String experts, assemble. Tension question.

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by santucci218, Oct 19, 2011.

  1. santucci218


    Jan 26, 2007
    I just do not understand why companies pick the gauges they do. The tension never matches up! EVER! Why wouldn't you want the same tension on each strings? Anyways, for my guitars, In standard tuning I generally use 10-46 Daddarios. I have another guitar, and would like a similar tension, but put my guitar in drop C.

    I opened the D'addario tension chart, but its a bit confusing to me.

    If you had to make a set of similar tension, what gauges would you pick? I was thinking of a set around 11-60? Help, please!
  2. mmbongo

    mmbongo I have too many basses. Supporting Member

    Balanced tension seems to be more of a bass thing than guitar. On a guitar do you really want the 1st string to be as loose as the 6th string, and vice versa? If you had a 52 on the bottom, you'd have probably around a 14 or 15 on the top.
  3. ixlramp

    ixlramp Guest

    Jan 25, 2005
    Although i am a supporter of equal-tension bass sets as a big improvement over traditional bass sets, there are in fact many advantages to having a tension that falls gradually and consistently from low to high strings (traditional bass sets have tension rising from low to high strings). Here i quote from my post at where i'm talking about designing an all-fifths set for 6 string bass:

    I designed the set by feel, by trial and error, and calculated the tensions afterward to see what tension 'profile' i like. To my surprise the tension falls gradually and consistently from low to high strings. The highest string was at 2/3rds the tension of the lowest.

    This falling tension i now consider optimum for many reasons ...

    The lower strings are more massive and therefore more prone to flop, they need more tension to keep their vibration tight, with good tone. Higher strings are lighter and do not need so much tension for good tone. The minimum practical tension for a string therefore falls as the string gets thinner.

    The pitch response to string bending falls as a string gets thinner, therefore for an even pitch response the tension must fall from low to high strings.

    Thinner strings 'feel' tighter even when at the same tension as a fat string. So a falling tension creates a more even feel.

    Thin roundwounds and thin plain strings are more prone to breakage, the larger the range of an instrument the more necessary it is to reduce the tension of the higher strings to avoid breakage.

    Tapping becomes increasingly difficult on higher strings, a falling tension evens out the response to tapping. If you analyse the string sets for Chapman Stick you'll see they also have falling tension.

    Thinner strings are naturally brighter, fatter strings naturally darker in tone. Tightening the fat strings brightens their tone, loosening the thin strings mellows their tone, resulting in a more even tone across the set.

    The plain string problem. Plain strings can be rather harsh and bright in a set, a step down in tension from wound to plain mellows their tone for a better blend.

    Heavy bottom / light top guitar sets (9-46) are a step in the right direction. However
    traditional bass sets are the very opposite of what i consider optimum.
    I'm very familiar with the D'Addario tension chart, is there anything specific that confuses you? I'm happy to explain it :)
  4. Jay2U

    Jay2U Not as bad as he lóòks

    Dec 7, 2010
    23 ft below sea level
  5. santucci218


    Jan 26, 2007
    I see! That makes sense. I suppose I'll give this 11-56 set out and go from there then!
  6. ixlramp

    ixlramp Guest

    Jan 25, 2005
    Depends which low string feels better to you, a 46 E is 2 pounds lighter than a 36 A, which feels better? I'm gonna guess you wish the E would be a little tighter to match the A? If you like the 36 A, on the chart that's 19.5 pounds, now look at the column for C, the closest match is a 60 C with 19.2 pounds.

    Up top, a 11 D is the closest match to a 10 E. Then try to choose the GCFA gauges inbetween that create a consistent, steady fall in tension from the 60 C to the 11 D. Does this make sense?
  7. ixlramp

    ixlramp Guest

    Jan 25, 2005
    CGCFAD ... Following this method i would choose 60 39/40 28 19p 15p 11p, what do you think?
  8. santucci218


    Jan 26, 2007
    Ooh, you're a total BA. The Set I just bought was 11-56, just because they were the closest I could find to what I was mentioning. No local stores have a good selection of singles.


    So pretty much my low C will be too thin, and the G and C following will be too thick. I may be able to allocate singles of those gauges. Thanks a ton for the help pal!
  9. ixlramp

    ixlramp Guest

    Jan 25, 2005
    Aha i'm guessing that 11-56 set is designed for standard intervals so yeah the lowest will be too loose when dropped. I recommend you try to find somewhere online to buy singles. Using your intelligence and a tension chart you will be able to design sets far superior to the traditional gauges that saturate the market for no good reason other than tradition. I don't yet know of any guitar sets that have the lowest string beefed up in size for a permanent drop tuning, although keep an eye on Circle K Strings who may be releasing guitar sets soon with, of course, intelligently designed gauges and perhaps even drop tune sets.

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