TalkBass Forums Scale vs String length as it relates to tension

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#1
10-24-2012, 09:49 AM
 Registered User Join Date: Mar 2012
Scale vs String length as it relates to tension

So, I'm a short scale player and I've been reading about different strings. Usually, I like to reason out answers of this sort, but I'm having trouble.

If you look at most string charts, in general super long scale strings have higher tension than long, which are higher tension than medium. Short scale strings have the lowest tension.

However, if you had the option of a string through body setup on a short scale, you might need medium(or maybe even long) scale strings.

I know that the first harmonic natural resonance of a string in an ideal world depends on 3 things: density(which is never given, but instead can be fudged from gauge, construction and material), tension, and free length. So for a given string:

f=(1/(2L))* sqrt(T/u)
f: frequency
L: free length
T: tension
u: density

With a bit of algebra we get:

T=(2Lf)^2*u

So, let's assume that construction, material and gauge(and therefore, density) are the same for a particular line and brand of strings, and free length is determined by the instrument, not the string. Frequency is the desired tuned pitch and is also invariant.
Therefore, using long scale string on a short scale instrument does not affect the tension, right?

However, whats throwing me is that the length of the string under tension is different from the free length, and I feel like this should affect the overall tension. So, does anyone know if this makes a difference?
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#2
10-24-2012, 09:52 AM
 Registered User Join Date: Feb 2009 Location: Elk River, MN.
You can make the string a mile long but nut to saddle is all that matters.
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#3
10-24-2012, 10:05 AM
 Registered User Join Date: Apr 2012 Location: Ireland
Quote:
 Originally Posted by hdracer You can make the string a mile long but nut to saddle is all that matters.
People will argue that it all matters, that certain things have a little or large effect under certain conditions - what is clear is that the main factors are gauge, material(s) and construction of string, and length from saddle to nut.

After that things like break angle, bass rigidity, resonant frequencies, string-through or bridge through and machine head arrangement all are relatively unknown factors that may have noticable effects. I know break angle matters for stability - and adding/removing mass from the neck can help/worsen dead spots.

To the OP, mrbell321, you can use whatever gauge and length that works. Some strings will be too long and you'll have to deal with overly thick winding esp. on the E peg on a traditional fender style headstock.

EDIT: hang on . . . the original post asks about tension specifically - the answer is it should be the same. In practice the bass is a different weight and shape when you string through so may behave differently, but probably not noticeably. I can't tell the difference given the many many variables in a bass with new strings and setup.
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Last edited by PlungerModerno : 10-24-2012 at 10:13 AM.
#4
10-24-2012, 11:47 AM
 Registered User Join Date: Aug 2009 Location: Upstate, South Carolina
Quote:
 Originally Posted by mrbell321 If you look at most string charts, in general super long scale strings have higher tension than long, which are higher tension than medium. Short scale strings have the lowest tension.
That's not really accurate. What you're seeing is different scale lengths being used. I assume you're talking about the D'Addario chart since it's about the only one there is.

If you look at let's just say a .130 string the tension is the same on the long, super long, medium, and short. But on the chart, what you see is long scale measured with 34" scale, super long at 35", and short at 32 or something. So if you buy a .130 long, a .130 short, and a .130 super long D'Addario, the strings themselves will all have the same tension. The scale length you put it on is what determines the tension.
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#5
10-24-2012, 01:04 PM
 Registered User Join Date: Mar 2012
I feel like I had another chart up yesterday but I can't find it now.

