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Thread: Converting 6-string to full fifth tuning - my experiment

  1. #1

    Default Converting 6-string to full fifth tuning - my experiment

    A few years ago, I got to try someone's five-course mandolin/mandola; since it was mandolin scale length, I guess it was more a mandolin.

    I've always been fond of the deeper mandola sound, and the second mandolin-family instrument I bought was a new Flatiron 1SH mandola, which I have to this day.

    Playing Maynard's five-course planted a seed, and I started experimenting with different tunings, seeing if I could get to a five-course instrument inexpensively. I had tried this years ago, but decided to be more systematic this time.

    Unfortunately, an altered 12-string guitar, tuned (bottom to top) AbEbBbFCGD, didn't have any handy open strings which were useful for playing, and everything had to be in FFCP. Starting with a high E gave me FCGDAE, which was still a little too growly and muddy at the bottom. (I guess there's a reason acoustic bass guitars have a larger body. *laugh*)

    I shelved the idea for a few years more... until I came across some strings which can, at a standard 25.5" guitar scale length, be tuned to a high B4.

    Now I'm working on setting up an old resin back cutaway guitar in fifth tuning, CGDAEB. Since the B4 strings are $5 a pop plus shipping, I want to make sure the string path is completely free of burrs and other opportunities for breakage before really going for it. I also abhor the plastic "rosette" which is glued around the soundhole, so I might pick up some nice wood and cut a new rosette overlay to match the headstock. It's a little work for a guitar which cost $30 dollars, but since the investment has been minimal so far, and as the guitar looks halfway decent as it is, I don't mind making it look more presentable. Even if it turns out to be only a rugged knockabout guitar for outdoor use or informal play, it won't be a total loss if the experiment doesn't work out.

    I've done some experiments on gauges, and found the best sounding combination for the bottom end, with gauges appropriate for the new pitches, and tensions equivalent to a standard guitar set when tuned to those pitches. As things stand now, should it work, I'll be able to put together a dozen strings sets for about $10 each cost, which isn't prohibitively expensive. (I know, the one B4 string cost as much as the other five strings! How whacky is that? *laugh*)

    Since I've been using the guitar as a five-string fifth tuned instrument recently, I've been getting used to the CGDAE tuning. It sounds pretty mando acoustically, probably because of the chord voicings, and if I plug in and use a judicious amount of chorus, it becomes a mando instrument. Putting a capo on at the twelfth fret gives me that mandolin chime, and it has the sweetness of a bouzouki and the tone of a mandocello at the low end.

    I can't wait to get this thing set up fully. At that point, I can get the bouzouki/'cello thing open, and by either using FFCP or a capo at the fifth fret, I can have that mandolin/mandola sound easily.

    ----

    I attended a guitar circle recently where they used what Robert Fripp called New Standard Tuning (CGDAEG). (Incidentally, if usage indicates what is standard, I would assume that the new standard tuning was DADGAD. *laugh*) I got into a discussion with the folks who had been using the tuning for a while, and their argument for not going for full fifths was that the open strings resonances are sweeter with the high. When I pointed out that the Guitar Craft pieces never took advantage of that, and that if resonance was the goal one should go with DADGAD, it seemed to end the conversation. *laugh*

    ----

    Anyway, I noticed that Groveland has been using NST, and wondered if there are more folks coming at guitar from a mando orientation.

    Cheers!
    ----

    Playing a funky oval-hole scroll-body mandolin, several mandolins retuned to CGDA, three CGDA-tuned Flatiron mandolas, two Flatiron mandolas tuned as octave mandolins,and a six-course 25.5" scale CGDAEB-tuned Ovation Mandophone.

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  3. #2

    Default Re: Converting 6-string to full fifth tuning - my experiment

    I'm very interested in this. I tried converting an old 12-string Yamaha to fifths tuning but couldn't tget the sloppiness out of the bass strings. Moving the high strings to B might "open up" the possibilities. I'm very interested in your string gauges....

