Recommended distance e-E at nut 50 mm.

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments

Recommended distance e-E at nut 50 mm.

Postby Jacek A. Rochacki » Mon Dec 17, 2012 10:30 am

Dear All:

The reason that I did not post my question in public area at the beginning of this little problem that I have is, that I am a little ashamed of my poor command of English, so I felt less confused using the more "private" - the PM way. In that way I have already asked Marcus Dominelli, (thank you, Marcus for your enlightening answers) and I also asked "Prominent Critic" - Ramon - due to His experience, as He had hundreds if not thousands instruments in His hands. And it is Him who encouraged me to ask my question in public. It goes as following:

- what would be recommended string spacing (distance from E to e) at nut which is 50 mm wide ? Scale length is 635 mm. The neck is thin at the headstock - ca 19 mm (sic!) . Strings are of low tension.

And please, kindly be patient with this longer text, as I am also writing below some of my thoughts - sort of "self brain storming" on this subject.

The guitar in question is the classical guitar, Smallman type created by not so known in the Western world Polish luthier, Stanislaw Partyka. He has been working with Zbigniew Gnatek when residing in Australia some time ago, and he is good musician/guitarist, graduated from the conservatory plus teacher of guitar in music school in the town where He lives.

The instrument is "small", with scale, as I said above, of 635 mm. It was made on individual order of a tiny in posture female musician graduated from good conservatory; she has very small hands and small, thin and very "accurate" fingers as to be expected from very good, professional musician/guitarist. So she wanted the string spacing at the nut from E to e just 40 mm. Distances between each strings at 50 mm nut (string spacing) measured from center of the string to center of the string is 8 mm.

The spacing from e to E at the bridge/saddle (right hand spacing) is 56 mm.

I am so called amateur classical guitarist, I play only at home for myself and my close family. So I do need to fill with loud sound the big concert hall. My stretch from thumb to pinky is 19 cm. My hands and fingers are not big and fat, but they are larger then hands and fingers of the first owner who ordered this instrument to be custom made up to Her preferences. And my technique is inferior in comparison to professional guitarists.

After many experiments and reading many posts here, in order to improve the playability I use now only strings of low tension - actually Savarez 520B, and soon I will try D'Addario J 43. Low Tension strings allow me to play easier and better, and I like their sound more then the too "clear" or "bright" for me sound of some harder Savarez strings; I repeat that I play only at home, in small room.

In general I feel that this instrument allows me to play better; I am just having this little problem with left hand fingers "accuracy" caused, I think, not only by my imperfect technique, but also, I am afraid, by the string spacing that is too small for me (I do not face this very problem at my other guitar 650/52.

I can play this little guitar with pleasure "as is" but the distance e to E at nut of 40 mm seems a little too short/small for my not so accurate fingers. I think on letting the luthier making new nut with e to E distance of, say, 42 mm, of course leaving more space from the e string to side of fretboard at the treble side in order to minimalize the danger of slipping. So roughly I imagine that there will be situation:
- distance from low edge of fretboard to e string - + 4 mm
then from e to E 42 mm

and ca 3 mm from E to top edge of the fretboard

Perhaps not 42mm but 41, or 41.5 mm would be sufficient ? I am afraid of the string slipping at the treble side specially that I use low tension strings. And - in your experience - what is "typical" string spacing - distance e to E at nut 50 mm wide ?

And: if the distance from e to E at nut would be widened, should the distance e to E (that is now 56 mm) be widened at the saddle, too ?

I know that string spacing may be very individual question, but before I ask the luthier to make new nut I would like to seek advises from Enlightened Persons.

Or, perhaps, my thinking is a kind of "taking blind way". Perhaps I should consider:

- selling this instrument and trying to find the guitar with wider neck/nut ? in our PM correspondence for which I am so grateful the"Prominent Critic" pointed out, that:
Dividing up one or two mm over six strings and five spaces is so small that it doesn't make much difference, though there is some.

