6 string baritone Drop A string options for scrawny fingers?

Discussion in 'Standard Guitars' started by Adam D., Jan 3, 2019.

  1. Adam D.

    Adam D. SS.org Regular

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    Hey Guys!

    I'd like to ask for some advice on baritone string gauges.
    I've done a search on the site and found AC.Lin's excellent string gauge table too,
    but just couldn't find the answer for the particular tuning and scale length I have in mind.
    Please excuse my ignorance if it's been asked before, I'm not a big forum guy, but I tried to get the most information before asking.

    What I'd like to achieve:
    a nicely working Drop A (as in A-E-A-D-F#-B ) tuning on a 26.5" or 27" baritone six string.
    - Getting good to very good tension on lower three strings; good tension on higher three.
    - Proper intonation and tuning stability.

    What I'd like to use:
    currently I don't have a six string baritone, I'd like to purchase one soon.
    Either 26.5" or 27"; no 28".


    The issue:

    Currently I have two guitars:
    -Ibanez RGT6EXFX, 25.5", Drop C, Elixir Heavy set (.012-.053).
    I hate this string set: the low C is not tight enough, and the higher three strings are ridiculously heavy for me, can't even bend them properly.
    I want to change them to NYXL .011-.056 soon, that'll probably be OK.

    - Ibanez RG8, 27" scale, NYXL .009-.080, Drop E.
    This set with this scale lengh I love - high strings are nice, I can bend decently,
    low B is relatively tight and even the low E is sufficient for what it is.

    I'd like to buy a baritone with no longer than 27" scale (the RGIB6's 28" would be too much for me),
    use it in Drop A with the lightest strings possible, while still maintaining decent tension that can create good harmonics and feel good on the hands.
    I have unusually short, thin and weak fingers, and sadly no amount of practice will make me able to play .013 or similar sets a lot of guys use, so I'd like the thinnest strings that can do the job.

    What gauges and which scale length would you suggest?
    I'm looking for an Ibanez RGD, but if 26.5" doesn't cut it, I may look for a 27" guitar.
    I know light string gauges and low tunings are contradictive, but I'm hoping there's a solution with is at least satisfactory.
    Please, do correct me if I'm looking for something that cannot be done properly.
    I've liked the low piched tone of the baritone range for as long as I can remember (Mike Mushok somebody? :) ), but if I'm chasing a unicorn with the above specs I may let this project go or try to make a compromise.

    Thanks a lot in advance, guys!
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2019
  2. Zhysick

    Zhysick SS.org Regular

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    It is absolutely doable... I'm playing C/Drop B in a 25,5" with a 10-52 set... yes, very low tension, but enough for me: I have decided to go as light as possible. Been with this tuning using a set of 9-46 for a while and even if the higher strings were too light the only real issue was the 46 being absolutely loose for B, in C was good enough but ended tuning up to C# so changed to the 10-52 to go down that last semitone.

    So, if I can play this way, for sure you can find a set.

    I used to be "I want high tension on the low strings and lighter plain strings for easy bending" but found myself having issues with my picking hand because of the difference in tension: hitting to hard the loose strings and too soft the tighter strings so at the end a more balanced (loose) set was better for myself but probably not for everybody.

    Probably in 27" for Drop A a 60 will be tight enough on the bottom with no more than 11 for the highest string. I don't like the tone of thick plain strings so I will never go too thick because of the 3rd string (I like it plain to bend, yes, but in this case you better go wound).

    As everything with this: just try and try different sets as everyone has its own taste.

    Cheers!
     
  3. Albake21

    Albake21 "Just get a used Ibanez Prestige."

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    If you want to go light, then 26.5" would be perfect. Like you said, the RGDs work. Schecter recently released a 26.5" Apocalypse. If you want to go more custom, you can get a Kiesel Aries 6 or DC600 with a 26.5" scale.

    Realistically you can get away with a 25.5" scale with a set of 11-56. If that's too thick for you then you'll have to go for a 26.5"
     
  4. AC.Lin

    AC.Lin Poopy-di scoop & Scoop-diddy-whoop

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    Hey buddy.
    Thank you for the kind words about the guide i made. Glad it helps !

