High Tension vs Low Tension Strings

Choice of classical guitar strings and technical issues connected with their use.

High Tension vs Low Tension Strings

Postby kegantess » Sun Sep 14, 2008 1:44 pm

Can someone explain the difference between high and low tension strings? Advantages or disadvantages?

Thanks!

LIsa :)
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Re: High Tension vs Low Tension Strings

Postby Vesuvio » Sun Sep 14, 2008 2:04 pm

Hello Lisa,

Just to complicate things, there are also low tension strings: viewtopic.php?f=43&t=26525 and lots of the threads in this section touch on aspects of string tension.

Visit e.g. the D'Addario website and you can get tension data there. Basically it is down to your choice and preference, just try some different tensions out and see how they feel—check that your guitar can cope with HT strings, it should be able to,

Best wishes, V
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Re: High Tension vs Low Tension Strings

Postby Bonifacio » Sun Sep 14, 2008 5:22 pm

Hello,

I'm not an expert on strings but my research has been that High Tension strings have a stronger pull on the bridge of the guitar when you tune them. If your guitar bridge is not strong enough they may pull the bridge out and ruin your day (forget the guitar). Most guitars can handle this, unless they're neglected (eg. left in the trunk of a car) and the glue on the bridge weakens. Also, the effect on your hands and nails is stronger. High Tension strings are harder to press on the fingerboard than Low Tension strings, although you may not notice this extra force when you play. Thus your hands get tired faster. The advantages are: they strengthen your hand, less wear, and higher volume (they sound louder). Vesuvio's advice to go to the Dáddario site is good. Good luck.

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Re: High Tension vs Low Tension Strings

Postby Catire » Mon Sep 15, 2008 2:30 am

I don't agree that high tension strings must mean more volume. I have a guitar (full size) that just loves Aquila"s Romantic set of strings, which are about the lowest tension strings I could find. The volume has increased since I put them on. Others I have sound best with medium tension.
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Re: High Tension vs Low Tension Strings

Postby rpguitar » Mon Sep 15, 2008 4:45 pm

There is a popular bias that higher tension strings yield "more tone," but in my empirical experience it is not a true generalization. This same myth exists in the steel and electric world - "Dude, you should really get used to 11's, they give you fat tone! Those lights are for wimps man." :shock:

With acoustic guitars, there is the thought that thicker or tenser strings generate more sound and "drive the top" more effectively, yielding a louder instrument. This is probably true sometimes, but consider another idea:

Imagine in front of you a very thin wire and a thicker wire of the same length, stretched between two posts. Pluck them in your imagination and isn't it noticeable that the thinner one vibrates more freely, and thus for a longer period of time? The thicker one is limited by its own stiffness and tension and comes to rest more quickly. The thinner string takes less tension to reach the same pitch as the heavier one, so it vibrates more freely.

Now apply this concept to guitars. And the fact holds that a looser string will vibrate longer. This is also true with bass strings vs. treble; even though they are thicker, they have less tension.

Now, increase the scale length and the higher tension string is suspended over a longer span of airspace, which actually helps to reduce its stiffness! That's contrary to intuition, which would expect it to be harder to play on a longer scale guitar. But it's true. In other words, a high tension string may be easier to play on a longer scale instrument than on a short one.

This is why you just gotta try lots of strings and see for yourself. :?

Roger
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Re: High Tension vs Low Tension Strings

Postby Robert Phillips » Mon Sep 15, 2008 5:03 pm

Catire wrote:I don't agree that high tension strings must mean more volume. I have a guitar (full size) that just loves Aquila"s Romantic set of strings, which are about the lowest tension strings I could find. The volume has increased since I put them on. Others I have sound best with medium tension.


There is a common belief that higher tension equals greater volume. But higher tension strings must also overcome their own inertia in order to vibrate, so to a certain extent the extra energy created by the added tension cancels itself out. The recommendation that I've gotten from a number of string makers that I have known (Juan Orozco, Rose Augustine, Richard Cocco, and Jim D'Addario) has been that every guitar is different, and will react differently to different strings. The answer is that you must try many different strings on a guitar in order to determine what will work best.
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Re: High Tension vs Low Tension Strings

Postby kegantess » Tue Sep 16, 2008 9:21 am

I agree that every guitar is suited to different strings, and so, I am learning , the classical guitar is much the same beast as the steel guitar. The build of the guitar is enormous. My 12 fret steel Martin is a cannon, it just loves light strings. I unfortuantely have to go with coated as I play so much the uncoated strings literally wear out in a couple of weeks.

It is fun to experiment with strings, and putting new ones on always freshens things up for me.

Lisa :D
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Re: High Tension vs Low Tension Strings

Postby jorpheus » Tue Sep 16, 2008 12:02 pm

Hello,

Problem: I have a guitar with 664 mm scale length. Low action, very nice instrument. The neck is super straight, no problem. The frets look phantastic, no signs of use.

With extra high tension strings (EJ44) there is some buzzing on the three metal strings, especially the D string, but only when I am pressing them on the first few frets. :shock:

With lower tension strings (EJ45) this disappears.

Generally I thought buzzing would ***always*** be less with higher tension strings; so it seems that I am not strong enough to press them correctly (I play a lot and have other guitars, it is probably not just a question of technique :oops: ).

If I press as hard as I can or add some tremolo the buzzing disappears indeed. :?

