String Experiment: 18w for a B string

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String Experiment: 18w for a B string

Postby (iiipopes) » Fri Oct 17, 2014 4:38 pm

First, some background. It is almost universal for those who use a "12's" set on a 320/325 variant to have a 16p B string. We also all know this string can pull sharp and D chords can be especially wobbly, with C chords right behind, and the C# in an A chord is almost unbearable. This is not a fault with Rickenbacker instruments, it is the inherent tendency of all plain B strings (and even moreso for those who prefer a plain G string) to pull sharp on the first few frets. On some of my other guitars, I have even put a compensating shim at the nut per Stephen Delft to bring the pitch down. That works, especially if you like a few thou higher action so you can "dig in" when chording.

I also had some leftover 16w's (yes, you can custom order a Boomer 16w from GHS), 17w's (yes, D'Addario makes an XL 17w) and 18w's from years of different guitars, different tunings, and different experiments over time. Tension-wise, a roundwound 18w is about the same as a 16p, taking into account the gaps in the windings, resulting in about the same mass per string length, and therefore about the same tension. But the core of such a skinny string is too small to hold the tension when strung at B on a conventional 24 3/4 or 25 1/2 scale guitar. But the tension on a 21 inch scale (yes, the '70's and '80's 320's had a 21 inch scale, not the 20 3/4 of the "vintage" and "reissue" models) is only about 72% of the standard 24 3/4 inch scale (tension varies as the square of the scale length).

So I put one of these skinny wound strings on as the B string and tuned it up. It held. I stretched it slightly to seat it and retuned. It held. I started playing: the string was actually slightly flat up the neck with the saddle set to compensate a plain instead of a wound string. I will adjust the bridge saddle compensation later. But most importantly: the 1st position chords were IN TUNE!

So...I now have my 320 strung with 12, 18w, 24w, 32w, 42w, 54w. Ahhhhh. In tune. No compensating shims (yet - I may have to shim the low E string now that everything else is so in tune you can hear the low G in the chord trying to pull sharp).

Caveat: if you have a bridge that does not have individual saddle adjustments, like the Sorkin Bow Tie, which is pre-compensated, you're stuck with the 16p B string and a shim at the nut.

For those who play 13's - just take the gauge up one more step to a 19w or 20w.
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