... for guitar
Regardless of modern guitar, 19th century guitar, or even other stringed instruments, there is some instruments that sound better (with rather subjective judgment in volume and fullness of tone, though) when it is tuned a half or one full tone lower. While winding up a string after changing it, you may notice a few points where the instrument resonates better. That's the "good sounding" point.
You will have to wind the string a little further to have it tuned. It must be very rare to have all the strings resonate well after tuning properly. Unfortunately, it usually passed the resonating point and stresses the instruments unnecessarily when it's tuned. If you are playing solo and there is no need to match with others, you can use the "good sounding" point for your instrument. It's not always necessary to tune the instrument with A=440Hz. You should use the good sounding pitch and strings without damaging the instrument and enjoy it.
Almost any strings in thickness and of material available can be obtained in Japan. They are so wide variety of them that one may mistake guitars are made for them in these days. If you feel your instrument does not sound right, you'd better try other strings without hesitation. String tension listed below are either from their package or from some publications in the past. I added some explanations on them.
Caution : String tension would have an error depending on scale length, structures of bridge and neck, and the standard pitch used. Please regard the following as a rough guide.
[ProArte Hard Tension]
1st : 7.17kg, Nylon 0.74mm
2nd : 5.44kg, Nylon 0.85mm
3rd : 5.62kg, Nylon 1.04mm
4th : 7.44kg, Metal wound 0.76mm (equivalent to VN5145)
5th : 7.21kg, Metal wound 0.91mm (equivalent to VN5190)
6th : 6.60kg, Metal wound 1.12mm (equivalent to VN5240)
Now, the following shows tension of ProArte light tension strings. Although it often sounds rather thin on some modern guitars, it is still popular among women and those who lack grip strength. A certain type of modern guitar may have a good match with this string. When the entire set is used, the total tension is 35.43kg, according to the information on its package, and per string tension will be about 5.9kg. Thicker than other strings' gauge is used on 1st and 4th string.
You may think "I can use this one on a 19th century guitar as is." As a matter of fact, I have been using them on some 19th century guitars. If I force myself to find a weakness of this combination, bass strings tend to sound rather dull. 4th through 6th string of this set is silver plated wire wound over nylon strands. I have tried this string on genuine 19th century guitars of different types and scale lengths. My conclusion is that "it depends on the instrument." There is an individual difference even among the instruments of exactly the same type. So, it's better actually to try a few strings on the instrument and this ProArte light tension can be one of the candidates, because of their wide availability and low cost. It's also OK to use fishing lines on 1st through 3rd and ProArte on 4th through 6th.
[ProArte Light Tension]
1st : 6.7kg, Nylon 0.71mm
2nd : 5.08kg, Nylon 0.81mm
3rd : 5.3kg, Nylon 1.02mm
4th : 6.7kg, Metal wound 0.71mm (equivalent to VN5136)
5th : 5.67kg, Metal wound 0.84mm (equivalent to VN5165)
6th : 5.98kg, Metal wound 1.07mm (equivalent to VN5230)
19th century guitars having only horizontal bracing bars may not sound right with ProArte light tension, especially metal wound strings. I have tried them on short scale length (560 - 610mm) ones, but I felt it better to lower the tension down to like 4kg/string in order to get better results on sound and playability. Some people wrote a lengthy review on magazines, but I think relying on them is waste of time and it's best to find out by using on your own instrument. Yes, you got to find a good match between strings and the instruments.
The photo below has been taken while trying Seaguar Ace for treble and Kuerschner's copper wound strings for bass. The guitar is made in France around 1920 and quite similar in a configuration of bracing bars, a detailed structure, and its parts to what Lacote made then. It sounded great with the average tension of about 5kg.
If you want to use a nylon string instead of
fluorocarbon, multiply the thickness by a factor of 1.3.
