Handmade Music Clubhouse

Cigar Box Guitar Headquarters - CBG HQ

I'm up to my 10th CBG, I've been satisfied with the results for the most part. I seem to be having a problem tuning the low string. I've broke several strings trying to get the G tuned in. Don't know if it's a problem with my build or what. Any suggestions would be appreciated. I'm using a digital tuner I purchased from Gitty, and have also used two different tuner apps that I have on my iPhone.

Views: 206

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Weird. I use the A string and tune down one step.

I agree with Ted.  I use the A string and tune down 1 note... which should lessen the stress on the string.  My personal favorites are D'Addario brand, either 9s or 10s.  If you're breaking your G on all guitars, I would suggest tuning slower.  Bring it up a couple of notes, let it sit for a minute, then a couple more notes, let it sit, until you reach the G.  

I am thinking if you're accidentally tuning an octave too high, that would definitely break a string.  The low G should not be "tight"... but just moderate tension.

If the string is breaking on only one guitar, I could check where the break is occurring and see if there may be a burr on the nut, bridge or a fret.

Thoughts at this time-- if it's breaking on multiple guitars, most likely cause is tuning it an octave too high.

Thanks for the info. One quick question, when you're tuning do you start with the low string and work up to the high string? 

Different people have different preferences for tuning.  I'm sure some have very good, logical reasons for tuning as they do.   I seem to usually tune from the lowest string up to the highest and then repeat that procedure but I'm not sure it matters in the end. 

If I were to "logic it out"... new strings have a "stretching period" that is like a warm up for guitar strings.   They're increasing tension on the neck  with each string added, which can change the tuning on other strings. So once all strings have been tuned, often the first strings tuned can be off as far as 1 or 2 full notes as the neck has adjusted and the string stretched and adapted. 

Unless you're using a balanced tension string set the bass strings will have higher tension than the mids or trebles.  So I tune those first (EA) then the mids (DG) then the Trebles (be)... then tune them all again, and probably a 3rd time for good measure.  If they're new strings they'll require tuning throughout the day as they stretch in... maybe for the first 2-3 days.  Guitar tuners are heavily involved too, which is why people use locking tuners or Floyd Rose systems.

Important:  I tune new strings in steps.   It's hard on new strings to go from zero to full stretch (imagine getting out of bed and lifting weights without any warmup stretching).  I've seen strings break because someone put too much tension on them too quickly.   So with new strings I won't bring to full tune the first time; I'll just tighten the string a bit, move on to the next, then go back through and tighten a little more, and keep doing that until they're all in tune, a step at a time.

Overtuning:  I do something a bit controversial, but it seems to work well.  With new strings, on my final tuning I will tune them one note high.  Some manufacturers will say that's not a good idea, but people make lots of claims that don't necessarily hold true in real world playing.  What I've found is that a string that is slightly over-stretched a bit will more easily settle into its normal tuning and hold that tuning much better.  Otherwise it can take days for a string to stop "micro-tuning" itself flat as it slacks on its stretch. 

Seems that over-tuning by about a note "pulls it into shape" and helps it then stay where it's supposed to be.  Only needs to be overtuned for a few minutes before you can set it into normal tuning.  Again this is a personal trick that works for me.  I've never experienced any problem with this method... and my strings last about a year (sometimes more) before needing to be replaced. (But I don't put my strings through the stress some rockin' players do.)

To be honest though, I'm not sure in the end run it matters at all in what order you tune your strings, so long as you wind up with them in tune.   No guitar string I've ever used takes tuning the first time and holds it.  There's always a break-in period, and I know from experience that new guitar strings will sound a whole lot better 2-3 days after they're fist installed.  I mean, a lot better.  New strings just need time to break in.  

Thanks again for responding to my question. Sounds as if part of my problem is due to not allowing the strings to stretch. 

Any time.   : )

Thanks Wayfinder - great posts!!    He might be tuning one octave up.  I forget which fret to press, but there is a way to tune by ear if you have one string in tune.  Perhaps if he tuned the A string with his tuner, do you remember what fret to press on the D to equal the tone?

As an aside, when I install a new string, while there is still bit to go I pull up on that string for a while to pre-stretch.  But you are correct that strings need time to be stable.

Also, unless it's a new build, I replace strings one at a time to keep the neck tension the same.

Do you know of any good Videos or books that a rookie can read or watch that could explain the basics of which strings are best suited for what you would want to hear? I've been a music lover as long as I can remember, but never picked up an instrument. Loving this new hobby I've picked up, wish I had discovered this long before I turned 70. I see you refer to the A string. I always order the G,D,G and tune to open G. Seems like most videos I watch use that set up. 

Glad you've picked up the CBG Chuck.  That's what drew me to the instrument.  I've played guitar since my early 20s, but I saw a 4-minute video on YouTube and it hit me, "Anyone can play this even folks who think they can't play music."  That's why I started building them... to introduce people to music, spread the joy... and the awesome unique sound one gets from a CBG that is so different from normal guitars.

Ted, if I don't have a tuner handy I tune the A string to "bendable" but not tense.  This is a point just a little bit above "hits the frets when vibrating".   That way it's not too loose, not too tight.  It's not actual note, but if one is just playing alone it works. :D

You asked about fret-based tuning.  The method for a 3-string:  Tune the A(G) first, then tune the middle D to fret 7 of the A, then the high G to Fret 5 of the D.    That's for typical G-D-g  7th tuning.   Some folks prefer to tune to G-D-b, which works fine for some playing and of course, one has that treble b right there in the pack. 

A side note about guitar strings on a CBG:  get the lightest strings you can find, and make sure the high G is non-wound.  That way you get that excellent treble in there.  Since you'll be using the A-D-G strings (tuned to G-D-g), even the lightest strings will be heavy on the treble side (and is part of what gives that unique sound).  So I prefer lights or ultra-lights for my string choice. Makes them easier to play too.

I agree with Ted; I have a feeling the string breaks are caused by tuning one octave too high.  That's a very common error, especially for new players.   Chuck, the trick to tuning is to make sure the strings aren't too tight.   If they are so tight they're difficult to "bend" while playing... they're an octave too tight.  Strings on a CBG should be flexible during play but not vibrate against the frets when plucked.  There is a tendency to tune too high, thinking the strings are "too loose" when in truth they're just right.   On a CBG, strings shouldn't hurt your fingertips when you play.  If they do either the action is too high (nut or bridge needs lowered) or the strings are tuned too tightly... which causes breaking.  So whatever you've been tuning to... try dropping an octave (make the strings more loose) and see if that stops the strings breaking-- and produces better, more vibrant sound.  : )

I always point new players to Knotlenny's Ultimate Best First Lesson video for tuning and simple playing tips.  Check it out!  "Say You See"

EDIT:  I just reread Chuck's post and he mentioned ordering GDG strings.  That's the problem, he's over tightening a G string.  Chuck, order ADG and you'll be good.

LOL yeah Ted, that's a good one.  I especially like his advice about buying a high-quality digital guitar tuner.   : )

Something I forgot to mention earlier;  if one has a cell phone... can load a chromatic tuner app and have an accurate guitar tuner constantly on hand.  I'll have to research whether to tune to G4 or G5... but whichever it is, a good chromatic tuner app comes in really handy.

Reply to Discussion


© 2022   Created by Ted Crocker.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service