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# How high can guitar strings tune above standard

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(@guitar34)
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Joined: 10 years ago
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On a standard acoustic guitar how far can light guage strings tune above their intended pitch?

(@noteboat)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 4921

It depends.

Vibrating strings sound best when they're TAUT - if they're floppy you get all sorts of intonation problems. So strings are engineered to be in proper pitch at approximately 70% of their breaking strength. Going from 70% to 100% is roughly a 50% increase in tension; raising the pitch by an octave requires a 300% increase in tension (frequency is related to the square of the tension).

But string manufacturers don't know how long your instrument is. Strings are made to be long enough to fit any guitar, so engineers are probably using a 26" theoretical scale length - that would accommodate Fenders at 25.5" plus a bit more for any oddball instruments. And pitch is directly related to the length of the string - cut the string length in half by playing at that 12th fret and you raise the pitch an octave.

So let's put some numbers to that. Let's say you're using a 10 gauge E string on a 25.5" scale length. The string is under roughly 16.21 pounds of tension. If it was on a 26" scale length, the tension would be under about 17 pounds of tension; that means its breaking point is about 24 pounds. (Note: the exact breaking point is going to depend on a lot of things - this would be the point at which the average string is expected to fail). That will get you to about G before it snaps.

But if you put that same string on a small travel guitar with a 20" scale length you might get all the way to C before it goes.

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(@guitar34)
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Joined: 10 years ago
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Topic starter

How do you find the breaking tension of wound strings? For wound strings you would use the diameter core. A .056 low E would probably have a core of .018. A .042 A string would be .016. A .032 D string would be a .015. A .025 G string would be .014.

(@rahul)
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Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 2736

By experience, I have found that if you take your strings above standard (even by half step) one of them is bound to break sooner or later.

So, Don't. Keep it standard. And, IIRC most alternate tunings are below standard tuning notes.

(@diceman)
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Joined: 19 years ago
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On a standard acoustic guitar how far can light guage strings tune above their intended pitch?
I'm just curious , why would you want to do such a thing ? If you need it strung higher , buy a capo .

If I claim to be a wise man , it surely means that I don't know .

(@kkayser)
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Joined: 10 years ago
Posts: 10

I am a firm believer that Guitar Companies design their product to work best when the strings are tuned to standard ( or some where close), so I would not advise tuning much above 440. That said, I do often play in open G, and occasionally open E, but I do not think that excessivly tuning an acoustic to a higher pitch will be good for the guitar or is even practical at all. I agree totally with the other advise already mentioned in the thread.....use a Capo. on a side note, when tuning to open E, the 4th and 5th strings are tuned up by one step (two frets), I would never tune a guitar any tighter than that.

(@starbrick)
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Joined: 9 years ago
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On a standard acoustic guitar how far can light guage strings tune above their intended pitch?
I'm just curious , why would you want to do such a thing ? If you need it strung higher , buy a capo .

If you're singing at the same time you sometimes need a different key. I'm learning Big Love by Fleetwood Mac and the key I want to sing it in is up 7/8 with the capo - which leaves very little room when you need to play the 8th fret (relative to the capo). I could tune down by 5 semitones so it's all an octave lower, but then it wouldn't sound very good as the strings would be really slack. and it would be much harder to play (as if it isn't hard enough already!)

just one example - i'm sure there are many others

(@guitar34)
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Joined: 10 years ago
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Topic starter

I heard guitar strings can go to their
Next string. Using a set of 12,s. low e up to a , a up o d , and d up to g. I can go up at least five semitones on the thicker strings without snapping. If anyone has tested a set of 12,s or 13,s and tuned above standard please post. Tell me how high you got.