|Guitar strings from the nineteenth century to the advent of Nylon - The Twentieth Century|
THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
The beginning of the twentieth century was characterised by an increase in the vibrating length of the guitar, which, with Torres, was extended, stabilising at about 65 cm. As for the tuning standard, it may be said to have fluctuated around 435 Hz, in spite of the frequent 'transgressions' reported in the literature. The extension of the vibrating length from about 62 cm to 65 cm - almost a semitone more - would entail an increase in the working tension - the string being equal - of almost a kilogram. It is nevertheless clear from the diameters provided by Pujol that the calibres used were thinner than those of the previous century and that the tension was about 'a semitone' less (bringing the working tensions close to those of the nineteenth century), but with an important innovation: the gradational tension of the first three strings, as opposed to the equal tension characteristic of the stringing of the nineteenth century:
Di√°metros en d√©cimas de milimetros *
Prima¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† de 12.5 a 13.5 (0.63-0.68 mm)
Segunda¬†¬† de 16 a 17.5 (0.80-0.88 mm)
Tercera¬†¬†¬† de 20 a 21.5 (1.00-1.08 mm)
Cuarta¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† de 15 a 16 (0.75-0.80 mm esterno)
Quinta¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† de 18.5 a 19.5 (0.93-0.98 mm esterno)
Sexta¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† de 23 a 24 (1.15-1.20 mm esterno)
* In fact these are twentieths rather than tenths of millimetres, corresponding to the so-called 'PM' gradation, still in use in Pirastro calibres.
The tuning standard of A = 435 Hz and a vibrating length of 65 cm (Pujol owned a Torres guitar) give rise to the following ranges in working tension: **
E:¬†¬†¬†¬† 7.4-8.6 kg
B:¬†¬†¬†¬† 6.0-8.1 kg
G:¬†¬†¬†¬† 6.6-7.7 kg
** It is not possible to calculate the tension of the bass strings because the measurements provided by Pujol give only the total diameter of each string.
Finally, we give the measurements of three gut guitar strings dating from perhaps the 1940s or 1950s, discovered intact in their sealed packets (belonging to Lorenzo Frignani, Modena):
String Diameter Observations
E¬†¬†¬†¬† 0.64 mm 'Perfect' greaseproof paper packet, France. Medium torsion.
G¬†¬†¬†¬† 1.02 mm 'Perfect' greaseproof paper packet, France. Low torsion.
G¬†¬†¬†¬† 1.05 mm 'Celesta' greaseproof paper packet, France. Low torsion.
These measurements - even though the B string is missing - correspond perfectly to those given by Pujol, and confirm the greater gradation of the working tensions by comparison with the nineteenth century, as a result of which the strings feel equally stiff to the touch, a criterion still adhered to in the production of guitar 'sets'. In order to facilitate a comparison with current practice, the range of working tensions found in the 'medium tension' sets of a number of commercial firms are given below (A = 440 Hz, vibrating length = 65 cm):
E:¬†¬†¬†¬† 7.8-8.1 kg
B:¬†¬†¬†¬† 6.0-6.2 kg
G:¬†¬†¬†¬† 5.7-6.1 kg
D:¬†¬†¬†¬† 8.1-8.3 kg
A:¬†¬†¬†¬† 7.9-8.1 kg
E:¬†¬†¬†¬† 7.0-7.2 kg