Steel string discussion / advice


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Nov 20, 2021
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Hi There,

I have a Toby Chennell Steel String Baritone. It's a petite bouche (small mouth) gypsy jazz style, with a floating bridge and tailpiece. No truss rod. Tuning DGBD. I've been working through different string gauges:
-13s - needed a lot of tuning before playing, intonation 8/10
  • 10's - very stable but you have to play very light handed with left hand. intonation 10/10
  • 11's - current - stability is between 10's and 13's. you can be a bit heavier with left hand but still easy to pull the high D out of tune. Intonation 9/10.

Any advice or thoughts on combinations / bridge set up / technique? I play quite heavy handed on left hand and struggle to play softly.

Also - anyone got any thoughts on or experience of the Coletti Archtop Tenor with steel strings? (I'd be looking to put it into D tuning):
Tuning stability and intonation is a can of worms, and its not all down to strings.
Firstly, when you quote string gauges, are you talking about using the lightest 4 strings from the set, or the middle 4 strings from the set?
Currently I'm using the MIDDLE 4 strings from a 9-42 gauge set on a 16" scale Alida (mini ES350 that is arched, hollow, 2 single coils and a floating bridge) whew, tuned E,A,C#,F#.

Yes, these instruments can be sensitive and not 100% stable tuning wise.
Tuning machines are important. I ditched the standard cheap tuners as they were TERRIBLE, and fitted some 18:1 Grover tuners.
WAY better. The standard tuners were not up to the job.
How well the nut slots are cut and filed is very important. A sticking nut will play havoc with tuning stability.
Does the saddle float, and have you moved it around to adjust intonation with different strings?
If you can't move the saddle around to adjust intonation, then I would stick with the 10"s that you use.
Yes, I can't be as heavy handed with this instrument as I sometimes am with my nylgut strung acoustic ukuleles.
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