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Dead Strings Come To Life


Victory Pete

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I came back early this morning to delete my lengthy post, which was both pedantic and condescending, and written as the result of rising to a bait floated in front of my eyes. This is a danger of the internet, where Wikipedia makes us all instant experts.

 

Unfortunately, it was too late.

 

We sometimes need to hit "cancel" rather than "send". This was probably one of those occasions, but the physics of musical instruments (and music) is really fascinating.

 

But you don't have to be a physicist or engineer to write "take me disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind", and you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

Nick - you are a true gentleman. Apologies are unnecessary in certain contexts.

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I came back early this morning to delete my lengthy post, which was both pedantic and condescending, and written as the result of rising to a bait floated in front of my eyes. This is a danger of the internet, where Wikipedia makes us all instant experts.

 

Unfortunately, it was too late.

 

We sometimes need to hit "cancel" rather than "send". This was probably one of those occasions, but the physics of musical instruments (and music) is really fascinating.

 

But you don't have to be a physicist or engineer to write "take me disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind", and you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

 

Well only you know the spirit in which you wrote it, Nick, but I found it precise and informative rather than pedantic and condescending. But then I'm pretentious and defamatory.

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I think your definition of "sound just fine" is different than mine. I had a 1957 SJ come in my shop 2 1/2 years ago, we put on new strings, it was never played and was back here last spring, strings were completely dead with very little treble, they were stiffer than new strings and would not play in tune. Strings change at the molecular level just from being under tension.They actually go sharp as the metal tightens itself. That is why it is recommended to loosen your string if you are not going to play a guitar for a long time.

Sorry, but this is nonsense. I would have posted something similar to j45nick's post #13 if he hadn't done yet, and I wouldn't have posted this one here if you had not posted the following:

 

My temperature and humidity is carefully monitored and controlled. I understand what happens to wood when it is not. I also understand work hardening in metals

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Work_hardening

Sorry, but you wouldn't have posted the #7 I quoted right above if you understood.

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I came back early this morning to delete my lengthy post, which was both pedantic and condescending, and written as the result of rising to a bait floated in front of my eyes. This is a danger of the internet, where Wikipedia makes us all instant experts.

 

Unfortunately, it was too late.

 

We sometimes need to hit "cancel" rather than "send". This was probably one of those occasions, but the physics of musical instruments (and music) is really fascinating.

 

But you don't have to be a physicist or engineer to write "take me disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind", and you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

Your post #13 is polite, correct and spot-on.

 

Reason and knowledge will help further than childish, mythical or mystic thinking. We all know that the nonsensical, thoughtless part is behind lots of businesses on all levels, and in particular fictional ones like finance. Like us, the silent majority, are enslaved by a handful of slave drivers, the unknowing guitarist may follow bad advice like to tune down the strings when the guitar remains unplayed for a not more exactly defined extended period. The difference is that, other than the silent majority, the guitar player is not forced to follow false rules and still has the choice to do it right.

 

Your struck a chord with me through your lengthy post, and you wrote the best possible in the given situation. But anyway, some people rather believe in molecular processes within metals than to take care about air, humidity and dust although they should know better.

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Nick, I don't think there is any need to apologize whatsoever. Having worked on lots of bridges back in my youth in plus 100 degree summers and below freezing winters I found your inclusion of them at the end of your narrative to be spot on with my personal, on site, observations. And too, working with long surveyors tape measures and having to make corrections for ambient temperature is part of the deal...back when we used those kinds of things (I have no idea how it's done today). And then of course I found everything mentioned about guitars to jive with my own experience too. All in all I'd say your dissertation was about as concise and to the point as could be written. Guitars are WAY more fun than bridges though, that's for sure!

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...

 

If, for example, you tune a typical mahogany steel-strung guitar--say a J-45-- on a day with 40% humidity, and leave it out in a room where the humidity rises to 60% over 24 hours, the strings will go sharp as a function of the expansion of the wood of the guitar which increases the tension on the strings. If you then tune it in 60% humidity and, the humidity drops back to 35% the next day, the guitar will go flat as the guitar shrinks and the tension on the strings is reduced. There is obviously also a time element involved, as wood doesn't respond instantly to changes in humidity.

