My new theory on tension 'secrecy'
After speaking to a string rep and asking about tension (this is not a maker that provides tension numbers) the word that was used that stuck in my head was 'proprietary.'
Now when any manufacturer of anything says info is proprietary it is because they believe knowledge of said info could lead to competitors gaining insight into their product in one way or another.
Ergo my theory is now that many of these string makers fear revealing tension data would allow someone to reverse engineer their 'proprietary' core/wrap ratios (D'Addario's tension .pdf explains tension and unit weight, etc) and we all know how they sometimes go on and on about their carefully tested and specially chosen core/wrap ratios.
I wonder if it has been that concern all along keeping tension data out of consumers' reach, not as much a fear of revealing imbalanced sets as letting other makers in on their secret sauce recipe for the core/wrap mojo.
Maybe D'Addario figured long ago that since they made so many strings for others in the market that sharing their proprietary info would not hurt them in a way it might hurt someone else who is going it alone or starting up from scratch, hence they were for the only big maker to reveal that data for a long time.
My thought is imbalanced tension isnt a secret that needs to be protected by proprietary policies...a user can already tell if there is imbalance, without resorting to specific data. Its not like a user is going to go "aha!" And start making strings once they get this data.
My guess is the proprietary nature is to maintain a competitive edge in manufacture.
I would think tension could be measured relatively easily - so there s/b no big secret.
It would take a string manufacturer all of ten minutes to measure string tension at a given frequency. My guess is that most string makers don't bother to measure string tension anyway.
Then why insist it is proprietary?
Reverse engineer: and and maybe
If you have a string winding machine you probably have enough basic knowledge to figure out the rest.
There are plenty of things that can easily be reverse engineered but are still stubbornly guarded as proprietary. It is so easy to get burned on intellectual property these days I am not surprised every little detail of manufacturing is guarded.
Just because it might be true doesnt mean it is rational.
I'm with those above who seem to be saying, any manufacturer who wants to pry into the secrets of someone else's strings can just buy a set, measure them every which way, take them apart, etc. Manufacturers don't provide tension figures because they don't know them or they're too lazy to maintain the charts.
Someone with the resources to buy a lot of strings could become a sort of bass string data central. Measure tension, diameter and lengths, photograph silk under consistent lighting, etc. Maybe more interesting measures -- is there a way to get flexibility or elasticity (maybe the same thing)?
I am not disagreeing, but it may be the irrational motivation behind it all.
Along the same lines as McDonald's secret sauce. It is a McDonald's corporate secret but any good chef will tell you it is simply a version Thousand Island dressing with extra pickle relish in it.
He probably thought that, being a dumb bass player, using a scary multi-syllable word like "proprietary" would make you go away. :D
There are a lot of factors that go into making a string. Some are easily figured out.
Mass (which is used to figure tension)
Wire Diameter (core and windings)
That information can be figured out quite easily.
Next is formula of wire. Nickel plated steel can have a thicker or thinner plating. Stainless steel, well there are different types of stainless and some manufacturers actually say what type they use. 430 Stainless in Dean Markley Blue Steel for example.
What is most difficult to reverse engineer is the tension, angle and speed the windings are wound at. This won't necessarily affect tension based on unit weight but it will influence the strings playability and flexibility. The consistency of this results in a more consistent product.
The main reason I feel (and have heard with those I have discussed this with in the Industry) is not because the manufacturers do not want to release it, but because the general public will be confused by it. Most of the string forum users are aware of tension and how it affects playing and feel. But if you ask the average 45-100 / 45-105 off the shelf in the grocery store user they will not know the difference in tension string to string. Some bass players don't even know the names of the notes of the open strings. Nothing wrong with that! Some great players didn't know how to tune their instrument.
At the moment most people will ask for a set of bass strings, or 45 to 100, or the pink ernie ball pack. Rarely does someone ask for a Low E string at 37 pounds tension and equal tension on all strings to match.
With all this, some manufacturers are taking note of what is said on forums and from vendors that work with users that know what they want and they are making more information available and making sets around what new instruments and playing styles are needing.
It didn't stop a small start up like Circle K from publishing data. Their business model is built around it.
Balanced sets have been around for a while. It is hard enough getting stores to stock short scale sets let alone something other than 45-100 D'ADDARIO (the highest selling set)
Now with the Internet users can get exactly what they want from almost any brand.
Here is an interesting response that I got from Adam Nitti concerning the new D'Addario balanced tension sets:
hi GK, thanks for your post, and thank you so much for your kind words!
yes, i do mostly use the exl170's. i got a chance to play the balanced tension strings while they were still in beta and i thought they were really good. having said that, it wasn't the type of difference that had me leaning towards changing out my current sets. i've been playing 'traditional' tension strings for a lot of years now so i've been used to them for a long time. i can't say that in my development i ever said to myself 'gee, i wish i had more balanced tension between each of my strings.' however, i recognize the advantages and think it's a great idea. i was a d'addario user for many years before i got an endorsement deal and i've always liked the feel and consistency of their nickel-wound string sets. they have also always set up well on all of my instruments i've put them on.
i hope that helps you somewhat. like i said they are a nice set of strings if you decide to try them.
Make them cheap, get the bass player use to using new strings, its a great marketing scheme.
I use to make my own sets based on sound and feel, funny thing they were balanced .105 .080 .060 .045. A tension chart didn't mean much to me until I realized what I wanted.
String tension is much like the mileage a car gets; it's the sum of all the parts. Therefore, you can't take the particular tension of a string and then figure out the core diameter and wrap(s) any more than you could figure out how the engine is built by looking at the mileage rating.
String tension itself is not proprietary; core wire and wrap diameters ARE.
Slapinfunk pretty much hit it on the head. Prior to putting together GHS' string tension guide for bass, I posed the question about balanced tension as opposed to traditional on a number of our social media channels. The bulk of the people that replied (around 80-85%) don't even think about it. They like the convenience of going into Guitar Center, grabbing "their" set and leaving.
That said, I pushed for the tension guide here, to the point of creating it myself. Having a tension guide is a very helpful thing; sure, you can make balanced tension sets. But the people I've found that benefit more are the ones that want to try altered tunings (either dropping down, tuning in fifths, etc..) and basically HAVE to buy singles. I've found I've used it more for odd tunings than anything else; helped someone make a custom 8 string set where he's tuned in Drop-C and wants the top 3 strings to be unison instead of octaves. No way I could've done that without our guide.
At the end of the day though, I'd rather you all just play some music. If having the tension guide helps 1 person, cool.
You can measure tension, at least relative tension, easily.
Use a kitchen scale and a pencil with flat head. At an angle bend the string at the 12th fret until it is a half-tone higher.
Surely a string manufacturer can reverse engineer them anyway, both when it comes to measuring tension the proper way and when it comes to measure thickness of core and wind. I mean even I have the equipment to do that. A micrometer screw is $30 on Ebay.
The idea that you can reverse engineer a string because you know its tension is ludicrous. Any decent lab could tear down a string and figure out everything that went into making it.
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