Anyway, I don't understand why or what you say is not accurate. "What you're seeing is different scale lengths being used". That's exactly what i was stating.
Later you say"the strings themselves all have the same tension. The scale length you put it on determines the tension". I'm going to argue that "strings themselves" have no tension at all(except the pull of gravity...), and that the scale length is what determines tension. My question was about how string length outside of the vibrating length affected overall tension. I had this idea rattling around in my brain that the total elasticity you gain w/ more length would affect the overall required tension of the string to hit a certain frequency. I looked into the math more, and realized that tension is a ratio. Therefore, the longer string makes no difference to the final outcome.
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#6
10-24-2012, 01:58 PM
 Registered User Join Date: Aug 2009 Location: Upstate, South Carolina
Quote:
 Originally Posted by mrbell321 I feel like I had another chart up yesterday but I can't find it now. Anyway, I don't understand why or what you say is not accurate. "What you're seeing is different scale lengths being used". That's exactly what i was stating. Later you say"the strings themselves all have the same tension. The scale length you put it on determines the tension". I'm going to argue that "strings themselves" have no tension at all(except the pull of gravity...), and that the scale length is what determines tension. My question was about how string length outside of the vibrating length affected overall tension. I had this idea rattling around in my brain that the total elasticity you gain w/ more length would affect the overall required tension of the string to hit a certain frequency. I looked into the math more, and realized that tension is a ratio. Therefore, the longer string makes no difference to the final outcome.
That makes more sense.

If you look at the D'Addario chart, it shows a .130 super long as having more tension than a .130 long scale.

I thought you were saying that one can just buy a .130 super long and have a tighter string, which is not the case. They used a 35" scale to measure tension on the super long, and 34" on the long scale. There's no difference in the strings other than winding lengths.

But yeah, all that matters is saddle to nut. Nothing outside that matters
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#7
10-24-2012, 03:25 PM
 Registered User Join Date: Mar 2012
Ah, well, I was thinking, that maybe, due to elasticity of having more string, you could make the string tighter, if it were longer outside of the nut to saddle. However, I wasn't thinking of elasticity and tension being ratios, which they are. Being ratios, the extra length really means nothing. (x/y) * y = x for all y :-)
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#8
10-24-2012, 06:15 PM
 Registered User Join Date: Jun 2010 Location: Frederick, MD
So if you have a bass with an elongated headstock with the tuners distanced from the nut so that the non-speaking length of each string was 4 feet long, given the same gauge string tuned to the same note, it would have the same tension as a stock version of the same bass?
I'm a little skeptical.
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#9
10-24-2012, 06:39 PM
 Registered User Join Date: May 2010
Quote:
 ...all that matters is saddle to nut. Nothing outside that matters
I don't know if density is the same thing as mass as related to the OP's argument. A .128ga 32" hex core RW string (nut to saddle) will have less effective mass than say a .135 35" round wound. I think this and the material composition also influences the the "slinkiness".

Then there's also string action. The further off the fretboard the string sits, the more "travel" the string needs in order to be fretted, distorting (stretching) the string - adding tension. This is more true the higher up the neck if you like high action.
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#10
10-24-2012, 06:45 PM
 Registered User Join Date: Feb 2009 Location: Elk River, MN.
All things being equal.

The same string, same nut to saddle length, just different total length
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#11
10-24-2012, 06:46 PM
 This green ^ led is unreliable Join Date: Dec 2010 Location: 6.7 m (22 ft) BSL
Quote:
 Originally Posted by mrbell321 ...Therefore, using long scale string on a short scale instrument does not affect the tension, right? However, whats throwing me is that the length of the string under tension is different from the free length, and I feel like this should affect the overall tension. So, does anyone know if this makes a difference?
Yes you're right regarding the long scale string on the short scale instrument.
If a string is notably longer than its free vibrating length, it'll fret a little easier, as there is more string length to stretch. It'll actually move forth and back over the nut.
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#12
10-24-2012, 09:47 PM
 FenderBender Join Date: Aug 2011 Location: suburban Chicago
Quote:
 Originally Posted by mrbell321 I feel like I had another chart up yesterday but I can't find it now.
You probably had the Circle K chart up, D'Addario is not the only tension chart available and hasn't been for a while now. TI does not have a chart but I believe they do give enough information on at least some of their strings for you to make your own chart.