Yes, but I have to remember that often wider neck at nut goes together with longer scale, and at this present 635 mm scale my moderate stretch and technique allows me to play easier some passages, then at the 650 mm scale instrument. Seems that ideal would be a guitar of 635 or 640 scale and width of neck at nut of 52 - 53 mm., but I can not afford to put an order for such brand new guitar, and the chance of finding such instrument second hand here is close to zero.

As I mentioned my technique is far from being perfect, so, maybe, I just should take time ( I practice at least two hours every single day since I returned to guitar about a year ago) and I should return to the problem a couple of months from today ?

I keep in mind that the second hand good guitars - second hand - as they are within my financial range are barely available at home, and due to health reasons I do not take longer trips anymore; otherwise I think that for equivalent of ca. $ 2000 I would be able to find an instrument that would meet my expectations "as is", without introducing changes. But as I am limited to what sometime appears at Polish second hand guitar market, I ask you for your thoughts on my little problem.

Let me stay with hope that you will give me a chance of listening to your kind opinion.

With my best

Jacek
Stanislaw Partyka, 2009, rebuilt 2013, cedar/palisander
Artesano No. 30,1985, Fabricada en Espana, Valencia, Juan Orozco Revisada
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Re: Recommended distance e-E at nut 50 mm.

Postby Trevor Gore » Mon Dec 17, 2012 10:46 am

Just do it, Jacek. It should not be a large expense! Push the string spacing at the nut out to 42mm, which is likely as much as you can go, and see if you can play without "falling off". Depending on how the nut is fitted, you might ask the luthier to leave the nut a little wide, so that you can slide it about to change the edge clearances, then when you have found the best position, file off the overhangs. Not all guitars will let you do this, though. Changing the string spacing at the saddle brings a bunch of other issues, so see if the nut change works for you first.
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Re: Recommended distance e-E at nut 50 mm.

Postby Les Backshall » Mon Dec 17, 2012 10:55 am

i would suggest you go for 42mm, but have the nut made to 52mm. This will allow you to move the nut sideways until you find the best position.
I generally make the nut slightly oversize on narrow necks for this reason - if made well it is scarcely noticeable.

Les
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Re: Recommended distance e-E at nut 50 mm.

Postby Michael.N. » Mon Dec 17, 2012 11:05 am

I think that's the problem: there is no 'standard' string band at the Nut or at the Bridge. That makes perfect sense because I've yet to come across human hands/fingers that are of the exact same size. From a historical perspective measurements at the Nut, Bridge and string length have grown in the last 200 years or so. The measurements that you have given would (probably) fit in perfectly with the Guitar that Sor, Aguado and others were playing. In fact some Guitars of the time had measurements that were less than yours. The Guitar that I currently play has a string band (E to e, centres) at the Nut of 39 mm's. I can play in first position without inadvertently dampening adjacent strings - but that's me. My hand size is small but I wouldn't exactly say they were slim fingers. Perhaps they aren't quite as wide as Segovias though! Which brings me to my initial suggestion: practice. Give it a few months and see if you adapt to the smaller string band. If you can't then the next alternative is to increase the string band at the Nut. How much you can increase this by is also dependent on your technique. I once cut a Nut so badly that it had only 2.5 mm's from the high e to the edge of the fretboard. Of course the string continually slipped off the fret. One week later I had absolutely no problems with the string slipping off the fret: I had become accustomed to the set up. That's probably taking things to the brink but you may be able to go to 3 mm's. Who knows though? It's all so player dependent.
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Re: Recommended distance e-E at nut 50 mm.

Postby OldPotter » Mon Dec 17, 2012 3:56 pm

Hi Jacek
I find your english excellent.

I find that small changes at the nut do make a big difference to the "feel". So much so that I have tried to make all my guitar nuts similar. You could leave a smaller gap to the edge for the Bottom E, I use around 3mm, I find 3.5mm perfectly OK for the top string. These measurements are from the string centre to fretboard edge. That would leave 43.5mm, close to normal.

Regards

Tim
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Re: Recommended distance e-E at nut 50 mm.

