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Top wrapping? The really big question!

O Riley

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Joined
Jan 22, 2021
Messages
62
Here's the really big question for all you guy's and gal's...

If top wrapping makes, let's say, 10's play and feel like a set of 9's...why not, just string up your guitar with a set of 9's?
Is there something about the 10's being a some what more substantial set of strings, compared to 9's?

Bonus points for... scientific verification and establishing the truth, accuracy, and validity.
 

C-4

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Joined
Jan 5, 2005
Messages
1,750
I raise up the stop tail on my R9. I'm not losing any sustain or other tone from what I can hear, and my string gauge has to be 7-30 due to radial nerve loss.

I tried top wrapping back in the 1970's when it first became fashionable, I think due to Duane Allman doing it, but I could be mistaken that it was Duane who I remember first making it popular.

I'm sure someone with a better memory will correct me. :)
 

DutchRay

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Mar 15, 2015
Messages
355
Here's the really big question for all you guy's and gal's...

If top wrapping makes, let's say, 10's play and feel like a set of 9's...why not, just string up your guitar with a set of 9's?
Is there something about the 10's being a some what more substantial set of strings, compared to 9's?

Bonus points for... scientific verification and establishing the truth, accuracy, and validity.
It doesn't feel like 9's. It feels slightly easier to bend the strings but certainly not as easy as 9's.
 

Triplet

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Mar 13, 2006
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1,608
It's the less severe break over the bridge that creates the "slinkier" feel. You still get all the benefits of the thicker strings.
 

brandtkronholm

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2,217
A short overview of the science/math of "10s play like 9s": Top-wrapping reduces the break angle of the strings at the bridge. Less break angle means that the strings put less downward force on the saddles of the bridge. With less downward force from the strings, there is less friction at the saddle to fight against when playing, especially when bending strings, hence, "10s play like 9s". Raising the stop-tail-piece without top-wrapping will result in similar results. (It is interesting to note that the tension of the string is not altered regardless of the what the string is doing beyond the nut and bridge! It's counterintuitive, but tension = pitch!)

A short overview of the science/math of "why not just use 9s?": 1) Thicker strings disturb the magnetic field differently than thinner stings so the sound is different; 2) Thicker strings have more mass and make the guitar vibrate differently (regardless of what's happening at the bridge - the nut is in play too!); 3) Thick strings are tuned to pitch with a different tension than thin strings and have a different timber; 4) Thicker strings are not thin - and some players just like thick (or thin) strings. 5) I like the way top-wrapped strings feel on my right hand.

It's a matter of taste. The differences are minimal and entirely up the player. So long as everything is in tune and the guitar plays, there is no right or wrong.
 

Flogger

Active member
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Sep 23, 2008
Messages
470
I top wrap on LPs for the look, I like a decked tailpiece on them.

SG or Firebird? I don't care how high the TP is, so I don't topwrap those.
 

O Riley

Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2021
Messages
62
Exactly as Brandtkronholm has so actually stated as the truth of the situation.
In my humble view and judgment formed about something, and necessarily based on fact and knowledge,
it is obvious you have done your research.

Clearly defining the details of top wrapping using 10's versus using any lighter gauge strings.
Well done.

You will receive a certificate of your skill, knowledge and of course, expertness.
Also, two sets of D'Addario 10's .

Delivered by carrier pigeon's sent from the beautiful northern regions of Alberta, Canada.

Again, well done and enjoy your new strings.
Sincerely, O Riley
 
Last edited:

LeonC

Active member
Joined
Aug 30, 2002
Messages
393
I prefer the sound of 10s and besides, 9s break too easily. So top-wrapping 10s is what I prefer.
 

brandtkronholm

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Joined
Dec 3, 2006
Messages
2,217
Exactly as Brandtkronholm has so actually stated as the truth of the situation.
In my humble view and judgment formed about something, and necessarily based on fact and knowledge,
it is obvious you have done your research.

Clearly defining the details of top wrapping using 10's versus using any lighter gauge strings.
Well done.

You will receive a certificate of your skill, knowledge and of course, expertness.
Also, two sets of D'Addario 10's .

Delivered by carrier pigeon's sent from the beautiful northern regions of Alberta, Canada.

Again, well done and enjoy your new strings.
Sincerely, O Riley
But I play 11s...dang.

😁
 

fernieite

Active member
Joined
Jan 3, 2010
Messages
421
Exactly as Brandtkronholm has so actually stated as the truth of the situation.
In my humble view and judgment formed about something, and necessarily based on fact and knowledge,
it is obvious you have done your research.

Clearly defining the details of top wrapping using 10's versus using any lighter gauge strings.
Well done.

You will receive a certificate of your skill, knowledge and of course, expertness.
Also, two sets of D'Addario 10's .

Delivered by carrier pigeon's sent from the beautiful northern regions of Alberta, Canada.

Again, well done and enjoy your new strings.
Sincerely, O Riley

Btw, where are you in Northern Alberta? Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Cold Lake?

