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Does higher string tension help you play faster??

constantineconstantine New York✭✭✭✭ Eastman DM2/v
edited July 2008 in Gypsy Jazz 101 Posts: 393
I have a short scale GJ guitar and I love it because its easy to play. On the other hand I wonder if the lower string tension will stunt gypsy picking and overall speed. Thanks.

C
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  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,827
    Generally, I think most people find that higher string tension slows you down somewhat. But it also sounds better. For most people it's a compromise between tone and playability. The heavier strings and/or higher action sound better but are harder to play and vise versa.

    But there are many other variables including the the guitar you're playing (some guitars sound better with less string tension), how you play (some people are just naturally aggressive players and simply can't play guitars setup for easy playability), etc.

    'm
  • djangologydjangology Portland, OregonModerator Dell Arte Hommage
    Posts: 888
    also, I think that the lower tension of gypsy jazz guitars (as compared to flattops) is much more suitable for the rest stroke technique because of the wobbly pick grip. softer responding strings just "feel better" with rest stroke. i also think high tension is really good for alternating picking style.
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  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    Posts: 1,249
    If you find that your string tension is too low for your taste, try picking closer to the bridge. Just in watching Michael (and others) play, I notice that when they go in for a fast run, they move their picking toward the bridge. I don't know whether it's intentional or simply muscle memory/instinct, but it reduces string-wag - that's for sure. Michael gets as close as maybe an inch & a half from the bridge when he's really cookin' and I've seen other experienced gypsy players do this too - their hand motion gets tighter and they get up on the bridge.

    I've only seen loose string tension slow one guy down. A while back, Larry Coryell did a couple of shows at Djangofest using a short-scale quasi-gypsiesque electric guitar... at any rate... he was picking directly over the center of the soundhole and you could tell that there was a lot of squish in the strings. When he did fast runs - it sounded like his pick was running into the string as they were rebounding - like he was chasing the strings around the guitar. But that's a worst-case circumstance... a guy used to playing heavy strings playing light strings and strumming over the soundhole and really cookin on a lot of single string runs.
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • aa New York City✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 800
    Low tension is ideal - you can get more vibrato and overtones. Try using a fatter pick- with low tension, you can really dig in and push the sound out.
    Www.alexsimonmusic.com
    Learn how to play Gypsy guitar:
    http://alexsimonmusic.com/learn-gypsy-jazz-guitar/
  • spatzospatzo Virtuoso
    Posts: 716
    I think that the 011 strings help you playing faster because the strings give a better arrest to the pick rather that the one furnished by the 010 and that is true especially on the two upper strings B and E. It is just as if the string will pull back easier (or quicker anyway) the plectrum.

    Players like Moreno for exemple can't play on 010 without breaking strings
  • dennisdennis Montreal, QuebecModerator
    Posts: 2,068
    the important thing for me is that the guitar is easy to play. In other words, that the strings don't feel too heavy and i don't think it's a question of string gauge and/or action...

    i've tried guitars with higher action and 11s that felt like butter, and guitars with 10s and low action that were so hard to play.

    this is very interesting, because it's a question i've asked every luthier, no one so far has been able to give me a clear response... and i was talking about it with so many people at samois and even django in june..

    i'm sure the neck angle/truss rod adjustment has a bit to do with it, but there appears to be more invovled since some luthiers/techs aren't able to recreate the feel that i want on certain guitars... while on others it's really easy...
  • aa New York City✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 800
    Yes, the sweet spot is really where it's at...

    On my Vielle Reserve, I have to play with very low action to access the sweet spot. That's the only way I can play close to the bridge. Set up with a low action, it gets one of the most cutting/clear sounds I've heard. A lot of classicals, and my ex-12 fret d-hole had very big sweet spots. I think this has more to do with the type of strings + the height of the bridge in relation to the type of bracing and placement of the bridge on the lower bout than the distance between the strings and the fret board (action). There's got to be some kind of AutoCAD way of showing how these things all affect each other...

    When I've played a cello, violin, or even upright bass, I've noticed that in comparison to most guitars, those instruments are proportionately much easier to fret..and they are often louder!!!

    I believe that less tension gives the player more control..you can add the tension and bring up the fundamental tone with a fatter pick (not too fat though..maybe like 3-5mm).

    If the strings are to tense/brittle feeling, you can't get the pick wrapped up in them, and it's hard to make the overtones sing.

    Look/listen to Django...he plays so close to the bridge, but you can hear the sweet, soft legato...and he also has the option of overdriving/over-saturating the overtones if he wants. There's more dynamic range with less tension.

    But it's also important to have high action, so that when you do dig in, the lower tension strings/setup will have enough room to vibrate without crapping out by hitting the frets.

    I'm pretty sure that the guys with the biggest vibrato (Stochelo, Jimmy) can only get that feel with lower tension (light gauge) strings. And I believe that they use the silk and steel 10s.
    Www.alexsimonmusic.com
    Learn how to play Gypsy guitar:
    http://alexsimonmusic.com/learn-gypsy-jazz-guitar/
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,827
    a wrote:

    I'm pretty sure that the guys with the biggest vibrato (Stochelo, Jimmy) can only get that feel with lower tension (light gauge) strings. And I believe that they use the silk and steel 10s.

    Stochelo religiously uses 11 gauge silk and steel strings, usualy D'Adarrio or Galli. Although recently he's been using nickel Elixers as well...but my guess is that he uses those because they work nicely with a Stimer. When's he's playing acoustic my guess is that he sticks with the Silk and Steel.
  • mrsextonmrsexton New
    Posts: 5
    my gitane came with dg255 came with a low bridge.......when the weather changes i usually have to adjust,using shims....but i like low action and 11 gauge strings ( i like to play fast)....i think its important to find out what works best for you so you can use the guitar( a utensil) to articulate your own ideas.....it is jazz music after all.
  • marcieromarciero Southern MaineNew
    Posts: 120
    I think that the lower tension of gypsy jazz guitars (as compared to flattops) is much more suitable for the rest stroke technique because of the wobbly pick grip. softer responding strings just "feel better" with rest stroke. i also think high tension is really good for alternating picking style.

    I have found that rest stroke works very well, for me at least, with high tension, and have used it on solidbody (sparingly) and arch top, as well as flat top. I have .013 guage strings on a telecaster and use rest stroke for some stuff, alternate for others. My arch top also has .013. The difference is the pick. I would not use a 3 mm Wegen on my solidbody. I have found that a stiff thin pick works well for me on all guitars, but I usually select different picks for tone.
    Also, early players like Eddie Lang used lots of down strokes, on arch tops with heavy strings/high tension.

    Mike
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