Postby Douglass Scott » Mon Dec 17, 2012 6:35 pm

Don't bother changing the saddle yet, sounds like the nut is more urgent for you. And the low tension strings shouldn't be a problem either.

With the nut you currently have on the guitar, try loosening the strings just enough so you can slide it 1mm to the treble side. Retune the strings and play the guitar. Do the strings slip off the treble side like mad?
Detune, and this time slide the nut 1mm past centre towards the bass side. Retune and see how it plays on the bass side now.
If you can slip the nut 1mm in each direction and the guitar still plays great (strings stay on the fingerboard), that comes to a 2mm change in total. If your current nut has 40mm spacing, your new one should work well with 42.
For your hand size I'd guess a 42mm ish+ spacing at the nut could be ideal.

Regarding the strings not slipping off the fingerboard:
    Staying away from the fingerboard edge at the nut end of the neck is not necessarily important if there is a good margin from outer strings to fingerboard edge at the 12th fret. For this reason, there's no standard string spacing that will work on any nut of a given width.

    Another factor is how much the fret ends are beveled back away from the fingerboard edge. If they are beveled a lot, the guitar could be refretted to keep the fret ends straight up and down, just rounded at their sides so they feel smooth to your left hand. Be cautious about this one - could cost a lot and not help much if not done prudently.
If you are pleased with the new nut and want to try wider string spacing at the saddle, have a saddle made with notches in it to hold the strings at the new spacing - like 57 or 57.5mm for example. This saddle can also be used to slightly shift the strings away from one side of the fingerboard if needed to keep them from slipping off that edge. Just like can be done with a nut. Make sense?
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Re: Recommended distance e-E at nut 50 mm.

Postby jwp » Mon Dec 17, 2012 7:24 pm

You might want to watch this
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyEHjZNccq0
and realize that the guitar he's playing has a significantly narrower string spacing than yours. I don't know what it is exactly, but at the nut it is less than 38mm between the inside edges of the E strings. Now certainly Mr. Yates is a world-class classical guitarist with all of the technical ability that implies, but his hands appear to be quite large (watch the length of some of his reaches) and he clearly has no problems with that string spacing on an extremely difficult piece. Your guitar is also wider at the saddle than his; his doesn't exceed 54mm between the inside edges of the E strings.

I've become convinced that, beyond some minimum, string spacing really doesn't make much difference. Yes, a narrow neck requires developing a little more accuracy to avoid damping strings unintentionally, but that is a good thing in any case, and a narrow neck is somewhat easier to play in some cases. Michael N.'s advice is good: give it a few months of practice; at worst your left hand fingering will become more accurate. Then if you still feel you want the spacing wider, change it.
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Re: Recommended distance e-E at nut 50 mm.

Postby Kintla » Mon Dec 17, 2012 10:17 pm

Jacek, I am sure you've got all the information you need already, but I will offer some more. Since this guitar was made for smaller hands than yours, it is likely you will not be entirely satisfied even after some changes. I have a guitar with 41.5 mm nut spacing, (51.5mm nut) I notice it sometimes, but you sort of get used to it. You might try going to 41mm, but I would be worried about widening the nut string spacing much more because of the potential issues you have noted on the treble side. For me the bigger problem is the spacing at the bridge. Mine is 57.5 mm and it is too narrow already. I notice a big difference on how my right hand works when the spacing is 59-60mm. But since we're talking about relatively simple issues, modifying of nuts and saddles, then it seems to make sense to try, and if it doesn't work better, then just reinstall the old ones. Keep us posted.
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Re: Recommended distance e-E at nut 50 mm.

Postby Jacek A. Rochacki » Tue Dec 18, 2012 12:56 am

Dear All:

At first I would like to thank you all for your priceless help. Each of your advices contains valuable for me informations, suggestions, and I believe that what you wrote may be of good use for others, who will, perhaps, be facing similar problem.

