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Poll
what scale length delivers enough high harmonics?
less than 24.75"
12%
 12%  [ 1 ]
24.75"
0%
 0%  [ 0 ]
25"
0%
 0%  [ 0 ]
25.5"
50%
 50%  [ 4 ]
more than 25.5"
37%
 37%  [ 3 ]
Total Votes : 8


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dannymanOffline
Post subject: scale length  PostPosted: Oct 26, 2007 - 06:29 AM



Joined: May 12, 2007
Posts: 6

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I'm just wondering if anyone has made or played a standard 6-string electric guitar with an extended scale legnth, you know, above 25.5": 25.75"? 26"? I love the tension and thump of thicker strings, such as 11's, but I want more definition in my high harmonics, and the only place I really have left to go is to extend the scale length. Anyone?
 
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Michael
Post subject:   PostPosted: Oct 26, 2007 - 07:45 PM
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Joined: Dec 28, 2006
Posts: 3223
Location: MOSCOW
Thats a very interesting and also somewhat subjective area of discussion.

I have 24.0 inch scale guitars that exhibit plenty of harmonic definition!! You might want to ask Brian May if he's getting enough harmonics Very Happy

String tension, mass, and length are physical factors - but also the string's EXCITATION and the resonance of the instrument are very important for the guitarist.

Harmonic output is most grossly controlled by WHERE you pluck the string (excitation). (And unless you are only using piezo pickups, the pickup placement can have a definite effect on what you hear as well...)

In most cases you will affect the harmonic content much more dramatically through your choice of woods, hardware and construction - than through extending the scale length. We've built a LOT of guitars here, and the practical limitations are mainly in the area of string technology, more than anything. Despite what you may have read elsewhere, "All things being equal", going longer than 25.5 inches is not going to noticeably add harmonic content. We mainly use extended scale lengths to accomodate down-tuning. (to keep string tensions balanced, and avoid "floppy" strings). If you like to use THICK STRINGS, then keep in mind that the longer the scale length, the higher the string tension will be. (Excess string tension is uncomfortable for string bending...)

There was a widely circulated article (reproduced here for your convenience) published more than ten years ago which expounds on the joys of extended scale length... However it was written not by an actual physicist, but rather by a luthier with a very vested commercial interest in extended scale instruments - so you have to take its somewhat pseudo-scientific content with a really big grain of salt...
 
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dannymanOffline
Post subject:   PostPosted: Oct 27, 2007 - 03:27 AM



Joined: May 12, 2007
Posts: 6

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Quote:
Scale lengths do have distinct harmonic voices, and this aspect of scale length should be of utmost importance to us as builders.


Thanks for the reply, Michael. I've just heard so much about how longer scales add more high harmonics, but I guess what is actually happening is that harmonics already in existence are being emphasized more than others, depending on the scale legth? Right now I'm playing on a modded Mosrite copy, and I've done everything I can to bring out more high harmonic content, but I guess all I'm doing is essentially turning the treble up.

Considering wood, then, what have you found to be the wood most conducive to emphasizing higher harmonics? I mean, there's the common observations: maple is bright, poplar is bright, rosewood is dark, etc..., but I'm wondering from custom shop experience what wood(s) you have found to really bring out high harmonics?
 
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Michael
Post subject:   PostPosted: Oct 27, 2007 - 02:58 PM
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Joined: Dec 28, 2006
Posts: 3223
Location: MOSCOW
The very best woods for bringing out the high harmonics are extremely dense but not too oily. This includes:

    * some of the denser rosewoods
    * bubinga
    * ebonies
    * katalox
    * bocote


With the exception of bubinga, all of these woods are difficult to work with and hard to obtain in large enough boards for guitar-making. (So they are pretty expensive choices - thats why you rarely seem them in any production-line guitar!)

Ebony has a particular unique quality of enhancing the highs and at the same time boosting and tightening up the low end. We have been using it in neck-thru lams with great success.
 
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r3texOffline
Post subject:   PostPosted: Oct 28, 2007 - 04:59 PM



Joined: Jun 09, 2007
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As an interesting tidbit of curiosa, the guitar Shamray is building for me has a 30" scale in order to make the low E sound good. Smile
 
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Matt.GillisOffline
Post subject:   PostPosted: Nov 01, 2007 - 03:49 AM



Joined: Jan 09, 2007
Posts: 659
Location: Nova Scotia, Canada
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Well, as a math and physics student (in addition to my arts and fine arts skills; which are much better!) I look at the issue like this:

Harmonic series is exponential. That is also why the frets get smaller and smaller as you go up the neck; you can't change harmonic series, but to compensate, they make the strings get further apart to get away from cramping (Michael let me in on that tidbit one time!). So basically, no scale length will have more harmonics than the other, because as you go up the string, your harmonics are getting jammed closer and closer together each time. So the only difference with a longer scale for example, would be that the larger the scale, the more harmonics you have at the bridge, not anywhere near where you are playing, or that is to say that you wouldn't have any more harmonic range at your 24th inch than a 24.75 inch scale guitar would have.

Basically, as Michael said, its where you PICK the string that matters. Try picking from all the way on your bridge, and moving slowly towards the neck as you go. You'll notice the sound goes from harder, more HARMONIC sounding, to a sweeter, mellower sound. Basically, this is because your harmonics are becoming more spread out, and you get a more "woody" tone with some harmomics thrown it at the key spots (24th fret sweet spot anyone?). Another example of this, is pinch harmonics; ever notice you have to pick the string in "just the right place" to get it to sound the way you want it to? Well, that is because you have to find a harmonic that you like, and accenuate it with your thumb. The further back towards the bridge you go, the closer and closer your harmonics will be, and the less and less you will have to move your hand to find some. This all relates back to our exponential harmonic series.

As an aside, and as a recomendation to anyone out there who is interested, I have found that (as Michael said) wood has much greater an effect on tone and harmonics than scale length has. I have played 25.75, 26 and even a 27 inch scale length guitar(s), but the difference in harmonics was barely noticeable until you shifted your picking hand back (which I never do, since I pick in the same "general area" on all guitars) and that is when you noticed a more harmonic sound. Personally, I am more of a fluid tone kinda person myself, as long as everything is nice and articulate. Anyway, so the Ebony Arrow was built with some very exotic and dense woods (as many of you know), and the range of tone I had with the thing was incredable. If I wanted harmonics, I could pull them out at my own free will, and have them stand out more than any 10,000,000 inch scale length guitar! But it covered sweet, dark, lyrical, evil, everything. Really, it was the most versatile toned guitar I have EVER played or even heard (without the use of effects).

So in my humble opinion, I am going to have to say that scale length has little effect on harmonic range. Focus on your woods and your pickup placement (the further back, the more harsh it will sound, since it will pick up more harmonics due to the harmonic series! Thats why your bridge is more harsh then your neck) and you'll end up with a guitar you'll be completely happy with. Hope that helped any! Very Happy
 
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