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Top wrapping? The really big question!

Wise Guy

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Joined
Apr 3, 2021
Messages
59
Maybe it depends on the guitar but it was a pretty significant increase in sustain and harmonics on my LP.

I've never noticed tonal change but I do know that it makes thicker gauged strings feel much easier to bend. Plus tuning stability seems much better but that's subjective.
 

DvnLesPaul

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Sep 17, 2002
Messages
787
Whether to top wrap is clearly just a matter of personal preference. Personally, I tried it and did not care for it. The one piece of solid information I've held on to in this debate is this: The headstock tilt angle is a specific design feature of the Les Paul. Downward pressure at the nut interacts with the vibration of the instrument. It was made to be this way. Top wrapping just defeats a portion of this downward pressure at the other end.
 

KR1

Member
Joined
Sep 11, 2016
Messages
252
It definitely has an effect. Everything affects everything.

A fellow and late friend who designed and manufactured Pigtail parts, Steve Rowen, used to adjust the stoptail height on Les Pauls while he was watching the open string sustain on an oscilloscope. I’m serious; I was standing beside him ..lol..
 

MojoJones

New member
Joined
Jan 25, 2021
Messages
22
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.
Bien dicho Senor! El mejor tono es una experiencia verdaderamente mística!
 

Keefoman

Active member
Joined
Nov 4, 2009
Messages
514
I sometimes top wrap my TOM guitars, and sometimes I don't. Some guitars I find work best top wrapped, some work best without. I always try both, and stick with what I feel and hear is best for each guitar. Science? I don't care about that regarding this particular topic. :)
 

Lewis Liu

New member
Joined
Jul 6, 2021
Messages
20
I once tried to top wrap my R9 and turned out to get many fret buzzes, after I reverted it back to normal and the fret buzzes all gone, has anyone in the forum ever encountered this? How did you cope with that problem? Adjusting the truss rod?
 

KR1

Member
Joined
Sep 11, 2016
Messages
252
I once tried to top wrap my R9 and turned out to get many fret buzzes, after I reverted it back to normal and the fret buzzes all gone, has anyone in the forum ever encountered this? How did you cope with that problem? Adjusting the truss rod?
If you changed nothing but top-wrapping the tailpiece and wound up with a very low break-over angle across the bridge, you lowered the string tension. This allows the string to move in a wider arc when struck thus it’s more prone to hit the frets out ahead of your fingered position. You are probably better off with straight-through string positions on the tailpiece. You can also up-gauge strings.
 
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Lewis Liu

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Joined
Jul 6, 2021
Messages
20
If you changed nothing but top-wrapping the tailpiece and wound up with a very low break-over angle across the bridge, you lowered the string tension. This allows the string to move in a wider arc when struck thus it’s more prone to hit the frets out ahead of your fingered position. You are probably better off with straight-through string positions on the tailpiece. You can also up-gauge strings.

Thanks for replying, what you said above make sense and I agree with you totally. This just creates a dilemma, I top wrap for less tension and easier bending, up-gauge strings will probably increase the tension, that may make no difference than original straight-through string position. Anyway, I will just stick to straigh-through. Thank you very much again.
 

gmann

Well-known member
Joined
May 26, 2003
Messages
5,873
Whether to top wrap is clearly just a matter of personal preference. Personally, I tried it and did not care for it. The one piece of solid information I've held on to in this debate is this: The headstock tilt angle is a specific design feature of the Les Paul. Downward pressure at the nut interacts with the vibration of the instrument. It was made to be this way. Top wrapping just defeats a portion of this downward pressure at the other end.
Tell it to Duane and Billy Gibbons. Oh yeah, and Joe B!
 

brandtkronholm

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 3, 2006
Messages
2,244
If you changed nothing but top-wrapping the tailpiece and wound up with a very low break-over angle across the bridge, you lowered the string tension. This allows the string to move in a wider arc when struck thus it’s more prone to hit the frets out ahead of your fingered position. You are probably better off with straight-through string positions on the tailpiece. You can also up-gauge strings.
This is incorrect. The tension remains the same; changing the tension changes the pitch. The downward force (friction) on the bridge saddles is reduced by top-wrapping making the action somewhat slinkier. The string will not move in a wider arc whatsoever.

Be sure to checkout this thread from the beginning.
 
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brandtkronholm

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 3, 2006
Messages
2,244
I once tried to top wrap my R9 and turned out to get many fret buzzes, after I reverted it back to normal and the fret buzzes all gone, has anyone in the forum ever encountered this? How did you cope with that problem? Adjusting the truss rod?
I'm stumped on this one. I have no idea what might have caused the fret buzzing while the guitar was top-wrapped.
 

m bernardi

Member
Joined
Jul 17, 2002
Messages
450
a lot of great luthor's today do not use bridges why all say better tone !!!!!! johan gustavsson, tommy rodrigues, Probett.
 

Chris160

New member
Joined
Jun 27, 2021
Messages
1
My R8 is strung with 11s. This makes the string tension feel very close to my Nocaster strung with 10s.
 

Sol

Active member
Joined
Oct 26, 2001
Messages
756
GotTheSilver and brantkronholm both hit on the fact that we still lack the type of science lavished on the Cremona Violins that has contributed enormously to our understanding of these 18th century masterpieces.

It's high time that some of that scientific scrutiny were focused on the masterpieces of the 20th century, and the prejudice against electric guitars acknowledged for the appaling snobbery that it is.

The contribution of the electric guitar to modern music culture can hardly be measured, its impact is so vast, and is surely worthy of the scientific examination accorded to other stringed instruments.

