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I'm considering getting this guitar: http://www.thomann.de/gb/harley_benton_ds_10_mini.htm?ref=search_rslt_benton+mini_321012_0

According to the description, the scale is 568mm (~22.36") and it comes with 10-47 strings. Considering the light gauge and the short scale, I'm pretty sure it needs to be tuned up for the strings not to be flabby and stay in tune. But I'm still wondering if it's possible to get it up to ADGCEa without snapping the strings. My questions are:

  • Do you think it's possible to tune that guitar up to ADGCEa with the strings that are being shipped with it?
  • If not, do you think it would be possible with lighter gauge strings, say 9-42 or even 8-38?
  • I've read about a guy who tuned his Fender Squier Strat Mini RD (22.64" scale) up to ADGCEa with 9-42 strings. On that note, is there a difference between acoustic and electric guitars with regard to tuning?

Lastly: I know I could simply take a guitar with standard EADGBe tuning and capo the fifth fret. I'm curious to find out if there's an alternative without capo though :)

Thanks in advance!

  • You may find this very handy: mcdonaldstrings.com/stringxxiii.html Calculate the total and per-string tensions for the factory setup and then work with trial and error to find a combination that is closest to the same total and per-string tensions with the notes you want. For instance, a .013 string tuned to E is slighter higher tension than a .009 string tuned to the A above it (for a 25.5" scale length). – Todd Wilcox Feb 8 '16 at 17:08
  • You may also find this one useful (not a duplicate though): music.stackexchange.com/questions/28978/… – Andy Feb 8 '16 at 17:14
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There is absolutely nothing wrong with Todd's fantastic amazing answer! But the ensuing comment thread seem to interject some potential confusion.

Let me make a couple of observations. A shorter scale guitar will require less tension to reach a given pitch. The guitar you mentioned has a scale approximately three full inches shorter than a "full scale" guitar. I am away from a guitar at the moment but I am guessing that might be equivalent to a capo on the 2nd fret (if not almost 3rd) fret of many full scale guitars.

So while it is likely that tuning a .10 steel string to a on a 25.5 inch scale guitar would snap the string, it is highly probable that you could get there on a 22.36" scale. Yes that would increase the tension and yes, too much tension can damage the guitar. But there is a limit to how much tension you can get from a .10 or .09 gauge string before it breaks. You could torque a .47 gauge string to a dangerously high tension before it would break, but that is not going to be happening in the scenario you describe.

Also of importance, the lighter the string gauge, the less tension required to reach a given pitch. So the combination of very light strings and a short scale guitar will very likely translate into a very floppy feeling set up - as you suggested. So I think your idea of a higher tuning in that scenario, makes perfect sense and may contribute to a better overall playing feel.

When a guitar manufacturer builds a particular guitar, someone will decide what gauge strings would be optimal for that guitar (assuming standard tuning). Then that guitar will be "set up" (hopefully) in the factory for the particular gauge strings the manufacturer "recommends". Sometimes, manufacturers change their mind as did Taylor Guitars with their acoustic 800 and up series. I would assume that when they changed the recommended string gauge, they altered the factory set up accordingly.

Radical departure from the gauge the guitar was set up for can result in significant problems including intonation, nut slots being too large, bridge height too low, or other issues. Slight departures (going from .010 to .009 for example) don't usually have a discernible effect.

Assuming the guitar you mentioned has been set up for the gauge strings they ship with it, you should be able to make some slight modifications to your string set without radically diminishing the play ability.

It is very important to maintain relatively consistent string tension for all strings for playing comfort. It is also important not to exert so much tension on the neck that the truss rod is unable to compensate. But the overall tension can be adjusted up or down and appropriate adjustments to the truss rod will maintain the proper and desired relief in the neck.

So let's look at what you are considering in another way. Below you will find a string gauge description for a heavy set and a .010 - .047 Extra Light Set.

enter image description here enter image description here

These are two different gauge sets from same manufacturer and same type strings. I am sure most full scale guitars would be able to handle the higher tension of the heavier gauge. As you can see, the heavy set uses a .049 gauge for the A string. So no problem on a shorter scale (less tension required) to tune a .047 gauge to A. We also see that on the heavy gauge set, we can get a .014 gauge string to high e. Same gauge as on the 2nd string in the light gauge set. So again, even less tension on the short scale guitar to get the .014 gauge string to high e.

The only question not answered by the chart, is will the .010 string tune up to high A on the short scale guitar. We can see that the difference between B and e is either .018 to .014 OR .014 to .010 - either way a .04 difference. The shorter scale will make it easy to get to high a on a .010 and I would bet you could even get there with a .011 since the scale is equivalent to at least a 2nd fret capo already.

I am certain you won't have a problem tuning the .010 string to a on the short scale and the overall tension should be reasonably balanced, albeit higher than with standard tuning. As mentioned above, this higher tension is probably a potentially more comfortable tension on the short scale than the .010 to .047 set would provide.

