789)
Subject: RE: Best guitar strings for a small guitar?
From: Dave (the ancient mariner)

My daughter plays a Seagull Grand and she uses these strings.
http://www.daddario.com/


29 Aug 06 - 04:36 PM (#1822031)
Subject: RE: Best guitar strings for a small guitar?
From: bluemountainbluebird

Lots of interesting information to sort through. Although it's tempting to try a heavier gauge, I think it could damage the guitar. However, there are a few new names of strings that I will try, also some names I've heard (like Elixer) but haven't tried yet. I haven't used Martin guitar strings in a while, maybe that's worth looking into.

Thanks.

btw the I just heard someone last night playing with new D addarios on his Martin 35, doing a semi folk- semi-classical version of Classical Gas, and he sounded amazing! So did the guitar. BUT he is an incredible player. Could probably play with the guitar string with rubber bands and sound great.(Guy if you are here, this compliment is for you).


29 Aug 06 - 06:14 PM (#1822108)
Subject: RE: Best guitar strings for a small guitar?
From: Richard Bridge

I tried Pearse mandolin strings once. Just the once.


29 Aug 06 - 06:47 PM (#1822147)
Subject: RE: Best guitar strings for a small guitar?
From: GUEST,Guest RS

My preferences are,

1st choice; Newtones
2nd    " ; John Pearce
3rd    " ; Daddario


29 Aug 06 - 09:27 PM (#1822264)
Subject: RE: Best guitar strings for a small guitar?
From: Scoville

Speaking of not putting heavier-than-recommended strings on a small guitar: I've got my mother's Guild F-30, which isn't even that small but is smaller than a dreadnought, and I cannot put anything heavier than medium lights on it. I literally cannot tune it up. Even medium-lights are VERY tight; not enough to hurt the instrument but enough to cause the player some grief. Lights definitely make it happiest.


30 Aug 06 - 02:38 AM (#1822401)
Subject: RE: Best guitar strings for a small guitar?
From: Richard Bridge

Scoville, what is the acale length?


30 Aug 06 - 08:57 AM (#1822611)
Subject: RE: Best guitar strings for a small guitar?
From: Grab

SJ, my one bitch with Newtones is that the treble strings sound very weak. My "dream" string set would be Newtone wound and Martin Fingerpicker plain strings. I'm currently quite happy with the Elixir Polywebs I've got on at the moment though, although it'll depend on whether they last long enough for being twice the price of other strings.

Graham.


30 Aug 06 - 11:56 AM (#1822765)
Subject: RE: Best guitar strings for a small guitar?
From: Scoville

Not sure. Have to get back to you on that.


31 Aug 06 - 10:41 AM (#1823586)
Subject: RE: Best guitar strings for a small guitar?
From: Strollin' Johnny

Grab, never noticed that with Newtones, either on my Martin or my Lowden. You're right about the wound strings, they are a bit special. Have you tried the new Master Class Double-Wound strings yet? I'm trying a set on the Martin at the moment. The wrap wire is a smaller gauge than on standard strings, so less finger squeak. They sound excellent while they're new, time will twll how they last!
S:0)


31 Aug 06 - 10:45 AM (#1823592)
Subject: RE: Best guitar strings for a small guitar?
From: Strollin' Johnny

Grab (again) - try Eagle Music (www.eaglemusicshop.com), they sell Newtones under their own badge as 'Eagle-Newtone', and they also sell some other brands as individual strings. They might be prepared to make you sets up consisting of Newtones for the wound strings and some other brand on the two plain strings - not sure, but might be worth asking?
S:0)


31 Aug 06 - 10:47 PM (#1824178)
Subject: RE: Best guitar strings for a small guitar?
From: Scoville

Sorry--got sidetracked.

I'm not sure if this is what I was asked but as follows:

Alvarez Regent 5212 (full-size, takes mediums): 25 7/8 inches bridge to nut.

Guild F-30 (not quite full-size, takes medium lights but cannot be tuned with mediums): 25 inches bridge to nut. Also has slightly higher action than the Alvarez, but I don't know how much of a difference that makes.


31 Aug 06 - 11:51 PM (#1824216)
Subject: RE: Best guitar strings for a small guitar?
From: M.Ted

Scoville, I had one of those F-30s--they were made with medium strings in mind(once upon a time, medium strings were standard for acoustic guitars)--if it won't take them, take a look inside--at a certain age, a lot of them started to come apart--


01 Sep 06 - 03:01 AM (#1824264)
Subject: RE: Best guitar strings for a small guitar?
From: Richard Bridge

25 7/8 is a bit longer than usual, and 25 is quite normal.

If the action of the Guild is high (and bear in mind that just as medium strings were normal on acoustic guitars about 40 years ago, so were actions higher than we would accept today - say 5 mm on the bottom E at the octave in those days, 2.5 now) and cannot be remedied by the methods suggested in detail above, then the question becomes why the Guild cannot be tuned.

I can envisage three possibilities.

First, the machine heads are knackered.
Second the guitar is distorting under the stress.
Third there is a problem at the bridge.

The second and third problems are going to require a good luthier to fix.

Machine heads:
Possibility 1 - the buttons on the machine heads are slipping on the shafts. Remedy - remove with great care and pliers, put superglue on shaft, replace with great care and pliers. If the buttons are broken you can get new ones (may not look identical) from Stewart-MacDonald. To refit the new ones may require you to heat the spindle. If so be careful not to put the new button on too far - a metal object to act as a stop is wise.
Possibility 2 - the gears in the machine head are too stiff to turn against the tension of the strings. First try a bit of WD-40. If that fixes it for a while, this is the problem. Long-term cure - remove strip clean lubricate and re-assemble and replace the machine heads.
Possibility 3 - the gears in the machine heads are so worn (or have become loose) that they are jumping back. You MAY be dead lucky and be able to juggle the gears and shafts so that every reassembled pair works. This will not last for very long. You MAY be lucky and find a screw to tighten to solve the problem, and you MAY be lucky and find the gears can be turned round so that they work (but that is not a permanent fix either). The long term solution is new machine heads. replacements from cheap to pretty damned expensive are available from Stew-Mac.
Possibility 4 - the machine heads are loose from the headstock. Remedy - new screws and re-attach. Do not use screws that are too big, you can split the headstock.

Physical distortion.
Is the neck angling forward under increased tension? Your neck joint is loose or damaged. Go to a luthier and expect a large-ish bill. Is the body distorting under increased tension? Some struts and/or joints are loose or damaged inside. Go to a luthier. You may be lucky and find that the loose bits can be glued or clamped through the soundhole. If not, the top or back may have to come off and expect a very large bill. If the top or back start to open gaps around the purfling, you may be lucky and find that the loose bits can be glued or clamped from the outside or through the soundhole. If not, the top or back may have to come off and expect a very large bill.

Bridge.
Is the table tilting forward? - see above. If there is no physical damage a "Bridge Doctor" may be worth trying. Google the phrase.
Is the bridge coming away from the top? A good luthier can re-attach at no very great cost.
Is the top damaged in the area or round the inner bridge plate? A good luthier can fix but the bill will be bigger.
Are the ball ends chewing up and sinking into the inner bridge plate? Try one of those brass plates mentioned above. Or the inner bridge plate can be replaced by a good luthier but it is not all that easy because the access is tricky and the fit has to be just right.


Let us know what it turned out to be...