Pre-stretching guitar strings To Thread - Forum Home

The Mudcat Café TM
https://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=66288
41 messages

Pre-stretching guitar strings

22 Jan 04 - 12:29 PM (#1098789)
Subject: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: Murray MacLeod

I have a recollection of reading somewhere, maybe in an old Frets magazine, that a famous guitarist (it may have been Dan Crary) advocated leaving newly installed strings to stretch naturally (at concert pitch)for a period of 24 hours, during which time they remained unplayed. His contention was that this "breaking-in period" enabled the strings to retain their tone for much longer than would otherwise be the case.

Obviously this would present difficulties for somebody with only one guitar, withdrawal symptoms could set in, but I just wondered if anybody has tried this, or does anybody remember reading about it ? If you have tried it, does it have any effect IYHO ?


22 Jan 04 - 12:38 PM (#1098795)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: Big Mick

I do essentially the same thing when I have time. I install the strings one at a time, tuning them to concert pitch. As I tune each string, I go back and bring the ones installed prior to concert pitch back up. Once all are on, I set the guitar down and leave it alone for a day. Not sure why I do this, it is just how I have always done it.

All the best,

Mick


22 Jan 04 - 12:45 PM (#1098808)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: GUEST,Strollin' Johnny

I use the 'Whang 'Em On, Tune 'Em Up, Pull 'Em As Hard As You Can Over The 12th Fret And Tune 'Em Up Again' technique. Doesn't seem to do any harm and the guitar's playable virtually straight away.

No doubt some highly-educated Professor of Quantum Physics will post an explanation as to why I shouldn't do this, but I've seen lots of VERY superior big-name players do it - if it's good enough for them.........
Johnny
:0)


22 Jan 04 - 12:48 PM (#1098810)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: Walking Eagle

I do that all the time. New strings are difficult to keep in tune. I use steel strings, don't know what nylon strings are like. I feel that they need time to adjust. I don't know what concert pitch is, I just put them on, tighten a little and then put the guitar on its' stand. I do try to keep it in a warm place in winter and a cool place in summer. Hope this helps. Guitar withdrawl? Hmmm, could be a good excuse to visit someone who has a different guitar and play their axe.


22 Jan 04 - 12:49 PM (#1098811)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: GUEST,Les B.

Murray - a few years back I sat in on a Dan Crary workshop at a bluegrass festival and heard him state that idea - put 'em on, tune 'em up and let them sit for 24 hours before playing. Of course he realized it's not always possible, but that was his recommendation if you have time.

Funny - that's about the only thing I remember from his workshop - that, and practicing in small increments of time on specific problem parts in a piece you're trying to learn.


22 Jan 04 - 12:49 PM (#1098812)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: breezy

over strech them, then, when they break ,replace.
They usually slip if they are not trapped at the machine head.


22 Jan 04 - 12:50 PM (#1098813)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: Amos

Nylons stretch more than steel do. Same techniques -- I have always found pulling them a bit to stretch them after they're tuned in, and then re-tuning, settles most strings in pretty well. Some brands are more cantankerous than others.

A


22 Jan 04 - 12:53 PM (#1098817)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: Bee-dubya-ell

I have several guitars and, often, when I change strings I'll do three or four of them at a time. Then I'll often put all but one of them back in their cases and play just that one for a couple of days. So, the ones I haven't been playing have been allowed to stretch at concert pitch for a day or more. Does it help the strings retain their tone? Not that I've noticed.

But, speaking of stretching strings... When I change strings I tune each string to a step above concert pitch and then lower it back down. It really helps minimize retuning while the strings break in.

And just because ya never can tell who is or isn't an idiot... If you try it, stretch one string at a time and then lower it back down to standard pitch before going to the next string. DO NOT tune the whole damned guitar to a step above standard!

Bruce


22 Jan 04 - 01:06 PM (#1098838)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: Jeri

I'm with Strollin' Johnny and Amos: String, stretch, tune, retune, play really hard for a while and maybe tune again.

I don't know that the thing with "let the strings get to know the guitar - put them in the dark and let them 'bond'" thing isn't just a ritual. Whatever works, though.

