String tension

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by ubassman, Jan 4, 2013.


  1. ubassman

    ubassman

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    Jul 23, 2012
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    Interested to hear people's thoughts and ideas about the differences between light, medium and high tension strings. Looking to buy a set of D'Addario Kaplans for orchestral playing and have a bass with a string length of 103cm (40 1/2 inches) ...and of course Kaplans come in all three tensions! I have had a look at the string tension chart on the Megathread but the Kaplans aren't there yet and I am no so sure how to interpret the chart other than to make comparisons of a known set of strings? Help !
  2. neilG

    neilG

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  3. ubassman

    ubassman

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    Jul 23, 2012
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    Thanks NeilG ...but how does that translate? Its useful to have facts and figures and compare with other makes but I guess what I am after is the voice of 'user experience' of what its like to have light tension, or heavy ...the effects on bowing, sound tone, and what might be suitable spec for a humble orchestral player with a 103 string length !
  4. neilG

    neilG

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    I think a general rule is just what D'Addario says about their own strings: lighter is easier to play and not as loud as a heavier gauge. Also, generally speaking, the smaller the instrument, the heavier the gauge you'd use. That's just physics. How this translates to your bass is impossible to say. I know two people who play basses your size. One uses Passione heavy gauge and loves them. The other uses Bel Cantos which I think only come in one flavor.
    You're going to have to buy one set and love them or hate them. D'Addario says all their strings are for longer string lengths than yours, but why not email them and see if they have some opinion on the subject? Good luck.
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  6. ubassman

    ubassman

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    Great help - thanks NeilG !
  7. iiipopes

    iiipopes

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    May 4, 2009
    Tension is only one aspect of feel. A well set up bass with the proper bridge, afterlength, nut, camber, soundpost, etc., adjustments will play better even with heavier strings than a bass that does not have a proper setup for the type of music being played on it.

    Along with tension is flexibility of a string. The less flexible a string, the harder it will feel, even though it may have less tension.

    Finally, since the top vibrates, every bass has its own balance of needing enough tension to drive the top efficiently but not so much the tone is "choked."

    If you want the absolute tension of a string on your bass, then tension varies as the square of the scale length. So since most manufacturers who publish tension specs rate their strings at roughly a 41 3/4 or 106 cm scale length, then to find out roughly what the tension of a particular would be on your bass, take the published tension spec and multiply it by 103^2/106^2.

    However...TI and possibly some others also make strings for different scale lengths, most notably 110 cm. So those tension specs have to be adjusted for that difference as well.

    Good luck!
  8. ubassman

    ubassman

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    Many thanks iiiPopes - thats really great helpful information ! So that is Published Tension x (103x103 / 106x106) ? I suspect that there may be just a case of experimenting and getting to know what sounds best on my bass - I have a set of Obligatos on at the moment.
  9. iiipopes

    iiipopes

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    May 4, 2009
  10. ubassman

    ubassman

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    Thanks for all the invaluable insights which are born out to be completely verified by mathematical calculation below ( ...theory proven by science ....cant be bad!!).

    For Kaplans the stated tensions are all for a string length of 1060 (see below) . So if I had a 4/4 with a length of 1100 and wanted a medium tension string , I would drop from a 'medium' string to a lightweight ( and due to the extra length stretching the lightweight string past 1060mm i.e with the extra stretch the string the tension would be the equivalent of a medium).

    Likewise if I had a shorter instrument ( as is the case a 1030 ), the string won't be stretched as far as 1060mm and so I would go for a Heavy tension string to compensate and end up with a medium tension in reality !
  11. ubassman

    ubassman

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    ....for those interested, heres the geeky maths bit below ( which is actually quite interesting when you find a string that you like to identify others that might be even better but a similar tension ) !:-

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    These are the stated string tensions from the D'Addario data on Kaplans for a 1060 playing length:-

    ................................................ (L) (M) (H)
    K611 G-Sol Stranded steel/Titanium 58 62 65
    K612 D-Ré Stranded steel / Nickel 61 65 68
    K613 A-La Stranded steel/Nickel 63 68 72
    K614 E-Mi Stranded steel/Tungsten 65 69 73

    So in my instance with a shorter string length of 1030 the maths with set of lights for a G string would be 58 ( published tension) x (1030 x1030)/(1060 x 1060) i.e. Stated tension x 0.944 to find the actual tension that I will get with my bass of 1030:-

    Because my length is shorter than the manufacturers data of 1060 I will go for the tension above i.e Heavys to end up with a medium:-

    G string (Heavy) 65 x 0.944 = 61.4 (equivalent of a Med 62 Kaplan)
    D string (Heavy) 68 x 0.944 = 64.2 (equivalent of a Med 65 Kaplan)
    A string (Heavy) 72 x 0.944 = 68.0 (equivalent of a Med 68 Kaplan)
    E string (Heavy) 73 x 0.944 = 69.0 (equivalent of a Med 69 Kaplan)

    Interesting Belcantos DO only come in one flavour and so on a shorter length the tensions they are the equivalent ( nearly) of Kaplan lights:-

    62.2 = 58.7
    63.3 = 59.7
    64.4 = 60.8
    63.3 = 59.7
  12. ubassman

    ubassman

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    I have a set of Obligatos on at the moment at 1100 manufactures design string length:-
    1030 x 1030 / 1100 x1100 = 0.876
    G 65.6 = 57.5 actual tension on my 1030 ( v.light ! )
    D 64.8 = 56.8 "
    A 65.2 = 57.1 "
    E 64.1 = 56.2 "

