Scale lengths for 8 string multiscale designs?

Discussion in 'Luthiery, Modifications & Customizations' started by odibrom, Aug 7, 2018.

  1. odibrom

    odibrom .

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    Hi there.

    I'm planing to do a relaxed build in the near future of a multiscale guitar, most likely an 8 stringer. I have, however, a few doubts on what to decide. Will it be:
    • a regular 8 stringer - F#1 to E4,
    • or a high pitched one - B1 to A4?
    For the 1st option, scale lengths are set between 25.5" to 27"

    For the 2nd option I'm not sure what scale lengths should I choose for the A4. I was thinking on using .008s strings for the A4, but at what scale length? 24"?

    I don't like to be constantly changing and string up an instrument and I rarely break any string. What is your take on the subject? For those of you who have already experimented with the A4, what is your experience? I'd really like a string that wouldn't break easily.

    Perpendicular fret will be at 8 or 10, string spacing more or less the same as Ibanez's, 2 passive regular sized humbuckers (for more options) most likely with AlNiCo 5 magnets, and Piezos with individual saddle bridges or something suitable to the job. A crazy wiring scheme is being thought, but I foresee something really wild and fun. As for wood, I'm planing on scavenging and old solid wood door I have lying around (I actually have 2 of these). I think they're mahogany (one at least), but whatever they are, I'll use them anyway. Sure thing is that they are dry really well since they were build (as doors) for more than 40 years ago, so solid wood here I think.

    I mostly play 7 stringers, though I have an RG8 fully modded here by my side in which I rarely play due to lack of patience to set it up properly (call me lazy, lol). This build would be "I can do this" kind of project and it will be a relaxed one since in past builds I've made some mistakes due to excitation that I'd like to avoid. Should I go for a 7 stringer instead for a more played guitar? I mean, in my band I play 7s all the time...

    So, what say you? Thoughts? Experiences? Please share your knowledge, so I can finish the designs and start the build...
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2018
  2. MaxOfMetal

    MaxOfMetal Likes trem wankery. Super Moderator

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    Speaking from experience, .009s are much more practical for high A. It’s significantly stronger, and last far longer than that extra thousandth of an inch would imply, and the tension is negligible.

    Scale wise, 23.5” would work. That’s the scale that Conklin has been using for over 20 years now, and they use plain .009s. I’ve been able to play two Conklins with high A strings at that scale, and I wouldn’t recommend going any longer.
     
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  3. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    I've been doing A4 for quite a few years.

    My Oni 8 string is 600-660 mm scale, IIRC [23 5/8" - 26"]. If not, it's definitely ±10 mm [~3/8"] of that. To me, the .007" D'Addarios feel great on it, and I very rarely break a string. I use a fairly light handed playing style on the plain strings, though. I had originally planned on going with either 580 mm [~22 3/4"] or 590 mm [~23 1/4"], but after talking with the luthier, we mutually decided to go longer to get the best tone without too extreme a fan (this was back when multiscale was still a very rare thing to see on a guitar).

    The long side is enough to get good low B and drop A tone, but if I ever did another one, I might ask to go a little bit longer.

    I've also done A4 on 630 mm [24 3/4"] and 647 mm [25.5"] instruments, and the regular .007"'s work on those lengths, too, but there is definitely more breakage.

    I had also tried .008" Ernie Ball RPS (prior to that guitar, I actually preferred Ernie Ball to D'Addario), but the string was too tight for my liking, especially compared to a .009" high E. I'm also not convinced that the RPS had any significantly better tensile strength than the plain D'Addarios.

    Steel guitars use a thicker string for G#4, .011", typically, but those strings are tight enough to set a chemistry book on the strings and stay fairly straight.

    @MaxOfMetal - what are you using for a high E along with a .009" A4?!

    [EDIT - added SAE equivalents]
     
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  4. MaxOfMetal

    MaxOfMetal Likes trem wankery. Super Moderator

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    The .007s don’t break as much as sound absolutely terrible and lifeless, as if they were months old, in a week or so. The .008s sound better a bit longer, but then are more fragile.

    The .009s sound better, longer and are just a hair more resilient than the .008s.

