More Than Six
or Playing the Notes Other Guitars Cannot Reach, by James R. Smith

1. Intro | 2. Guitar Types | 3. Strings | 4. Learning | 5. Repertoire | 6. Conclusion | This article was originally published in Classical Guitar Magazine

3. Strings

Strings for ten-string tenor, terz, alt and arch guitars are readily obtainable. The catalogues of Aranjuez, La Bella, D'Addario, Hannabach and Pyramid contain the lists of relevant types, and the latter two offer customising services in addition to standard items. Some particular pieces of information will assist practical aspects. While the treble strings of any make for a six-string guitar will fit a 65cm scale ten-string, because of the length of the head, a number of makes do not have the necessary length to enable use to be made of the three bass for this length of scale. Aranjuez offer a ten string Yepes set with copper-coloured seventh string. This 7th-C is an especially valuable string, readily tuning to D, and still producing a good sound when down-tuned to A. Thus, it is possible (from four packets, or by special order) to have an all copper set of basses for baroque tuning, a point to be elaborated in the next section. For tenor ten-string guitars, I have found that instrument response is better with higher tension strings. It is possible to tune even a 65cm scale in G, and while low-tension strings can achieve this, it is better practice to use, for example, the lighter rectified nylon types. This will mean making up sets individually using supplier tension information to obtain a reasonably uniform tension across the strings corresponding approximately to high tension strings in E-tuning. However, it is most important to realise that high-tension or even medium tension sets for E-tuning of a 65cm scale guitar should NEVER be used for tuning in G a guitar of this scale length, or even only a couple of centimetres less. Any attempt to do this will result not only in string breakage, but place unacceptably high loads on the bridge, sound-board and strutting, with the likelihood of severe damage, if not immediately, then with the passage of time. It is always worth seeking the instrument maker's advice in this regard.

Tuning a standard tenor guitar in G, while producing a bright sound with ­ for a ten-string ­ a good bass, does not produce a typical terz sound, the sound board is too big. I am indebted to Peter Rueffer for the observation that a tenor can be significantly brightened without becoming brittle or unbalanced by tuning in F#, i.e., at the second fret of an E-tuned instrument. This works well with both six and multi-string guitars. Interestingly, this tuning is probably close to G-tuning in the renaissance. Again, it is recommended that string sets are obtained from a specialist supplier. The equivalent of baroque tuning for a ten-string in F# is

7th ­ E, 8th ­ D or D#, 9th ­ C#, 10th ­ B1.

NEXT | 1. Intro | 2. Guitar Types | 3. Strings | 4. Learning | 5. Repertoire | 6. Conclusion

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