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I'm wondering if the following tuning can be used in a regular classical guitar

A3 E3 C3 G2 D2 A1

and if so, what set of strings could be used? I'm worried maybe the tension would be too much, but that also depends on the type of string. I have to say that I'm also planning to make this guitar fretless so the size of the frets will not be important, obviously.

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  • Even the shortest short scale bass guitar has a longer scale length than you're considering. And much thicker strings. The biggest problem is going to be finding strings which won't flop around. Nylon classical guitar strings just aren't around to facilitate this sort of scenario. Please keep in touch and reveal the outcome - successful or not ! – Tim Jan 4 at 15:59
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Aquila has a "low A" string set for baritone ADGCEA tuning, and even a "low E" set for EADGBE - one octave lower than standard (same as Bass VI tuning). Both are intended for normal scale classical guitars.

All strings are wound in both sets. I think the low-A set sounds better, which shouldn't be surprising given the instrument being quite small for such a low range.

Also the low-E tuning asks for a more bass type of right hand technique to sound good.

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Looks like you’re going for a classical guitar version of a baritone guitar, which are electric steel strings, have a longer scale length and are usually tuned a 4th or sometimes a 5th lower than a regular guitar.

It seems like you can take a regular set of strings but offset them by 1 position so the 2nd string would be where the 1st goes, etc. They would be tuned about a step lower than they normally would, A instead of B, E instead of G, C instead of D, etc. so maybe a high tension set might work better.

The problem is finding a string to serve as your low A. Maybe from a Mexican Guitarrón or Bajo Sexto? I’m not sure if the latter uses nylon or steel strings. The other issue is because of the short scale length the lowest string might not have a very good sound.

Like you mentioned, I would also be concerned about stressing the instrument so if you have a less expensive guitar you wouldn’t mind experimenting with that would be the way to go.

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  • Also the intonation will be put out, although that won't be too problematic going fretless - but the fretlines will be red herrings. – Tim Apr 9 '20 at 6:32
  • There are baritone classical guitars too. The Guitar family has something around 7 sizes (100 years before electrics). – ggcg Apr 10 '20 at 14:30
  • @Tim not too bad. I know of a guy who plays in B standard on a Fender-scale guitar, by finding strings with the right tension. The smaller size of the standard classical guitar might be a problem, but remember they don't even angle the saddles on classical guitar. But yes, intonation will be in ears, not on fretboard lines. – Dave Jacoby Jan 4 at 4:46
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I don't think I've seen baritone gone past B on a Fender-scale electric. I think you'll have problems with setup and intonation, but low tension, not high, will be the crux of your frustrations.

For strings, take a standard (heavy) string set and toss the high E string and ... I honestly don't know where to go for a thicker nylon/gut string, but you should be able to find singles at a string outlet like Just Strings or maybe your local shop. I'd say .053 or so would get you in the ballpark.

(Ironically, early rock guitarists would get standard (.012s) sets, toss the low E, get a thin banjo string and that's how we got the .009s we do often use these days.)

As a former fretless guitar owner and current steel guitar and slide guitar player, sustain is the best friend I have when working without frets. My suggestion for fretless guitar is an electric with a humbucker and maybe a Sustainer or the like. Either way, guitarists come up believing that intonation is something you set with a screwdriver, not something your ears and fingers work out. It took a long time to get to my current state of mental intonation, and unless you come from a strings (violin, cello, etc) background, that will be your learning curve as well.

Part of me thinks "look into Ouds; they're built for this sort of thing", but I hope you find the sounds you want in this journey.

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  • And while you might get the low notes, they won't resonate well. Pianos and double bass are massive for reasons. Acoustic bass guitars are generally plugged in because they don't project; and classical guitars are purpose-built for the higher frequencies you're moving away from. – Dave Jacoby Jan 4 at 15:39

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