string gauges, tunings & scale length - a FAQ page

One of the commonest searches to arrive on our website is about string gauges.

Here's a FAQ page - Frequently Asked Questions - that might help you.


Can I make an alto by tuning my guitar to a higher pitch?
No - the top string on both Acoustic and Classical Guitars is near to breaking point and will snap.
Lower strings are thicker, and therefore stronger, and will tolerate being over tightened. However, the tension rises as the square of the increasing pitch and can easily damage the bridge's fixing or deform the neck irreversibly. Click for tension formula

Aren't steel strings stronger? Would they do to make an alto out of my classical?
No - they are 2.5 times tighter even at the same pitch - enough to warp the neck of your guitar.

Can I make a bass by tuning my guitar to a lower pitch?
It won't do any harm, but as the strings get slacker, the volume drops and they start to slap.

Can I make a bass by fitting thicker strings to my classical guitar?
Theoretically yes, but the thicker strings need an enlarged nut slot - that's a one-way ticket!

Can I make a contra by fitting thicker strings to my classical guitar?
No - the contra strings are double-wound - they taper at each end to fit the bridge and pegs, but suit a longer neck.
Besides - a bigger body is needed to help the bass notes radiate.

What string gauges and scale lengths do hago use?
Have a look at our String Table

Why is the contra top string thinner than the bass top string?
It's a wound string, so it is thinner than the bass's monofilament string, while still being lower in pitch.

Why is the contra bottom string MORE than twice as thick as the classical bottom string?
The contra body isn't twice the size of the classical, and to compensate for the resulting lack of bass volume, the string is tighter, so more energy can be fed to it without slapping. This means it has to be heavier - ie thicker.

Where can I buy unusual string gauges?
Many manufacturers supply single strings of any gauge - D'Addario for example - so you can mix and match. That's how we restring our bass guitar.

Hannabach will make strings to suit any tension, scale length and pitch. We use these for our alto and contra

Electric and acoustic guitarists can buy families of steel strings by gauge - the range of gauges is about 2:1 - making it easy and cost effective to buy a balanced set with a top string between 8 thou (electric set) and 16 thou (baritone set).