low tension strings vs high tension strings - pitch change while bending

Choice of classical guitar strings and technical issues connected with their use.
SteveL123
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low tension strings vs high tension strings - pitch change while bending

Post by SteveL123 » Mon May 22, 2017 2:41 pm

I was trying a guitar out yesterday and noticed chords played on the nylon strings at frets 8 and 10 were slightly out of tune (open strings were in tune). The seller explained to me it was due the strings being low tension nylon and I was bending the strings while fretting the chord. I had my guitar with me (with Daddario high tension carbon) and it was not out of tune fretting the same chord. He explained low tension nylon are easier to bend than high tension carbons which I do understand since low tension strings are more noodle-ly. I was trying hard not to bend the strings on his guitar when fretting the chord and it still sounded out of tune.

My questions are:

1. Do low tension nylon strings rise in pitch more than high tension carbon strings if bent the same amount?

2. Does bending the string a little bit cause enough of a pitch change to make the note out of tune? I've read string bending is a technique used by player's with fat finger tips to make clearance for the adjacent open string so it is not muted. I see John Williams doing it in his youtube videos and it did not sound out of tune.

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Beowulf
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Re: low tension strings vs high tension strings - pitch change while bending

Post by Beowulf » Mon May 22, 2017 2:52 pm

Fretting a chord is not the same as bending, unless you are moving the strings laterally when you fret the chord. If there are tuning issues when fretting a chord, it is most likely that the guitar's intonation is off. Check this article by Jeremy Locke at Guitarra Magazine: Intonation and Tuning the Classical Guitar.
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SteveL123
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Re: low tension strings vs high tension strings - pitch change while bending

Post by SteveL123 » Mon May 22, 2017 3:30 pm

He was saying I was moving (he called it bending) the string when fretting the chord. Low tension nylon strings are more prone to moving/ bending and change pitch more than high tension strings is what he was saying. Try fretting a chord with low tension nylon strings and look at the strings, they are very slippery against the frets and it is hard not to bend the strings slightly.

SteveL123
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Re: low tension strings vs high tension strings - pitch change while bending

Post by SteveL123 » Mon May 22, 2017 3:53 pm

What you call moving the string laterally is same motion as bending. I looked at my fingers, and at most I moved the string 1 mm laterally. I was not actively trying to bend the string like a rock guitarist. It was just the natural way my fingers lay-ed on the strings that cause the slight lateral movement of the strings.

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Beowulf
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Re: low tension strings vs high tension strings - pitch change while bending

Post by Beowulf » Mon May 22, 2017 4:34 pm

Yes, low tension strings are easier to move and if the guitar's action is high, and/or the frets are tall, this will also increase the pitch change. If 1mm is sufficient to alter the pitch, it should be possible to alter your left hand finger positions and return the strings to true. Does this resolve the tuning issue?
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SteveL123
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Re: low tension strings vs high tension strings - pitch change while bending

Post by SteveL123 » Mon May 22, 2017 4:50 pm

Beowulf wrote:
Mon May 22, 2017 4:34 pm
Yes, low tension strings are easier to move and if the guitar's action is high, and/or the frets are tall, this will also increase the pitch change. If 1mm is sufficient to alter the pitch, it should be possible to alter your left hand finger positions and return the strings to true. Does this resolve the tuning issue?
The real question is whether 1 mm lateral movement of the string is enough to change the pitch to make it sound out of tune. If you watch youtube videos of concert level guitarists, you see lateral movement of the strings often. As to "it should be possible to alter your left hand finger positions and return the strings to true", that may be easier said than done. It's like saying: "it should be possible to alter your left hand technique so you don't get string squeaks", also easier said than done.
Last edited by SteveL123 on Mon May 22, 2017 8:22 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Beowulf
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Re: low tension strings vs high tension strings - pitch change while bending

Post by Beowulf » Mon May 22, 2017 4:56 pm

Well, it is possible to alter your left hand technique to avoid/reduce string squeaks. I simply meant that you could test the 1mm movement effect by carefully shifting your fingers on one chord position until the strings are true...does the tuning issue decrease or disappear?
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SteveL123
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Re: low tension strings vs high tension strings - pitch change while bending

Post by SteveL123 » Mon May 22, 2017 5:07 pm

On my guitar with high tension carbon strings, moving the treble string 1 mm laterally does not cause a perceptible out of tune note or chord.

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Beowulf
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Re: low tension strings vs high tension strings - pitch change while bending

Post by Beowulf » Mon May 22, 2017 6:02 pm

SteveL123 wrote:
Mon May 22, 2017 5:07 pm
On my guitar with high tension carbon strings, moving the treble string 1 mm laterally does not cause a perceptible out of tune note or chord.
Then, I would surmise that the instrument in question has an intonation/setup issue. Yes, string gauge does affect intonation (thinner flattens and thicker sharpens), however if the instrument is set up as well as it can be for a particular string gauge there should not be problematic tuning issues. The guitar may have been setup up for higher tension strings and if the setup is good (neck relief, saddle compensation (and nut if the luthier was that precise), action height, fret height) then it should be possible to adjust for the different strings. If the frets were not positioned correctly...oops! If the use of higher tension strings corrects the problem, then the guitar is very sensitive to string gauge due to having been setup for higher tension strings. Note that higher tension strings will change the action height due to small changes in the neck relief and vertical pull on the bridge.
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Emil Krasich
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Re: low tension strings vs high tension strings - pitch change while bending

Post by Emil Krasich » Mon May 22, 2017 7:15 pm

On lower tension strings like EJ45s, it's pretty easy to push or pull the string out of tune (toward head stalk sharp or bridge flat) with minimal effort if you are used to high tension strings. It makes vibrato much easier but of course without a light enough and precise touch, you can easily make it seem like there is an intonation issue. Happened with me when I went to lower tension and I've pointed it out to every student that I've taught over the last 20 years. Higher tension carbons make this difficult to do accidentally.

SteveL123
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Re: low tension strings vs high tension strings - pitch change while bending

Post by SteveL123 » Mon May 22, 2017 8:20 pm

I do not use a death grip on my left hand when pressing on the frets/fingerboard, otherwise my left hand would get tired quickly while playing. I was not pushing or pulling the strings towards the nut or bridge, which could raise or lower the pitch. I was pressing downward into the fingerboard. I did use the Android tuner to briefly to look at the out-of-tune note in question and it was approx 3 cents sharp. Maybe a more thorough check with a tuner with different tension strings is in order.

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Beowulf
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Re: low tension strings vs high tension strings - pitch change while bending

Post by Beowulf » Mon May 22, 2017 9:13 pm

There is also the possibility that if it is only one string, it could be a bad string.
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