    At least from what I’ve played and my own playing style/preferences.

    If using an .009 for A, I used a .010 or .011 for the E. The guitars were both 23.5” to 25.5”, which put the E at just under 24".

    The balance isn't ideal, but the sound and longevity was worth the compromise.
     
  5. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    That might be a good point. I order my .007"'s online. The strings in brick and mortar stores don't sell enough of them to keep a fresh stock. My Oni 8 has been my main guitar for just around ten years now, and that high string has been tuned to A4 the entire time. It took me some time to really get used to it being there, in that I just didn't rely on it, until I really started relying on it - at that point, I found it a weird adjustment going back to 7s if I needed a backup guitar or whatever, so I started keeping a seven handy tuned with a high A4, as well as one with a low B.

    I never really got deep into the low F# thing - it's really only been the last couple years that I've spent any effort getting into anything lower than A1. I would always daydream about a nine string with a high A4 and low F#1, but never made that plunge. Obviously, if you want to play higher notes, you can just move your position up the fretboard and play them, but doing lower notes, you just plain old need the lower string. I gravitated toward A4 because I'm lazy and don't want to have to reach that extra high note just out of reach. But my leads tend to be based around chord fingerings, so it just fits my strategy, personally. I don't really advocate anyone else choose high A4 over low F#1 or anything like that.

    I'll leave the impressions of low F# playing to someone else, mostly, but I will just say that I always tend to feel like that low F# would sound just a little better if the scale length was longer. My other Oni is somewhere around 740 mm (28") on the low side, and I prefer to keep it in standard or drop A. I've done drop G, and, to me, the tone was noticeably muddier than it was in A. I have a Danelectro six string with a 755 mm scale length (29 3/4"), and it's okay for me down to F, but the single coil pickups tend to brighten up the tone. If it was my own design, and I was going for F#, I'd personally go with absolutely no less than 700 mm (27.5").
     
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  6. odibrom

    odibrom .

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    @MaxOfMetal & @bostjan thank you very much for your input.

    I'm not a big guy, far from it, and my hands are also small, so big scale lengths aren't really a thing for me. I can play my RG8 pretty well, but I do feel the stretch from my other RG7s, so 27" will be my top length if I'm going to F#1. Playing with my RG8 I sometimes down tune it to E1, other I double drop the lowest strings 1 complete tone and I find it to sound OK, but as I am constantly changing from clean to dirt and pickup configurations and all that jazz, tone wise it doesn't bothers me much for it not to have a perfect tension-to-tone relation. I'd rather focus on the ergonomics to my hand. This said and I used to play (way back to 18+ years ago) an Ibanez SR506 and latter a BTB506 as well. I felt that the SR was playable, but the BTB was already way to long and these are/were 1" appart only...

    My real question here is that in my band I play 7s with regular tuning (B1 to E4) which is were I'm focusing on at the moment, and doing this guitar would be something kind of a parallel move, but I'd like it to be able play my band's tunes in it. Is a 24" for A4 a well balanced scale length for .008 or .009 strings? I'm kind of being silly here, because I have an Ibanez Mikro for the kids and I could experiment with it. Oh decisions, decisions... back to CAD drawing I guess...
     
  7. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    I've done A4 at 25.5" without too much string snappage. Other folks here and around other sites have reported that it can't be done. I'm strongly suspecting that the culprit is old brittle strings. I think it's excellent evidence that it's possible in that pedal steel players use 24"-25" scale length guitars and their highest string is a G#4 that bends up to an A4 quite regularly during normal playing. So, with clean contact points and a decent string, A4 at 25" is not only possible, but used every day by hundreds of guitarists in Nashville.

    But, if you are going to be going for a shorter overall scale length solely for ergonomic reasons, there's no reason why not to shorten the high side, too, to give yourself a little more leeway.

    I'm also not a tall guy or anything like that. I have a Brice Defiant 53437 that is a bit painful for me to play in first position. But I also have a Dingwall NG-2 that's the same scale length and is a breeze to play. Those are basses, but the same applies to guitar - if you move the bridge back toward the edge of the body, you can really ease up on left hand stretching. You will have to reposition your right hand for palm muting, and relearn the sweet spots for pinch harmonics, but unless you go with something ridiculous for bridge position, it's just a matter of putting in a few hours to get comfortable again (over and above whatever it takes to acclimate to a new guitar anyway).