You might want to get that pigeon prepared to take off before winter sets in! ;)
 
Last edited:

Wise Guy

Member
Joined
Apr 3, 2021
Messages
59
I top wrap all my guitars with my 10-52's. Makes the play feel slinkier and I still get that thicker tone from the strings. Although I can hear a difference, it's negligible at best so it comes down to feel. I don't like the feel of smaller strings.
 

GotTheSilver

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Joined
Apr 14, 2007
Messages
2,430
Bonus points for... scientific verification and establishing the truth, accuracy, and validity.
You will never get any science when it comes to discussions of tone. There are too many variables and no one ever does a proper scientific experiment with proper measurements and mathematics. At best, you will get well-reasoned, logical theories. Some of these will be based on personal experience, some will not. At worst, you will get a bunch of completely uninformed opinions. But you will never get anything truly scientific.

Tone is more akin to religion and mysticism than science. Don't get me wrong, I wish this was not the case! I'd love to see some true scientific studies of the factors that contribute to the tone of electric guitars, but I don't think that is really feasible unless someone is willing to invest significant time and money to answer the eternal tone questions.
 
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brandtkronholm

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Dec 3, 2006
Messages
2,217
You will never get any science when it comes to discussions of tone. There are too many variables and no one ever does a proper scientific experiment with proper measurements and mathematics. At best, you will get well-reasoned, logical theories. Some of these will be based on personal experience, some will not. At worst, you will get a bunch of completely uninformed opinions. But you will never get anything truly scientific.

Tone is more akin to religion and mysticism than science. Don't get me wrong, I wish this was not the case! I'd love to see some true scientific studies of the factors that contribute to the tone of electric guitars, but I don't think that is really feasible unless someone is willing to invest significant time and money to answer the eternal tone questions.
Au contraire mon frère!
There is a butt-ton (the correct academic term) of science on musical instruments, especially violins, but even guitars!
Here is the result of a few minutes of googling:

Mathematical models of flageolet harmonics on stringed instruments, Journal of Computational and Applied Mathematics Volume 254, 15 December 2013, Pages 144-153
This is a legit peer-reviewed article written by actual PhD science people. It has has an excellent references section listing several more (also peer-reviewed) papers on similar subjects. The math herein is no joke.

Science and the Stradivarius, physicworld, April, 2000.
This on-line article includes a lengthy history of the science of violins. Check out the pictures! [Bottom line: It's the set-up, man!]

Fourier Approximations and Music, Jim Tomberg, Lang Moore, and David Smith, Duke University
This is an on-line tutorial. The prerequisite is second semester calculus including series representation of functions.

The take-away: It all begins with a proper set-up. There are correct ways to set-up your instrument and get good tone, there are also incorrect ways that inevitably lead to lousy tone.
I didn't even try googling the science of amplifiers! Whoa momma! That's another butt-ton o' science!

The best tone comes from those musicians who really take the time to care for their sound. Many of them employ skilled luthiers or amplifier specialists who know the science of the instruments to achieve the best results possible. Where would Santana be with out Randall Smith? Where would SRV be without Alexander "Howard" Dumble? Tom Scholz? Where would this forum be without Les Paul, a musician-come-scientist? Science is lurking somewhere in every discussion of tone.
 

GotTheSilver

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Joined
Apr 14, 2007
Messages
2,430
Au contraire mon frère!
There is a butt-ton (the correct academic term) of science on musical instruments, especially violins, but even guitars!
Here is the result of a few minutes of googling:

Mathematical models of flageolet harmonics on stringed instruments, Journal of Computational and Applied Mathematics Volume 254, 15 December 2013, Pages 144-153
This is a legit peer-reviewed article written by actual PhD science people. It has has an excellent references section listing several more (also peer-reviewed) papers on similar subjects. The math herein is no joke.

Science and the Stradivarius, physicworld, April, 2000.
This on-line article includes a lengthy history of the science of violins. Check out the pictures! [Bottom line: It's the set-up, man!]

Fourier Approximations and Music, Jim Tomberg, Lang Moore, and David Smith, Duke University
This is an on-line tutorial. The prerequisite is second semester calculus including series representation of functions.

The take-away: It all begins with a proper set-up. There are correct ways to set-up your instrument and get good tone, there are also incorrect ways that inevitably lead to lousy tone.
I didn't even try googling the science of amplifiers! Whoa momma! That's another butt-ton o' science!

The best tone comes from those musicians who really take the time to care for their sound. Many of them employ skilled luthiers or amplifier specialists who know the science of the instruments to achieve the best results possible. Where would Santana be with out Randall Smith? Where would SRV be without Alexander "Howard" Dumble? Tom Scholz? Where would this forum be without Les Paul, a musician-come-scientist? Science is lurking somewhere in every discussion of tone.
Brandt - Thanks for the links to the papers. I look forward to reading through them!

Perhaps I should have been a bit more precise in what I was trying to say. I know there have been studies of Stradivari violins and the physics of vibrating strings and such. But on forums such as this, people are often debating which factors have what kinds of affects on electric guitars - wood species, wood density, glue type, etc. I would love to see someone take 1,000 R9s from the same year with identical specs and measure the tone of each with scientific instruments to determine the true impact of variations in wood density (for example), but this is simply not practical. Neither is making 1,000 guitars that are identical except that half use hide glue and half use Titebond. Despite this, I have read a lot of discussions on this and other guitar forums that talk about the impact of certain variables on electric guitar tone that claim to be talking about science, but fall far short of having any scientific evidence for the theories being presented.

