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Thread: Breaking A-Strings in CGDA tuning

  1. #1

    Default Breaking A-Strings in CGDA tuning

    All ... I change between standard CGDA tuning and DADF# and CGCG open tunings regularly. Unfortunately the A-string will only take about a half-dozen changes before it snaps. I changed to EFS reentrant tuning using all wound strings in hopes that it would last longer; it does but not much longer. Yesterday I broke the A-string at a most inopportune time and had to suffer the embarrassment of finishing with 3 strings. Does anyone have any suggestions as to what I might use as a more durable A-string? As always, thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking A-Strings in CGDA tuning

    You could use a 21” scale as a steel A string will always be near it limit on a 23” scale.

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    Harley Marty
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    Default Re: Breaking A-Strings in CGDA tuning

    I find that plains take the tension better than wounds. I broke a new nickel wound putting it on yesterday & the string was below G# & I was going up slow slow slowly, that’s annoying too

  4. #4

    Default Re: Breaking A-Strings in CGDA tuning

    If it's snapping at the tuning machine there's a very good chance there are sharp edges or burrs cutting into the string. This often happens after the stem is drilled out for the string. This is easily fixed with a bit of sandpaper. Remove the string and sand the tuning machine's stem where the string enters and exits the hole until smooth.

    If the string is of a light gauge with a lot of tension I find it often helps to tune to pitch in batches. If you try doing it all at once the friction causes the string to vibrate and heat-up making it more susceptible to breakage. Go slow and tune up - let it cool - tune more - let cool - and etc.
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    Lord of All Badgers Lord of the Badgers's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking A-Strings in CGDA tuning

    I put really heavy sets on my GDAE tuned tenor... It's normal lol. I hate light strings
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    Unfamous String Buster Beanzy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking A-Strings in CGDA tuning

    I get this if I go too heavy on my mandoloncello. I put most of a set of the D’Adario MC strings on but use a lighter A, which seemed a bit backwards, but it was because the heavier strings needed more tension and my longer scale was too much for them. On the basis of my experience on the big beasty, Id say maybe try a lighter A on your tenor guitar to see if they survive longer by being under less strain when tuned.
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    Lord of All Badgers Lord of the Badgers's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking A-Strings in CGDA tuning

    Didn't finish last post!
    My tenor is
    .49
    .32
    .26
    .16
    23"
    I sense I may have over done it...
    My name is Rob, and I am Lord of All Badgers

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    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking A-Strings in CGDA tuning

    The A string on a 23” scale tenor guitar (cgda) is close to breaking, I have never tested it but I have read on this forum that they will break at 24”.
    I don’t think it matters what size the string is .. 09-010- 011 the string will still be at near breaking point when tuned to pitch.
    The difference will be the tension to reach breaking point but regardless of string diameter it will still be near breaking point.

    Badger, for me those string would be awful and very miss matched but if that is something you are used to then I guess they are the right strings for you!
    Your chosen gauges for a 23” tuned GDAE would be G 24lb D 24lb A 37lb E 34lb.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Breaking A-Strings in CGDA tuning

    Quote Originally Posted by fox View Post
    The A string on a 23” scale tenor guitar (cgda) is close to breaking, I have never tested it but I have read on this forum that they will break at 24”.

    I don’t think it matters what size the string is .. 09-010- 011 the string will still be at near breaking point when tuned to pitch.
    The difference will be the tension to reach breaking point but regardless of string diameter it will still be near breaking point.
    This is correct. A plain steel wire will snap relatively quickly when tuned to G#4 at a scale length of 25.5"ring, and A#4 at a length around 24". The thinner the string, the easier it is to get to pitch, but the thinner string is too weak to last. The thicker the string, the stronger it is, but it requires so much tension to get to pitch that the string snaps.

    There *are* special alloy strings available which will get to higher pitches, but they won't withstand constant retuning and will snap.

    Going to an instrument with a 20" scale length or shorter is the only solution which will allow retuning to a high A4 and then lower, repeatedly, as desired by the OP without string breakage.
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    Lord of All Badgers Lord of the Badgers's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking A-Strings in CGDA tuning

    Quote Originally Posted by fox View Post
    The A string on a 23” scale tenor guitar (cgda) is close to breaking, I have never tested it but I have read on this forum that they will break at 24”.
    I don’t think it matters what size the string is .. 09-010- 011 the string will still be at near breaking point when tuned to pitch.
    The difference will be the tension to reach breaking point but regardless of string diameter it will still be near breaking point.

    Badger, for me those string would be awful and very miss matched but if that is something you are used to then I guess they are the right strings for you!
    Your chosen gauges for a 23” tuned GDAE would be G 24lb D 24lb A 37lb E 34lb.
    Science isn't my forte lol. I had a set on and the G was too floppy...
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    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking A-Strings in CGDA tuning

    Ha ha well what ever works for you, just be aware that 120 lb of total string tension would very likely damage most tenor guitars.
    Perhaps you should use an octave mandolin with 4 strings!

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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking A-Strings in CGDA tuning

    This rings a bell - a long time ago, I played a 19-fret tenor banjo in CGDA, and the A string was near breaking when tuned to pitch the first time - if it survived this and stayed tuned, it lasted quite a long time, but lowering and tuning up again was out of the question (down a half step and up again BANG). String change was like defusing a bomb every time. In the end, I sawed the nut slots down into the wood to make the first fret a zero fret and have an 18-fret banjo henceforth.