    But if your RG8 sounds good to you at 27", there's no reason not to trust that scale length for F#, and if you are not doing F# anyway, it's a moot point.

    If you are going for multiscale, then you can play around with 24"-27" or 23"-26" or anything around that range. If you want to get a feel for the fretting, you can plot the fret positions on fretfind 2D and print them out at 1:1 scale. Just keep in mind that neck thickness and bridge position will also be factors, but maybe you can take a scrap piece of maple and chisel a rough neck profile on the back of it, then sand it and stick the fretfind paper on the flat side of it with a gluestick, and play around with positioning and see how it feels.
     
  8. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Double post
     
  9. odibrom

    odibrom .

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    Again, thanks for your contribution @bostjan. About Fretfind, I'll move with my CAD drawings (no problem here, have been a draftsman for quite some time, I've been doing CAD since 2001 probably earlier). It would take more time experimenting with fretfind interface than to directly draw the fingerboard with the needed dimensions and I've already blocks (autoCAD user defined drawing content) to play with at different scale lengths so it's quite easy for me to draw these things, really.

    I'll give 24" a go then and see what comes out of it. For a regular tuned 8 stringer I already have the drawings made at 27 to 25.5 multiscale and it doesn't seams to be an extreme fan. Maybe I'll do both...?

    Another question that got my attention here, does it makes sense a multiscale fretless guitar/bass?
     
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  10. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Cool, I just thought fretfind might be quicker.

    25.5"-27" is pretty standard, IMO.

    I've wanted a multiscale fretless bass for a while. I think you might need to adjust to multiscale a bit first, but there's no reason why it wouldn't work.
     
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  11. odibrom

    odibrom .

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    I see that in a multiscale fretless guitar/bass, fret lines should be mandatory... or else :D
     
  12. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Well, to start, yes, but who has time to look at lines when you are doing crazy shit on stage (if playing guitar) or avoiding the crazy shit the guitar player is doing (if playing bass)?! :lol:
     
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  13. odibrom

    odibrom .

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    So, a few days have past by and I've done the 24" to 26" design and it looks quite alright. Not yet sure about the headstock, I might dig in a little more, but the rest kind of looks pretty fine. This will be the B1 to A4 8 stringer. If my calculation is fine, I might have enough wood for a 2nd build, so I guess I'll do the other as well, 25.5" to 27" for a F#1 (or E1) to E4.

    Let's see how it goes, SloMo build, the better the plan, the better odds at doing things well.
     
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  14. IGC

    IGC Guitar farter arounder

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    Sounds interesting, :yesway:
     
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  15. IGC

    IGC Guitar farter arounder

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    Any screen shots yet?
     
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  16. odibrom

    odibrom .

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    So far I have this:

    [​IMG]

    Not yet happy with the headstock, but it is better than I was thinking in the previous posts.
    The bridge is also yet to be finished. Saddles will be graphtech's ghost, import style (like those found on many import guitars) but it's baseplate will be some bent metal sheet, stainless steel preferably, but it will whatever I can find and I'll need to have it be made... now that I'm thinking on it, maybe a 3D metal print... hummm...

    About those "dot marks" above and below the fret lines, these are the ones used to draw them. This multiscale design was conceived using the 24" and the 26" scales parallel to the guitar's axis at 40mm distance. I've drawn similar multiscales with the scale length measured at the string. The overall difference isn't much significant, BUT at the center axis there is a small between both methods. This one seamed to be more functional. If the distance to the axis was different, the fan would also loo different... Perpendicular is at the 8th fret.

