There's been a lot of hubbub over balanced tension string sets lately. What the hell are they? Can you even tell the difference?? I'm going to attempt to give a simple explanation of balanced tension sets and offer a bit of insight into their growing popularity and what makes them such a hot topic in the string world.
There are two basic components that make up a steel string: a core and a wrap. When you look at the two smallest strings on an acoustic guitar, you are basically looking at an unwound core string. Wild, huh? Those naked little B and high E strings look just like their four bigger brothers minus that shiny bronze wrapping. Now, when we talk about tension on a guitar we are pretty much talking about lateral tension -- that is, the force that the individual strings exert laterally across the neck and soundboard of the instrument. [Note: this differs from instruments with floating bridges (mandolins, banjos, arch top guitars, etc.) where downward, or vertical tension becomes more important -- for more on this check out Siminoff Strings]. Now given the two basic components of a steel string, what would you say determines lateral tension? Well, if you guessed the wrapping, I'm happy to say you are absolutely wrong...It's the core, of course! A string's core determines its lateral tension -- remember that!
D'addario Balanced Tension sets are developed with this in mind: each core string is made to expend an equal amount of lateral tension, thus creating a more "balanced" feel and sound across the strings when they are strummed or plucked. In theory, this should make for a better playing experience. But who am I to say? Pick up a set and see for yourself!
McCoy Tyler is a salesman at Sylvan Music with an aptitude towards acoustic guitars, amps, and pickup systems. When he's not spouting musical knowledge on the sales floor, he can be found doing some hot picking and sweet singing with his group The McCoy Tyler Band.