    About what you are asking, let's suppose that:
    - you have a 6 string with a 26.5" neck (it's way more common than 27")
    - you're tuning it to A-E-A-D-F#-B
    - you want a tight tension on the lowest strings for tuning stability (around 16-17 pounds)
    - you want a softer tension on the higher strings to bend easily (around 13-15 pounds)

    By following that logic and using a tension calculator, you would need the following set : 64 - 42/44 - 30/32 - 20 - 16 - 12

    From that point you have multiple options:
    - make your own set by buying strings individually
    or
    - buy a set that comes as close as possible as the results i gave you and then by the extra 64 for your low A separately (that's what i do when i tune to AADGBE)

    I think that's all !
    Oh and if you want to get your 6s 25.5" in drop C, take a 11-56 set. But try to avoid the NYXL serie, the extra cost isn't worth it in my opinion. I tried it and i went back to the standard XL nickel 11-56 after a few months. I use that setup on my main guitar !
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2019
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  5. angl2k

    angl2k SS.org Regular

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    I'm playing drop A on a 7 string 25.5" with a low 56 so it's definitely doable, maybe try an 11-56 baritone set like the D'addario exl117.

    Most players here are obsessed with heavy string gauges but IMO tone > feel so I play with spaghetti feeling strings :)
     
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  6. soldierkahn

    soldierkahn BAD MAMMA-JAMMA Contributor

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    this was one of the main reasons I wanted a 27" 6 stringer, so i could keep those light gauges but still have usable tensions. Ive never been abe to get away with B standard on 10-52 until I started using extended scales
     
  7. ImNotAhab

    ImNotAhab ChronicUnderachiever

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    Try the Daddario exl 158 set, 13 to 62... I use a 9 to 62 set on a seven for drop a with a 26.5 scale and I really dig it.

    Seems like a good place to start.
     
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  8. ixlramp

    ixlramp SS.org Regular

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    The key to minimising tension without causing problems is to carefully choose the tension of every string, such that the set has either: equal tension strings, or (what you want), a gradual and steady fall in tension from low to high.

    Importantly: Do not use a pre-packaged mainstream set, as almost all of them have tensions all over the place based on traditions that make no sense, with the lowest string often under-tensioned. Also, you are using drop-A and most mainstream sets are unsuitable for drop tunings because they are not designed for them.
    The pre-packaged string set suggestions in this thread are bad advice because they are standard tuning string sets, so once you drop the B to A it will be under-tensioned.

    The only string manufacturer i know who sells sets with steadily falling tension that are also specifically designed for a drop tuning is Kalium, but that's mail order from USA only, much cheaper to build a custom set from EU singles.

    Use the D'Addario 'String Tension Pro' website to discover what tensions you currently like, then use those tensions to design a custom set of gauges with tension falling consistently and steadily from low to high.
    They're not. Because what you mean is low tension, which is possible for any tuning however low.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2019
  9. ixlramp

    ixlramp SS.org Regular

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    If someone wants a particular tension, scale length is not the way to acheive it, and is not what they should be thinking about when trying to acheive a particular tension.
    This is completely the wrong approach. For example, someone who wants ultra-low tension doesn't go looking for a 23" scale guitar, they buy a set of .008s.
    Any tension can be acheived at any scale length by choosing the correct gauges.

    Scale length should be chosen according to the longest scale you are comfortable playing, don't think about tension.
    Once scale length is chosen, then choose gauges to acheive the required tensions on that scale length.
     
  10. ixlramp

    ixlramp SS.org Regular

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    If you're comfortable on, and familiar with, 27" then that's the optimum choice, it's best to limit the number of different scale lengths you play. 26.5" is a bad idea as you would then have 3 different scale lengths to get used to.

    Also note, 27" = 25.5" plus 1 fret added at the nut, so 25.5" and 27" actually have identical fret positions which helps your body's spatial memory play both.
    ///////////////

    See http://www.daddario.com/balanced_tension.page
    The red lines show standard string sets, almost all 6 string pre-packaged string sets from any mainstream manufacturer have that 'traditional' tension profile: The top E is tighter than the B for no reason, the low E is looser than the A for no reason, and the A is sometimes looser than the D for no reason.
    These are traditions from decades ago with no justification in science, tone or playability.

    The physics of strings actually suggests: Larger gauges require more tension to avoid floppiness and to result in a more even playability across the set. Tension rising from low to high is ridiculous and the opposite of optimum.

    I perosnally prefer to keep the 2 lowest strings at the same tension, then above that make tension fall steadily from low to high, then keep the 2 highest stirngs at the same tension.
    To keep the 2 lowest strings (tuned a fifth apart) at the same tension the derivable physics result is that the gauge of the lower should be 1.5 times the gauge of the higher (gauges in ratio 3:2).
     
  11. crackout

    crackout The King In Yellow

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    Of course choosing a certain scale can be the right approach. If you ever tried achieving the correct tension for very low tunings on a Gibson scale, you know why.
    Very few people want to play with ship ropes. Thicker strings also tend to lack clarity and intonate worse than thinner ones. Besides, you also need to raise the action to accommodate for the larger diameter. With a specific tuning and tension profile in mind, you should go for a scale that limits the gauge range in a for you acceptable way.