Your advices let me to make a plan as following:

As this instrument is a fairly new guitar in my hands (I bought it on September 4th of this, 2012 year, and I did not play it for a period of one month (October) I will begin from following advices by Michael.N and John W. Pierce - jwp. Another words: I will strongly concentrate now on playing/practicing at this 40 mm. string spacing for ca. two months. As jwp said:
…give it a few months of practice; at worst your left hand fingering will become more accurate. Then if you still feel you want the spacing wider, change it. I think that I will return to the subject in ca. two months from now.

If after this ca. two months period I will decide to return to the subject, I will follow advices by Trevor Gore, Les Backshall, Douglass Scott, including every detail that helps with finding proper position for the nut. The advices on making longer nut in order to move it to sides in order to find best position, and beginning from moving the existing nut to sides in order to find out the minimal distance from string to edge of fretboard are so simple and wise. They simply make sense. Of course I will take care for the distance from the string to edge of the fretboard measured at XIIth fret (thank you, Douglass). The fret ends are not beveled too much, they are, as I see, just nicely rounded at ends. And I am grateful for mentioning, that the low tension strings should not make problem.

Of course I am aware that eventual change of nut may bring necessity of introducing other changes. But first things first, and then I will see.

The post by OldPotter is, in a way, a kind of "light in the tunnel" for me. What you, Kind Sir, say: …I find that small changes at the nut do make a big difference to the "feel"… sounds in my ears like what Ramon - Prominent Critic said already: …it doesn't make much difference, though there is some.
And I believe, that, in a way, it is in my case what is called "hitting the nail in the head". Just a couple of days ago I found in one of local musical shops a cheap classical guitar with nut of 50 mm. width and e to E spacing of 41.5 mm. And I was nicely surprised because this tiny difference allowed my LH fingers to operate much more accurate, even the cross section of the neck of that cheap instrument was, say, far from what "tigers like the best" :)

So now I have a plan, I know what to do. And this was fairly easy due to your, Dear Friends, help.

Big Thank You !

Jacek

PS. @ Kintla:
Dear Sherman: yes it is possible that the entire satisfaction will not be mine. And of course I am aware that I will be able to reinstall the old nut. But I take all this as challenge, and it makes me to feel young again…
Stanislaw Partyka, 2009, rebuilt 2013, cedar/palisander
Artesano No. 30,1985, Fabricada en Espana, Valencia, Juan Orozco Revisada
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Re: Recommended distance e-E at nut 50 mm.

Postby Intune » Fri Oct 25, 2013 11:56 am

If you love the sound of this guitar and are willing to put some money into it to improve the playability, here's another option to consider: replacing the fingerboard with one that's several millemeters wider to comfortably allow for wider string spacing at the nut. The new fingerboard could also be longer to give you a longer scale length, say 640 or even 645 mm (the extra length would be added at the headstock end, and the final length would depend on the particular geometry of your headstock). And finally, the new fingerboard could also be slightly thicker than the present one if you wish, since you've said the neck was on the thin side now. I once had this very work done on a Humphrey Millenium and it turned out great....barely noticable....and made a huge difference in the guitar's playability. But as I say, you must be willing to put some money into the instrument and, of course, you must choose a very experienced luthier to do the job. You'd also need a new nut and saddle to go with the new fingerboard dimensions. I couldn't predict how much the job would cost in your area, as it depends on how hungry the luthiers are for this type of work. Perhaps the cost is within your budget, and it surely would be much cheaper than buying a new guitar. Perhaps Stanislaw Partyka would be willing to do the job himself. I mention this option because it is possible to change to a new fingerboard matching your ideal dimensions, but I would only consider this type of alteration if you love your guitar and plan to hold onto it for a while.
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Re: Recommended distance e-E at nut 50 mm.

Postby Jacek A. Rochacki » Fri Oct 25, 2013 1:37 pm

Dear Intune:

Things went on almost exactly as you say. I said: almost, because mr. Partyka decided to make entirely new neck, of course new fingerboard and new bridge. The laborious work took almost six months, results are most positive. The more detailed story is in the thread:
My old-new Stanisław Partyka guitar
viewtopic.php?f=11&t=81452
It tells, beside other things, about great commitment from the luthier - Stanisław Partyka - as James Lister said in this thread.