...

 

Excellent post Nick. This makes tuning yet another way to monitor the humidity of the guitar. If your guitar's tuning keeps creeping flat, then your guitar is drying out. If it creeps sharp, it is swelling with humidity. Hygrometers give you snapshots of the RH in the room. How the guitar is behaving over time is usually something you judge by playing, sighting the neck, feeling for protruding frets etc. Observing changes in tuning is another tool in the defence against environmental changes.

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Excellent post Nick. This makes tuning yet another way to monitor the humidity of the guitar. If your guitar's tuning keeps creeping flat, then your guitar is drying out. If it creeps sharp, it is swelling with humidity. Hygrometers give you snapshots of the RH in the room. How the guitar is behaving over time is usually something you judge by playing, sighting the neck, feeling for protruding frets etc. Observing changes in tuning is another tool in the defence against environmental changes.

Also applies to solid-body electric guitars and basses. To my experience unfinished fingerboards strongly contribute here.

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Oh thank the lord

I though this was goin to stop on the second page

 

You know the phrase 'for Pete's sake'

 

Did you have anything to do with that ?

 

It is so fascinating that no matter what I post, there are always the same people who will argue, ridicule and insult. That's fine, I am quite comfortable and confident in what I have been learning all these years. It must be difficult living like those people do, belligerent and negative all the time.

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That's not exactly correct from an engineering perspective. The primary load-bearing component of a steel guitar string is.....steel wire. The bronze (or whatever) windings do carry some tensile load, but the steel wire core carries most of it. Most metals creep (stretch over time under load) to some extent under static load, with the amount of creep or stretch being a function of the elastic modulus of the base material, its cross-sectional area, and the applied tension. Once a guitar is tuned to pitch, all things being equal, strings will go flat over time as a function of creep...

Steel doesn't creep much at this stress. Why not calculate how much creep will occur for each string over time and get back to us so we can tell whether it's substantial. Thanks. [thumbup]

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I have been studying this topic for years. I stand behind my beliefs. http://www.acousticg...57&postcount=15

 

Yea yea, and of course you should. You freak-zoom on these topics and like to go scientific about them. That's an honest and pure ambition.

I for my part like that you experiment the ways you do - it's unusual, but why not as long as you get some playing done (not my business).

This Board is for everyone with passion for the guitars - regardless of angle.

You have yours - we might learn or disagree, , , well, the definition of ideal Forum-stuff, ain't it.

A happy Sunday to U and everybody else - Nerd on

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Steel doesn't creep much at this stress. Why not calculate how much creep will occur for each string over time and get back to us so we can tell whether it's substantial. Thanks. [thumbup]

 

 

You're absolutely right, creep after the initial set isn't the primary culprit for guitars. But it doesn't take much change in string tension to impact on pitch, which is what we're talking about. Not trying to look at strings in this degree of detail, because few people probably care. They would rather play their guitars than dissect them. The physics don't matter when you're trying to fingerpick "Don't think Twice". The point is just to get some understanding of the several physical phenomena that can cause a guitar to change pitch fro no obvious reason while it's just sitting there staring at you.

 

A few years ago, I left my old J-45 in its case in a non-climate-controlled storage unit in New England for five years, unmolested. When I unpacked it, it was still almost perfectly in relative tune, except that it was pitched down almost a half step. Don't know if that was the result of creep, the bending of the guitar over time, the yielding of the bridgeplate under the constant pressure of the ball ends of the strings, or some combination of all of those. There was also a fair amount of lacquer checking I didn't remember, probably the result of wild swings in temperature in that storage unit, from as low as -5 F to as high as 95 F or so.

 

This guitar at that time was at least 45 years old, so the basic structure had settled about as much as it was going to do.

