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I have a toy store, where we try to get decent kids instruments among other things.

One of the guitars we stock is the Janod "Confetti" series guitar. It's 25" long, open string length is 16". I sold one today and the customer brought it back an hour later, unsure of how to string it, since one of the strings had come out of the tuning machine. Me, with my music degree, figured I can do this, so I restrung it and started tuning it up. We were both impressed with the tone, which belied the childish coloring.

I managed to overtension one of the strings and it sprung, uncoiling a bit just at the tuning machine. Clearly my fault, I gave her the money back and I'll get another string for it and tune it properly.

Either she lost the instructions or there were none; I didn't see any information on the packaging.

For my future reference, how should I tune this instrument? What octave and pitches should I use? Upon doing some research online I saw several different tunings. What should I try on a 25" guitar (16" string length)? How about a 36" (24" strings)?

Janod Confetti Guitar

  • Also, it's a 6 string, with the strings arranged in standard guitar format (thick on top, thin on bottom), so definitely not a Ukelele or Mandolin – Josiah Jul 10 '15 at 18:27
  • Consider editing out the length of the guitar and just having the scale length (string length) instead. The length of the guitar is irrelevant to the scale length in this question; as this ultimately seems about string tension than anything else. – user6164 Oct 5 '16 at 15:14
  • Pressing 16" along a 25" string would make a note 25/16 times the pitch, i.e 8 semitones higher. (25/16 = 1.5625. 12th root 2 ^ 8 = 1.5874.) So I'd suggest, if using the same strings as a 25", the tuning on a 16" should be C, F, Bb, Eb, G, C instead of E,A,D,G,B,E if the guitar is not playing along with something. This would be like putting a cappo on a longer necked guitar. (Caveat. This is based on a purely mathematical observation and not on knowledge of kids guitars!) – user3070485 Nov 9 '18 at 13:14
3

You have quite a bit of play room here, considering the scale length is much shorter than a standard guitar. You could tune-up the strings, or slacken them even more; but be aware of the limitations of the stock strings as they will have a point in which they begin to sound "not good" due to the lack of tension on the string.

However, I'm wondering if the strings were properly installed:

I managed to overtension one of the strings and it sprung, uncoiling a bit just at the tuning machine. Clearly my fault, I gave her the money back and I'll get another string for it and tune it properly.

The "uncoiling a bit just at the tuning machine" is almost always a tell-tale sign of improper installation of a string.


If you want to get nerdy about it, D'Addario makes a great site called stringtensionpro.com which could help you out. Disclaimer: it is a solicitation for D'Addario strings but the specification of the strings can be matched identically for your purposes with a bit of measurement.

This tool can show you something like this nylon string chart I just created: enter image description here

  • In it you see a "reference set".

  • The left-most chart shows you normal tensions on a normal set tuned to E standard (An extremely common 6-string guitar tuning). The tensions of each string hover between 11 and 16 lbs of pull for each one.

  • With a 16" scale length that tension is drastically reduced to about 4 or 6 lbs of pull on each string.

  • Adjusting the scale length of a typical set of strings will easily allow you to see what the effect is on a 24" scale length. However I can tell you that's only .75" less than a standard Gibson scale length, it's much closer to a standard-sized guitar.


With that said it looks like E standard tuning (EADGBE) is safe on a small guitar like you have; but ultimately the bracing on the soundboard of the guitar will determine how much tension it will allow. Keep in mind the audience as well; these are for small children. The number one concern for children learning guitar is the pain experienced by pressing down the strings. The lower the tension on the strings, the more "comfortable" it is to play with the child develops callouses. We're already dealing with less than half of the normal tension of a guitar; that may be just enough. However we're also making the child use steel strings; so the pain factor may be two-fold.

If the child is truly a beginner they may also benefit from an open tuning. An open tuning is simply a tuning where the strings are tuned to a more pleasant sounding chord. Slide guitarists do this all the time. A personal favorite is Open D (DADF#AD), but you could easily do any variation of a major or minor chord to great success. The best part about this is, for a beginner - who more than likely will not be taking lessons (I only say this as guitar instructors generally don't recommend toy guitars for beginners) - it allows music to be made immediately as placing fingers across the strings and strumming automatically creates somewhat musically pleasing sounds. A major benefit to most open tunings (like Open D) is that the string tension is loosened a bit, alleviating finger pain associated with more traditional tunings.

At this stage - with a toy guitar - it's more important to get the interest in playing music for the child. Slacking the strings a bit and/or using the open tunings will prevent the strings from coming undone, and allow for "music" instead of "noise".

