Question about Lute strings

Discussion of all aspects of early instruments, lutes, theorbos, vihuelas, Renaissance guitars and Baroque guitars.
Portland Bill
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Question about Lute strings

Postby Portland Bill » Sat Mar 08, 2014 12:18 pm

I have just acquired an 8 course renaissance Lute made by Gunter Penzel,it arrived with old strings on that were in pairs,I purchased a new set but the bottom 4 courses are in octaves like a 12 string guitar,it seems almost impossible to tune the octaves up to pitch and all the other strings don't feel right having hardly any tension in them.
Any advice will be gratefully received

Best Regards Tony

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Michael.N.
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Re: Question about Lute strings

Postby Michael.N. » Sat Mar 08, 2014 1:06 pm

They should feel like rubber bands in comparison to guitars. Why can't you tune the octaves?
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Portland Bill
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Re: Question about Lute strings

Postby Portland Bill » Sat Mar 08, 2014 2:03 pm

Hi Michael,
If I get the fundamental in and tune the octaves to them the highest octave string breaks,the instrument sounded much better with the old non octave paired strings which had more tension.

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Michael.N.
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Re: Question about Lute strings

Postby Michael.N. » Sat Mar 08, 2014 2:11 pm

You will have to give me the string length, string type and the diameters of the strings that are breaking.
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Portland Bill
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Re: Question about Lute strings

Postby Portland Bill » Sat Mar 08, 2014 2:32 pm

Scale is 620 and its the 5th octave 019 La Bella plain nylon

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Michael.N.
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Re: Question about Lute strings

Postby Michael.N. » Sat Mar 08, 2014 2:59 pm

I think that's a C? Plain string at 440 Hz, playing at 3 Kg tension would be near 0.58 - 0.60 mm Nylon.
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Portland Bill
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Re: Question about Lute strings

Postby Portland Bill » Sat Apr 12, 2014 10:52 am

Quite frankly I have given up on it.

Catire
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Re: Question about Lute strings

Postby Catire » Sat Apr 12, 2014 2:09 pm

You might get an answer if you ask at a lute forum. Meanwhile you could try here:
http://earlyguitar.ning.com/
Good luck.
"The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible." - Oscar Wilde

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Michael.N.
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Re: Question about Lute strings

Postby Michael.N. » Sat Apr 12, 2014 3:33 pm

The answer is easy. Get the correct string at the correct diameter for the string length and tune it to the correct pitch. If it's still breaking then something is cutting into it - top Nut, Bridge or Peg hole, the latter two being unlikely.
Thin, pure Gut strings are very prone to breaking. Nylgut or Nylon are fine. In fact in two years of playing the baroque Guitar (same as Lute tension) I changed the highest Nylgut string once (after a year it had the cheek to break), all the other strings were still going strong. With polished Nails you'll probably have to change them a bit more frequently, maybe once per 6 months or a year.
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Lovemyguitar
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Re: Question about Lute strings

Postby Lovemyguitar » Sat Apr 12, 2014 4:18 pm

I also own an 8-course Renaissance lute, which has the octave strings, too, and I have no problem tuning it at all, so perhaps you have the wrong strings? I knew nothing about lute strings when I bought it, and when I needed to replace strings, the folks at Aquila strings were very helpful (their website is Aquila usa (no space) dot com). They can recommend the best strings for your lute after you give them the info about its dimensions, etc. (my lute is longer than yours, so I can't help you, but I am sure that they will be able to). Please don't give up!

Scot Tremblay
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Re: Question about Lute strings

Postby Scot Tremblay » Sat Apr 12, 2014 5:10 pm

This is only a guess as I don't have enough information about your lute to know for sure. You might be tuning it too high for the strings you have. 620mm is the range where many players start tuning their instrument to F# or F rather than G. My main 8 course has a 640mm string length and I keep it tuned to F or a little higher sometimes (low F#). Here's a link to one of the best builders, Malcolm Prior, web page concerning size and pitch http://malcolmprior.co.uk/Questions-of-size-and-pitch You'll see part way dowen that he recommends tuning 62 - 64 cm lutes to F# at A440. This is pretty standard.