Any comments ? Anybody knows a similar effect ?

I would actually love to use the high tension strings. The sound IS louder. It is actually a Taurus guitar, and I heard that the strings on Ramirez guitars are often VERY strong.

Best wishes,

jorpheus

P.S. I also read (Manuel Rodriguez, The Art and Craft of Making Classical Guitars, pp 107-108) that longer scale length means even higher tension (with the same strings!).
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Re: High Tension vs Low Tension Strings

Postby basso1956 » Tue Sep 16, 2008 12:15 pm

jorpheus wrote:P.S. I also read (Manuel Rodriguez, The Art and Craft of Making Classical Guitars, pp 107-108) that longer scale length means even higher tension (with the same strings!).


This is true, if they're also tuned to the same pitch. That's the physics of the thing, and there's no room for opinion on this point. Now, subjective impressions of playability with a longer scale may or may not vary from player to player, but there is no argument that the same string, at the same pitch, must be at higher tension with a longer scale length.
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Re: High Tension vs Low Tension Strings

Postby Dmitri Safine » Tue Sep 16, 2008 8:48 pm

jorpheus wrote:Hello,

Problem: I have a guitar with 664 mm scale length. Low action, very nice instrument. The neck is super straight, no problem. The frets look phantastic, no signs of use.

With extra high tension strings (EJ44) there is some buzzing on the three metal strings, especially the D string, but only when I am pressing them on the first few frets. :shock:

With lower tension strings (EJ45) this disappears.

Generally I thought buzzing would ***always*** be less with higher tension strings; so it seems that I am not strong enough to press them correctly (I play a lot and have other guitars, it is probably not just a question of technique :oops: ).

If I press as hard as I can or add some tremolo the buzzing disappears indeed. :?

Any comments ? Anybody knows a similar effect ?

I would actually love to use the high tension strings. The sound IS louder. It is actually a Taurus guitar, and I heard that the strings on Ramirez guitars are often VERY strong.

Best wishes,

jorpheus

P.S. I also read (Manuel Rodriguez, The Art and Craft of Making Classical Guitars, pp 107-108) that longer scale length means even higher tension (with the same strings!).


I do have this buzzing effect on my Ramirez. See my post viewtopic.php?f=11&t=31965
I'll try to put lower tension strings and see if the buzzing disappears.
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Re: High Tension vs Low Tension Strings

Postby Nuclearfishin » Mon Oct 06, 2008 1:38 am

Don't overlook the most important aspect to determining volume, it's not string tension, it's your guitar! The reason some guitars are louder with low tension, and others are louder with high tension is due mostly to the way the guitar is built, especially the top. If you have a very lightly braced guitar (like many handmade guitars can be), it will take a lot less energy to get the top moving. If you were to use hard tension strings on some of these guitars, the strings would actually be stressing the top too much (choking the sound) and restricting movement of the top, and therefore volume. On heavier braced guitars, harder tension strings are sometimes needed to get the top moving, therefore harder strings will give more volume on these guitars. Then, add into the equation that higher tension strings are exerting more downward force on the bridge which makes for a more efficient transfer of energy to the top, and you get the picture. There are many variables that go into the volume equation, so the best advice is usually to try many string brands/tensions until you find one that works best for your guitar. It might be light, it might be hard, or anything in between.
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Re: High Tension vs Low Tension Strings

Postby Hybrid » Mon Oct 06, 2008 2:26 am

I use hard tension strings for classical guitar because the feel good. They are thicker in diameter, and fit my finger/nail pocket really well.
Its more difficult for me to get a smooth tone with thinner strings, so i dont fight against that.

I have no idea if they make my guitar louder, and i really dont care. I just want strings to feel right, and sound good.

I dont care about being loud.

H
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Re: High Tension vs Low Tension Strings

Postby Sean » Mon Oct 06, 2008 11:14 am

I use medium tension strings on my Hofner, and high tension on the Clarita. The Hofner is a bit louder, but some manufacturer's medium tension strings are like playing rubber bands. Just this week, I put a set of medium tension ghs strings on the Clarita - the ones that have a wound 3rd string. The guitar is very much louder in volume, but sounds a bit tinny, rather like a steel-string guitar.
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Re: High Tension vs Low Tension Strings

Postby GEO » Mon Oct 06, 2008 2:42 pm

Just to inject some further fog into this discussion--there are not strict standards as to what tension qualifies as "normal" or "high" tension. Savarez strings that are labeled "normal" tension are actually in the same tension range as D'Addarios that are labeled "high".

The best way to know what you're getting is not to rely on the mfr's labeling but to look at the actual poundages as listed on the string package or the mfr's web site.

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Re: High Tension vs Low Tension Strings

Postby Lemonsieur » Tue Oct 07, 2008 3:26 pm

GEO wrote:Just to inject some further fog into this discussion--there are not strict standards as to what tension qualifies as "normal" or "high" tension. Savarez strings that are labeled "normal" tension are actually in the same tension range as D'Addarios that are labeled "high".

The best way to know what you're getting is not to rely on the mfr's labeling but to look at the actual poundages as listed on the string package or the mfr's web site.

geo


That's the case even within the same brand name! D'Addario normal tension Pro Arte bass strings are not the same tension as the normal tension Composite or EXP strings. The Pro Arte D and A strings have slightly more tension, and the E string has slightly less tension than their counter parts in the other lines.
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