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    Default Re: Converting 6-string to full fifth tuning - my experiment

    I am presently using new standard tuning on an old electric I had around. Love having the fifth tuning. Even though the stretches get a bit long. And the low C string is cool giving that mandocello feel.

    Could you possibly post the gauges you're using on acoustic as I have a an extra six string and 12 string that I would love to try it with

    Jim
    The music never dies

    Jim Marshall

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    Registered User groveland's Avatar
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    Default Re: Converting 6-string to full fifth tuning - my experiment

    Oh, NST - Fun! Some links from other conversations on the topic here at the Mandolin Cafe, from oldest to most recent...

    A recent inquiry about NST materials...

    We need an NST Cafe "social group," don't you think? Stand up and be recognized, all you NST'ers!

    And TJ, it's so good to have you on board.

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  7. #5

    Default Re: Converting 6-string to full fifth tuning - my experiment

    First off, I started trying different sets of strings on the guitar. I wanted to find a balance. A thicker set might give you more volume, but can make the top stiffer and less responsive due to the increased tension inhibiting easy vibration of the top. (An easy example of this is how a good nylon string guitar can be louder than a steel string guitar, even though the string tension is so much lower. The lighter and stiffer one can build the soundboard, the more responsive it can be... but unable to withstand much higher pressure/tension).

    It turned out the guitar sounded okay with medium strings, better with light strings... and then got full with extra lights.

    I then started the search process, basing my target tensions on the set of D'Addario EJ15 extra-light strings which sounded best on the guitar. I took those numbers over to the handy D'Addario string tension chart, found here...

    http://www.daddario.com/upload/tension_chart_13934.pdf

    ...took the number they give as a tension composite for the standard pitch, and found strings which worked for the tensions I wanted and the new pitch

    ----.

    The thing which kicked this into high gear was discovering a new alloy string. Normally a guitar string will break around G4-G#4, regardless of gauge. The thinner strings are weaker, so they can't take the tension; the thicker strings can take the tension... but need more tension to get up to pitch.

    This is exacerbated by any kind of imperfection in the string path. That's why I really am trying to make everything as perfect as possible before blowing through my $25 worth of strings. *laugh*

    I don't want to advertise for them until I know this will work. Once I get through the set up, I'll be letting you all know where they're available... and whether or not they worked out. *laugh*

    Anyway, the new string gauges are:

    B4 - .006 experimental alloy
    E4 - .010
    A3 - .016 pb wound
    D3 - .030 pb wound
    G2 - .042 pb wound
    C2 - .059 pb wound

    ----

    That D'Addario chart has been handy in the past, as well as more obtuse/less user friendly string calculation tools available online. (I work with other instruments which use plain phosphor bronze wire, so the D'Addario chart isn't enough.) However, the D'Addario chart is really handy, and if you can use a calculator, you can always get from here to there fairly easily.

    ----

    Thanks, Groveland. As I mentioned, you are one of those I noticed on this board. I was never that interested in N "S" T, because of the discontinuity, and also because of conversations I've had with Fripp. *laugh* However, it would be interesting to get together virtually with others who are approaching the guitar from the world of mando...

    Cheers!
    ----

    Playing a funky oval-hole scroll-body mandolin, several mandolins retuned to CGDA, three CGDA-tuned Flatiron mandolas, two Flatiron mandolas tuned as octave mandolins,and a six-course 25.5" scale CGDAEB-tuned Ovation Mandophone.

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    Registered User groveland's Avatar
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    Default Re: Converting 6-string to full fifth tuning - my experiment

    Quote Originally Posted by T.J. View Post
    B4 - .006 experimental alloy
    E4 - .010
    A3 - .016 pb wound
    D3 - .030 pb wound
    G2 - .042 pb wound
    C2 - .059 pb wound
    Oh my gosh, that would be too cool. But I'm thinking that .006 might need to come with a warning and disclaimer of liability of physical harm. Keep us posted - B on top is the hoily grail.

