Tuning down a 24,75" scale guitar - at which point will it begin to effect clarity significantly?

Discussion in 'Tone Zone' started by NoiseNinja, Feb 18, 2020.

  1. NoiseNinja

    NoiseNinja Active Member

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    So I ponder on tuning my SG down to C# standard tuning, of course equipping it with a set of string that approximately will give me the same tension as my current .046 - .010 set, tuned in E standard, which I calculated to be a .054 - .012 set of strings pretty spot on.

    However I realize that at some point the just 24,75" scale length of my SG will make tuning it down result in my tone loosing clarity and definition, compared to if I had tuned down a longer scale guitar or baritone guitar to a similar low tuning.

    So my question is if there is any consensus on at which point tuning down a 24,75" scale guitar begins to become a noticeable issue, concerning retaining tone clarity and definition, even if I do realize tone to a certain extend is subjective?

    I should add that I actually plan to use this tuning mainly to play clean, more specifically primarily finger picking chords and not with a whole lot of chord strumming involved.

    Do you think I would be better off making a compromise and just tune it down two half steps, to D standard tuning, or would the half step further down, to C# standard tuning, 3 half steps bellow standard E tuning, probably not make much of a difference to the overall clarity and definition of my tone?
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2020
  2. Norton

    Norton Well-Known Member

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    Move up to 13’s maybe???

    25.5” scale isn’t going to help too much if you’re dropping past c#. Even with heavier strings. Baritone 27” or 30” scale would help.

    Or you could look for pedals that allow you to drop tune on the virtual.

    There are so many trade offs if you tube lower than d. set ups and the physics of tension and vibration make virtual d-tuning a totally viable solution. If not a preferred option.
     
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  3. NoiseNinja

    NoiseNinja Active Member

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    I appreciate your input, but I honestly doubt very much that a pedal that would drop my guitar's tuning 3 half steps down would be a very viable solution when using it clean, wanting it to sound as a natural clean guitar, and as a permanent thing, as I plan to.

    Probably still a passable solution if you are using distortion anyway, as that will mask a big part of the artificial flavor that comes with pitch sihifting a signal, but I very much doubt it will work if you want your guitar perfectly clean and still sound naturally.

    You're sure increasing the tension of the strings when tuned down compared to the tension when tuned in E standard helps retaining more clarity and definition?

    If so that might actually be worth a shot.

    Though I did kind of assume myself that two half steps down to D standard tuning would be about maximum for pretty much still retaining about the same amount of clarity and definition as with E standard tuning, so you are probably right that even just a half step further down already would begin to effect the overall clarity and definition of the tone too much.

    Still open to hear from people who actually had success with doing this though, I mean it might still be viable, even if I am not too optimistic about it being very likely.
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2020
  4. Norton

    Norton Well-Known Member

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    Joni Mitchell used an 80’s/90’s roland guitar synth to play live all through the 80’s-early 2000’s.

    She uses pretty insane tunings and Was either acoustic or straight up clean.

    It’s something to explore anyway.

    If you’re tuning down to c# or lower even 13’s aren’t exactly at tension even on a 25.5” guitar.

    The only other option is to lengthen the scale 27” scale will handle it. 30” can do it but things will actually start to get tight with that scale length.

    The 27” or 30” scale are very piano overtone heavy. Clear for sure.

    If you’re into experimenting there are some “cheap” options out there.

    I’ve Picked up a squire bassVI and heavily modified it. I would strongly recommend NOT getting one of those. The trem, bridge and pickups are really sub par. The squire jazzmaster baritone has a MUCH more functionally useful bridge. Dano baritones are great too.

    The agile family have some options too. A while back, Someone unloaded like 6-8 agile etc guitars at a local shop and they were all very decent guitars. I’d take one of their Harm series baritones and play the absolute **** out of it.
     
  5. NoiseNinja

    NoiseNinja Active Member

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    @Norton As said I appreciate your input, but .054 to .012 would pretty much be the exact same tension tuned in C# standard as my current .046 to .010 is in E standard tuning.

    I even planed to buy individual strings to ensure this, and have used one of the online string tension browser apps that both takes scale length, string type and string gauge into account.

    A set of .054 - .042 - .032 - .024 - .016 - .012, with only the two lightest strings being plain and the others being nickle round wound steel core strings, would give me almost the exact same tension tuned in C# standard tuning, as the .046 to .010 set I use now for E standard tuning.

    That is regular guitar tension, and the reason why you would usually use greater tention on longer scaled instruments is because at the same tension strings will feel stiffer on a shorter scale, physics really.

    Same gauge will have less tension the shorter the scale, yes, but actual same tension will feel stiffer the shorter the scale and more flexible the longer the scale.