    ....I have learnt a lot about strings !! Thanks to all!
  13. neilG

    neilG

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    Good job. For those more comfortable with a mental picture without math, of the three factors that determine string pitch, mass, length and tension, you are trying to keep tension and length constant, so the only thing you can change is mass = guage. Somebody needs to come up with heavier materials for strings. Maybe depleted uranium.
  14. TonyD

    TonyD

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  15. ubassman

    ubassman

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    Thanks TonyD - great resource ( perhaps the D'Addario Kaplans can be added?!!). Interesting to see that some string tensions increase from G down the E String whilst others stay uniform and others vary. Any thoughts on that ? Presumably lots of testing of the end product and down to the materials?.
  16. DoubleMIDI

    DoubleMIDI

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    Solo strings often have uniform tension across the strings.
    Strings used for orchestra seem to have more tension towards the lower strings.

    But this is only a general rule.

    Velvet strings (and Gerold Gensslers I assume, since he developed the Velvet strings) are designed for equal tension without the concept of solo string (in sound or tuning), except the Compas 180 perhaps which can be used soundwise for bowed solo works.

    Some Corelli strings might even get less tension towards the lower strings, but in my opinion these work better for solo than for orchestra. The tungsten strings are also rather bright, so better suited to solo literature.
  17. ubassman

    ubassman

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    Interesting that the tension of my Obligatos on my 1030 are similar to Corellis . However the resulting tension on my shorter instrument is way below the design spec of Pirastro and they certainly don't behave or sing like solo strings !. Just experimented and retuned all 4 strings up two full tones and noticed a huge difference, fuller tone , instant grip and the string just came to life. Just made me realise :-

    a/. There has to be a point where the strings 'kick in' and if the tension is too light they are hard to get going (thinking here about trying to bow on strings that have been loosened to 'floppy' tension!) .

    b/. Its easy to go with the flow and think that because one reads that many orchestral players use 'x' then that is the way to go to get the desired sound. I realise now the relevance of understanding / comparing string length of an instrument and manufacturer's design specs when selecting strings for a specific instrument and most importantly getting the tension right. From my little experiment it seems that strings perhaps will be happiest operating at their design tension i.e obligatos are designed for a tension of 63 and I was playing them at 59 and getting not that great quality - till I cranked them up!. Have also realised that current Obs are probably not right for my instrument.

    c/. There are quite often posts about students having difficulty bowing, with the bow not biting or hissing across the string. Whilst it may be due to over feeding with rosin ( and other things) it occurs to me that many student basses are shorter than 1060 presumably to ease students left hand into DB playing. If the strings aren't high enough tension and are just the cheapest set around that the shop could find, then bowing may be harder to get going than it needs to be and the tone will suck.

    What an interesting & informative thread this has turned out to be ! Feels good to have a handle on this whole area and looking forward to hearing my bass with a more appropriate choice of strings ( which is where the thread started ....its funny how you instinctively know something is not right ...but don't know why)! Thanks once again to all.
  18. TonyD

    TonyD

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    Feb 5, 2012
    Location:
    Netherlands, Den Bosch
    Hi ubassman,

    I thought Obligato's only come in 1 string length. They don't have a distinction between 3/4 (104-106) and 4/4 (110). So when you have Obli's installed on your 103 cm mensur bass the tension of the strings will be approx 26.5 kp.

    Is that way to low for arco?

    I have tried Obli's also, but I did not like the arco sound of the G-string. Could have been my technique, but too scratchy for me!

    FYI: I have the same problem. I play a bass with 107.5 cm mensur, and I am still looking for the ultimate string for nice bowing and fast pizzicato. The challenge you face is, for arco you need a higher tension, for pizz a lower one. I have tried Velvet Compas 180 solo's, downtuned to orchestra, but the tension was too low for either bowing or thumb position. Next try will be Compas 180 regular. They will have a tension of 27 kp on my bass.

    So in your queest for string you should define the string tension you want. e.g. 28 kp. In that case you should search for string with tension of 30 kp on 105 string length.

    Good luck, and I like to know what strings you like!

    Kind regards from the Netherlands,
    TonyD
  19. ubassman

    ubassman

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    Jul 23, 2012
    Location:
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    Hi TonyD - I got the 64/65 tensions for Obligatos from the MegaThread chart ( which gave the tension for a 1100 string length ). It looks however from your earlier post with a link to String Tension Matrix that the Obs are around 62 ( presumably though 62 would be the tension on a 105 length which would make sense to be lower than 65 on a 1100 ? ). But you are right it is a case I am sure, of going to a higher tension for my instrument, so as to get the right balance - an expensive voyage of discovery!

    Wouldn't it be great if some clever person were able to do an online calculator where you put in string length of your instrument, type of player, etc and then came out with recommended strings that might be suitable !! Any volunteers?
    :bag:
  20. iiipopes

    iiipopes

    Joined:
    May 4, 2009
    Add: and arco E strings may be lesser mass than the math would indicate they should be, and hence a little lighter tension as well, so that the inertia from the added mass does not impede arco response. Cf. Bel Canto & most Pirastro offerings.

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