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Thread: String tension woes, any experts?

  1. #1
    Opaque John Beef's Avatar
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    String tension woes, any experts?

    Someone explain this to me, please. I have one guitar that's not a PRS, my only one. It's got a 25" scale length with a 10" radius. Top loading hard tail. 6 in line tuners. Dunlop 6105 frets (I had a neck made for it a few years ago very close to PRS wide fat specs). For all intents and purposes, it should feel roughly like a PRS.

    However, it doesn't. The string tension is noticeably tighter. Same strings, same setup, same everything as my PRSi. The top strings might feel slightly different because they're an extra inch longer ball end to tuner than a PRS would be, but the low strings should be right in line with the PRSi and they're tight too. I have read "some guitars are just like that" but that makes no sense to me. It's also my brightest guitar and I don't want to go to 10s from my usual 11s for tonal reasons. Also, I already know the PRSi are superior.

    Why would this be?
    The Bovine Fury <-- stream and download our album "Eleven by Twelve" for free.
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    Senior Member Daniel's Avatar
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    String angle over the nut?

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    Plank Spanker justmund's Avatar
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    Are you 100% positive it's 25" scale?

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    Opaque John Beef's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel View Post
    String angle over the nut?
    It's your basic 6 in line F style headstock with 2 string trees. The angle shouldn't be so drastically different that it would make it feel so drastically different.

    Quote Originally Posted by justmund View Post
    Are you 100% positive it's 25" scale?
    Yeah, just measured it again to be sure. It's a USA Custom Guitars 25" scale conversion neck.
    The Bovine Fury <-- stream and download our album "Eleven by Twelve" for free.
    05 Custom 22 with DGT pickups ~ 07 Mira with old birds ~ 08 SE Baritone Fralin/Suhr pickups ~ 03 SE Santana

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    Senior Member prscat33511's Avatar
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    Pics ?

  6. #6
    Opaque John Beef's Avatar
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    This is the guitar...


    And this is the headstock.
    The Bovine Fury <-- stream and download our album "Eleven by Twelve" for free.
    05 Custom 22 with DGT pickups ~ 07 Mira with old birds ~ 08 SE Baritone Fralin/Suhr pickups ~ 03 SE Santana

  7. #7
    Large Member Kine's Avatar
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    Do you suppose it's due to the trees?

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    Probably because it's a JM shape instead of McCarty shape HAHA...

    Like Kine said, it could be because of the string trees. the string break angle could be a big factor there, especially at the saddles and the headstock side. The hardtail definitely has more string in the whole scale than the PRS's trem or wraparound bridge. I'm not too sure about the 2-piece stoptail though. For the headstock side of things, I'd say its because T-style necks are straight instead of angled, and adding the string tree definitely creates a pseudo-angled-headstock feel, but the length of the string in the headstock behind the nut is already different. The string tree might also create the string break at a different angle from the PRS headstock.

    That's just my 2 cents, not saying it's definitely true. There's a lot more factor than just the string angle at play.

    edit: one more thing, are those pickup polepieces magnets or screws?

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    Senior Member jfine's Avatar
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    Maxtuna's got it right. The 6-inline headstock has a different effect on string tension (or the feel, anyway) than the 3-on-a-side PRS headstock does. And a reverse inline feels different than a standard one does. Probably someone with a physics background could explain why--I don't have a clue as to why--but the longer length of string between the nut and the tuner seems to make it feel stiffer. When Fender came out with their Hendrix Strat some years ago (right-handed body and trem, reverse magnet stagger and bridge-pickup slant, reverse headstock), I tried one and immediately noticed that the treble strings felt looser, and the bass strings felt tighter, compared to a normal Strat. Perhaps that bit of excess string, even though it's not the part that creates sound (it does vibrate, though), causes the string to need to be tighter to achieve the desired pitch, just as a longer-scale guitar feels tighter than a short-scale one at the same pitch.

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    Here's a clearer explanation from a website that I always refer to when in doubt. Mr Frudua is a really experienced luthier who knows his stuff!

    http://www.frudua.com/guitar_strings_tension.htm

  11. #11
    Opaque John Beef's Avatar
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    Thanks, everyone. It just goes to show you can't make a PRS out of a bunch of spare parts. It looks like it's just the nature of this particular beast.

