String Tensions

Choice of classical guitar strings and technical issues connected with their use.
User avatar
Les Backshall
Luthier
Posts: 2853
Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2007 5:12 pm
Location: Aylesbury UK

String Tensions

Post by Les Backshall » Mon Sep 12, 2011 5:17 pm

There are always a lot of questions coming up about using high/low tension strings. As the manufacturers' all use different designations, making it impossible to compare just from the description, I thought it might be useful to put up a table of actual tensions for some of the more popular strings. When I spoke to Stringbusters recently they said they were trying to prepare a complete comparison chart, but that some manufacturers are very cagey about saying what tensions their strings actually are and it is proving difficult to get hold of the information.

The table shows the manufacturer's designation and what I use myself, which I hope makes for a reasonable comparison. A slightly complicating factor, is that some sets have the same basses but different trebles or vice versa (Savarez have lots of 'mixed' sets, which I've not included). Also some makers have more of a gap in tension between individual strings than others; so to be totally accurate you need to look at individual string tensions. Something for another time perhaps. If anyone has data for other makes I'm happy to update the table.
string-table-02.jpg
Les

PS I know that there have been lists of string tensions here before, and I don't want to tread on anyone's toes, but I think a more 'graphical' layout may help newcomers a bit.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
Lester Backshall, Guitar Maker - Aylesbury UK

Kenbobpdx
Posts: 1131
Joined: Sat Mar 26, 2011 7:14 pm
Location: Portland, Oregon

Re: String Tensions

Post by Kenbobpdx » Mon Sep 12, 2011 7:56 pm

Les,

Thanks so much for doing this. Given some recent discussions that you and I have been a part of I really appreciate this. I have been considering doing something similar with string diameters. As I have experimented with various strings I have found that I prefer a certain range of diameters on the treble side (.028-.040 e to g) regardless of stated tensions from the manufacturer. The stiffness factor on the bass side seems to vary quite a bit across manufacturer regardless of diameter per se. I just wish there was a standard that all string manufacturers agreed to when it comes to string tension measurements or that there was an independent testing group that posted the info for the consumer.

Ken
"If I had 8 hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend six sharpening my axe."
Abraham Lincoln

es335
Posts: 1501
Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2007 2:12 pm
Location: Germany

Re: String Tensions

Post by es335 » Tue Sep 13, 2011 8:04 am

Hi Les,

thanks for sharing! That's a really good idea to introduce tension classes in relation to the overall pull, which objectifies the manufactures classifications and leads to an easy to use comparison chart for a coarse orientation.

Beyond the total pulling force, the tension distribution has a significant influence on the subjective feel of a set. I once started a more complex comparison chart with diagrams, which IMO demonstrate the difference quite well.

Hannabach ranks top in the tension chart, but has a very even distribution and thus feels "softer" than actual.
Savarez features a very hard e and d string, but b and g feel very flabby.
La Bella differentiates mainly on the basses and d'Addario is quite balanced between trebles and basses and the difference in tension slope resp. rise between standard and composite basses is clearly seen.
Zwischenablage01.jpg
Zwischenablage02.jpg
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
Last edited by es335 on Tue Sep 13, 2011 1:42 pm, edited 3 times in total.

User avatar
rojarosguitar
Posts: 4711
Joined: Sat Sep 19, 2009 12:24 pm
Location: near Freiburg, Germany

Re: String Tensions

Post by rojarosguitar » Tue Sep 13, 2011 9:28 am

Great work! Thanks...
Music is a big continent with different landscapes and corners. Some of them I do visit frequently, some from time to time and some I know from hearsay only ...
My Youtube Channel is: TheMusicalEvents

Kenbobpdx
Posts: 1131
Joined: Sat Mar 26, 2011 7:14 pm
Location: Portland, Oregon

Re: String Tensions

Post by Kenbobpdx » Tue Sep 13, 2011 3:20 pm

es335,
Interesting presentation of the data. I think you are onto something as to how the distribution of the tension tends to affect the subjective perception. My go to standard for string comparisons is the J45. I tend to be a bit sensitive to increased tension and have disliked higher tension strings in my experimentation. Except for Hannabachs. I am currently using 728 "Low" tensions which are equivalent to J46s in overall tension (per Les' chart) but feel decidedly "softer" as a set. Your data illustrates why that may be.
"If I had 8 hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend six sharpening my axe."
Abraham Lincoln

Harald Lane
Luthier
Posts: 164
Joined: Sun Jun 27, 2010 6:39 pm
Location: Vienna, Austria

Re: String Tensions

Post by Harald Lane » Wed Sep 14, 2011 8:18 pm

Hi Les and es335!

