Results: Breaking tension of thin nylon strings for tuning above E4 - Great results!

Discussion in 'Jazz, Acoustic, Classical & Fingerstyle' started by Winspear, Jan 11, 2013.

  1. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear Vendor

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    Hello all :)
    For a while now I've been researching and testing out various strings and scale lengths / tunings for an extended range nylon string guitar.

    I thought I would share this information here in the rare event that it would be useful or interesting to somebody :lol: Hopefully it will be a useful resource for anyone considering tuning up nylon strings, experimenting with scale lengths, or purchasing existing ERCs at various lengths from companies like Bartolex.

    There are existing guitarists tuning to A4 on classical guitars but they are using brighter sounding strong materials like carbon (commonly a Japanese fishing line brand, in fact). Nylon strings are a huge amount weaker (although far more elastic) than steel strings, so tuning above E4 is even more of a problem than it is on electric guitar.

    I wanted to keep things easy and use the readily available clear rectified nylon strings from D'addario, paired with their silverwound basses (possibly extended by the thicker silver wounds that LaBella offer). This string combination is wonderful in tone and is the basis of the D'addario 'Classics' series.

    Typically, the high E on a 25" scale with nylons would be in the realms of 024 and 027 nylon strings, ranging between 11 and 15lbs of tension. If you are not familiar with classical guitar and that gauge sounds huge to you, it's simply because the strings are far lighter in weight than steel, thus need to be bigger to create good tension.

    I am testing 018, 019, 020, 021, and 022 strings to find the tension they are comfortable at. For now I am going to break just two of each string.* They are being tested on 24.75" length and I will write the tension as such. I will consider a string completely safe to play at a full step short of its breaking point. Due to what I have read from guitarists using the carbon strings, and breaking some of these thinner strings in the past, I am expecting to not be able to tune up past G with normal strings. But I want my numbers, so here goes!

    D'addario NYL018 - unit weight .00000916


    E4, 6.3lbs, seems to be the minimum tension I can enjoy on classical guitar. Sounds quite good and would suit low tension players. I presume this is the tuning for which this string is designed and can hold with zero issues.
    F4, 7.1lbs - great
    F4#, 8lbs - I am impressed. Strong tone, great tension. I wasn't expecting to make it this far as one string I tried in the past broke shortly after E!*
    G4, 8.9lbs - What is this black magic?
    G4#, 10lbs - I know nylon strings stretch forever and take a long time to tune I'm but I'm very surprised to have made it this far. I'm sure it's not very durable but stretching to G4# without breaking certainly shows little issue in playing a semitone or too lower.
    A4, 11.2lbs - Incredible result. Of course it feels incredibly brittle and stretched. I am guessing this is near breaking point as it's not detuning a huge amount as nylon strings usually do for a few days as they stretch. It held for 1 hour before I decided...
    A4#, 12.6lbs - Not even kidding - I'm mindblown at this point.
    B4, 14.2lbs - It stopped 10 cents short and took 5 winds of the tuner to continue. It actually reached B, before breaking :bowdown:

    The second string performed pretty much the same but broke at A#.

    D'addario NYL019 - unit weight .00001020
    E4, 7lbs - Really nice sounding low tension string. The slightly bigger gauge is certainly an improvement in feel and tone.
    F4, 7.9lbs - Great
    F4#, 8.9lbs - Perfect tension for this string
    G4, 9.9lbs - Fine
    G4#, 11.2lbs - Projects very well, these are far better results than I was hoping for based on my brief experience tuning up in the past!
    A4, 12.5lbs - Well it made it, the tension and tone is good but I'm quite sure it wouldn't last very long, it's not holding tuning fantastically.
    A4#, 14.1lbs - It made it to A# and wouldn't go higher no matter how much I stretched it. Fell back to A very easily, and broke upon reaching A# again.


    The second string I tested was again much the same - broke just before A#. I let it stretch out in G# for quite a while and it seems it would be a solid option for that at this scale length, if a bit brittle still.

    D'addario NYL020 - Unit weight .00001130
    E4 - 7.8lbs - Fine
    F4 - 8.7lbs - Very nice tone - seeing such low tensions and being used to electric it's hard to believe these strings feel tight enough!
    F4# - 9.8lbs - Great, probably the perfect F# string at this length.
    G4 - 11lbs - Very nice and thick enough to be loud
    G4# - 12.4lbs - Quite alright. Snapped not far above G#.

    Second string snapped at G#


    D'addario NYL021 - Unit weight .00001246
    E4 - 8.6lbs - Fine
    F4 - 9.6lbs - Great string for F tuning
    F4# - 10.8lbs - Nice
    G4 - 12.1lbs - Projects very well
    G4# - 13.6lbs - It made it, on and off between retuning, but broke.

    The second string broke just short of G#.

    D'addario NYL022 - Unit weight .00001368
    E4 - 9.4lbs - Fine. I guess we are into ordinary string territory now and can't expect too much range.
    F4 - 10.6lbs - Wonderful, strong tone and volume - probably the best string for this tuning given the strings generally used for E.
    F4# - 11.9lbs - Sounds a little brittle
    G4 - 13.3lbs - Holding up quite well after lots of stretching, should be close to breaking tension I expect
    G4# -15lbs = Just made it and broke

    The second string behaved just the same.