    There is a reason. Near the breaking point tension, steel goes from elastic to plastic deformation, i.e. microscopic fractures are beginning to develop. You have the same process when bending a spoon forwards, backwards, forwards, backwards until it breaks.

    Therefore, to make tuning changes possible, you must stay away from that tension limit by using lighter strings.
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    Lord of All Badgers Lord of the Badgers's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking A-Strings in CGDA tuning

    Quote Originally Posted by fox View Post
    Ha ha well what ever works for you, just be aware that 120 lb of total string tension would very likely damage most tenor guitars.
    Perhaps you should use an octave mandolin with 4 strings!
    Hm. It's a Mcilroy and pretty sturdy. He shipped it with a very heavy CGDA set.
    Bottom line is I have LITERALLY no idea how to use string tension calculators. It just doesn't work with my brain and no one has ever been able to get me to understand them

    How would this work?

    Oh incidentally been meaning to say to you - I bumped into that old archtop of yours at Wimborne folk festival a few weekends ago
    My name is Rob, and I am Lord of All Badgers

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    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking A-Strings in CGDA tuning

    Cool, I have sold 7 tenor guitars this year and I am building one to order right now but that is likely the last one as I Intend to sell my workshop.

    I am not familiar with your guitar so I can’t comment but most tenon guitars are far more happy with around 80- 90 lb total tension.
    However Blueridge tenor guitars are said to be fine with 100lb and I know there is one Blueridge (on this forum) that has been converted to 8 strings and has 140lb ! Although whether that one still works I can’t say?

    Personally I recommend 13 20 30 45 but I supply my 23” tenors with 12 18 30 45. to suit their light build.
    Perhaps a quick check with your guitar builder would be worth while.

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    Registered User WillFly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking A-Strings in CGDA tuning

    My tenor is a 23" scale instrument - tuned CGDA - and I now always use a .009 gauge string for the A. I used to use .010 and found that they tended to break. The .009 string is very stable.

    I use Elixir strings Phosphor Bronze Nanoweb strings - bought as singles, rather than a set - and they last very well.

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    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking A-Strings in CGDA tuning

    This is interesting, if you can get your head around it, but as far as I know, a 9 is just as likely to break as a 10!

    The .009 will be as close to its breaking strain as a .010. or a .008 or a .011.

    The 9 will be under less tension but due to it smaller diameter will still be close to breaking point.

    unfortunately I have never been able to find a breaking strain chart but I have read that a .010 will break at 24.5” when tuned to pitch ... the same aa a .009 or a .011 the difference will be the amount of strain required to break the sting.

    So in other words to tune a string a “A” octave four, the limit is the scale length rather than the string diameter and all strings will be close to breaking point or actually snapping at 24.5 inch scale.

    I would be happy to stand corrected but that is my understanding based on snippets of information gained by researching and conversations.
    So in conclusion ... a .009 might feel easier to get to pitch but is just as likely to snap as a .010.

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    Registered User WillFly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking A-Strings in CGDA tuning

    A clue may be in the playing style. I do quite a bit of string bending - up by a semitone on occasions - and it may be that that the extra tension is sustainable on a .009 string, but not so sustainable on a .010 gauge. Just a thought...

    Just another (belated thought): Changing tunings on a stringed instrument does put extra strain on the flexibility of the strings. I very occasionally venture into DADGAD on a guitar - but I always use a separate instrument from my regular 6-string.
    Last edited by WillFly; Nov-04-2019 at 4:11am.

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    Oscar Stern s11141827's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking A-Strings in CGDA tuning

    Why would Breedlove use a 24 1/16 in scale length on their Tenor Guitars rather than 23 or less for CGDA Tuning?

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    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking A-Strings in CGDA tuning

    I dont know, why?

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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking A-Strings in CGDA tuning

    Quote Originally Posted by s11141827 View Post
    Why would Breedlove use a 24 1/16 in scale length on their Tenor Guitars rather than 23 or less for CGDA Tuning?
    I can’t know for certain, but maybe they weren’t aiming for CGDA tuning?
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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking A-Strings in CGDA tuning

    Google "fatigue failure." That's what you're causing with frequent tuning changes.

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    Oscar Stern s11141827's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking A-Strings in CGDA tuning

    I use GDAE Tuning which works around this issue by tuning the strings lower.

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    Oscar Stern s11141827's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking A-Strings in CGDA tuning

    Grover Romantics might help & it would also help if those strings had colored silk wound around the ends to protect them

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking A-Strings in CGDA tuning

    Sounds to me like an opportunity for a new instrument. Keep one in CGDA, and the other in DADF#. Occasionally going down to CGCG on the CGDA should not be an issue. (Although one might squeeze out justification for three mandolins )

    Seriously though, I have a mandolin I keep in cross all the time, usually Dead Man's Tuning DDAD. My main axe is in standard GDAE. (I even have a skull motif on the case of my Dead Man's Tuned instrument.

    A great old time fiddler I know (and many of you may know) keeps one fiddle in standard tuning and the other in Calico which is AEAC#. It is his Calico fiddle.
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    Oscar Stern s11141827's Avatar
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    Default Re: Breaking A-Strings in CGDA tuning

    Octave4Plus makes Special Strings designed to tune to A440 (Tenor Guitar High A) on a long 25.5 in scale but they'll work OK on a shorter scale length to keep the tension down. They're made out of a special alloy (basically like a metal equivalent of Aquila Nylgut) & they include instructions on how to install them properly.

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