Saturday, November 05, 2005

Concert Pitch vs. Philosophical Pitch II: Guitar Considerations

I've been testing out the Philosophical Pitch of A= 430-432 Hz for about a week now, and like any adjustment of such a profound nature, "issues" crop up (Not at all unexpected issues, given my years of relentless experimentation in the area of string selection). I have settled on A=432 because a) It's "Verdi's A" (And "Beethoven's A", and... etc.), b) I can actually obtain tuning forks at that callibration, and c) 432 is a multiple of nine (You'll have to figure that out for yourselves!).

The string tension ranges for the nylon string guitar are always problematic: Matching the low E, A, and D strings to the high E is not a problem: A regular high tension set will land all four of those strings at about sixteen pounds. It's the B and G strings that are the problem; especially the flabby-assed G. In a high tension set, those weigh in at about twelve pounds. While this leads to projection problems on an acoustic nylon string guitar, the problem is exacerbated (There's a word I don't get to use often enough!) in the oposite direction on electric nylon strings - such as my Godin Multiac Grand Concert SA, Grand Concert Duet, and fretted Glissentar - in exactly the opposite direction: Those loose strings are more prone to... feedback at even moderately high sound pressure levels if the G, especially, is overly slack. If you reason it out, it's obvious: The lower tension strings are more prone to sympathetically vibrate with the output of the speakers, and so your infinite loop of feedback has more of a chance to develop.

The most obvious way to counteract this tendency is to use super-high - damage-your-precious-old classical-guitar - tension strings: Electric nylon string guitars are mostly over-engineered, and even light guage steel strings wouldn't distress them, so let's "Take it to the Limit". That's just what I did. I ordered a box of my favorite strings currently manufactured: D'Addario EXP44 Extended Play Silver-Plated Copper Strings that are Extra-Hard Tension. These are the best strings now that the non-silver-plated copper basses have been discontinued (I'm betting the reason they are no longer made is that they kick ass for electric nylon string, but not acoustic, and D'Addario probably didn't think of marketing them to us in this admittedly tiny minority: A shame because they are the brightest and deepest bass strings ever made. Too bright for many acoustic nylon strings).

This was very helpful, in exactly the way I had predicted for the B string, but the G is still a bit tubby at 12.9 lbs. (And remember, these tension weights are measured at Concert Pitch not at Philosophical Pitch) In order to get a tighter G, I had to go to the D'Addario composite G, which has to be something designed by God especially for electric nylon string guitar players: An SHT version of one of those tips the scales comfortably over thirteen pounds (At concert pitch).

All of this means that I can get reasonably high string tensions at Philosophical Pitch, and avoid feedback when doing big outdoor concerts. For me, this not an option: It's required.

I'm sure many of you guitarists are, like, "But... but... What about carbon fiber trebles?" I use those on my acoustics, but they are WAY too bright for my electrics: Electric nylon string guitars tend to be overly bright anyway, and non-nylon synthetics just... wait for it... here it comes... exacerbate that problem (Ahhhh... That felt good).

Expect another progress report on this at some point, but my first couple of gigs trying it out went swimmingly: Especially the acoustic Church gig, where the carbon fiber trebles had no problem at all speaking plainly at the lower tension on my Anthony Murray classical.

Now, the tuner I bought that allows me to do this is a Korg CA-30, which can calibrate to A= 420 to 460, and the tuning forks I got are the A= 432 "Sun Tone" models. Since when I do some thing I... do something, I got four of the tuners and four of the tuning forks: Lifetime supply.

Unfortunately, Korg's excellent line of rack-mount tuners only go down to 438. But, they go UP to 460! WTF?! Wouldn't 430 to 450 have made more sense? (sigh)


For what it's worth, Nicole agrees with me: Dontcha hon?

"Yes, Huc; it certainly is a drag that Korg rack-mount tuners don't calibrate down to A= 430 Hz!"

Now she is well-proportioned and symmetrical!


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