The formula you gave in your first post is complete (I think) although I believe the u factor is not normal density but mass per unit length. The formula is given in the D'Addario tension chart pdf and probably in Circle K's as well. The string length north of the nut and south of the bridge contributes nothing to the tension required to get a certain note, the only length that matters is the scale length.

Now if I were going to buy a short or medium scale bass I would give some thought to modifying it so that it could use long scale strings but that is simply because the string choices available for long scale strings are much greater than for shorter or longer scales. I'd also give some thought to coming up with an easy technique for shortening long scale strings to the proper winding length for the same reason. I am quite addicted to the variety of available long scale strings and I would not buy a bass that forced me to give that up!

Ken
#13
10-24-2012, 10:40 PM
 I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Join Date: Feb 2004 Location: Ottawa, Canada
String mass is very important to tension. That is why, generally, flats are higher tension than rounds: they have more mass.

So a short scale has less tension than the equivalent long scale since the string is shorter and therefore lighter.
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#14
10-25-2012, 03:12 AM
 Registered User Join Date: Jan 2007 Location: Saint Petersbourg, Russia
Some manufacturers produce different strings for different scale lengths. Thomastik strings vary in gauge, strings from other manufacturers may (or may not) have different core to winding ratios. But, if the length is the only thing that differs, than the scale (the distance between nut and saddle) is the only thing that matters.
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#15
11-11-2012, 08:55 AM
 Registered User Join Date: Apr 2009
My Humble Medium Scale Bass Comments on strings...

Hey All

I have a gallery of my high end 32" medium scale basses here for reference....

www.innertainment.net

I have always used standard Long Scale strings on all my instruments with incredible success. Other than burning a few strings here and there which unravelled during installation - it has always been a piece of cake. Been using long scale strings on my PRS #11 since 1976 with no issues. If I am having an issue with a particular string I am not familiar with, I find a few drops of crazy glue at the point of clipping the string all but eliminates this problem.

Intonation, fret noise, tension - not a problem. Strings light up just like the big boy 34 inchers and the truth is - no detectable "floppiness" as many claim on here. I sometimes need a fresh setup if I change from type to type or brand to brand - but I believe that is nothing but normal - but other than that, great experience all around.

So you know, I use a WIDE variety of strings - this includes D'Addario Half Rounds, Round Wounds, Chromes and Phospher Bronze acoustic strings. Also use Labella Deep Talkin Bass and Labella black tape wounds.

Have also tried all the roundwounds that HR has to offer and I do use a set of Red Hi Beams on my Hot Rod Bass. It's a personal choice, but I find that roundwounds - while a bit brighter with more piano "twang" than their half round brothers - really fall flat when the top is rolled off and you need that rich warm bottom. In short, I simply find the half rounds more versatile for the style of music that I play - and they are also much easier on the frets, so it's a win win.

I have always found that experience is the best teacher, and there are simply no issues - and I have to scratch my head and wonder - I have a lot of trouble understanding what some of these folks are talking about with respect to using long scale strings on medium scale instruments.

Pluck on...

BassHappy

Last edited by BassHappy : 11-11-2012 at 09:02 AM.
#16
11-11-2012, 09:20 AM
 Registered User Endorsing Artist: J.C. Basses Join Date: Aug 2005 Location: Phoenix, Arizona 85029
Quote:
 Originally Posted by masonsjax So if you have a bass with an elongated headstock with the tuners distanced from the nut so that the non-speaking length of each string was 4 feet long, given the same gauge string tuned to the same note, it would have the same tension as a stock version of the same bass? I'm a little skeptical.
Since the string is not perfectly clamped down at the nut, the added length would allow for a bit more (near-negligible) flexibility when plucked, but standing tension is the same all over the string, so the added length past the headstock serves no functional purpose in that regard.
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Last edited by FunkMetalBass : 11-11-2012 at 09:55 AM.

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