"Our world could use this beauty, just think what it might do" (quote from Rush '2112')
 

Lewis Liu

New member
Joined
Jul 6, 2021
Messages
20
I'm stumped on this one. I have no idea what might have caused the fret buzzing while the guitar was top-wrapped.
Yep, that's frustrating, increasing the action to avoid fretbuzz means compromising on playability, I am quite happy with my current action so I will just keep it straight-through.
 

KR1

Member
Joined
Sep 11, 2016
Messages
252
This is incorrect. The tension remains the same; changing the tension changes the pitch. The downward force (friction) on the bridge saddles is reduced by top-wrapping making the action somewhat slinkier. The string will not move in a wider arc whatsoever.

Be sure to checkout this thread from the beginning.
I respectfully disagree (completely).
 

KR1

Member
Joined
Sep 11, 2016
Messages
252
I'm stumped on this one. I have no idea what might have caused the fret buzzing while the guitar was top-wrapped.
Consider the wider-arc of the string as I mentioned, before. And as for “slinkier action” that you described above, it’s because the strings are easier to push down, bend, and vibrate in a wider arc..lol..

Tension absolutely determines pitch (as you stated), but only on strings of the same gauge and length. If the string can freely move over the bridge saddles when it’s bent by finger force, only, the effective length of the string is longer requiring lower tension to bring it up to the same pitch. The length of string under tension on a guitar set up in this fashion is not the length of string sounding when struck. Again, use the example of a “touch” harmonic on any open string. No tension change occurred but a much higher, different note is sounding off of the string.

The entire, moveable length of the string determines how much tension is required to bring the string up to pitch. Longer string = lower required tension. The length of string that is allowed to freely vibrate when struck determines the note our ears hear.
 
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brandtkronholm

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Dec 3, 2006
Messages
2,244
Consider the wider-arc of the string as I mentioned, before. And as for “slinkier action” that you described above, it’s because the strings are easier to push down, bend, and vibrate in a wider arc..lol..

Tension absolutely determines pitch (as you stated), but only on strings of the same gauge and length. If the string can freely move over the bridge saddles when it’s bent by finger force, only, the effective length of the string is longer requiring lower tension to bring it up to the same pitch. The length of string under tension on a guitar set up in this fashion is not the length of string sounding when struck. Again, use the example of a “touch” harmonic on any open string. No tension change occurred but a much higher, different note is sounding off of the string.

The entire, moveable length of the string determines how much tension is required to bring the string up to pitch. Longer string = lower required tension. The length of string that is allowed to freely vibrate when struck determines the note our ears hear.
This sounds plausible. My PhD is in number theory, not applied mathematics, so I'll consult with one of my applied math faculty-mates for more info. (PhD = piled high and deep; i.e. I can make it sound erudite...!)

In the mean time, "(....the effective length) of the string is longer requiring lower tension to bring it up to pitch..." is interesting. If I understand correctly, then I do see where the subtraction is occurring.
However, "longer scale length = higher tension" is the standard mantra. Perhaps it might be more clearly stated by example: "a .011 gauge string on a 25.5 scale length tuned to E - and then "capo-ed" at 24.75" - will need to have the tension reduced (tuned down) to attain the same E."
Also, an .011 gauge high E on a Fender needs 19.62lbs of tension to attain pitch while the same string on a Les Paul requires 18.5lbs of tension. There is no mention or use of break angle or "effective string length" here. Also, break angle does not equate to "effective string length", so there's that in the mix too. This is interesting stuff. (Ordinary Strats and Teles have a 90 degree break angle at the bridge vs Gibsons which have much less break angle. This is really, really, interesting stuff.)

The tension calculator The McDonald Patent Universal String Tension Calculator (Now with a Totalling Function!) returns the Fender/Gibson numbers in the previous paragraph and doesn't seem to make any use of break angle or "effective string length" as far as I can tell.

Also, the strings don't move freely over the bridge saddles, there's friction in the way; less friction with a smaller break angle (top wrapping) and more friction with a larger break angle. It's interesting stuff.

The phrase "effective string length" sounds like a thing. I'll see what my applied math buddy in my department has to say and I'll post when I can.
 
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KR1

Member
Joined
Sep 11, 2016
Messages
252
This sounds plausible. My PhD is in number theory, not applied mathematics, so I'll consult with one of my applied math faculty-mates for more info. (PhD = piled high and deep; i.e. I can make it sound erudite...!)

In the mean time, "(....the effective length) of the string is longer requiring lower tension to bring it up to pitch..." is interesting. If I understand correctly, then I do see where the subtraction is occurring.
However, "longer scale length = higher tension" is the standard mantra. Perhaps it might be more clearly stated by example: "a .011 gauge string on a 25.5 scale length tuned to E - and then "capo-ed" at 24.75" - will need to have the tension reduced (tuned down) to attain the same E."
Also, an .011 gauge high E on a Fender needs 19.62lbs of tension to attain pitch while the same string on a Les Paul requires 18.5lbs of tension. There is no mention or use of break angle or "effective string length" here. Also, break angle does not equate to "effective string length", so there's that in the mix too. This is interesting stuff. (Ordinary Strats and Teles have a 90 degree break angle at the bridge vs Gibsons which have much less break angle. This is really, really, interesting stuff.)

The tension calculator The McDonald Patent Universal String Tension Calculator (Now with a Totalling Function!) returns the Fender/Gibson numbers in the previous paragraph and doesn't seem to make any use of break angle or "effective string length" as far as I can tell.

Also, the strings don't move freely over the bridge saddles, there's friction in the way; less friction with a smaller break angle (top wrapping) and more friction with a larger break angle. It's interesting stuff.

The phrase "effective string length" sounds like a thing. I'll see what my applied math buddy in my department has to say and I'll post when I can.
It is interesting!

I appreciate your input and would love to hear back from you.

😎
 
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