    -----------------------

    You can see from these results the gradual increase in strength across the gauges (though the thinnest reached higher tensions slightly, which is somewhat inconsistant), as well as the increased tension required to reach notes and how they relate. Hopefully this information is helpful to anyone in deciding what they can tune to on their guitar, or what kind of lengths to use on a custom design without relying on carbon strings.

    I am very happy with these results, I was not expecting to make it above F# or G reliably. I will be able to tune my upcoming custom to G, G#, or A, without going quite as short as I thought I may have to!

    Happy stretching! :wavey:


    *Of course, testing just two strings isn't the most reliable experiment so there certainly needs to be some leeway and I wouldn't play strings too close to the breaking tensions I have found here. Like I said, at least a semitone lower, preferably closer to two. The fact that one of the 018s broke at E for me in the past is a clear indicator that there will be variable results. But it's certainly possible to achieve great higher pitches with these strings and it must be what they were designed for given the very low tension at E!

     
  2. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear Vendor

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    Maximum tension range I would recommend for each of the strings to play at:
    .018 - 10-10.5lbs
    .019 - 10-10.8lbs
    .020 - 10.5-11lbs
    .021 - 11-11.5lbs
    .022 - 11-12.5lbs

    Any of these tensions should reliable, as well as fitting the conventional tensions of the classical guitar.


    I think I'm going to opt for a thicker string and tune to G at 23.5" with 10.9lbs - should be a really nice tone and loud.
     
  3. Durero

    Durero prototyping... Contributor

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    Tom have you considered nylon fishing line?

    The late Canadian 7-string jazz guitarist Lenny Breau used it for his high A string with great success.

    I'm also aiming for an extended range nylon string whenever I have time to build it. Very interested in your explorations :yesway:
     
  4. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear Vendor

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    Nylon fishing line - interesting. I had only heard of the carbon, and wouldn't have presumed nylon would be any stronger than these strings.
    Results as they are, I'm perfectly satisfied being able to use readily available strings as I'm going short scale on the high end for tonal and playability reasons as it is.
    Thanks for making me aware of yet another material, though :D
    Sounds great - what kind of thing did you have in mind?
     
  5. Kroaton

    Kroaton SS.org Regular

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    I don't think using a fluorocarbon fishing line for a high string would be particularly great. Fluorocarbon does not stretch like nylon , consistency in strenght varies drastically between different brands and even different spools of the same brand , it's very slippery so the knots might slip (if using traditional string wrapping techniques and not some fancy new classical bridge) and so on and so forth.

    I'm in the process of rebuilding an old , badly damaged russian 7 string classical right now.
    This thread is going to be invaluable once I'm done with it. Thank you for taking the time and money to do this EE.
     
  6. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear Vendor

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    I've never tried them myself but I didn't see many complaints, apart from the odd person looking looking to do this with less of a bright tone.
    The particular brand that seemed popular (Seaguar) was noted for being very consistent at least in regards to gauge along the string affecting intonation.

    But you're right, it's much better if you can manage to stick to regular strings!
    Glad I could be of help :)
     
  7. Guitarguy77

    Guitarguy77 SS.org Regular

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    Thank you for posting this. I too was wondering about nylon strings. I thought Nylon strings can more reliably tune above A4 than steel strings. Can a ukelele strings tune above E5 659? I also been experimenting with string tensions. I got a nylon hi e up to A#. I recently done testing on my .054 low e string. I got it to C or C#. I reached C on D addario C# on Elixir. I seen a video of someone reaching D on his Low E.

    Additional info. A .016 steel acoustic b string almost stretches as much as a nylon b string. I got a nylon b string up to about F#.
     
  8. spinality

    spinality SS.org Regular

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    It's been a while since this thread was created. Have there been any new results? A number of new strings and technologies have come on the market since then. I did a fairly exhaustive series of tests with a wide range of strings (dozens of gauges, several manufacturers) and concluded that none of them really offered a viable option for a 650mm A440 with acceptable balance. I found a number of strings that seemed physically up to it, but they just didn't sound like the rest of the set. I believe that the way Lenny Breau got his successful result was by a) living with 25+ pounds of tension on the string, and b) playing like Lenny Breau. I bought a used guitar that came with a fishing line first string and it was surprisingly...erm...not bad, but still I haven't found any solution that I'm willing to put on a handmade guitar. But if anybody has new information or new success stories I'd sure like to hear them.
     
  9. Mvotre

    Mvotre SS.org Regular

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    skip to 6:03 minutes, and he just use a fishing line on the high A. sounds fine to me.
     
  10. MajorTom

    MajorTom Supreme Being

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    A friend of mine plays a Kora - a 22 string traditional African instrument, think of it like a harp folded in half and attached to a drum/banjo, anyway some of his strings get tuned above B4, and he actually uses a brand of fishing line called 'Black Magic' for strings.

    I haven't tried it myself on a classical guitar, but Randy puts a hell of a lot of tension on the highest strings on his Kora, scary amounts of tension, it actually scares me to tune his Kora due to the string tension.
     

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