What gauge strings do I need?

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by neren, Mar 29, 2014.

  1. neren


    Jun 5, 2012
    Eugene, Oregon
    I enjoy playing melodic solo pieces and I've recently been toying with an interesting tuning. It's a short scale (30") tuned in fifths from G to E (G D A E from thickest to thinnest), starting with the G right above standard tuning low E.

    For now I just took a regular 5-string set, tossed the low B, and "made it work" with the 4 high strings. It sounds cool but it's not an ideal setup (low G is a little floppy, high E is way too tight) and I doubt it's great for the neck.

    I'm going to use Circle K and buy individual strings, and I was hoping someone could help me figure out which string gauges I should buy, as I'm a rookie when it comes to this sort of thing.

    So, what string gauges would be ideal for tuning a 30" scale 4-string bass in fifths, G-D-A-E?

    Thank you!
  2. ixlramp


    Jan 25, 2005
    Don't you mean ADGC strings retuned to GDAE? I doubt EADG strings would get there without breaking.
    For scales other than 34", multiply the chart value by
    (your scale/chart scale)squared = (30/34)^2 = 0.779
    The tension chart most visible at the CKS store homepage is a year out of date, the one you want is linked at the bottom of the page http://circlekstrings.com/CKSIMAGES/CircleKtensionChart130105.pdf
    Retune your G string (it's an .080 or .085 right?) until it feels the right tension, use the chart to discover what that tension is, then choose gauges to give you that tension on all strings. Kalium tell me the wound .025 is not strong enough to go above C so you should choose a plain steel for E. If you're unsure post the gauges here and i will check them. I've been tuning my basses in fifths and designing fifths sets since 1996 :)
  3. mmbongo

    mmbongo Chicken Pot Pie. My three favorite things!! Supporting Member

  4. neren


    Jun 5, 2012
    Eugene, Oregon
    Yup that's what I mean, apologies. I meant I tossed the low B and E from a 6-string set and used the A, D, G, and C.

    Thank you for that chart, that's exactly the kind of thing I was hoping for! Yes my G is an .085 DR Sunbeam, meant to be tuned to A.

    So let me make sure I understand you correctly:
    1. Tune that string until it has the tension I want all my strings to approximately have.
    2. Check what note it is
    3. Look up that note's column for a .085 string on the chart to get my "magic number".
    4. For each note I want to tune to (in my case G, D, A, E), find the gauge of string where the value in the desired note's column times .779 matches my "magic number."

    Is that right?

    Thank you so much!
  5. neren


    Jun 5, 2012
    Eugene, Oregon
    Bass Strings Online doesn't seem to have the gauges I would need. Sorry if this is a dumb question but is there any harm to just cutting down long scale strings and putting them on a short scale? What are the negative effects of outer windings going around the tuning post? Even on my long scale bass, it looks like a couple of the strings' outer windings are going around the tuning post (namely the low E).
  6. The only strings wound to 40" are the strings that fit thru regular tuners without needing a taper. It's not like they're going to send a .192 gauge wound to 40" scale.

    Circle K doesn't offer short scale strings, so you'd have to make sure the thicker strings would fit thru your tuners without a taper if you buy their strings.
    EDIT: Alternatively you could also modify the thicker strings, although not recommended and won't work with steel or stainless strings.
    I see your post above,
    Thicker windings going around the post isn't really negative unless they're too big to wrap properly. The major difference is you're going to have to turn less to change the pitch of the string because of the thickness.
  7. mmbongo

    mmbongo Chicken Pot Pie. My three favorite things!! Supporting Member

    It's become confusing, plus I don't CK too closely but it looks like .112 and up are still 36.75" and everything below that is 40".

    Keep in mind that the end of the string still needs to fit in the tuner slot and pilot hole, which is why strings are tapered at the tuner. Using these strings on a 30" scale would have zero taper.

  8. knuckle_head

    knuckle_head Commercial User

    Jul 30, 2002
    Owner; Knuckle Guitar Works & Circle K Strings
    Rule of thumb - .115 and smaller (.118 in my case) can wrap around nearly every tuning post and not snap the core provided the string is not manufactured to be too rigid. This includes guitar tuners. BIGGEST CAVEAT - this works only if the string fits the hardware.

  9. ixlramp


    Jan 25, 2005
    Yeah kinda :) except in step 3 you need to multiply by .779 to get your ideal tension value. In fact it seems that steps 3 and 4 together cancel out the scale length hmm ...

    Your scale length makes things more complex, could you let me know at what retuned note the .085 'G' feels right? then i'll work through it from that. Also, i assume you have a .065 for the 'D', does this feel the right tension? If so you can use that string to discover your ideal tension value.

    Another tip, i recommend choosing the plain steel E to be a little lower tension than wound A, this helps quieten and mellow the tone for a better tonal blend.
  10. neren


    Jun 5, 2012
    Eugene, Oregon
    Thanks for all the guidance. I ended up buying a set of DR Sunbeams at .095, .065, .045, .025. Hopefully that will at least get me in the ballpark? I don't care too much about it being EXACTLY balanced tension, I just want to make sure I don't have flop city on one string while another is about to snap.
  11. Jay2U

    Jay2U Not as bad as he lóòks

    Dec 7, 2010
    22 ft below sea level
    Sometime ago I programmed a calculator for strings which can be downloaded here It may be helpful.
  12. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Is that set designed for 5ths tuning? The .025 seems heavy.

    My 5ths tuned 28" scale bass starts three half steps above yours with a .090 A and goes up to an unwrapped .013.
  13. ixlramp


    Jan 25, 2005
    That's close to balanced, next time i recommend a .040 instead of the .045, you may notice the .045 A is tighter, also a .100 G will be more balanced with the .065 D.
    My very first fifths set was actually .100 .065 .040 .025 for FCGD on 34" (equivalent to GDAE on 30"), using a .100 .080 .060 .040 set plus a .025 and swapping the .060 for a .065.
    The rough rule for equal tension in fifths is to have adjacent string gauges in the ratio 3:2.
    A good balanced lighter set i have used is .095 .060 .035 .022w.