  9. #7

    Default Re: Converting 6-string to full fifth tuning - my experiment

    The instrument is pretty cool... but needs to be adjusted a bit to get more tone.

    As this is still a work in progress, I hadn't wanted to make any permanent changes in the nut until I knew for sure which strings sounded good. The largest string which fits the current slot width in the nut for the bottom C2nut current is a .053... but it sounds awful. The best sounding string for that note is the .059, but I have to widen the slot for that.

    It's a bit harrowing getting the top string up to B4, and each string is $5 a pop, so I'm not wanting to do too much work on the saddle, because I know that the string won't withstand detuning and pulling the bridgepin to remove the saddle and do adjustment.

    The .006 string at the top is pretty thin, and I'm still afraid to lean on it. As it is, I restrung my Flatiron mandola this past week as well, and I know that I don't play it as gingerly as the mandoguitar. It will be interesting to test the limits of the new string, and I think that eventually I'll get the feel for it.

    The thing which is foremost, though, is that although the tuning is rich, it just doesn't have the mando feel. I had wanted to avoid doing this until I knew I wanted to continue with the tuning, but I think that the idea is useful enough that I'm going to pick up a 12-string and do the adjustments to make it a 6-course fifth-tuned instrument.

    As it is, I'm playing it through an old Korg Pandora PX4A, the acoustic version, to simulate the chorusing of the double strung courses. This adds so much mando character to it that I know a double-strung instrument will give me the sound I expect.


    I'm weighing what kind of instrument would give me the best specs for a conversion, in terms of minimal string deflection and lack of binding surfaces for the top B4 course. What's really funny, though, is that picking up a used 12-string will still cost less than what I've been considering spending on a new mando lately. Some kind of string through bridge design will fit the bill best, I think.

    (I did wind up satisfying my MAS by picking up a Wishnevsky mandola this week. We'll see what I think of it when it arrives....)

    Cheers!
    ----

    Playing a funky oval-hole scroll-body mandolin, several mandolins retuned to CGDA, three CGDA-tuned Flatiron mandolas, two Flatiron mandolas tuned as octave mandolins,and a six-course 25.5" scale CGDAEB-tuned Ovation Mandophone.

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    Mano-a-Mando John McGann's Avatar
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    Default Re: Converting 6-string to full fifth tuning - my experiment

    Hi TJ- We'd love to hear about your conversations with Mr. Fripp if you would...

    I am on the edge just now about the high G; I like it in many ways, but I also find that it usually doesn't allow much to be added harmonically to the lower string voicings; I also find a .009 with a 24' scale to be a bit plinky...I also REALLY like having a high E string as the 1st string, it's my comfortable rut I guess...

    I have been playing an electric setup with it, but am considering a custom made 5 string electric CGDAE to match my soon-to-arrive 10 string mandola from Lawrence Smart...

    Would love to hear what you are up to on the full bore 5ths tuning!

  11. #9

  12. #10

    Default Re: Converting 6-string to full fifth tuning - my experiment

    I posted the core ideas of a few Fripp/Culty Guitarists conversations here, and might put one last addendum there regarding what is covered in Guitar Craft... as well as what is excluded.

    http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/sh...669#post659669

    Suffice to say, whether it's an act or not, Fripp definitely put forward a few ideas which don't fit my perception of reality.

    ----

    Now that the strings are settling in, I'm getting more comfortable with playing this thing capoed at the fifth as a mandolin/mandola, and open as an octave mandolin/mandocello. I know that I have to put in some work to be more comfortable doing all closed position melodic and chordal work at the fifth fret, though; this new tuning is really showing me where I've been lazy in my development.