Edit: Adjustments made as I thought this guitar was string with nylon strings, all the same rules and relativity still apply.

2

Typically all 6-string guitars are tuned EADGBE. Tuning them to a higher or lower pitch may tighten or loosen the strings incorrectly. Judging by the bridge and pegs, it looks as though this specific guitar has steel strings. Your string may have broken due to the quick tension that was put on it. New strings usually need slow stretching and can pop even if they haven't reached full tuning. I would suggest slowly turning the pegs and testing how much tension is put on the string by putting your hand under the string (right above the hole) and pushing up. If it feels hard to push, then let the string rest for a little. You can also press down on the string while doing this to speed up the stretching process. All in all, I suggest tuning it to the same pitch as a normal guitar.

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ADGCEA is a common tuning for mini guitars. The 3 higher strings are tuned like a ukulele. My Yamaha GL1 guitalele is 17" bridge to nut. So the high A string is tuned to 440. So apart from the 5 semitone difference, it plays just like a guitar.

I haven't bought new strings yet, but most likely I'll get the set Cordoba sells for their guilele (Aquila 96c).

2

Scale length is the measurement from the guitar "bridge" (the bottom end of the guitar strings) to the guitar "nut" (at the top end of the the guitar strings) and is the most important thing to note when selecting strings.

A normal guitar's scale length regardless of body size, is 25.5". Some guitars (like small bodied parlor guitars) have a scale length up to an inch shorter. Normal guitar strings are made for optimal tension and play-ability at these scale lengths when tuned to the concert pitch of C.

The toy guitar here has a very small scale length. The shorter the scale length, the higher above concert pitch "C" the guitar tuning needs to be to get a decent tension and sound right. Strings from a mandolin might be more suitable (the six main strings).

"Open tuning" avoids initially difficult guitar cord fingering. Simply placing a finger straight across the neck behind any fret produces a pleasant sound. This is ideal for small children to remain interested in the guitar. The most common open tuning is DADGAD.

Normal guitar strings would need to be tuned higher than concert pitch "C" to sound right, but that is no big deal for the guitar mentioned here.

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Google "Alternate guitar tunings" and you will find heaps of various key variants of the standard tuning, as well as open tunings. They are of course generally for normal guitar, but all tunings above F# will work fine on a guitalele size guitar. It is also very easy to transpose any tuning up so that it suits the small guitar. It only takes knowing the basic scale. Let's say you find the open D tuning, which is far too low for a small guitar, and you wanna transpose is Up so that it's playable on your small guitalele.

Here is what you do: I take for granted you have some sort of tuning device. If not then just download one for free on your mobile. Okay. ... open D is DADF#AD. (Organised as the strings on the guitar..... iow D is the thickest string asf). Okay, you then know that every key from F#=Fsharp will be string tight enough to work on a small guitar like that. So you just count according to the basic scale starting from D....You have to raise that thick string from D to F# or above. Let's say G#, cause it's a good key. So you start counting up from the D. D-D#-E-F-F#-G-G#. From the D up to G# meaning G-sharp you have 6 steps. Alright. .. then tune the thick/lowest string on your little guitar up until the tuner shows G#. Then the next string... All you have to do is first tune that string to the A, which it says on the open D description you found. Okay. .. then when the string is tuned to A.... you count 6 steps up on that one too, and turn the string head until the tuner shows 6 steps above A. That will be A-A#-B-C-C#-D-D#. Yep.... that will be a D#=D-sharp. So now you've got the lowest string tuned to G# and the second lowest tuned to D#. On the prescription you find that the third string (counting from the thickest as we are now) is also tuned to D.... The same as the first one. So you just tune that one up to D#. No need to count. See what I mean? Very simple. If one doesn't know anything about tunings, you can still tune your guitar to whatever tuning you find. Good luck and plenty of joy.

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25" is about a normal guitar string speaking length, so standard strings will do - .010 set would be normal. The 36" sounds like a bass guitar length, and certainly wouldn't have 6 strings as a kid's instrument!

Since the 36" is half as long again, doing some maths may give a gauge, but it would depend a lot on how it gets tuned.

This is all dependent on the open string length.

  • See edit, strings from the nut to the bridge (sorry, my string experience was violin) is 16". – Josiah Jul 10 '15 at 18:32
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My son's guitalele with 13" scale tuned fine to EADGBe with ordinary .012 nylon strings.

protected by Doktor Mayhem Oct 15 '17 at 18:08

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