The one thing that I KNOW causes tuning to be a real pain is when I leave too much excess string wound around the peg, no matter how much I stretch them when I bring them up to pitch. It seems to take forever for the slack to pull out.

Thread reminded me I need to order some more Newtone strings!


22 Jan 04 - 01:24 PM (#1098856)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: McGrath of Harlow

Tune them a tone high and then lower them to just below what you want, and tune them up again. With nylon strings I think that's essential, if you don't want to have to constantly be retuning the whole night. With steel strings a semi-tone is enough (and not even thta for the bass strings)


22 Jan 04 - 01:31 PM (#1098864)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: Leadfingers

I am with Bruce on this one. When I restring, I always tune to a semitone abvoe concert then do all the tidying up bits, dead stings thrown away etc and then retune to concert.This usually means the strings are settled when I come to play, even if I have only restrung the afternoon before a gig. This seems to work with Guitar Banjo and Mandolin.


22 Jan 04 - 01:49 PM (#1098881)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: Cluin

Long ago I used to tune higher than concert pitch and leave it for a a day. Then lower the tuning to concert. Don't have the luxury of that time anymore.

Now I stretch `em as I tune `em up a couple of times. Grasp each string at the 12th fret, pull up and wiggle back and forth a few times. Tune up again. Repeat. After about 3 times they are pretty much stretched and ready to go.

They'll still need to be "played in" for a couple of hours though.

I also make sure the windings are in order and even at the peg too, laying nicely side by side moving down towards the wood: about 3 windings for the low E to about 9 or 10 for the high E. Seems to keep them well in tune till they wear out.


22 Jan 04 - 01:56 PM (#1098887)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: onlyme

I'm about to re-string my Tanglewood steel guitar with some Newtone 16-59's for G/D OPEN TUNING . Any special thoughts i should be bearing in mind ? Its a new venture for me


22 Jan 04 - 01:56 PM (#1098888)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: Bee-dubya-ell

Related question...

Does anybody have a good sorta-scientific explanation for why a string sometimes breaks when its pitch is being lowered? I had a high E pop the other day while I was lowering it down to D for an alternate tuning. It's illogical, counterintuitive, and don't make no sense, but it happens all the time.

Bruce


22 Jan 04 - 02:03 PM (#1098895)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: Cluin

Strings are fuddy-duddies. They don't like change of any kind. Especially when they get older.


22 Jan 04 - 02:07 PM (#1098898)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: Justa Picker

I do it routinely.


22 Jan 04 - 02:32 PM (#1098908)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: Murray MacLeod

Mick and Walking Eagle, interesting to know that you do this. Do you find any benefits regarding increased longevity of the strings, or is it just that they stay in tune better? I know it's all subjective, but I would like to hear your opinions.

LesB, thank you for confirming that my memory can sometimes function correctly ....

On the subject of manually stretching strings, my own experience is that it is much more preferable to give each string several gentle tugs at intervals of two to three inches rather than giving one almighty yank at the twelfth fret.(The string should be a tone below concert while doing this)

The reason for this is that steel can stretch erratically, and one pull at the twelfth fret does not result in a homogeneous stretching. Multiple gentle tugs give a better result. Of course, the worst that can happen is that it takes the string a little longer to settle down to a stable tuning.

I imagine that the perceived advantage of Dan Crary's method is that over 24 hours it allows the steel to stabilise gradually and uniformly, and consequently give fewer tuning hassles on stage.

I have emailed him on the subject and will share whatever feedback I get.


22 Jan 04 - 02:34 PM (#1098909)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: Murray MacLeod

Didn't see your post JP, yet another advocate ....


22 Jan 04 - 02:44 PM (#1098915)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: Bobert

Well, I put both feet on the top of the guitar and pull 'em out, oh, jus' short a brakin' 'em, you know 6 'er 8 inches,, then retune to Bobert pitch and then thrash the heck out of 'em fir a minute 'er three, retune.... and they'z good to go. Okay, I really don't us my feet on the guitar but the rest is purdy much accurate...

(Someone once told me that ya' gotta break in car the way yer gonna drive it once'd itz broken in...)

Bobert


22 Jan 04 - 02:52 PM (#1098921)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: onlyme

with regard to manual stretching i have always instintively used the short tugs at intervals as Murray advocates. never really thought about it before..but undies are never quite as comfortable if you just yank them on eh? similar principle?