    I wound up getting rid of too much height on the saddle for the high B4, so I'll have to pick up a new blank and hopefully get it cut for this weekend. Having broken many strings over the years only because of retuning while using alternate tunings, and never while playing, I know that this is most likely the time whene I break the B4.

    Since this particular guitar has worked as proof of concept, I have to really think about what I want as a permanent 6-course, 12-string mandoguitar. I think that spending around $1kUS will get me something which will sound good acoustically and have the kind of bridge setup I believe will be ideal for this. Going that route would still be cheaper than many mandocellos out there, and the mandoguitar will be like a five-course octave mandolin or mandocello... with an extra course thrown in. *laugh*

    The other option, of course, is to pickup a 12-string Papoose guitar, which already has a scale length equivalent to capoing at the fifth... but that eliminates the depth of the bottom courses, and just gives me a glorified 6-course mandolin/mandola. *sigh* I know, I'm just being greedy. *laugh*

    Now to write myself an instruction manual on this thing. Does anyone have one of the older mandocello books as a .pdf they'd be willing to share?

    Cheers!
    ----

    Playing a funky oval-hole scroll-body mandolin, several mandolins retuned to CGDA, three CGDA-tuned Flatiron mandolas, two Flatiron mandolas tuned as octave mandolins,and a six-course 25.5" scale CGDAEB-tuned Ovation Mandophone.

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  13. #11

    Default Re: Converting 6-string to full fifth tuning - my experiment

    Itís now been a few weeks, and my experiment in fifths tuning (C2-G2-D3-A3-E4-B4) has been a success so far.

    The strings come from a company called Octave4Plus. They were developed by Gary Goodman, who had wanted to expand the range of his bass guitar. Gary now plays a 12-string extended range bass guitar which covers the range of a grand piano.

    The strings are available from here:

    http://octave4plus.com/

    Thereís a few helpful posts about them here:

    http://hackyourguitar.blogspot.com/2...ngs-i-got.html

    http://hackyourguitar.blogspot.com/2...important.html

    I wrote to the company before ordering, explaining that I was going to install it on an acoustic guitar with a pinned bridge, and sending illustrations. They sent out my order, along with an explicit set of instructions regarding the slow tuning process one must undertake to avoid snapping the string on its initial installation. (I highly recommend following the process. I took a bit longer than what they recommended, just to be sure that I did everything possible to preserve each $5 investment.)

    Before I installed my .006 high B4 string, I was very careful to remove all possible burrs and catches from the string path. I had been worried about the bridge pin possibly cutting into the string, so I made sure the ebony bridgepin and the hole for it were completely smooth, and with no sharp edges at the top.

    The one time I snapped a string, I was going to do a little bridge saddle work, and I accidentally turned the tuner the wrong way when removing the string. I have never had one snap break during normal usage, and I have been playing it pretty hard, having gotten over my fears quickly.

    I would suggest, for those wanting to use these string, to tune a normal guitar string to E4 where you plan to install an Octave4Plus string, and then do all your adjustment work, all prior to actually installing the Octave4Plus string. That way you will only be out a dollar if you make a mistake.

    ----

    For Groveland and others using a Steinberger double ball string system, I suspect they can make such strings, but as it requires a set distance between the ball ends, they might charge more for such a service. If one had a Steinberger system which is capable of accepting a single ball string, like the Synapse Transcale, one should probably back out the bolt and look at the bottom to see if the shape would be gentle to the string. Iíd go with a slight reshaping to a gentle spherical curve, so it would provide the pressure in the center of the channel, but wouldnít cut into the string.

    ----

    Iím about to have a 12-string guitar set up, with the channels in the nut widened to accommodate wider strings for unison stringing, instead of the octaves of the bottom four courses for which 12-strings are designed. I have been looking at string gauges, with an eye to keeping the tensions down, but I suspect Iíll still end up adding about 14 lbs. of pull over the normal tension. I found a source of .018 phosphor bronze strings for the A3 course, which will take a little tension off.