    This is the calculator I used, because there is a bug currently with using the String Tension Pro app that won't make you select string gauge, pretty sure the results are identical though: https://wahiduddin.net/calc/calc_guitar_tension_from_size.htm

    I am pretty certain it would actually feel just fine, what I am worried about is how it will sound.
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2020
  6. Norton

    Norton Well-Known Member

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    Why wonder then? String it up and roll.

    Same strings tuned to the same pitch are tighter at a longer scale. Those strings will not feel more flexible on a longer scale guitar.

    They will feel far more flexible if there is more string after the bridge break point. Trapeze vs stop tail etc.

    But the longer the string after the bridge
    Break the more you need to bend a string to affect the pitch. Intonation is much wider when there’s more string behind the bridge break too.

    As far as clarity goe: I think anything lower than d gets mushy on a Gibson. A 25.5 scale will give you a little. 27” a whole bunch. Same for 30”.
     
  7. Bad Penguin

    Bad Penguin Well-Known Member

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    The issue with "string it up and roll" is that he will need to re-cut the nut, probably the saddles too, completely reset intonation, and probably adjust truss rod. And if it somehow sucks, redo the entire process, including re-cutting a new nut and saddles. Just might be better in the long run getting a cheap Baritone.
     
  8. Biddlin

    Biddlin Well-Known Member

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    Absolutely right and an Epi SG Special doesn't seem likely to accommodate that much remediation. Clarity at those frequencies is best achieved by an instrument and amp system designed to deliver it.
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    A tried and true classic and priced affordably. No dicking around, just plug it in and play which is actually the point of having a guitar, you know, PLAYING IT!:naughty:
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2020
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  9. Kabrijj

    Kabrijj Well-Known Member

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    It can totally be done, and I'd recommend giving it a try.

    This here is my black Faded SG. Since this picture was taken, I put heavy strings on it and tuned down to C standard.

    Later - Body.jpg

    @NoiseNinja , I went through a similar tension calculator situation, and actually landed on a very similar string gauge: 12-16-24p-32-44-58.

    I saw you were thinking a wound third string, which I completely agree with. I would however, recommend a thinner gauge. For me, the plain 24 was just too tight, impossible to bend, and it felt VERY weird while playing... sounded kind of wrong, too. I tried a 24w and it better but still wasn't quite there... I landed on a 22w and it just feels right.

    Ironically (or not), Ernie Ball offers a "Not Even Slinky" set which is almost perfect, save for the wound 3rd. Recently I saw they've got a "Magnum Slinky" set which is pretty much the same, and almost exact for what I'm using -- the low E is a 56 instead of 58, and in either case I haven't tried them yet (so no firsthand review there).

    As far as "mods" go, it was a fairly straight-forward change.

    I did have to cut a new nut, but the bridge stayed virtually the same as it was with "normal" strings on. I don't recall if I had to adjust the truss rod -- in theory, the tension is similar to normal strings at normal tension, so maybe? Ultimately though it's just turning a truss rod: if one's not accustomed to it, it can be daunting... but it's almost as routine as putting on strings, at this point.

    All that being said, I've used those exact same gauge strings on this 28-5/8" scale baritone tuned to B, and they feel almost like 9s in E standard. Awesome! The 24.75" scale in C still works, and sounds pretty darn killer, too! They just feel different, in a way that's very hard to describe.

    IMG_20181128_110958.jpg

    Ultimately, I think a baritone (or at least longer scale) might be a better option if you plan to do this a lot, or professionally... but you gotta try both to know which you prefer!

    Then, as far as sound goes... whole new can of worms. I think a LOT will depend on your pickups. Stay away from hotter pickups, especially in the neck for sure! Or look towards pickups designed for lower tuning.

    That black SG has Duncan Nazgul & Sentient pickups in it. Nazgul is pretty hot in the bridge, but designed for lower tunings. The Sentient in the neck is a bit more on the lower output side, and stays sharp & crisp.

    I had a Dirty Fingers in the neck & bridge of a Les Paul I had tuned to D -- the neck pickup came out so fast it wasn't funny: mud city. Well, delicious & doomy sounding mud :cool:, but still. Ended up with a lower output P90-style in there and it's super clear & I dig it a lot -- plus it balances with the bridge better than I thought it would.

    IMG_20200205_084850.jpg

    Losing clarity in terms of downtuning, I don't think, has a threshold -- it just sounds different at different tensions. Since you're only going to C# instead of C, maybe you'll have a half-step's worth of additional clarity over my SG :cheers:
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2020
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  10. Bert Scrogshaw

    Bert Scrogshaw Member

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    I'm interested in this thread as I was thinking of playing my SG fingerstyle and even with 10s on it the string tension is too 'tight' for me.....I like to feel a bit of give to the strings when finger picking.
    I used to finger pick on an acoustic (it wasn't shorter scale though) with 14s on it tuned down to around C or Db......and loved the way the strings felt on my picking fingers.
    I don't want to put really heavy strings on the SG as the nut is set up for 10s....and I don't want to possibly damage the neck.
    Looks like I will be looking for an acoustic again so I can recreate my old drop tuning finger style set up.....I do kind of miss it!
     