1st : 7.17kg, Nylon 0.74mm, equivalent fluorocarbon is 0.57mm
(12 gauge). Gut : 0.62mm
2nd : 5.44kg, Nylon 0.85mm, equivalent fluorocarbon is 0.66mm (16 gauge). Gut : 0.73mm
3rd : 5.62kg, Nylon 1.04mm, equivalent fluorocarbon is 0.81mm (24 gauge). Gut : 0.91mm
4th : 7.55kg, metal wound 0.76mm (equivalent to VN5145)
5th : 7.21kg, metal wound 0.91mm (equivalent to VN5185)
6th : 6.60kg, metal wound 1.12mm (equivalent to VN5250)
[ProArte Light Tension: total tension about 35.43kg / 5.9kg in average]
If you are to replace treble ones with fluorocarbon,
1st : 6.7kg, Nylon 0.71mm, equivalent fluorocarbon is 0.55mm (11 gauge?) Gut : 0.60mm
2nd : 5.08kg, Nylon 0.81mm, equivalent fluorocarbon is 0.63mm (15 gauge?) Gut : 0.70mm
3rd : 5.3kg, Nylon 1.02mm, equivalent fluorocarbon is 0.79mm (22 gauge?) Gut : 0.88mm
4th : 6.7kg, metal wound 0.71mm (equivalent to VN5136)
5th : 5.67kg, metal wound 0.84mm (equivalent to VN5165)
6th : 5.98kg, metal wound 1.07mm (equivalent to VN5230)
Fishing lines are available only on some discrete gauge (thickness). So, the following show a sample using available gauge lines at a typical fishing supply store.
1st : Seaguar Ace 10 gauge
2nd : Seaguar Ace 14 gauge
3rd : Seaguar Ace 20 gauge
You may say "I will go to a fishing supply shop right away and buy some lines", but wait. Fluorocarbon strings, well finishing lines actually, are not cheap, especially thick gauge ones. There is not much demand on thick gauge lines in the fishing world and a 50m reel of 16 gauge line costs 5,200 yen (about $50.) in a suggested retail price, for example. Purchasing unnecessary lines makes a large hole in your purse, even though you usually find ones in a discount price. I have to tell that the relation between tension and sound is extremely subtle, which you will notice while trying by yourself. It will take a rather long time and trouble to find a proper string when you substitute it with fishing line, because you have to go through many iterations of trial and error.
Fluorocarbon string sounds relatively metallic compared to nylon or gut strings due to its high density. I've heard sound of a fork guitar (namely steel string acoustic guitar) whose 1st string has been replaced with a fluorocarbon. It sounded close to a steel string and very natural. Many of those who listened my "concept-2", cittern like ebony instrument, think it being steel stringed, although it actually uses fluorocarbon. So, a fluorocarbon string should be regarded as a replacement for nylon on some instruments, but not all. As of fall 2004, I often use nylon fishing line for 1st and fluorocarbon on 2nd and 3rd strings of 19th century guitars. 3rd string tends to sound firmer and codes played on them sound clearer by doing so. On the 1st string, nylon line tends to have a better result, because fluorocarbon one sometimes sounds too metallic.
Music shops might have a hard time of selling strings after making these informations public. They might complain about that and sue me. They might even hire men to force me to wear concrete boots and dive into the Tokyo bay. Hum, this is rather chilling thoughts. All of you ought to buy strings at the nearest music stores to prevent this to happen!! Even though providing these information, I buy strings from music shops quite often.
Have you heard of Pepe series guitars? It's a small scale length
guitar for children produced and distributed by Aria Co. They have
several scale lengths of them and also produce strings and cases
specifically for Pepe guitars. They can be found in specialty shops
of guitars or in on-line shops that accept orders from international
orders. 1st and 2nd strings are nylon and others are thin metal wound
ones. In general, they are thin gauge and light tension set. However,
I have not measured their tension accurately, yet.
[Hannabach Alto Guitar]
This is harder tensioned than ProArte's. I do not recommend them because they are expensive, but you can find some instruments that may fit to it.
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