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My Latest DIY -- Baritone Tele


cooltouch
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I'm aware that Fender already makes a baritone Tele, but for me its string length isn't long enough. I decided instead to go with a Warmoth baritone neck -- 28-5/8" string length. That's getting down into bass guitar territory.

 

The neck wasn't cheap -- with all the extras I wanted (ebony fingerboard, compound radius, 24 frets, etc.) it came up to $350 just for the neck. For a body I located a "loaded" Squier Affinity Tele body on eBay and went with that. Since the body was "loaded," the only other items I needed were tuners and string trees. I installed two trees because of the pitch I'd be tuning the strings to.

 

Currently, I have it tuned down to a low A -- so A D G C E A, using Ernie Balls that are like 12-65s, as I dimly recall. I could probably use slightly larger bass strings because they aren't quite as tight as I'd prefer, but the guitar does sound good tuned down this low. I especially like the spank I get with the bridge pickup playing the bottom strings.

 

Here's a pic of the guitar. Nothing special looking. You can't even really tell that it's a baritone unless you were to put it up against a Tele with a normal string length, and then you'd see the neck is about 3" longer.

 

[ATTACH=JSON]{"data-align":"none","data-size":"full","title":"baritele.jpg","data-attachmentid":32325409}[/ATTACH]

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Happy New Baritone Day. Regarding strings, with your 28 5/8" scale and 9's you could tune it down to D and get the same results as Standard with a normal 25 1/2" scale. With 12's you could tune down another 5 semitones to A and keep roughly the same tension. Regular electric strings don't come much heavier than 12's so you'll need to go with a baritone set, say 13's or 14's with a 70 or so 6th string: https://www.sweetwater.com/store/search.php?s=BARITONE+STRINGS.

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Thanks for your reply, DeepEnd. I was a bit hazy on the string sizes I put on the guitar, but I remembered what they were called so I looked them up. I had put a set of Ernie Ball Not Even Slinky strings on it -- 12-56. No wonder that 6th string feels a little flappy. I bought them at GC and I didn't recall seeing any Baritone strings there, or I would have bought those. I think the EB Baritone set would work best with that 0.072" 6th. I might have to drill out the 6th tuner's post to get it to pass through, but no big deal. In fact, at some future date, I'm gonna want to replace the tuners I have on it anyway. I just bought a cheap Chinese set of Schaller knockoffs for it. They hold tune reasonably well, but probably won't last.

 

Huh, I just noticed something. I took that picture before I had installed the string trees. I found them to be absolutely necessary to maintain a proper break angle on a few of the strings.

 

Another trick I'm thinking about -- have't made my mind up about it yet -- is the mod Rod Kirchen (of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen's "Hot Rod Lincoln" fame) does to his Teles. He turns the switch plate around to have the volume knob as far forward as possible. This requires switching the controls around, of course, when the plate is turned around.

 

Kirchen and Stewart MacDonald's Dan Erlewine talk about the mod here:

 

 

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Dunno whether you'll need to drill out the post or not. I don't think any of my guitars would need it. I noticed the guitar in the photo didn't have string trees but I assumed you hadn't put them on yet when the photo was taken. Two trees aren't that uncommon. My first electric was a Fernandes Strat copy (long gone) and it had two trees. I've heard of reversing the control plate but since I've never owned a Tele I don't know if I'd prefer it or not. Best of luck with the project and be sure to keep us posted. :thu:

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Cool, there are several manufacturers who make phat string sets that you might want to look into, the other option is buying singles in the sizes you want. D'Addario makes a couple of bari sets,

 

http://www.daddario.com/DADProductDe..._Medium__14_68

 

However, note carefully that they say these are for tuning to B (you are two semi tones lower) and they don't give the scale length that they calculated the tension for. The total tension is about 78 pounds, tuning those strings down two more steps will reduce the tension significantly. Also, since many baritones have scales around 27.5, the fact that you are almost an inch longer will mean that your tension is greater that indicated here. (tension is related to the square of the length so it makes a pretty big difference)

 

Here is the D'Addario string tension chart, you can calculate the tension for any string at any scale at any tuning - what you want to do is get close to whatever it is you are used to playing. One potential problem with long scale instruments is finding strings that are long enough to reach the tuners - I have a long scale acoustic 12 string that they barely reach.

 

http://www.daddario.com/upload/tension_chart_13934.pdf

 

Another consideration is that you might be running a wound third to get enough unit mass, in that case your intonation will require tweaking (as usual when you change string gauges).