With my best

Jacek
Stanislaw Partyka, 2009, rebuilt 2013, cedar/palisander
Artesano No. 30,1985, Fabricada en Espana, Valencia, Juan Orozco Revisada
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Re: Recommended distance e-E at nut 50 mm.

Postby Intune » Fri Oct 25, 2013 1:53 pm

That's great news, Jacek, and the best possible outcome. Yes, it speaks volumes about Mr. Partyka's committment to his instruments. I hope you enjoy playing your "new" guitar for many years to come.

A few quick questions about the work done on your instrument: 1) Does your guitar have a bolt-on neck, which would make the job of replacing it a bit easier? 2) You mention that a new bridge was also put on. Was the position of the bridge on the soundboard moved as part of the process of changing the string length, or is the new bridge in the same place as the old?
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Re: Recommended distance e-E at nut 50 mm.

Postby Jacek A. Rochacki » Fri Oct 25, 2013 2:14 pm

Thank you, Intune, for sharing my joy. I feel somehow confused to write too many positives on mr. Partyka as I do not intend to make my writing as kind of commercial advertising for him. As retired artist, historian of art, teacher myself - means: a person involved in art and culture I may only say - and I do it - that mr. Partyka committment goes far beyond just this one guitar. It is part of his general committment to culture and art - he is first of all virtuoso musician and teacher helping many in their way of artistic development. It is as I already said: a kind of solidarity of artists, also in promotion of art. And we know people with this kind of attitude all over the world, also at this portal created by prof. Jean Francois Delcamp. Prof. Delcamp free lessons remind me in a way a spirit, in which mr. Partyka leads/conducts his work and activities including making my guitar of best possible musical/artistic use for me.
EDIT:
1. I will ask mr. Partyka and then I'll answer your question. According to what I see it is not with bolt-on neck but the Spanish Heel may be "artificial".
2. The new bridge was put as the string spacing became wider. The new bridge is also wider then the old one. In general it is in the same place, all guitar was restored, new french polish applied etc.
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Re: Recommended distance e-E at nut 50 mm.

Postby Aurore » Fri Oct 25, 2013 2:23 pm

Douglass Scott wrote:Don't bother changing the saddle yet, sounds like the nut is more urgent for you. And the low tension strings shouldn't be a problem either.
[/list]
If you are pleased with the new nut and want to try wider string spacing at the saddle, have a saddle made with notches in it to hold the strings at the new spacing - like 57 or 57.5mm for example. This saddle can also be used to slightly shift the strings away from one side of the fingerboard if needed to keep them from slipping off that edge. Just like can be done with a nut. Make sense?


This is a great approach, you can better isolate the issues. I recently had the string spacing on my guitar reduced at the nut and will not need to change the saddle spacing, the effect of the nut spacing is felt for several frets of the fretboard.
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Re: Recommended distance e-E at nut 50 mm.

Postby Jacek A. Rochacki » Sat Nov 16, 2013 8:43 am

Intune wrote:That's great news, Jacek, and the best possible outcome. Yes, it speaks volumes about Mr. Partyka's committment to his instruments. I hope you enjoy playing your "new" guitar for many years to come.

A few quick questions about the work done on your instrument: 1) Does your guitar have a bolt-on neck, which would make the job of replacing it a bit easier? 2) You mention that a new bridge was also put on. Was the position of the bridge on the soundboard moved as part of the process of changing the string length, or is the new bridge in the same place as the old?
After talking to Mr. Partyka I would like to say that I was wrong in my guess about the way of fixing the neck; yes, it is the bolt-on neck. And the bridge is a little larger then the first one, it is placed in the same area, but the groove for the saddle is carved a little further measuring from the head/top of the instrument. Thank you again for your kind words and interest in details of this so good for me guitar !
Stanislaw Partyka, 2009, rebuilt 2013, cedar/palisander
Artesano No. 30,1985, Fabricada en Espana, Valencia, Juan Orozco Revisada
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