Many thanks for your charts. I will have these print out and hanging in my shop for my customers. It´s always interesting how much the same "tension" from different manufacturers differs in lb / kg.

Adam S. Vernon

Re: String Tensions

Post by Adam S. Vernon » Mon Sep 26, 2011 3:54 am

Interesting stuff. I assumed the different manufacturers tension ratings were pretty much in synch.

Derry

Re: String Tensions

Post by Derry » Tue Oct 04, 2011 6:34 pm

great post to read through and learn something,,

Derry

Matthew22
Posts: 633
Joined: Sat Aug 22, 2009 5:46 pm

Re: String Tensions

Post by Matthew22 » Tue Oct 04, 2011 6:36 pm

The Savarez Crystal high tension are more like medium-high tension. the trebles are more flexible and are one of the softest feeling "high" tension strings. I have a also noticed that some strings, even with the same/very close tension ranking, feel softer to finger than others. I'm not sure why.

Lolaviola

Re: String Tensions

Post by Lolaviola » Tue Oct 04, 2011 10:55 pm

How is tension and diameter related to intonation problems?

es335
Posts: 1501
Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2007 2:12 pm
Location: Germany

Re: String Tensions

Post by es335 » Fri Oct 07, 2011 2:06 pm

Thicker diameter is always associated with greater stiffness which increases the intonation deviation at higher frets. Thus it's alway G as the thickest treble string which has the biggest intonation problems.

Never heard something similar about higher tension :?:

User avatar
rojarosguitar
Posts: 4711
Joined: Sat Sep 19, 2009 12:24 pm
Location: near Freiburg, Germany

Re: String Tensions

Post by rojarosguitar » Fri Oct 07, 2011 3:31 pm

es335 wrote:Thicker diameter is always associated with greater stiffness which increases the intonation deviation at higher frets. Thus it's alway G as the thickest treble string which has the biggest intonation problems.

Never heard something similar about higher tension :?:
I don't think you can generalize that in this way. Stiffnes is a material property, too. So of course, given same material thicker is stiffer, but something else can be less stiff even when thicker. Especially with wound strings it all depends on the minute details of the string design (the kernel to winding thickness ratio; kernel material, winding slope and density etc etc.)

A phenomenon of stiffer strings is that the higher 'harmonics' are not in 'harmonic' proportion to the fundamental frequency, which can make them sounding interesting or just intonate badly. This beeing said, because to make the tension higher, especially with plain strings, you have to make them thicker, if you choose the same material, so automatically you make them stiffer, and so you can indeed run into intonation problems, when the stiffnes runs out of the suitable range of values.

That's why one might consider to choos higher density materials if one wants to go to higher tension strings, because they can stay slimer at higher tensions.

best wishes
Robert
Music is a big continent with different landscapes and corners. Some of them I do visit frequently, some from time to time and some I know from hearsay only ...
My Youtube Channel is: TheMusicalEvents

User avatar
Vlad Kosulin
Posts: 1356
Joined: Thu Sep 02, 2010 3:00 am
Location: Verona, NJ

Re: String Tensions

Post by Vlad Kosulin » Sat Oct 08, 2011 2:22 am

Just curious: how is tension measured? Does it measure longitudinal resistance only? I am asking, because longitudinal vs.transverse resistance ratios depend on both material and thickness. This may explain why some much higher tension strings subjectively are easier to play than other brands of less tension.
The thicker string will have higher tension that thin string from the same material, and this should be true in both longitudinal and transverse measures.
But I have a feeling that from strings with same longitudinal resistance, the thicker string should have less transverse resistance and as a result should be subjectively easier to play. There is another question though, which of these two strings would sound louder when the same amount of transverse force is applied, and how it affects high harmonics.
Regards,
Vlad
(still testing various strings with 2006 Sebastian Stenzel and Olinda OC-300)

DonM

Re: String Tensions

Post by DonM » Sat Oct 15, 2011 10:08 pm

Thank you so much for this very informative thread.

I always play Savarez Alliance 540's. But a recent addition to my stable doesn't feel right with those strings. I have experimented with some 'normal' tension, but after reading this thread have a much better idea of what strings to try. Again, thank you so much. I you're interested I'll report back on my experiments

Best

-D

User avatar
Paul
Posts: 6530
Joined: Sun Nov 25, 2007 9:18 am
Location: Cape Town, South Africa

Re: String Tensions

Post by Paul » Sat Nov 05, 2011 12:56 pm

Very interesting. I'm quite amazed to see the even spread of tensions on the Thomastik KF110 in es335's post.

Paul

Return to “Classical Guitar Strings”