 

Last comment, if is very common to flip the control plate around an put the volume up where you can easily roll it with your picking hand. You'll have to rewire everything to get the switch and pots to work correctly but its a worthwhile modification (unless you jump back and forth between guitars that have been modified and some who have not)

 

[img2=JSON]{"data-align":"none","data-size":"full","src":"http:\/\/i51.photobucket.com\/albums\/f387\/Freeman_Keller\/Barncaster%202\/setup\/IMG_3697_zpslweri9ge.jpg"}[/img2]

Edited by Freeman Keller
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. . . Also' date=' since many baritones have scales around 27.5, the fact that you are almost an inch longer will mean that your tension is less that indicated here. (tension is related to the square of the length so it makes a pretty big difference) . . .[/quote']

String tension for a longer scale with the same strings will be higher, not lower. As you noted, for a given pitch, it's proportional to the square of the scale length. In this case, higher than a 27.5" scale baritone by about 8 1/3%.

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Freeman, thanks for pointing me toward the D'Addario calcs. Shades of College Physics! It brings back vague memories of having to do just this sort of thing in that class taken lo these many moons ago. I have an interesting anecdote about this topic that I'll relate later.

 

Well, it was an eye-opener running the calcs. The numbers I was getting seemed low initially -- until I compared them with what I was used to with a regular six-string. For example, with a 0.072" string and a 28.625" scale, the low A is coming in at a tension of 24.1 lb. Seems awfully low. So I tried 0.080", the biggest string D'Addario offers for guitar. It's tension was a little better -- 29.5 lb. I even tried a 0.085" bass string. It came in at a tension of 32.7 lb. But all of these numbers are way better than what I'm getting with my set of Ernie Ball Not Even Slinkys. That low A string has a whimpy 14.8 lb. No wonder it feels flappy. So, it seems there's no getting around it. Not much tension. But then, just out of curiosity, I took a look at the tension I'm getting with my typical low E at 0.046" -- and it comes in at a very flaccid 17.5 lb. So maybe a 0.072" diameter A string won't be so bad after all, with 10 more lb of force than what I'm used to with my low E on my regular electrics. I don't mind having stiff-feeling bass strings, as long as I can bend the top three without putting permanent grooves in my fingertips.

 

Now for the anecdote: when I was taking my College Physics class, I was working part time in my friend's music store. One day, we got in a curious guitar. It was a 6-string Danelectro, but it had a really long string length for a guitar. I don't recall how long it was, but I do remember when my friend slapped a regular set of reasonably light strings on it. The result was they felt very tight, and were almost unbendable. That's when we checked out the scale and found out it was quite a bit longer than normal. It dawned on one of us that it may be a baritone guitar, and at that point, I flashed to a topic I'd studied recently in my physics class. Reasoning that here I was gonna get a chance to show off some of my book learning, I put pencil to paper and fingertips to calculator, and came up with some ballpark numbers we should look for for string gauges. Well, the guitar got shelved while my friend decided to do a bit of research, and the result was that, apparently Danelectro made a short-scale 6-string bass for a short while. So we kinda went "Oh, okay," and I just sorta watched all my cool calcs slip away. Oh well.

Edited by cooltouch
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Thats actually a nice story and I relate. I was out in the shop a while back working on the geometry of a guitar and my wife stuck her head in - "Watcha doing?" "Oh, I'm calculating neck angle, its just high school trig...." She said "you're using math?" Duh, I mean isn't that what its for?

 

The other anecdote, my first introduction to string tension calculations was after attending a seminar put on by D'Addario at a lutherie conference. The engineer put this slide up on the screen

 

IMG_1587-1.jpg

 

which, if you solve for tension, say that tension is directly proportional to unit mass (which diameter and wrap) and proportional to the the length and the frequency squared. That is why bari's have such long scales - as F goes down (your low A string is probably 55 hz, half the frequency of A2 on a normal guitar's 5th string) which means that the length and mass need to go way up to maintain playable tension.

 

The engineer said that modern luthiers were pushing the string manufactures with all the wacky new instruments they were building - multi scale and down tuned and 7 or more strings and combinations - he suggested that before launching into a new design that a builder contact the string manufacture to see if strings would be available for it.

 

Last comment, shortly after typing the response above I was in my music store and hear a customer asking the clerk about some strings for an strange instrument that he wanted to tune like a baritone uke, but it had a vastly different scale length. I told him maybe I could help, we brought up the String Tension page and came up with some starting values of nylon strings that I think will be close. He said he would let me know how they worked out.