    Iíve also been considering an 8-string fifths-tuned electric guitar. Even using a 7-string guitar with fifths tuning would yield an instrument which has almost as much range at the bottom as a normal electric bass, but ending at F1 (if one retains the mandocello/bouzouki open notes) instead of E1. If one tuned oneís bottom course to E1 (E1-B1-F#2-C#3-G#3-D#4-AE4) one would have the complete range of a normal electric bass, electric guitar, and electric mandolin on one instrumentÖ but Iíd would have a hard time initially with the markings and with finding my place.

    As it is, if I get an 8-string, it will likely be a baritone instrument, with open strings of Ab0-Eb1-Bb1-F2-C3-G3-D4-A4 with a 28Ē string length. With a mute at the first fret for touchstyle, Iíll still have a low A0 as the lowest note.

    Of course, this puts my assertion of being over MAS in doubt. *laugh*

    ----

    Okay, enough geekiness on my part. Iíll post again once the 12-string is set up.

    The Octofone promised eight instruments in one, but this experiment is turning out considerably less expensive than other solutions on the market.

    The Quadrofone! By using either open strings or a capo, itís four instruments in one! Mandocello! Octave mandolin! Mandola! Mandolin!

    I will definitely be interested in hearing of others trying this, and am looking forward to reading of others using what I will call Standard Fifths Tuning, Full Fifths Tuning or Full Mando Tuning on guitar. (I happen to think calling a crippled version of fifths tuning ďstandardĒ is presumptuous and pretentious, so Iíll henceforth refer to such as ďCrippled Fifths Tuning.Ē *laugh*)

    Cheers!
    ----

    Playing a funky oval-hole scroll-body mandolin, several mandolins retuned to CGDA, three CGDA-tuned Flatiron mandolas, two Flatiron mandolas tuned as octave mandolins,and a six-course 25.5" scale CGDAEB-tuned Ovation Mandophone.

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    Registered User man dough nollij's Avatar
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    Default Re: Converting 6-string to full fifth tuning - my experiment

    Quote Originally Posted by T.J. View Post
    Itís now been a few weeks, and my experiment in fifths tuning (C2-G2-D3-A3-E4-B4) has been a success so far.

    TJ, forgive my noob question, but what do the numbers mean? I assume they are a shorthand way of saying "C above middle C", etc, but I haven't seen them before.

  15. #13

    Default Re: Converting 6-string to full fifth tuning - my experiment

    The numerical system allows discussions with an absolute reference as to pitches, without having to reference frequencies. Each octave designated by the number runs from C to the next higher B. Middle C is C4; A440 is A4, the A above middle C.

    In point of reference, the open strings of a mandolin are typically tuned G3-D4-A4-E5 from low to high, and a standard tuned guitar is tuned E2-A2-D3-G3-B3-E4 from low to high.

    Using the numbers is useful when using a non-standard tuning, since one knows exactly which pitch is being discussed.

    Cheers!
    ----

    Playing a funky oval-hole scroll-body mandolin, several mandolins retuned to CGDA, three CGDA-tuned Flatiron mandolas, two Flatiron mandolas tuned as octave mandolins,and a six-course 25.5" scale CGDAEB-tuned Ovation Mandophone.

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  17. #14
    Registered User groveland's Avatar
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    Default Re: Converting 6-string to full fifth tuning - my experiment

    CST! That's a hoot.

    I contacted the string folks. They can do the double ball ends if given specifics, which I will do. (My 335 is also at CGDAEG, so I mean to set it up this way, too.) Frankly, it appears they can make anything!

    Thanks for the source! Nice folks there, detail oriented, and clearly they want to get it right.

  18. #15
    5 Blessings Sweetpea44's Avatar
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    Default Re: Converting 6-string to full fifth tuning - my experiment

    Bringing this thread to life again ....