We are spoiled as guitarists, we just find the brand/weight we like and go to our local music store or order on line and get ready made sets...not so lucky as lute players. The ready made sets don't really cover very many of the variation in the instruments so we have to go to someone who specializes in strings and get them to set us up with an appropriate set.

Rather than get my strings in a standard set, I get them from a specialty dealer (Gamut, http://www.gamutmusic.com/ ) in the USA but there are many in Europe...check here: http://www.unm.edu/~ctdbach/music/lute_strings.html and get in contact with these guys: http://www.lutesociety.org/
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"One picture is worth a thousand words. So, for me, one good note put where it should be put, will say what it will take some people many notes to say. ~B.B. King, 1986

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MartinCogg
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Re: Question about Lute strings

Postby MartinCogg » Sun Sep 14, 2014 2:18 pm

I use La Bella strings on mine but currently have it in unisons apart from 7th and 8th courses - I actually prefer unisons throughout which was my previous set-up, besides which, my lute is only 580mm string length, top course set to G... I'd tune it higher for a higher tension feel, but don't like the higher pitched sound.

I would suggest trying lower tuning as advised by Scot, or perhaps something on the nut, or elsewhere, is cutting into the string as suggested by Michael.

I bought a new La Bella set recently as back-up and it is octaves from 5th course down same as yours (bigriver seller bargain
price) and the octave for 5th is same, 019, I don't see that string gauge as the problem in itself.

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MartinCogg
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Re: Question about Lute strings

Postby MartinCogg » Mon Sep 15, 2014 1:03 pm

Well anyway, so these days I only pick up my lute once in a while - sometimes we get on very well, sometimes I put it away
again quite quickly...

today, for the sake of enquiry I installed that .019 5th course octave in place and it seemed perfectly correct (all bearing in
mind tuning it to C at a 580mm string length) but I changed it back to unisons quite soon after because I don't like octaves
on 8 course lute... except I think on the 7th and 8th I'm finding them okay -

(and I'm enjoying my lute very much today :D )

however, I remember I once had octaves from 4th to 8th courses and I remember finding the La Bella octaves supplied far too
floppy... ridiculous in fact, and the gauges provided seem far too thin. At that time, for a while I decided to leave the 7th and
8th as single strings - easier for a beginner I thought. Later I changed all to unisons and was very happy with that.

Currently, as said, octaves on 7th & 8th, but I followed my own instruction, the gauge on 7th being now .028 (same as usual classical 1st), and 8th has .030 for its octave...

though what I used is probably very naughty, nylon fishing line - no idea what's best, installed last December, MEMOR-X (ultimauk.com) 50 lb = .028, 60 lb = .030 ... I believe. (to use the same material for 5th course while sorting things out,
rather than breaking more of the more expensive stuff - MEMOR-X 30 lb = .020 gauge).

I find I need to retune these at beginning of a session whilst everything else stays quite well to pitch from month to month, perhaps this is the 'memory-free' aspect of this fishing line - I know nothing of these matters, perhaps just normal classical
1sts would be better for both 7th and 8th octave... but fishing line's enticingly cheap and easy to find locally and I had to experiment for myself, having read stories about line... on line.

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classicalcomp
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Re: Question about Lute strings

Postby classicalcomp » Sat Nov 08, 2014 1:09 am

Yeah. lute strings that are great are becoming harder to find. I like the nylgut strings. I'd recommend taking your lute to a luthier to check the nut and maybe make you a new one. Then again, if they're all breaking, maybe keeping them unison would be better. Either way a new nut would be ideal.
“(I was) my own teacher and pupil, and thanks to the efforts of both, they were not discontented with each other.”
- Andres Segovia


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