Best strings for open tunings

Discussion in 'Technical Side of Things' started by Andrew Griffin, Jun 19, 2016.

  1. Andrew Griffin

    Andrew Griffin Synchromatic

    Oct 22, 2015
    Hi All: I really enjoy playing around with open tunings and different guitars seem to lend themselves to different tunings. Here's a family portrait of my collection: from left to right
    a. The 9220 Bobtail resonator with a plywood body & spider cone resonator
    b. The 9221 Bobtail with a steel body & spider cone resonator
    c. the 9202 Honey DIpper with a brass body & biscuit cone resonator

    All of these resonators are plenty loud even without amplification. The plywood resonator las a lovely clear tone- very "dobro-y" and I have in a standard tuning, strung with the manufacturer's recommended D'Addario phosphor bronze light .012-.053 strings. The steel bodied resonator has a beautiful, pure, clean, metallic tone that lends itself to the open G tuning and the songs that appreciate the sweetness that that tuning can express. I also have it strung with D'Addario lights. The Honey DIpper is perhaps my favorite of the bunch. The brass body gives this guitar a voice that is resonant and rich with many undertones that make it somewhat muddy to me ears when tuned to a standard tuning, but it really comes into it's own in an open E or E minor, and it does things no other guitar I've got can accomplish. I have it strung with D'Addario mediums (.013-.056) as per manufacturer's suggestions.

    I want to mess around with some other open tunings, especially the open C tunings that call for the low E to be dropped to C, but when I retune any of my guitars in this way the C string almost feels slack and I get crappy intonation. The solution to the problem is probably to change strings to a much heavier gauge so that the strings will be taunt even though their tuned so low. My questions for anyone with experience in these issues are as follows:

    1. If I just change the lowest string but leave the rest as is, will that put any undue stress on the neck?
    2. If I change all of the strings so that the guitar is strung with heavier strings that the manufacturer recommends, will that be detrimental over the long run.
    3. Any recommendations for strings for open tunings?

    Attached Files:

    Henry likes this.
  2. wildeman

    wildeman Gretschified

    May 10, 2015
    I use standard medium gauge on my resos and go as low as C# never higher than Eb in vastapole tuning never higher than G spanish.
    Andrew Griffin likes this.
  3. Axis39

    Axis39 Country Gent

    Jun 2, 2008
    Beaumont, CA
    I tend to play in Open G and use Martin Resophonic strings... 16-56.

    Lowering the tension by going with a lower tuning means you can up the string gauge. The recommended strings are for standard tuning tensions.
    Andrew Griffin likes this.
  4. Andrew Griffin

    Andrew Griffin Synchromatic

    Oct 22, 2015
    Thank you. That's very interesting. I'm used to open D but I'm feeling my way into open G and want to try an open C. You explain it perfectly. Thanks, A
    Axis39 likes this.
  5. Random1643

    Random1643 Synchromatic

    May 10, 2015
    Upper Midwest, USA
    Love open and drop tunings. It's like each one offers a different universe to explore.

    The actual brand, metal(s), coating, flavor, etc of the string is a pretty personal thing so I'll steer clear of that.

    I have a parlor guitar with a short-scale (24.84") that I keep in open D or G and, occasionally, C Wahine. I use medium gauge acoustic strings on that guitar = .013-056. (I did contact the guitar manufacturer and a luthier prior to increasing the strings to medium.) Sounds fine in any of these tunings. The 25" scale on all 3 of your guitars is a bit longer, which should increase tension a bit more than mine, right? So I don't know.

    In a similar situation, I would contact Gretsch/Fender or, even better, the luthier affiliated with my local music store/Gretsch dealer. See what they recommend.
    Andrew Griffin likes this.
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