    So, things yet to develop are:
    • decide on the guitar's body thickness, the wood is, about 33mm thick, will it have a top? yes, no? I'm not into fancy figured wood tops...
    • decide on the fretboard wood, will probably go with maple
    • decide on the wiring, switches and all that jazz. I'd like that the folks at Freeway to do a 10 position (5+5), blade style multiswitch (they already have one, but it's for 3 single coil guitars apparently). That would be the shit.
    • draw the truss rod channel and all cavities
    • draw/decide on wood joints, specially for the scarf joint at the headstock and for the neck-to-body neck-through type (I don't like waste and the more I save, the more I can build).
    • eventually do a 3D mockup...? This is specially interesting for the wood joints study.
    • Inlays and those things will also be something to think of.
    Oh, another question for those with more experience in this than me, I think I know the answer is due to the wood joint would get fragile with the truss rod's channel, but why are neck laminates always in odd number of layers? and mirrored? and with the center one being larger than the others?
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2018
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  17. IGC

    IGC Guitar farter arounder

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    Nice overall design Odie, with head stocks you don't really have too many options if you want the strings to go straight out of the nut slot and tangent to the tuning peg, witch seems to be the favored design for tuning stability. It's like hmmm, "do I slightly arc the sides, do I leave them straight, this tip looks like Agile this tip looks like Ibby?" ya know? Looks like you took the arced on one side and straight line on the other side, best of both worlds route.

    Graphtech Ghost Loaded saddles? Think I might get some of those to experiment with. I know you mentioned your not really into figured tops but no pickups and pickup routes leaves room to show more of a tops wood figuring or other designs.

    Did you see the stainless steel "extreme fan" hard tail fanned fret bridge plate I made for the ten string guitars I'v been working on? I will post a pic if you want? I cut it out of .05 thick 420 SS at work in the HAAS...420 is a magnetizable grade of SS. I look forward to using it, it feels pretty solid. Oh yeah, cheap to make too you can get a 12 x 12 plate of 420 ss from Mc Master Caar for less than 30 bucks and get who knows how many bridge plates out of it.

    A sintered metal bridge plate sounds interesting.

    On my 9 string build ( you are familiar with it ) I measured from the nut along the length of / parallel to the string axis, or trigonometrically along the hypotenuse of the theoretical triangle created by the string and the imaginary line parallel to the guitar axis and extending from the nut at the same breaking point of the string, same for upper and lower scales, then connect the two scale lengths with fret wires. Intonation at all octaves, 12th fret up, fretted or harmonically, every string of the six string side of the guitar is spot on with my tuner, chords sound perfect and I could not be happier. Even with a medium action that theoretically bends the string out of pitch to a degree. I just randomly decided to go along the length of the string with the fret spacing , nut to saddle, breaking point to breaking point, It seemed like the right thing to do , was experimental, but I'm NOT telling you to do that, it is just what I did by trial and error and was not dissatisfied. I can't use my guitar tuner for the bass side strings because I think their frequencies are too low for it, so I just tune the lower strings by ear off the higher strings, matching octaves.

    I also calculated with this constant below.



    17.817 is th efret calculation constant


    If you divide any scale length by the constant 17.817,
    you will get the distance from the front edge of the
    nut to the first fret. Here is one example: a scale length of 25.5"
    (650mm) divided by 17.817 gives 1.4312173" (36.482011mm), which can
    be rounded down to 1.431" (36.48mm).

    Three digits behind the comma are sufficient when using Imperial
    measurements (two when using metric units), as it is virtually
    impossible to place a fret much more accurately than to 1/1000 of an inch.
    The first fret is therefore placed at a distance of 1.431" (36.48mm) from the nut.
    To calculate the position of the second fret, the remaining scale length
    (25.5" minus 1.431" = 24.069") is again divided by 17.817.
    This gives the distance from the first fret at which the second fret has to be placed -
    in the above example this would be 1.351" (34.43mm).

    I don't claim to be a master luthier and don't want to miss- inform you this is my own experimentation at my cost, and my experience that I hope to pass on for the benefit others.


    I used the same bridge/ nut string spacing as my Hellraiser
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2018
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  18. gujukal

    gujukal SS.org Regular

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    26-28" for standard 8-string tuning, 27" for F# works but an inch longer will sound a bit clearer.
     
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  19. odibrom

    odibrom .