22 Jan 04 - 03:36 PM (#1098968)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: Walking Eagle

MM--I re-string every 6 months. Settle down! I'm not a rich American, I just appropriate available funds for the most 'important' things! So, I don't know about the longevity aspect.

I do find that I have to do very little tuning when I get to a jam. In fact, most people usually tune to me.

Onlyme- you must be talking about new undies eh? Stretching after one use is nooo problem.

The eagle who walks--Julie


22 Jan 04 - 03:57 PM (#1098978)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: GUEST,Martin Gibson

The 24 hour thing works.


22 Jan 04 - 04:40 PM (#1099015)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: Mooh

Sometimes I stretch 'em, sometimes time stretches 'em, depending on circumstances. For nylons I tune two high at a time (tension countered by the stretching and lowering of the others) to reduce time. I guess that the strings, especially nylons, stretch more evenly when allowed to sit, but I have no scientific evidence of it.

Mooh.


22 Jan 04 - 04:47 PM (#1099023)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: McGrath of Harlow

"... a string sometimes breaks when its pitch is being lowered"

People are like that too. In a crisis, it's when the pressure is relaxig and the tension is reduced that we tend to come to pieces.


22 Jan 04 - 04:52 PM (#1099031)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: Clinton Hammond

One is supposed to CHANGE guitar strings?

I just replace 'em when they break....

:-)


22 Jan 04 - 05:08 PM (#1099044)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: GUEST,Bigchuck at work

I've been doing this for a number of years, and find that my strings definitely last longer as a result. They also seem less likely to go dead quickly.
Sandy


22 Jan 04 - 06:13 PM (#1099127)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: The Fooles Troupe

Knew someone who owned a String instrument shop. As I walked in he was just breaking a string on a cello - the second one he had tried to fit. I looked at the thing, and the string holder thingie at the bottom end was much closer to the bridge than normal. I pointed this out, and he reset it to nearer the correct distance. No more strings broke while fitting. He was having a bad day - something to do with a divorce...

Apparently some cello strings are hardened, and left annealed at the end where the tuning pegs are. With the different length, the hardened part was being placed on the nut at the top of the instrument - leading it to snap as it was bent slightly.

Robin


22 Jan 04 - 07:03 PM (#1099170)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: Roger in Baltimore

I have used the gentle tug at the 12th fret for many years. I use two or three fingers under the string so the angle is not as sharp. the process is 1. tune to concert pitch, 2. tug on the string, and 3. retune to concert pitch.

I think I picked this up from watching Tom Rush change a string in mid-concert once. The concept made sense. I figured it stretched the strings better than just tuning up a half-step to stretch it and then retuning to concert pitch.

The guitar, which holds tuning well, usually stays on pitch from there on out.

A note of warning: I did break a 10 gauge string once doing this.

Speaking of changing in mid-concert, one of my strongest memories was watching Hootenanny on TV and saw Paul Prestipino (I hope I have that right) change a string in mid-tune without stopping his playing. I think he was backing up the Chad Mitchell Trio.

Roger in Baltimore


22 Jan 04 - 07:32 PM (#1099190)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: C-flat

"Does anybody have a good sorta-scientific explanation for why a string sometimes breaks when its pitch is being lowered? I had a high E pop the other day while I was lowering it down to D for an alternate tuning. It's illogical, counterintuitive, and don't make no sense, but it happens all the time.

Bruce
"


It could be caused by a rough edge, either at the nut or bridge, which catches the string as it moves through the slot, particularly an older string. It wouldn't matter wether you are tuning up or down in that case.
C-flat.


22 Jan 04 - 08:03 PM (#1099204)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: Thomas the Rhymer

I change my guitar strings one at a time... usually the whole set, 'cause I don't break strings much... In my experience, the steel does not stretch... rather, the string winding around the tuners has to 'catch', and the wedge pins on the bridge have to settle in... So, when the new string goes on, it gets pulled rather hard... hard enough that it feels only right and proper to hold the guitar head down with my other hand. I generally pull it somewhere near the sound hole. I have virtually no need to chase my pitches all over the batter's box, and I am completely ignorant about the longevity of any string's tone quality. After a while, the high strings go out of pitch on up the neck, and that's when I've waited too long. As I've said before, new strings are better than sex! ttr


22 Jan 04 - 08:26 PM (#1099214)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: Leadfingers

A mate of mine used to restring for every gig and another friend restrings every six months regardless.Another mate restrings for every gig or once a year,whichever comes first.