  11. NoiseNinja

    NoiseNinja Active Member

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    As I mentioned in my OP I mostly utilizes finger picking too, and personally I really like the way .010 to .046 feels in standard tuning.

    But that said I both play bass and guitar, and have swapped back and forth respectively between the two as my main instrument of choice throughout the years, and with most time spend on bass, so I am used to higher gauged strings and relatively high tension.

    Using one of the online string tension calculators that allows you to plot in both scale length, desired tuning and string type might help you though.

    My go to string tension calculator, D'Addario's "String Tension Pro", didn't work last time I wanted to use it though, and is now taken down for maintenance, I assume in order to fix the issues I encountered, and I can't seem to find the other great online calculator I found instead, but a Google search on the search term "String Tension Calculator" should give you several other options.

    Also I kind of dropped (no pun intended), my plans on tuning my SG down, it's staying in standard E tuning, but I might invest in a 27" or 28" scale baritone guitar in the future, and I might get the fairly new EHX Bass9 pedal as well, which allows you to emulate several different types of bass instruments on guitar, and either blend the effected signal with your guitar signal og use it's two separate dedicated outputs, to run respectively your clean and effected signal through 2 different amps.

    Personally I am pondering on likely using the Longhorn setting, that emulates a Danelectro Longhorn 6 bass/baritone guitar, and allows for detuning your guitar from everything between 1 and 12 half steps, which means from Eb standard tuning to E standard an octave lower, planing to run it an octave lower and blend it in with my uneffected guitar signal, which should fill some more sonic space and add a nice amount of low end, without, if done right, getting too muddy, with how I mainly play my guitar.

    Here's the official product demo of the EHX Bass9, and to me it sounds pretty impressive (pretty similar to what I have in mind being demonstrated at the 3:48 mark):
     
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  12. cerebral gasket

    cerebral gasket Well-Known Member

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    I have three SG.
    All three are strung with 10’s.
    Each one is set up for different tuning.

    E, D#, C#

    The SG tuned to E and D# have P-90’s.
    The SG tuned to C# has 490’s.

    I use the SG with 490’s for the lower tuning because it’s the brightest sounding guitar of the three. That SG also has an ebony board, so maybe why it sounds snappier?

    The difference in string tension does not bother me. I learn to use a lighter touch on the guitars with lower tunings.

    I play all three SG using a pick with clean and hi gain amp settings.
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2020
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  13. scribblesomething

    scribblesomething New Member

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    I have a couple fenders and a fre Gibson’s (es 330, lp special dc, p90 bfg) tuned down to open C with 12s at what’s I’d say is a medium action.

    I upgraded the 54 to a 56 so it could push back against the slide a little more. It’s the heaviest the strings I’m using has. I wouldn’t mind trying a 58 or 60. But I don’t like DRs enough to switch.

    the thick string it the toughest for intonation. Most of the time even with the saddle all the way back it’s a little sharp at the twelve.

    On the double cut I switched the wrap-around for an old bada55 bridge and it’s the best for intonation. First compensated bridges aren’t cm compensated for open tunings and best I can crank the bass side back far enough for proper intonation. It gave me a whole new appreciation for wraparound bridges.
     
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  14. Beery Swine

    Beery Swine Active Member

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    iirc Amon Amarth uses/used Gibson Explorers tuned to B standard. You don't get much more down tuned than that in a 6-string, and no one complains about their clarity to the best of my knowledge.
    Adjacently, I have a 27" guitar with EMGs tuned to B with a nice set of strings, but the feeling of the pick scraping such heavier strings just feels all wrong, like the pick just seems to get caught more on the winding. I need to look into one of those flat wound or w/e sets for that guitar. Funny thing is, the 7-string doesn't have that same feel to it. Not sure what the difference is.
     
  15. Logan

    Logan Well-Known Member

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    I have had my Fireburst SG tuned at its lowest into Drop A. I had no issues with clarity, or tone, or even intonation for that matter. I had 13-62s on it, and at that low of tunings the issue I had was because I don’t have the softest of touches, the pitch would drift when I would play the strings. That is what most people’s issue with those low tunings is the pitch drift, which is why you see things like the evertune bridge, multi-sale instruments, or my seven string which has a 26.5in scale.

    That being said, try it. If you like it, use those gauges. The key is experimentation, just like everything else with guitar.
     
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  16. tony1852

    tony1852 New Member

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    Just found this post. Here's something regarding all of this. Doesn't Tony Iommi use 8's for strings AND drop tuning? I'm sure some of our Iommi guru's can tell us how that worked out. I'm actually considering going to 8-42 strings myself but staying in standard tuning.
     

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