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    @IGC thanks for your input. As I read your multiscale design concept, I believe that we've made the same thing. I measured those 40mm above and below from the neck's central axis because it is a clear value that can be drawn easily over wood if needed. I could have started measuring from the point where those imaginary lines cross the lower and higher strings at the nut or at the bridge or eventually at the perpendicular point (8th fret), all with slightly different results but overall the same feeling fan, I believe.

    I have an Excel file with fret positions tables were I just have to input the scale length needed and it calculates all the fret distances (to nut, to previous fret and to bridge). In this file, in the beginning (a long time ago...), I used that same method you mention, but then, reading HERE in SSO, I've been thought about another method that I believe to be way more precise... but we're talking about .002 milimeters difference, which is nothing more than a hair. I have 2 tables with distances side by side and they are just spot on. This other method consists on the following formula:
    • Scale Length = A
    • Fret Number = B
    • Number of frets by Octave = C
    • Formula = A-(A/(2^(B/C)))
    Build this into a spreadsheet file to your liking and compare the results. Scale length value (A) is a design definition, as well as the number of frets per octave (C: most used is 12, but our friend @bostjan can share his insights here). The B value is variable from 1 to how many frets one may want...

    I then "converted" those distances into an AutoCAD block (drawing content container, those point mark things in the previous drawing are 2 of those blocks with different scale lengths) which I can scale to whatever scale length needed, so no need to recalculate all the distances and redo all the drawing fret by fret. I also have the fret distance table inside AutoCAD for whatever needed.

    You see, I've been seldom drawing guitars in AutoCAD almost ever since I started to draw with it about 18 years ago, supported by Melvyn Hiscock's Make your own electric guitar book (nice book to have) and lots of internet readings, fretfind included.

    I didn't quite understand what you meant with the top wood thing and having pickups and no pickups... you meant to say not having a pickguard and therefore more room to show off some figured wood? Yes, but those figured woods always turn me away from the guitar itself. I like a nice wood, but not that big emphasis on its figures most people seam to love, and I'm salvaging wood so, whatever I'll get is whatever I'll use.

    Oh, and about the bridge, it's not noticeable in that image, but saddles are aligned with the strings, not parallel to each other... just because someone else here (you?) suggested it some time ago and i found it to be interesting to try out. Since I'll be doing a base plate from scratch, why the hell not??

    @gujukal thanks for your input, I'll consider that and see what comes out of it. It could be interesting to jump from one guitar to the other, since the shorter scale in one would coincide with the longer one of the other... 28-to-26 and 26-to-24...
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2018
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  20. IGC

    IGC Guitar farter arounder

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    Cool, yes .002 mm - 2 micron pretty much nothing difference in guitar making, but if we get into the world of I.C. manufacturing 2 micron can be like 5 x around the circumference of the earth and back!
    Great idea - plugging the fret calculation formula you mentioned above and the one I mentioned above into an Excell spread sheet. Excell is a handy tool for that stuff.
    Oh yeah Autocad is my favorite I studied that in college / got into it first when I was 18 y.o. ( in 1996, not trying to one up you on the autocad here ;P ) - blocks are nice you can have one for any different scale length and insert it into any different project.
    I will check out that Melvyn Hiscock's Make your own electric guitar book. Tons of good stuff on line these days too!

    Oh yeah Bostjan is a microtonal genius, etc! He clarified a lot about that for me, Kudos Bj.

    "I didn't quite understand what you meant with the top wood thing and having pickups and no pickups..."
    If you can get away with using ONLY the "ghost saddles" witch are I think piezo loaded? no need for pickups and their respective routes. Just strings, bridge and saddles leaves a lot of unused space that displays the nice woods of a top or top design art. I know you mentioned you don't fancy figured wood tops, but I also know your an artist and maybe if you were planning on only using just ghost saddles and no pickups, it would maybe help display one of your artistic top paintings or other designs?...

    Actually @pondman and his hardtail designs is what inspired me to go the hardtail route. It is just easier for custom designs. I also like what some of the bass makers you see on line are doing out of only wood for their bridge designs and plan to utilize some of them before I die.

    But anyhow this is the proto extreme fan bridge I made from stainless, to give you ideas for your build if you like :

    [​IMG]
     
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