Musicians claim that guitar strings are meant to be broken, just like some rules. Being a guitarist or a bassist you are probably too familiar with the notions and snaps the strings make when breaking. Unfine tuning either up or down can impact the quality of the sound and your musical performance.
Tuning up your guitar is not bad per se, but it does shorten the life of your strings. Depending on the type of guitar, the number of strings, and (most importantly) your expertise.
Tuning a guitar up is common practice, and it does not have to be bad if you actually know what you are doing. Broken strings will cause some stress like buying new ones, the process of restringing the instrument, and the frustration if this happens in the middle of a performance.
There are lines between fine-tuning and torture, as well as steps you can take to minimize the chance of breaking a string. Snapping will happen over time, as strings weaken and stretch. But prolonging their shelf life can cut your string budget almost in half, and make some side money for other musical equipment.
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Shortened Life of Strings
Guitars are made to endure fine string tuning for decades, but guitar strings are not. Sometimes you have to change it because of practice or performance, and it cannot be avoided.
Tunning the same set of strings to different tunings subjects them to different tensions. This can result in metal fatigue. It is just a fancy name for weakening a metal through repeated stress, with a high chance of strings breaking faster.
A Healthy String Has Proper Wiring
Tuning machines for the guitar can be locking or standard, either way, it is advisable to allow at least 3/4 of a turn around the tuner post. This way the string’s tension will not terminate at a kink. When a wire is kinked, it will put the string at a disadvantage because it will weaken the wire. A weak wire is prone to breakage.
Consequently, to be able to reduce the risk of breaking strings, you need to properly set them up in the first place. Heavy bends or transitioning between tunings will take a toll if it is not set up properly in the first place. Using tuners can allow you to have easy tuning anywhere you go, and a Power Peg can speed up string winding for up to 70%.
Saddles Can Rock Your Tune
Even though it sounds like a sappy attempt of making some lyrics, it is important to know that saddles are significantly prone to developing burrs. This can cause the string to break sooner than it should.
This happens because the bridge saddle is meant to serve as a smooth point of transition. Over time, the metal surfaces develop burrs, oxidation, and other imperfections that nick the string little by little. This will gradually affect the string longevity, as well as tuning.
Go to a professional luthier or tech that will help you and take care of any repairs on your instruments. The repairs should include regular maintenance of the saddle, in order for you to be able to use them long in the future.
Beginners and people who simply don’t know anything about instrument maintenance can probably give a false conclusion, and make more of a mess than simply communication on some belongings.
About Tuning – Beginner Edition
Experts claim that tuning ignorance can be considered bliss. Beginner players won’t pay much attention to the tone and will be perfectly happy if you make it sound ‘similar’.
Most rookies use an electronic or digital tuner, and bass the chords and have fun during the process. Practicing is the most enjoyable process any guitarist has fun with. Recording may be exciting (the first time you do it), but the repetition, stress, and fine-tuning really take a nervous toll.
Guitar tuning is not an easy job. Even if you have tuners, you will still need to know how tight your guitar tuners should be. Keep in mind that there are many types of guitars and even more types of players. The music genre and playing preference are also important for the amount of tuning, and its frequency.
How and where you play on the neck, how hard you strum, what key you are playing in, are you using a capo or not are all important factors. It is because of this professional bands and musicians have tech support. The backstage crew is the spine of a great concert, as they are the ones who do all the fine-tuning for you. The most important (first and final) conclusion is that there are more ways to tune a guitar.
Why Are There Different Ways of Tuning?
The physical layout of the string is only the beginning. To put it simply, the guitar has only six strings on which you can produce different music genres, rhythm, style, etc. If we compare that to the piano, for example, we know that each note on the piano has its own string. Guitar notes are produced by pressing down on a string.
Take this example: Get the low E string in perfect tune. But the moment you push down on the string on a fret, the string is bent a tiny bit. This makes the tuning sharp, particularly if the string is high on the fretboard.
The sharp turning progressively gets worse when you move up the board. The open chords may be sounding beautiful, but try pressing a barre chord on the ninth fret and it will give you goosebumps (not the good kind). This happens when the player puts more pressure on the string). On the other hand, lower strings ring sharply the harder you play on them. This can be heard in those music styles that require harder pressure on the low strings.
The solution we presented was introduced by James Taylor, an American singer-songwriter and guitarist. This solution requires a tuner that can measure cents. A cent is 1/100 of a semitone (C to C# is a semitone or half step). The great thing is that you can download this tuner to your phone right now.
James Taylor practiced to tune his strings flatter than normal to be able to accommodate the vagaries of acoustic guitars, and it is also great for using a capo. And here is how:
- High E string -3cents
- B string -6 cents
- G string -4 cents
- D string -8 cents
- A string -10 cents
- Low E string -12 cents
Tuning Tips to Avoid
- Never use the fifth fret and seventh fret harmonics. Even though many guitarists learn this method, but tuning it down, and then back up, will only put pressure on the string, and waste them too early.
- Never tune to a chord as the dissonance will occur, even though your open strings sound perfect.
These methods don’t work because of equal temperament, this means that each time you strike a chord, the vibrations produce subtones and vibration in the ‘back’ sound. To be able to hear these harmonics better you can try and pluck the same string.
Lightly hold your finger in the middle of the string (at the fifth write and listen). You will produce a tone that is one-octave hire than the original note. Pluck the string again without touching it and you will be able to hear that octave harmonic in the unaccompanied not.
To simply put it, each note has an accompanying sound that beginners need to listen to, learn about, and practice to get used to the way they are produced, when the sound most in tune on their guitar, and repeat the process to perfection.
Finally, Is It Bad to Tune Your Guitar up or Not?
It is more common for musicians to tune it down, but there are many factors accompanying this decision that beginners may not be even aware of. Responding to ‘no’ is simple and limited. Keep in mind that guitars accommodate a lot of variance in tension on the neck, bridge, etc. This happens because playing the guitar changes the tension, and tuning it up for say a half-step is well within boundaries.
Now, you can change string gauges from light to medium- the neck can tolerate the differing tensions. Especially for musicians that tune by the ear, it is common for the sound to drift upwards a half-step. You probably won’t even notice it.
Consider turning up if you want to play open chords in F or Bb for singing, or a duet with brass or reed instruments. Using a capo may be sufficient, but experience musicians claim that they deaden the sound a bit.
The final decisions depend on the guitar and how often you need to change the tuning up or down. Depending on the guitar, setup, scale length, and string gauge, you might be able to tune them up. But be prepared that it will add stress and tension to the guitar neck.
For whatever reason you require your instrument tuned up, consider taking it to an expert if you are considering string tuning as a permanent setup for the strings and instrument. If you are fooling and experimenting around, have fun and prepare spare strings to be at hand!