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guitar tuning and neck tension

PostPosted: Sun Dec 12, 2010 10:02 am
by rafchord
Hi,

I have heard that guitar neck is built in order to resist to the specific tension caused by strings tuned in standard tuning.
If you leave your guitar several days in a different tuning (open G, etc) the neck might curve.

Is that true?

thanks

Re: guitar tuning and neck tension

PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 1:47 pm
by rustyslide
rafchord wrote:I have heard that guitar neck is built in order to resist to the specific tension caused by strings tuned in standard tuning.


There's an adjustable truss rod for a reason. The neck will accommodate any range of tunings/gauges (tension) that the truss rod allows (whatever that is).

If you leave your guitar several days in a different tuning (open G, etc) the neck might curve.


A guitar is set up (intonation, action, relief) for a particular string gauge and tuning. If you reduce the tension (e.g. standard down to open G or open D), then yes, the neck will have less relief. I've never noticed anything from such a slight change, though.

So, leave your guitar in open G for as long as you like.

Re: guitar tuning and neck tension

PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 2:50 pm
by allanlummox
I'd be more concerned about leaving them in standard tuning at this point - although, after many years in only open G and D based tunings my old Gibson acoustic has been in Standard for about a year now - with string gauges that feel like spiderwebs to me.

Set it up for Standard to accommodate a friend who comes over to jam once in a while - I'm finding myself picking it up and playing arrangements I haven't touched in years.

Re: guitar tuning and neck tension

PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 4:32 pm
by zhyla
As lummox hints at, open G and D tunings are lower overall tension than standard E. For most guitars I wouldn't worry too much as long as you stay in open A/E or lower.

Re: guitar tuning and neck tension

PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 10:07 pm
by rustyslide
I'm still leery of tuning my flattops (with .012s) up to open E or A due to the bridge.

Re: guitar tuning and neck tension

PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2010 4:55 am
by zhyla
rustyslide wrote:I'm still leery of tuning my flattops (with .012s) up to open E or A due to the bridge.


Right, I always forget about the flattops. I should get one of those some day :).

Re: guitar tuning and neck tension

PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2010 8:19 pm
by kiwiblues
My National Resophonic Style O is one of their early ones and doesn't have a truss rod.
I sometimes have it in E or A but don't like to leave it in that too long just in case.
If I am not using it for a while I usually leave it in D or G.
rustyslide wrote:I'm still leery of tuning my flattops (with .012s) up to open E or A due to the bridge.

Re: guitar tuning and neck tension

PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2010 5:29 am
by texas blues
rafchord wrote:Hi,

I have heard that guitar neck is built in order to resist to the specific tension caused by strings tuned in standard tuning.
If you leave your guitar several days in a different tuning (open G, etc) the neck might curve.

Is that true?

thanks


Any guitar stored or played in any tuning for any length of time will eventually require a truss rod adjustment if it has one no matter the tuning. I wouldn't worry too much about it unless you're using super heavy strings...like piano cable.

Re: guitar tuning and neck tension

PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2010 11:28 pm
by Disciple
As a woodworker I can tell you that humidity and / or lack of it plays way more havoc and results in greater stress variations than do strings. Unless you store your instrument in a specialized humidity controlled case or room. Few of us have that luxury.

If anything a neck with no load on it going thru the usual environmental variations in humidity is at greater risk of getting out of shape.

Keep in mind the current thinking on how to design and build guitar necks is based on a few hundred years of watching how previous designs stood up to stresses while carrying the load of tuned strings not sitting string-less and idle.

Seems to me that if your guitar is moving out of functional shape it won't be string tension that is the cause of it. It may contribute but something else has to be out of whack first.

I've got a buddy who is a luthier professionally for about 25 years and he thinks nothing of cutting all six strings as quickly as he can to get at whatever repair he's up to. If that sort of instant release of neck tension doesn't cause trouble I don't know what would. I'm sure he doesn't approach sensitive Tri_cone or similar set ups this way but typical electrics and acoustics don't seem to mind at all.

I've got a home built strat replica here that has no finish on the neck, I regularly move between E, G and standard tunings. I give little heed to letting it sit in any of those tunings for weeks at a time. The one thing that I think makes a huge difference to the health of your guitar neck is storage between uses. Hanging in a proper wall hook is probably best or in the case, standing with no undue side stresses. If you can keep it away from temperature and humidity changes that are quick and wide you should never have to worry about string tension from typical strings in common tunings.

Relatively speaking the load that strings put on the neck is not that big a deal. The tension / torsional strength of a piece of hardwood the size of a typical guitar neck is far greater than the tension applied by even Open E heavy strings.

Re: guitar tuning and neck tension

PostPosted: Fri Dec 17, 2010 2:34 pm
by rustyslide
Disciple wrote:he thinks nothing of cutting all six strings as quickly as he can to get at whatever repair he's up to.


I always slacken the strings before I snip them off as I've caused mischief to my body and property snipping them at tension, but the time between full load and no load isn't very long at all.

Re: guitar tuning and neck tension

PostPosted: Sat Dec 18, 2010 8:11 am
by rafchord
Thanks to all of you for the advices.

Good to hear I don't have to retune my guitar each time :)