Friday, June 30, 2006

Experimentation: Strings and Nails

OT: If you want to make it rain for three days in the desert, just buy a new iPod you want to go walking and jogging with. It's looked more like Seattle around here the last few days than Alpine. Sheesh. We needed the rain, though: Only about a half an inch has fallen since last October. Temps have been in the sixties and low seventies, which is positively bizarre for out here: Average afternoon highs should be in the high eighties and low nineties. I blame Al Gore.

Nice and sunny this morning, though.


The Glissentar has given me an idea. Well, actually, I have been thinking about this for years, but my experience with the Glissentar made me reach the tipping point, and I finally decided to try it on a six-string. What I'm talking about is a metal-wound G string: The glissentar sets use them, and I like the sound a lot. But there's more to it than just the sound.

As you know, the lower four strings on a guitar are tuned in fourths: E, A, D, G, low to high. Then there is the skip of a major third between G and B, and the final high E is another fourth up. Traditional nylon string sets have used metal wound strings for the lower three strings, and plain nylon for the "trebles." This causes a problem with the G and B strings: While the low E, A, and D strings and the high E strings all test out at about sixteen pounds of tension in a high tension set tuned to A= 440Hz at sea level, the G and B strings weigh in at only about twelve pounds of tension. This is particularly problematic with the G, because its diameter and mass make it sound quite weak in comparison to the other strings, and it's also the first string to feed back if the axe is amplified.

This entire mess can be corrected if you simply replace the unwound nylon G with a steel wound one: Then all of the lower strings which are tuned in fourths are circa sixteen pounds, and the high E is in the same ballpark. Only the B is then in the twelve pound class, and it is not nearly as problematic as the G due to it's pitch, thinness, and lack of mass to generate feedback loops with.

So, why hasn't this been done all along? Tradition is one reason, and many Flamenco players DO use wound G's (Which is how I was able to find them), but one of the problems is string life: The windings are very, very thin and have a tendency to wear through quite quickly.

We'll see how these last, but as far as the playability and tone is concerned, they... ahem... totally rock, dude.


I have, for quite some time now, used nylon nails on my p, a, and c fingers. I didn't use them on my i and m fingers because all of the nylon nails I found were overly curved, and my nails on those fingers are almost totally flat: They hurt! Well, I found a flatter set that are also thicker, and therefore less prone to cracking.

I don't care what the traditionalists say, natural nails suck. First of all, nylon against nylon produces a superior tone, and nylon nails are of a consistent shape, so the finger-to-finger balance is, for all practical purposes, perfect. Furthermore, maintaining nails for a guy is a major PITA. Especially for someone like myself who does "guy things," like working on motorcycles or shooting traditional recurve bows. If I want to do those things, I don't worry about damaging my nails. In fact, I just remove them so that they don't get in the way.

I love it.


"Encore" by DeCelle

I love how these off-center and far-away views give additional insight into the fractal generation process. The generating Mandelbrot set is to the right, and the structure on the left is like a re-generation from the thinest thread coming back into a confluence. Really, really, cool.


I've always loved archery.


Anonymous dulciana said...

I used to be married to a guitarist (funny, and you used to be married to an organist) who let his nails grow long. They were pretty gross, actually. I'd far prefer to see nylon ones, especially since you can take them off. Interestingly enough, I learned archery from him too. Nice recurve.

2:50 PM  
Blogger Hucbald said...

Thanks, Dulciana.

(Weird 50's sci-fi/horror music) ooooOOOOOOooooo! Too many parallels. ;^)

That bow is a 1970s Damon Howatt Hunter that I got when I was a sophomore in high school. I have reenforced the tips and put FastFlight string on it - and of course the quiver isn't stock (It's permanently mounted on the bow) - but I've had it so long that it's a natural extension of myself. When I'm practiced up on it, I can drop arrows into a pie plate at 75 feet all afternoon,,, without sights of any kind. This just kills all of the compound bow shooters I know. A modest 48 pound draw weight for my arrow length makes it easy to handle too.

Probably TBI, but it IS a cool bow. LOL!



3:38 AM  

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