 

In hindsight, before putting it into storage for that long, it might have been better to back off a full step on the tuning, which significantly reduces the string tension on the guitar, while maintaining enough pre-tension to stabilize the guitar's structure in a controlled fashion. Guitars are designed for string tension, after all.

 

My carbon fiber guitar stays in tune almost indefinitely, once the initial string-stretching is finished, despite the fairly crappy tuners. No wood anywhere to complicate life.

 

That's a good thing, and a bad thing.

 

All stringed instruments suffer these same problems to varying degrees. Here's an answer from the Piano Technician's Guild on exactly the same topic. It doesn't necessarily give definitive answers for guitar, but the basic premises are analogous enough to apply. By the way, a piano may go 50 years or more between string changes:

 

"Why does a piano's pitch change? 

Piano strings change pitch for two primary reasons: the initial stretching and settling of strings when the piano is new, and soundboard movement due to humidity variation. In the case of new pianos, the pitch drops quickly for the first couple of years as the new strings stretch and wood parts settle. It's very important to maintain any new piano at the proper pitch during this period, so the string tension and piano structure can reach a stable equilibrium. (Most piano manufacturers recommend three to four tunings the first year, and at least two per year after that.)

Aside from this initial settling, climate change is the main cause of pitch change. That's because the piano's main acoustical structure -- the soundboard -- is made of wood. While wooden soundboards produce a wonderful sound, they also react constantly to climate changes. As the relative humidity goes up, the soundboard swells, increasing its crowned shape and stretching the piano's strings to a higher pitch. Then during dry times the soundboard flattens out, lowering tension on the strings and causing the pitch to drop. The drop in the dry season tends to exceed the rise during humid times, so the net result is a drop in pitch each year that the piano isn't serviced."

 

If you really want to go deeply into the weeds on related topics, go to the hyperphysics website of Georgia State University for a lot of cool discussion on the physics of music and sound, including the guitar. There's a good discussion on strings and tuning for guitars. Here's one of the links within that website:

 

guitar physics

 

I need to step away from the keyboard and play my guitar.

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I wonder if,when playing old strings, if after a bit the strings themselves warm thru use and friction and sound better, new strings also, string warmth, not git body changes, play a part in tone, or no? j

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Yea yea, and of course you should. You freak-zoom on these topics and like to go scientific about them. That's an honest and pure ambition.

I for my part like that you experiment the ways you do - it's unusual, but why not as long as you get some playing done (not my business).

This Board is for everyone with passion for the guitars - regardless of angle.

You have yours - we might learn or disagree, , , well, the definition of ideal Forum-stuff, ain't it.

 

A happy Sunday to U and everybody else - Nerd on

 

Thanks for the thoughtful and honest post.

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I wonder if,when playing old strings, if after a bit the strings themselves warm thru use and friction and sound better, new strings also, string warmth, not git body changes, play a part in tone, or no? j

 

Maybe, when they get warm they may get more flexible, which is the opposite of what happens to old strings as they lose the original flexibility they had when new, due to work hardening. I am going to do an experiment to show that a string increases its tension and gets stiffer as it ages. I think I have all the equipment necessary.

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I have performed an experiment. The strings on my ES-335 are old. I took off the low E and got a brand new one of the same make and gauge: GHS Boomers .052. I cut them to the same length. I put them in my vice and hung an 11 pound vice to bring the strings to pitch. Just by chance they were both tuned to A, but the old string was not as sharp as the new one, which read almost A#. That means for the new string to be same pitch as the old one I would have to reduce its tension. Voila, there is my proof. Also I listened to them and of course the new string had more treble. Aint science fun?

 

 

 

 

http://s1108.photobucket.com/user/victoryguitarshop/slideshow/String%20Tension%20Test

 

 

 

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It is so fascinating that no matter what I post, there are always the same people who will argue, ridicule and insult. That's fine, I am quite comfortable and confident in what I have been learning all these years. It must be difficult living like those people do, belligerent and negative all the time.

 

 

 

 

Your experiment has very little bearing on a wooden instrument

 

It shows what happens to a string which is the main source of sound on a guitar. But thanks for proving my point.

 

 

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