I have built a few 4 stringers, but have been wanting to take my current build up to a 4 stringer. The problem is, the neck I have was built with a 3 stringer in mind, meaning it is 1.5" wide. Is this wide enough to handle 4 strings? And, should I feel frisky, what is the accepted neck width for a 6 stringer?
I have that same question about neck width for a 6 string. I was looking last night and got distracted.Maybe tonight I'll find the answer
from the Taylor guitar site
All full-size, 6-string Taylors come standard with a 1-3/4 inch neck. However, you can substitute a 1-11/16 inch neck or a 1-7/8 inch neck when you order your new Taylor. Additional charges may apply. Our 12-string models have a 1-7/8 inch neck and Baby Taylors have 1-11/16 inch neck.
You can squeeze 4 strings onto a 1.5" wide neck if a 3/8" string separation distance is acceptable to you. Many people prefer a 1/2" string separation, but if you are used to playing ukuleles and strum sticks, the 3/8" string separation will feel okay. In calculating string space, I usually use a graphics program to lay out rectangles for the string separation spacing and thinner ones for the edges (i.e. the space between the outer strings and the edge of the fretboard (or neck). Then, when I line up these rectangles, I leave a 1 pix separation for the first string, 2 pix for the second string and 3 pix for the third and subsequent strings. Generally, for 3 strings, a 0.5" separation is not a problem. For 4 strings, you need to reduce the string separation space to about 3/8". With five or six strings you'll need a wider neck, but since I don't do those size necks with any regularity, the numbers don't come to mind. Let me play with my rectangles and get back with you on this.
Back again, Mikey.
My calculations show a 'guitar' with 5 equally spaced strings would need a 2.5" wide neck (or fretboard) if you want two 1/8" edges and 1/2" spacing between strings. For a guitar with 6 equally spaced strings would need a 3.0" neck or fretboard if you want two 1/8" edges and 1/2" spacing between strings. That seems a bit wide, so if you have a six string guitar handy, you might want to measure it and compare it to my calculations. These wider necks will require more neck shaping to make the neck fit your left hand comfortably. The only 5 stringer I built had paired melody and middle strings, so I was able to squeeze them on to a lot narrower neck. I come from a stick dulcimer (strum stick) back ground, so when I think of 4, 5 or 6 stringers I think of paired strings like on mandolins.
Hal, thanks for the pic. Makes sense to me seeing it like that.
Rand: I appreciate you crunching the numbers for me. Also, when you talk about paired strings do you mean identical note/string or same note just in an octave? I would be interested in seeing and hearing how that plays out. Sounds interesting to this rookie.
It's a bit difficult to say how it sounds unless maybe you have heard an 8 string mandolin before (basically a 4 string instrument with each string paired and tuned the same (actually tuned like a violin)). The purpose of the paired string is to make the note sound louder and with a longer sustain than a single string, and on a stick dulcimer (strummer or strum stick) this is done to make the melody stand out a bit better compared to the drone strings (bass and middle string). Of course after you make a 4 stringer, you'll find too many song tabs use the second string to get maybe 3 more notes lower than whats on the first string, but when you play them, the song sounds terrible as most the notes sound mandolin-ish except the melody notes played on the second string, so you'll likely build another instrument and with 5 strings and then pair the middle as well, tuning it to something like D-AA-dd or G-DD-gg. Then your next instrument will likely be a 6 stringer with all three strings paired (paired or trippled strings are called "courses" by the way). But this time you'll tune it something like Dd-AA-dd or Gg-DD-gg, with the two strings in the third course tuned an octave apart. I still have not done this, but they say it makes the instrument sound better.
Here's a couple photos of my 5 stringer:
I didn't understand on my first reply to your last post.
Generally, with stick dulcimers, the second string is tuned the same as it's paired string (tuned in unison). Where there is an exception is with the bass string (third course), which is usually tuned an octave apart. While I can say with certainty that the paired strings tuned in unison sound more like a mandolin, I can't really say how they sound when tuned an octave a part.
My guess is that if the first string of the bass course that you would struck is an octave higher, then maybe it will sound a tad bit like a banjo or ukulele when you strum it. When strumming a banjo or ukulele in a down and up motion, you get a pleasing sound because the first and last notes hit in the strums are high notes. In other words, it's like tuning the instrument re-entrantly. However, I'm not sure how it would sound if you tried frailing it (clawhammer style) like a banjo. Some day I'll have to build one to experience the sound for myself. The five stringer shown above just doubled the melody and middle strings - the bass string is not paired. With not much head room left, I'll save this experiment for a new build.
Ok, it's clicking a bit now. I'm so new to all this, never though about stringing high strings on top and bottom. Would take learning a new playing style to do that right. Sounds like a challenge!