Edited by Freeman Keller
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. . . Now for the anecdote: when I was taking my College Physics class' date=' I was working part time in my friend's music store. One day, we got in a curious guitar. It was a 6-string Danelectro, but it had a really long string length for a guitar. I don't recall how long it was, but I do remember when my friend slapped a regular set of reasonably light strings on it. The result was they felt very tight, and were almost unbendable. That's when we checked out the scale and found out it was quite a bit longer than normal. It dawned on one of us that it may be a baritone guitar, and at that point, I flashed to a topic I'd studied recently in my physics class. Reasoning that here I was gonna get a chance to show off some of my book learning, I put pencil to paper and fingertips to calculator, and came up with some ballpark numbers we should look for for string gauges. Well, the guitar got shelved while my friend decided to do a bit of research, and the result was that, apparently Danelectro made a short-scale 6-string bass for a short while. So we kinda went "Oh, okay," and I just sorta watched all my cool calcs slip away. Oh well.[/quote']

Sounds like a cool bass. Maybe similar to a Fender Bass VI? I can understand your thinking it might be a baritone. For most of us, 6 strings=guitar.

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Regarding multistring guitars and their string requirements, I also play classical guitar. For more than 30 years, I owned a 10-string classical, and I tuned it to what's usually referred to as Baroque tuning, where the bottom four strings are tuned in scale degrees below the 6th -- so D, C, B, and A. Depending on the key, one might raise or lower the pitch of one or more strings. Like in E major, for instance, one would raise the 7th and 8th strings to C# and D# respectively.

 

I usually bought 10-string Baroque sets for my 10-stirngs, which had a pretty fat 10th -- I don't recall ever mic-ing it though, but it probably isn't any greater than 0.080". Nonetheless, with a standard 650mm scale, the 10th, when tuned to a low A (same as the A string on a bass), held its resonance quite well, and was not overly flexible. Of course, these are nylon strings with much different properties, but nonetheless, basic physics still applies at some level.

 

You can go to Youtube and do a search on 10-string guitar and you'll get lots of hits, and you can listen for yourself to see how well they work with relatively short scales and relatively fat strings.

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Yes, its a harp guitar with 6 fretted and 6 sub bass strings. I wish I had taken a picture of the whole thing but it came to me for evaluation, it was new but the action and setup was really bad. I was trying to document the owner sending it back to the manufacturer, in their credit they not only paid shipping both ways but did the work necessary to make it playable. Here is one more picture of the bridge

 

[ATTACH=JSON]{"alt":"Click image for larger version Name:\tIMG_4477-1.jpg Views:\t1 Size:\t185.4 KB ID:\t32331788","data-align":"none","data-attachmentid":"32331788","data-size":"full","title":"IMG_4477-1.jpg"}[/ATTACH]

 

Here is the manufacturer, I was very impressed dealing with them

 

http://www.tonedevilharpguitars.com/

 

I'll add that I tried to play it and was of course totally lost. However I have heard some people that know what they are doing play them very effectively.

 

ps - its funny how when you look at that picture the strings look like they are double courses - wow, wouldn't that be a nightmare

Edited by Freeman Keller
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Yes, having those additional bass strings can be disorienting. Especially with a guitar like a classical 10-string, where all 10 strings are fretted. Initially your hand wants to center itself on the fretboard -- when trying to play an open chord, like an E major for example. I can recall it taking me a couple of weeks of playing my first 10-string before I felt comfortable with it.

 

Here's a pic of one of the 10-strings I built:

11745482305_1312a59ccf_h.jpgJME in case by Michael McBroom, on Flickr

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I did the Bill Kirchen to one of my teles, and I am still ambivalent, although I do prefer the switch below the bridge, but now I tend to bump the volume knob. That guitar is going on the bench soon for a bridge swap/upgrade and a Buzz Feiten stacked humbucker in the bridge slot. Kirchen did his to make volume swells easier, and it does, but it does take some getting used to.

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Hey Freeman, it's been a while since I've checked in here, but here goes with a late reply.

 

I really like the feel of this Warmoth neck. It has a slim profile, which I prefer. I didn't have any problems adjusting the action, but the neck did require adjustment. Four different times I had to tighten the trussrod because of the neck bending from all the tension. It seems to be holding, finally, after the fourth adjustment. And now that it is stable, the action is set where I like it. I've gotten the intonation very close, using an electronic tuner.

 

The Tele body is most likely a Squier, but I've been quite happy with the pickups. It has that characteristic Tele sound, and it holds up quite well when amplified, whether clean or overdriven.

 

Just recently, I strung the guitar up with D'Addario's EXL158 Baritone Light Gauge strings. These strings are way better than the Ernie Ball Not Even Slinkys that I installed before. I love the sound of this guitar, even with its stock Squier pickups.

 

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