    This guitar was the 1st one I got/built after graduating from college. I had spent the previous 6 years totally broke with one guitar only, a Japanese Fender Jazzmaster, and this guitar was the solution to all the problems I had with the original Fender design. It's a great guitar in its own right. I refer to it as my signature model even though it sees the least play time. After getting into PRSi, I tried to make this one more PRS-like with the new neck. It just isn't going to happen, I guess. It's worth way more to me than market value so getting rid of it isn't an option. Yet, it still counts against some sort of self-imposed limit/quota as far as # of guitars owned.
    The Bovine Fury <-- stream and download our album "Eleven by Twelve" for free.
    05 Custom 22 with DGT pickups ~ 07 Mira with old birds ~ 08 SE Baritone Fralin/Suhr pickups ~ 03 SE Santana

  12. #12
    Senior Member garrett's Avatar
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    You can relieve that tightness and get it a little more PRS-ish by switching to some staggered tuners and removing the string trees. I have a similar neck from USACG (25" scale, 10" radius, 6150 frets, staggered tuners, no trees) and it plays great. Mine feels super slinky, due in part to the Hipshot tremolo. The trouble with no trees on a 6 inline neck is you'll sometimes get harmonic overtones ringing behind the nut.

    I remember removing the D/G tree from my Strat a long time ago. I was amazed at how much easier it made bending the G string. I used heavier strings back then. Now that I've gone down to 9-46 on my Fenders, I'm back to using two trees to quiet the ringing G string. I don't notice the extra tension with the light strings.
    --Garrett--

  13. #13
    Opaque John Beef's Avatar
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    The staggered tuners are an interesting idea. Will it really make that much of a difference, though? In MaxTuna's link, it seems like the decreased break angle will give it a slightly slinkier feel, but how much of a difference are we talking? Seems like it would only make a few degrees' difference in the angle and therefore only a marginal difference in feel. I wish there was an easy way to quantify it.
    The Bovine Fury <-- stream and download our album "Eleven by Twelve" for free.
    05 Custom 22 with DGT pickups ~ 07 Mira with old birds ~ 08 SE Baritone Fralin/Suhr pickups ~ 03 SE Santana

  14. #14
    A♥ hoards guitars ♥A rugerpc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jfine View Post
    Perhaps that bit of excess string, even though it's not the part that creates sound (it does vibrate, though), causes the string to need to be tighter to achieve the desired pitch, just as a longer-scale guitar feels tighter than a short-scale one at the same pitch.
    I don't think so. Any two guitars using the same gauge string and having the same scale length will require exactly the same string tensin to produce a specific (tuned) pitch. If the strings are the same (material, construction and gage) and the scales are the same, the required tension will be the same. One guitar could have a short through bridge and staggered tuners close to the nut and the other could have a tailpiece bridge or even a Bigsby and a long in-line tuner headstock and the string tension for both will still be exactly the same.

    BUT, the string on the second guitar will be easier to bend if all the angles are the same for the 2 guitars because of it's longer overall string length including the non vibrating ends (which are longer). It is the same principal as cutting a coil from a spring - that actually makes the spring stiffer.
    Last edited by rugerpc; 09-09-2013 at 09:20 PM.
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    Senior Member garrett's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Beef View Post
    The staggered tuners are an interesting idea. Will it really make that much of a difference, though? In MaxTuna's link, it seems like the decreased break angle will give it a slightly slinkier feel, but how much of a difference are we talking? Seems like it would only make a few degrees' difference in the angle and therefore only a marginal difference in feel. I wish there was an easy way to quantify it.
    It does make a significant difference, IMO. I really was impressed when I took that D/G tree off my Strat back in the day.

    I think one factor in PRS playability is the shallow headstock angle.
    --Garrett--

  16. #16
    Do you have a shim in the neck pocket now? I'd put a shim, or slightly thicker shim, in the neck pocket, and raise the bridge slightly, it'll help the feel immensely. You can keep the same action with a different neck angle and break over the bridge. Actually if I can be honest I'd change that bridge entirely, then raise the new ones height- those ones always feel uncomfortable stiff to me. If that's not one of the brass ones then I bet its the cause of a lot of your brightness as well. The wood combination you've chosen could very likely have turned out to be stiffer than all your PRS as well which would account a little for the feel - the opposite of when you get a real soft springy feeling guitar like an old SG - feels like strumming a bow. Is it string through or top loaded?

  17. #17
    Opaque John Beef's Avatar
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    The isn't a shim at the moment, and I would love to swap out that bridge! I even took it to a pro a couple years ago to see about installing a TOM on it, but there was too much required to modify the neck pocket for that. I have also considered sending it back to Warmoth because they can rout it for a 2-Tek now, and they're even converting old bodies if the specs are correct (mine is). For now, it's a top loader though. I don't know if it's brass or not, I bought it all in 2002.
    The Bovine Fury <-- stream and download our album "Eleven by Twelve" for free.
    05 Custom 22 with DGT pickups ~ 07 Mira with old birds ~ 08 SE Baritone Fralin/Suhr pickups ~ 03 SE Santana

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