    How would these gauges/tensions change if using a smaller scale guitar? I've seen posts where people have converted Squier Mini Strats to electric OM's (generally adding things making them 8 strings). Could these be restrung to fifths (~22" sale length) to create a 'simple conversion' to an OM (possible CGDAEB tuning)? Or, at least creating an electric 5 string OM with CGDAE tuning and keeping one space empty?
    Be true to your teeth, or they'll be false to you!

  19. #16
    Certified! Bernie Daniel's Avatar
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    Default Re: Converting 6-string to full fifth tuning - my experiment

    Quote Originally Posted by Sweetpea44 View Post
    Bringing this thread to life again ....

    How would these gauges/tensions change if using a smaller scale guitar? I've seen posts where people have converted Squier Mini Strats to electric OM's (generally adding things making them 8 strings). Could these be restrung to fifths (~22" sale length) to create a 'simple conversion' to an OM (possible CGDAEB tuning)? Or, at least creating an electric 5 string OM with CGDAE tuning and keeping one space empty?
    You would need to use one of several on-line string calculators and do the math using your selected scale length and the pitches you want.
    Bernie
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    Due to current budgetary restrictions the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off -- sorry about the inconvenience.

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    Default Re: Converting 6-string to full fifth tuning - my experiment

    Quote Originally Posted by Explorer View Post
    The instrument is pretty cool... but needs to be adjusted a bit to get more tone.

    As this is still a work in progress, I hadn't wanted to make any permanent changes in the nut until I knew for sure which strings sounded good. The largest string which fits the current slot width in the nut for the bottom C2nut current is a .053... but it sounds awful. The best sounding string for that note is the .059, but I have to widen the slot for that.

    It's a bit harrowing getting the top string up to B4, and each string is $5 a pop, so I'm not wanting to do too much work on the saddle, because I know that the string won't withstand detuning and pulling the bridgepin to remove the saddle and do adjustment.

    The .006 string at the top is pretty thin, and I'm still afraid to lean on it. As it is, I restrung my Flatiron mandola this past week as well, and I know that I don't play it as gingerly as the mandoguitar. It will be interesting to test the limits of the new string, and I think that eventually I'll get the feel for it.

    The thing which is foremost, though, is that although the tuning is rich, it just doesn't have the mando feel. I had wanted to avoid doing this until I knew I wanted to continue with the tuning, but I think that the idea is useful enough that I'm going to pick up a 12-string and do the adjustments to make it a 6-course fifth-tuned instrument.

    As it is, I'm playing it through an old Korg Pandora PX4A, the acoustic version, to simulate the chorusing of the double strung courses. This adds so much mando character to it that I know a double-strung instrument will give me the sound I expect.


    I'm weighing what kind of instrument would give me the best specs for a conversion, in terms of minimal string deflection and lack of binding surfaces for the top B4 course. What's really funny, though, is that picking up a used 12-string will still cost less than what I've been considering spending on a new mando lately. Some kind of string through bridge design will fit the bill best, I think.

    (I did wind up satisfying my MAS by picking up a Wishnevsky mandola this week. We'll see what I think of it when it arrives....)

    Cheers!
    You may wanna consider using power pins on a Guitar that has bridge pins & they recommend lubricating the bridge & nut w/ lots of pencil graphite to help them slide more smoothly. The gauges should be 6, 8, 11, 26, 44, 50 so that it's easier to play. These are made w/ an experimental Steel-Alloy that holds up.
    Thankfully they gave you a spare string which is helpful.

  21. #18

    Default Re: Converting 6-string to full fifth tuning - my experiment

    As I posted in my other topic which you also necrobumped, .050PB is a bit light, and goes sharp even when fretted lightly when tuned down to low C. Using a .053PB starts getting the tension high enough (16.4 lbs.) to prevent noticeable stretching and pitch changes. A .050 is less than 15 lbs. In comparison, an extra-light string set with a .047PB low E string has around 20 lbs. of tension.

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