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Thread: String Gauges For Cittern, changing Unisons to Octaves

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    Registered User David Hansen's Avatar
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    Default String Gauges For Cittern, changing Unisons to Octaves

    I'm not sure this is the right forum maybe the Builders forum would be better?

    I want to change the two lowest courses on my Forster cittern from unisons to octaves but I don't know how to calculate the correct string gauges. I tried the MacDonald string tension calculator but when I change the strings to plain steel the tension balance between the strings is way off. Can anyone help me figure this out? or point me in the right direction?
    David
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    Default Re: String Gauges For Cittern, changing Unisons to Octaves

    Id start by asking Nigel.

    In the meantime, some of the bouzouki players here who use octave pairs could give you recommendations for the G and D strings. Scale length will be a consideration, though.

    The other consideration will be the nut and saddle, which probably will need to be swapped out to accommodate the narrower strings.

    Now the good news: When I was at Dusty Strings last July, I played their Brock cittern, which had octaves on the lower three courses. I had only played citterns with unison strings before, and the Brock was in a whole different universe! It also was in a whole different price range, for good reason. So, I think that youll be getting a more expansive, but less driving, sound by switching your cittern from unison to octave.
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    Curious Observer MB-Octo's Avatar
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    Default Re: String Gauges For Cittern, changing Unisons to Octaves

    The general rule of thumb is one-half the diameter of the fundamental string. The two instruments I have strung this way are both *slightly* under half the diameter.
    Monte

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    Default Re: String Gauges For Cittern, changing Unisons to Octaves

    If you calculated the tension and tried a pair of strings already, you just need to experiment a bit. If the tension is to high, just buy the next available (lower) weight. I once used a string that was way to heavy because I wanted to use a wound string instead of a plain steel one. It cut of the metal nose off of the tailpiece. Luckily eastman provided me with a new tailpiece without any costs. The tension calculator said, that the string would have actually been ok.
    I tune my Eastman Octave with the lower two courses in octaves and use a string tension chart from D'addario (https://www.daddario.com/globalasset...hart_13934.pdf) and an excel sheet with the tension formula. Flatwound chromes is what I go for.
    I did not adapt the nut slots, it works quite well and would require a completely new nut. It is anyway difficult to fret two different strings equally without detuning one of it. I prefer the "Sarah Jarosz"-tuning: the string on the left side of the course (looking towards the nut) is tuned lower and the right string an octave higher. This way I hit the "original" String at first and heavier on downstrokes.

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    Registered User zoukboy's Avatar
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    Default Re: String Gauges For Cittern, changing Unisons to Octaves

    The general rule of thumb is 1/2 the gauge of the lower string, but this can be a little tricky when mixing wound and plain strings. The best approach is to find a string that is the same tension as the lower string when tuned an octave higher. If you post the gauges you are currently using for your unison set I can easily figure which string gauges will work best.
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    Registered User David Hansen's Avatar
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    Default Re: String Gauges For Cittern, changing Unisons to Octaves

    Currently my string gauges are 52/52 39/39 30/30 18/18 12/12. The scale length is 25.5" I want to change the lower two courses to octaves.
    David
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    Default Re: String Gauges For Cittern, changing Unisons to Octaves

    I spent a while playing around with tension calculators for my cittern strings, and I ended up with plain octave strings being close to half the gauge of the lower string, but just one or two steps below (i.e. 024/011, 038/17).That seems to work well on my instrument.

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    Default Re: String Gauges For Cittern, changing Unisons to Octaves

    To get an idea of the diameter ratios of octave pairs of strings, I looked at a standard set of strings (Daddario's EJ38) for a 12-string guitar. It seems like as the courses get lower, the ratio between the standard string and the octave string decreases. The G strings are 23 and 8 --- nearly 3:1 --- and D strings are less, the A strings are even less, and the low E strings are 47 and 27 --- not even 2:1.
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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: String Gauges For Cittern, changing Unisons to Octaves

    I have used the 2:1 or halve the diameter for the octave string thumb rule on many instruments for the past 13 years. Works fine, no issues.

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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: String Gauges For Cittern, changing Unisons to Octaves

    Quote Originally Posted by David Hansen View Post
    Currently my string gauges are 52/52 39/39 30/30 18/18 12/12. The scale length is 25.5" I want to change the lower two courses to octaves.
    How is this tuned? I have a similar scale F4 mandocello tuned Cc-Gg-Dd-AA-EE using Curt Mangan 70/36-46/22-30/15-20/20-11.5/11.5 loop end strings (the Allen tailpiece will take ball ends, too).

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    Registered User zoukboy's Avatar
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    Default Re: String Gauges For Cittern, changing Unisons to Octaves

    Tuning? I am guessing DGDAE?

    Quote Originally Posted by David Hansen View Post
    Currently my string gauges are 52/52 39/39 30/30 18/18 12/12. The scale length is 25.5" I want to change the lower two courses to octaves.
    Roger Landes
    http://rogerlandes.com
    The Hal Leonard Irish Bouzouki Method:
    http://www.halleonard.com/product/vi...?itemid=696348
    "House to House" with Randal Bays
    http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bayslandes
    "The Janissary Stomp" with Chipper Thompson
    http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/rogerchipper

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    Registered User David Hansen's Avatar
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    Default Re: String Gauges For Cittern, changing Unisons to Octaves

    Quote Originally Posted by zoukboy View Post
    Tuning? I am guessing DGDAE?
    Sorry, the tuning is DGDAD. I originally had 10's on the top course but they were a bit floppy so I increased them to 12's.
    David
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    2010 Sobell Octave Mandolin
    2010 Gayle Mandonator

    "Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese." GK Chesterton

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