I'm not surprised that the key take-away of the studies is that a proper set-up is critical. A fantastic instrument can be made to sound dead and lifeless if the set up kills the vibrations.
 

brandtkronholm

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Joined
Dec 3, 2006
Messages
2,217
Brandt - Thanks for the links to the papers. I look forward to reading through them!

Perhaps I should have been a bit more precise in what I was trying to say. I know there have been studies of Stradivari violins and the physics of vibrating strings and such. But on forums such as this, people are often debating which factors have what kinds of affects on electric guitars - wood species, wood density, glue type, etc. I would love to see someone take 1,000 R9s from the same year with identical specs and measure the tone of each with scientific instruments to determine the true impact of variations in wood density (for example), but this is simply not practical. Neither is making 1,000 guitars that are identical except that half use hide glue and half use Titebond. Despite this, I have read a lot of discussions on this and other guitar forums that talk about the impact of certain variables on electric guitar tone that claim to be talking about science, but fall far short of having any scientific evidence for the theories being presented.

I'm not surprised that the key take-away of the studies is that a proper set-up is critical. A fantastic instrument can be made to sound dead and lifeless if the set up kills the vibrations.
Gotcha, and I get it.
I have a 1995 R9. This means it has a truss rod condom, chemical glue, linear pots, heavy bridge, wire tail piece, ... in short, everything is wrong. And yet, it sounds amazing.
While usually applied to bodybuilding, a fitting way to describe the mysticism surrounding "tone" is "broscience". [See the Urban Dictionary for several definitions of broscience.]
 
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KR1

Member
Joined
Sep 11, 2016
Messages
251
1)
Let’s call the portion of a string tuned to pitch that stretches when it’s “bent” the effective length.

2)
The effective length of the string directly affects how much push is required to “bend” the string. The longer the effective length, the easier it is to bend, e.g. a 10 foot long string tuned to A440 is much easier to push around than a 6 inch string would be - same gauge.

3)
A string that has a very low break angle over the saddles - or stretches around a smooth wrap-tail - has a longer effective length (stretching when bent) than one with a tight nut slot and/or a very sharp break angle at the saddle. In this latter case, the “shorter” string resists sideways displacement (bending) with a higher tension required to do so.

So - loosening up the nut and bridge friction results in more of the string length moving (stretching) when you bend up to that fancy major 3rd…

3)
Nothing is “free:”
When increasing the effective string length by loosening the nut slots, top-wrapping, or using a smooth wrap-tail, you’ll have to push that string sideways just a little further to bring it up to that major 3rd. It’s easier, but you’ll push it a little further to get the job done.

4)
Don’t confuse the vibrating length of the string (note, pitch) with the effective length when changing tension (tuning or bending) - two very different things. Example: hit the harmonic at your favorite fret. Higher note than open string? Of course. Did you change the string tension (tuning or bending)? No.

All of the combinations that a given instrument offers such as stop-tail adjustments, wrap-tail, nut slot angle, even the width of the fret board for wider bends (on looser, “longer” strings) gives one the ability to make the guitar feel and respond a bit differently. The sound of a given set of strings will change too but in my opinion, most of that difference comes from the feedback the player receives from these little tweaks.

Edit: Sorry, this reads a bit “preachy” but trying to be clear without using up most of Slub’s webspace was a little challenging…
 
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el84ster

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Sep 10, 2001
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1,383
As for the effect on sound, top wrapping will sustain longer usually. And have a little more harmonic content. Sounds a lot better to me.
 

brandtkronholm

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Dec 3, 2006
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2,217
As for the effect on sound, top wrapping will sustain longer usually. And have a little more harmonic content. Sounds a lot better to me.
The opposite is true. There is less sustain and less harmonic content when top wrapping. Here’s why:

For non-top wrapped Les Paul and further supposing that the stop tailpiece is all the way down, the sharp break angle puts lots of downward force on the bridge. This means that the energy put into the string (by plucking it) stays in the string - from bridge saddle to nut. Only a very small portion of that energy overcomes the greater downward force at the bridge and the string beyond the bridge vibrates only a little bit. Since the energy stays in the string from bridge to nut, the string vibrates for a longer time and activates more of the harmonic content, I.e., the overtones. Double bonus!

On the other hand, top wrapping puts less downward force on the bridge and allows for a bit more of the energy applied to the string to slip past the bridge. Now, with less energy between the bridge and nut, the string vibrates for a shorter amount of time and with less harmonic content. It has a mellowing affect on the sound.

However, the differences between top wrapping and not top wrapping are pretty darn subtle. I don’t think I could hear the difference in a blind test. It’s the preference of the player.
 

el84ster

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Sep 10, 2001
Messages
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Maybe it depends on the guitar but it was a pretty significant increase in sustain and harmonics on my LP.
 
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