If in the very unlikely event that the .010 string snaps before you get to high A, you can buy a single .09 gauge from Just Strings Single Strings Page

The biggest difference between strings for electric verses acoustic (aside from the metal composition being different to react to magnetic pickups) is that generally strings for electric can be lighter to accommodate string bending - since the volume is controlled by the electronics and amplification. It is common for electric sets to have a plain steel G (third) string instead of a wound G string.

Speaking of wound G strings, at the above mentioned site for single strings at Just Strings dot com, you can purchase acoustic wound G strings in a .018 gauge if you decide you want to construct a lower tension A - a tuning and still have a wound 3rd string.

I have not gone as far as Todd and tried a hands on experiment, but I have played with enough different string gauges on different scale length guitars, to confidently say that you should be just fine tuning up the guitar you mentioned with the strings they shipped which are probably the strings the guitar is set up for.

You will probably want to adjust the truss rod to compensate for the higher tension. But with the shorter scale, the effect on overall tension should not be beyond the adjustment range of the guitar's truss rod.

  • Another incredibly useful answer, thank you very much! It's quite a cheap guitar, so I guess I'll just go ahead and give it a shot. I'll obviously keep you posted on the outcome :) Do I need to tune the guitar up really slowly, not more than half-tone per hour/day or something like that? As for adjusting the truss rod, I guess I don't want to do that myself. So if it's necessary, I would bring it to my local shop. – Peter Feb 11 '16 at 10:01
  • Truss rod adjustments should be done very slowly. No need to do the tuning so slowly - but it might not hurt to do it over an hour or so - maybe whole steps then let the neck adjust for 15 minutes. I say that but when I re-string any of my guitars, I take all the strings off at once and then tune new strings zero to full tension in 10 minutes. But if you are going to have your local shop do the set up, you should let them tune it at the same time. Just be sure they write down exactly how you want it tuned so they don't hand it off to the assistant tech who defaults to standard tuning. – Rockin Cowboy Feb 11 '16 at 18:08
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I did it for you, since I was curious:

  • Low A: .034 wound
  • D: .028 wound
  • G: .020 wound
  • C: .017 plain
  • E: .011 plain
  • High A: .008 plain

Total tension is almost exactly the same. Individual tensions are pretty close.

One main difference between electric and acoustic strings that may come into play is that on electric guitars, the 3rd string is usually plain, whereas on acoustic it is usually wound. This does have an effect on feel and string bending.

Also note that with strings so much thinner than normal, you could get rattling at the nut or saddle depending on how the slots are cut. If they are not tapered into the cut enough then one or more strings may just be sitting on a flat surface with some wiggle room. If it's at the nut end, you could deal with that by tuning down a half step and capoing at fret 1 (possibly with going with a slightly larger guage). If it's at the saddle, you might be stuck with having to get a special saddle cut. Even though the total tension is almost identical, it might be a good idea to double check the neck relief a couple days after setting this up.

Also check out Nashville tuning.

  • Thanks a lot, Todd! As for the calculator, when selecting "Guitar medium" with a scale of 65cm, I get the following tensions that I want to use as benchmark: Overall: 80.67, Low E: 13.58, A: 14.6, D: 13.75, G: 14.58, B: 11.99, High E: 12.17. When changing the scale to 56.8cm and the strings to the factory setup, I get this: Overall: 77.62, Low A: 11.61, D: 15.86, G: 14.64, C: 14.9, E: 10.71, High A: 9.9 --> Lower overall tension but individual tensions are higher. All in all, it doesn't look bad though. Is there something like a max tension? As to both overall and per string? Many thanks! – Peter Feb 9 '16 at 9:34
  • I wonder (often!). But this time it's about intonation. The bridge is set up for the original gauge of strings, so will probably need adjusting. s.Not particularly easy on most acoustic – Tim Feb 9 '16 at 11:37
  • Hey Tim, the tension values in my comment above would be the result if I used the original gauge strings and tune them up to ADGCEa. So if the tension (both overall and on individual strings) is not a problem, then this should work. Is there maybe something like a max tension cheat sheet. E.g. gauge .010 string -> max tension 15kg and so on... Or is this not only about the gauge but also the instrument itself? – Peter Feb 9 '16 at 12:06
  • @Peter Is there something stopping you from just getting the most appropriate strings for the tuning you are looking for? There certainly is a tension that will damage a guitar outright, assuming the strings can handle it, but that's not the biggest concern. The biggest concern (to me) is a lower tension that will slowly be bad for the guitar. Forgetting about all that for a moment, there is a maximum tension that the truss rod on the guitar can compensate for, you wouldn't want ot exceed that. If you have no truss rod, then matching the factory tension is a lot more important. – Todd Wilcox Feb 9 '16 at 13:26
  • Not at all, I could definitely get the strings you looked up for me (thanks again for that). I just didn't know that matching the factory tension was the best alternative. I didn't even know there was such a thing as factory tension. It was my understanding that the manufacturer puts the strings on the guitar they think are best suitable in terms of sound. However, I thought people could change strings as they see fit. Now I learned that this is not entirely true (e.g as it's potentially required to adjust the bridge to avoid rattling). – Peter Feb 9 '16 at 13:46

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