How to use this calculator:
- Choose your instrument type from the dropdown menu at the top. Enter text into any textbox and the calculator will recalculate everything based on that value. You can change the frequency of the a' note, string lengths and individual notes this way.
- Changing notes: You can change the note of each string individually by writing a note name in the textbox, or use the + and - buttons. So for example, if you wanted a fundamental and an octave on your renaissance lutes's 4th course, Replace f on one of the fourth strings with f'. It will automatically be marked with 'oct' in the String column.
- Adding/removing strings: Use the three buttons in the Edit column to add(+) or remove(-) strings. The added string inherits the length (in fact, length group) of the string whose button you pressed. Press || to add a pair for a string, making a course. If you remove one of the strings in a course, the other one will still remain. The courses are marked with alternating background colors in the table.
Notes and Tips:
- Nylgut lengths: NNG type strings are 120 cm long. D type strings are typically 105 cm long. You can get longer D type strings from Aquila Corde at an extra charge (up to 180cm @ 100% extra charge). It appears that D types with extra length are always cheaper than DE (extended) types (last checked in November 2015). The calculator attempts to figure out whether you should get extended nylgut strings (NGE, always 200 cm) and D types with extra length, but please check the lengths before you place the order.
- A nice touch on renaissance lutes is to use a carbon (Savarez Alliance KF) string for the 5th string with a nylgut octave. It gives a less metallic sound than a thin Nylgut D type string.
- Gut diameter and Nylgut: Nylgut sizes are expressed in equivalent gut diameters, which means that if you have a 124 D nylgut string, it's going to be thinner than 1.24 mm, but will produce the same note at the same tension as a 124 NNG string, or a 1.24 mm gut string (or close enough). Therefore a 100D is perfectly exchangeable with a 100NNG or a 1 mm gauge gut string. If the Nylgut value does not appear in the Nylgut column, that means that the size does not exist in Aquila's catalogue, and is either too thick or too thin.
- String length vs. Tension: For shorter string lengths, lower tensions seem to work better. Conversely, if your string length is longer than the defaults, you should make the tension higher. I tentatively suggest a change of 0.2 kg per 5 cm. This is currently not automated in the calculator.
- Use this calculator at your own risk! Lutes are typically built to the brink of catastrophe, so raising tuning by even one semitone you risk the bridge popping off or the soundboard collapsing. When in doubt, you can find out the total tension currently subjected to your instrument by supplying known string gauges to the calculator, and staying at or below the resulting total tension when you build a new set of strings.
- Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Aquila Corde, but I do use their products almost exclusively. Therefore I am unfortunately not able to give tips on other string brands. If you would like to share your wisdom on using other string materials, please contact me by e-mail or on Facebook.
- Another string calculator and a conversion table by Cuerdas Pulsadas, vendor of many kinds of strings for historical string instruments.
- Backup feature Warning: Technical blabbering. This page attempts to save its contents in a hidden form element on the page, so you can close the page and continue from where you were when you come back. The data is stored on your own computer and not sent anywhere. This only works if your browser is set up to save form data. Selecting another instrument from the list clears this data, so you can begin with a fresh list.
- Need to figure out fret spacings? Check out my fret calculator.