22 Jan 04 - 10:48 PM (#1099302)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: McGrath of Harlow

I do the yanking at tbe 12th fret as well - and lift ar the nut as well to even things out, in case the string might be catching there.

It's a lovely feeling to change a whole set of strings, and then when it's in tune hear it ringing out all bright and clean. I tend to do it as a seasonal thing, when it starts getting towards festival time.


23 Jan 04 - 03:53 AM (#1099414)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: Murray MacLeod

Martin Simpson changes strings just before each gig, and also during the interval, would you believe.

Of course, he gets his strings free from D'Addario in an endorsement deal....


23 Jan 04 - 08:02 AM (#1099581)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: GUEST,Strollin' Johnny

Don't know much about this string-breaking business, I change mine as soon as the newness wears off a little and they lose that initial 'zinginess' - about two to three weeks maybe. Can't stand that 'My Guitar's Made From An Old Pallet' sound when the strings go dull. In my other life I'm an accountant so I can afford to be that way!

A guy at a session I went to this week had a 3rd go at the nut. It was a brand-new string and he'd just had the slots re-cut. I reckon there must have been a sharp edge in the slot.

A question for you technical guys - on my Martin the 2nd always sounds dull or a bit 'damped'. The others are fine. Any ideas?
Johnny
:0)


23 Jan 04 - 12:09 PM (#1099769)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: GUEST,Martin Gibson

TTR

I love new strings especially medium bronze phosphors, but they will never be better than sex!! :.)


24 Jan 04 - 12:19 PM (#1100405)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: van lingle

I like to leave strings on until they start going dead and find that the Crary trick really lenghtens string life and helps keep things in tune better. I also grind a little pencil lead into the nut slots when I change strings which keeps them from catching in the nut.

Hey onlyme, Those gauges are pretty heavy even for Open D and G though I know Newtones claim to have lower tension on the wound strings relative to gauge. You might want to check with the builder before proceeding, if possible. Good luck, vl


25 Feb 04 - 03:32 PM (#1123700)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: Cluin

The actual "stretching" of the strings is (IMO) mostly getting them seated more firmly at the peg and in the bridge so they don't slip. I think the "yank" does this better than just letting it sit and meditate on the weariness of life. You still want the strutural flexibility of the string to remain so that they will play (vibrate) well and stay in tune. Treat your guitar rough (within reason); it likes it.


25 Feb 04 - 06:45 PM (#1123880)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: The Fooles Troupe

oooooh, kinky!


25 Feb 04 - 08:14 PM (#1123938)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: black walnut

I have to change my nylon guitar strings tonight. Reading this thread has given me the courage to do what I avoid like the plague. I play guitar, dulcimer, and Celtic harp, and yet I detest changing strings. It inevitably terrifies me. Just the thought causes me to curl up in a corner with a good book. I think the fear is due to spending the first half of my life playing clarinet, flute and piano.

Okay, here goes....

~b.w.


25 Feb 04 - 10:12 PM (#1124014)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: black walnut

I DID IT! Six new classical strings in less than 2 hours. (I'm really bad at this). I pulled them and stretched them and they sound pretty fine already. A site I found that helped (follow the pictures) was lightsmusic. This thread helped too, though. It gave me the 'guts', as it were.

~b.w.


26 Feb 04 - 12:27 AM (#1124096)
Subject: RE: Pre-stretching guitar strings
From: Seamus Kennedy

I do exactly as Roger In Baltimore does.

One trick I was taught by a gent at the Martin factory: when stringing, thread the string through hole in the peghead, gently pull it taut, then pull it back through the hole a little - 1/2" for the wound strings, and 1" for the unwound - bend it round the post a little and start winding.
Then do the RIB bit.
When I break a string, which I do very rarely, I have a couple of long involved shaggy-dog stories which I tell while changing the string.
Enough for a string-change and a cheap laugh or a groan.

Seamus