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INSTRUMENT REPAIR - LAWRENCE, KS
 
 
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Tuning question

Q: Read an article of yours on setting up guitars etc...

Is it possible to set up a regular scale length sapele martin acoustic guitar to Db Ab Db Gb Ab Db with a set of 56 45 35 26 17 13 and still have the intonation perfect at the 7th fret on the low Db? Total tension on the neck comes out to about 167 lbs. Needs to be strum-able too.

Let me know what you think! I want to get this guitar set up like this but I want to make sure I'm not wasting my time. also, if there is a trick to this, what is it!?
Many thanks,
Bryan S.

A: Tuning it that low, I would use heavier strings. Maybe a .058 or .060 on the low Db. .045, .035 and .026 are cool for the Ab, Db, Gb , but try a .022 wound for the second string and a .014 for the first. You should get a hand full of strings and just experiment. The heavier strings are louder and more stable. Lighter strings produce more overtones. Try various strings and pitches in the sixth string slot. Put a .022W in the sixth slot, tune it to Ab and compare it to the .017 tuned to Ab in the second string slot. Once you get the tone right, check the intonation. If it is off, you will need the compensation adjusted; the contact point on the saddle moved. We have a little machine that sits on top of your bridge and has a saddle that adjusts back and forth like an electric guitar saddle. We find the optimal string length with the machine, measure it and transfer it to your bridge. Sometimes moving the contact point from the center to the back of your saddle does the trick. Sometimes we need to widen the slot and make a new saddle. Sometimes you need a whole new bridge. Compensation effects how much the string changes pitch as it bends down to the frets. The fret placement is relative to the string length and is not changed by how floppy your strings are.

Medium strings tuned to standard pitch pull at 180lbs. If your action is set perfectly for standard pitch, tuning it down to 167lbs will cause the neck to bow backwards. Loosening the rod will straighten neck. Once you have chosen your string weight, and string length, you should get a full action set to bring it all together. Among other things, the heavier strings will need wider nut slots.

Steve Mason

 


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