    While 27'' might be the right way to go in this case, as the 8 is already at this scale, I find this "issue" to be overrated. I played multiple multiscales with large deltas and never had problems adapting to the different scales. The only thing that indeed bothered me where large spreads (1-3-5) that got drastically harder with larger scales.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2019
  12. Adam D.

    Adam D. SS.org Regular

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    Thanks a lot for all the useful info, guys, much appreciated!
    I'm not a pro player, actually quite the opposite, but I've also noticed a few issues you guys had mentioned.
    A lot of factory sets, like the Elixir Heavy that's currently on my six string
    are way out of balance, they're just heavier in gauge but not properly put together.
    Highs too tight, lows too flappy, "middle section" varies, lowest string not suitable for drop tunings and so on.
    To me the new NYXL sets seem to mitigate that problem though, they're put together with modern players in mind and modern tunings, scale lengths.

    Going by the actual gauges that AC.Lin has provided above, the closest
    factory available set I've found was the "NYXL1260 Nickel Wound, Extra Heavy, 12-60"
    (or the "EXL148 Nickel Wound, Extra-Heavy, 12-60" in the regular non-NYXL lineup).
    They recommend this set for drop C on a 25.5, but on a 26.5" it'd probably work for Drop A then.
    The jump between a .064 and a .060 seems quite substantial though,
    so I'd probably have to go with a single .064.

    The reason I'm trying to stick with factory available sets is that in the region and country I live in (Hungary) it's really hard to get modern/non-convential sets like the NYXL I have on my 8 string.
    I had to order it in a shop and it took ca. three weeks.
    Wether or not they even deal in single strings, I don't know yet, but they'd probably give me a finger if I told them I wanted to put a set together in one order, and I'm not buying ten sets at least.
    Do you fellow EU members know a good webshop I can order even separate strings from and shipping doesn't cost more than the strings?
    I'd give single strings a thought if it was feasible to try.

    About the different scale lengths:
    the difference between my 25.5" RG and my 27" RG8 is large, but they're vastly different instruments too, so I'm not worried about muscle memory, since I have to use them differently.
    Hasn't caused any problems yet. Getting a 26.5" baritone six string in the mix wouldn't be trouble either, I've tried an RGD and it was just slightly noticeable that I was playing a non-standard Ibanez.
    My main worry was string gauges, and which scale to go for on a six string baritone, 26.5" or 27".
    As someone has already mentioned it above though, nowadays there seem to be a lot more 26.5s.


    (About Drop C: AC.Lin, did you mean this set under regular D'Addarios?
    "EXL117 Nickel Wound, Medium Top/Extra-Heavy Bottom, 11-56")
     
  13. AC.Lin

    AC.Lin Poopy-di scoop & Scoop-diddy-whoop

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    Yep, this exact one.
     
  14. couverdure

    couverdure No Gear Day

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    Try Stringjoy strings. You can customize your own set or choose any of their pre-packaged ones which includes sets made for drop tunings. Someone here was satisfied with their set after I helped them find one that's suited for their preferred tuning and scale length.
     
  15. gunch

    gunch chungus

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    Ok I'm not very smart so it's desireable to have the strings get progressively lower in tension from low string to high string? How much is the variance compared to a balanced tension set?

    Something like this for drop D @ gibson scale?
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2019
  16. Adam D.

    Adam D. SS.org Regular

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    Thanks again for all all your help, guys!
    Made my life a lot easier! :)
     
  17. AC.Lin

    AC.Lin Poopy-di scoop & Scoop-diddy-whoop

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    There is no rule about what tension you should have. Basically do what you prefer, balanced or not, whatever.
    However from my own experience:
    - lower strings should have a tension between 14 to 19 pounds (for pitch and tuning stability reasons)
    - higher strings should have a tension between 13 to 17 pounds (for playability reasons)

    Also, the setup you made looks good to me. But i would really dislike to have all strings feel different, but as i said, it depends on what you prefer.
     
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  18. ixlramp

    ixlramp SS.org Regular

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    Correct of course, what i wrote was specifically addressing Albake21's advice (quoted), in this specific situation, i wasn't talking generally.
    Heh Hungary is in the EU, it's hardly remote. You can mail-order anything you want from an EU website.
    Getting non-convenional sets in the average guitar shop is difficult anywhere, here in the UK too, because that's what guitar shops are like. If i order something non-mainstream from a guitar shop it would take 3 weeks for me too.
    As soon as you step outside the standard tensions of standard tuning guitar shops become useless. Single strings kept under the counter are often many years old and slightly corroded.
    I never bother with shops anymore because they're useless, i mail order everything.
    They don't recommend it for drop C, they recommend it for C standard, huge difference. Any fourths set (all D'Addario sets) are unsuitable for a permanent drop tuning (lowest interval being a fifth).
     

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