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Top wrap: advantages/disadvantages?

DKoster

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Sep 14, 2014
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Since I've really gotten into watching Joe Bonomassa, I'm wondering
about the practice of the top wrap of the strings over the stop bar.

Good, bad or otherwise?

Inquiring minds need to know! Thanks.

Deke
 

Zentar

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Oct 1, 2011
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830
I like the tail piece as low as possible but I like the strings to go over the bridge at a minimal angle. These two likes determine if I top wrap or not. If I need to top wrap on a LP I do it. I don't care if it scratches the plating on the tail piece which it does do.
If the tail piece sits too high: I top wrap.
If the string angle over the bridge is too severe: I top wrap.
If the tail piece height and string angle is fine without top wrapping then I don't.
I only play two LPs but I've set up about a dozen.

You can even top wrap 3 and leave the other 3 not top wrapped.

It's all PREFERENCE
 
Last edited:

DKoster

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Sep 14, 2014
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Thank you. When I get my 81 Standard back from a
polishing and re-set up, I'll look into the top wrap.
The guitar has been out of use for about 25 years and needs a good going over.

Thought maybe it would change the sound a little.

Deke'
 

Zentar

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Post picks as is. It would be interesting to see how people set up LPs back then. Did you see string wear marks on the tail piece plating?
 

rick c

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May 28, 2016
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Zentar's right. I raise my tail pieces for the same reason Zentar describes; I don't like the strings touching the trailing edge of the bridge. One thing to consider is that once you wrap, the wound strings will leave a mark on the top of the tail piece; two of mine are gold-plated so not a good idea.
 

shakes

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Mar 19, 2017
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1st post for me so please excuse any newbie errors!
I'm playing a beat up old 70's Kasuga LP Custom copy bolt on...very light for a les...and quite accoutsic naturally...when set up right....it sings. Neck relief and action can be adjusted without too much affect on tone / character of the guitar.

Stopbar height seems to be critical to the guitar being in the goldilocks zone and sounding ALIVE!...to me.

i have no trouble with string clearance at the Bridge so can lock the stopbar to the body...but it sounds...off...mechanical...harsh.
I've top wrapped a few times and don't mind the slinkiness...but it is far too jangly....and lacks punch / growl.


the sweet spot on my git is with stopbar raised somewhere between 3/4 to 1 1/2 turns of the stopbar screws....I'm currently recording a few bars at every 1/4 turn in between to settle on a height.

My brain/ears fatigue after playing listening and adjusting for hours at a time so it's important to take time...have a break and revisit with fresh ears over a few days.
cheers,
shakes
 

rick c

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May 28, 2016
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Hi Shakes:

Slinkiness is a function of string gauge, scale length and tuning; the stop bar height or top-wrap or not has no bearing on the tension of the string between the nut and bridge saddle. This has been discussed before; it's basic physics. Despite this, some players insist it makes a difference. The only difference I can see top wrapping is if there is next to no string angle from the bridge saddle to the top of the stop bar, it would be easier to flip the string off the saddle when playing harder.
 

J T

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Oct 20, 2005
Messages
10,524
I only top wrap if the strings touch the back of the TOM bridge to avoid forward pressure on the bridge that might cause bridge lean. I only want downward pressure from the strings. This is more of a problem with the Nashville style TOM's as they are wider.

Top wrap will scratch the tailpiece.
 

zacknorton

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Aug 26, 2011
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752
Strings that are easy to pop out of their saddles don't have the same amount of downward pressure on their bridge saddles.

This is lack of downward pressure WILL make that guitar play with an obviously "slinkier" feel to the strings.

Easy to try on a stop bar l p. Just keep raising the stop bar until the string just starts to break down from the saddle. Tune it up. Feel the difference?

do it if you like it. Don't do it if you don't like it. But it's not accurate to say there's no difference in feel.
 

Wilko

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Hi Shakes:

Slinkiness is a function of string gauge, scale length and tuning; the stop bar height or top-wrap or not has no bearing on the tension of the string between the nut and bridge saddle. This has been discussed before; it's basic physics. Despite this, some players insist it makes a difference.

I completely disagree with your assessment, as do people who know. Gibson literature even explains it as an adjustment feature. The breakover angle and other factors are known to make a measurable difference in the "feel" of the strings. Lower tail makes a "tighter" feel and raising makes a "slinkier" feel. That's a fact.
 

rick c

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Here we go again.......

This is about as simple as physics gets. The note heard when a string is plucked depends on the string length (scale length), the string thickness (gauge) and the string tension (tuning). Anything done to an already tuned string to make it "slinkier" will result in it becoming looser and dropping in pitch. This has been discussed at length so many times on so many forums. What the string does at each end of the guitar does not have any impact on "slinkiness".

So back to top wrapping; if the angle of the string after top wrapping is almost negligible between the saddle and the end bar, it will be easier to jump out of the shallow saddle groove. Same at the head; if the nut is cut really shallow so that the string is only just held in place, it may pop out of the nut if fingered really hard at the first or second fret. None of this has anything to do with the tension of the string required to tune it to the desired pitch.

Almost every picture of a top wrapped end bar I have seen shows the bar really low to the body so there is still a steep enough angle between the saddles and the top of the bar to prevent strings jumping off the saddles during play. There is a lot of stuff on the Internet that make claims about top winding affecting tone, sustain and yes, slinkiness, but I've yet to see anyone explain this using physics.
 

Wilko

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Using your logic, a trapeze tailpiece would feel the same.
 
Last edited:

zacknorton

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Aug 26, 2011
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rick c

This is really easy to resolve. all it'll take is a tiny bit of effort on your part. much less than it's gonna take me to write this crap down.

so is your stop bar close down to the body of your guitar? For simplicity sake Let's just say that it is.

You tuned up to standard pitch? cool….
How about you just play around a bit… bend some notes. got the feel down? cool.

remember that feel….

OK….now here comes the tough part:

Go get a blade screwdriver…. I can wait. I'm totally not here right now… it's the internet, so really go get the blade screwdriver.

Got it? ok good.

Now what you want to do is to just raise the stop tail piece up away from your guitar. that's right raise it up. Keep raising it up so that the break angle over the bridge saddle is really shallow. exactly like we were talking about. This is pretty much what happens when you top wrap the tailpiece EVEN if it's down tight to the body.

You got it raised up real nice? Good, good. Ok now tune your guitar back up to pitch.

Play around a bit… bend some notes.

How's it feel?
 

fjminor

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Apr 28, 2005
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Top Wrap is not kind for those that have a moderate ham fistedness......:##:yah
 

captainvideo

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Aug 14, 2016
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I tried it once years ago. I don't think it makes too much difference.
This man recorded one the greatest Les Paul recorded albums. But his neck is also missing half the binding.
1280x720.jpg
 

zacknorton

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set up your guitar however you want.
Play it like you mean it.

Just like bloomfield. Play it.

Play it.
 

B Ingram

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Jan 3, 2016
Messages
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After top-wrapping my strings felt slinkier (I can now bend a perfect-fourth or further on the D & G strings).

There's a difference between tension & elasticity. String gauge, scale length, and tuning pitch set tension of the string (or you might say "the pitch is the byproduct of string gauge, scale length & string tension").

But materials have some degree of elasticity. The elasticity is a constant-per-unit-of-length for the material. If you have 30ft of a string it bends & stretches more easily than 3 inches of the string, after being tuned to the same pitch. The total length of the string (including that beyond the nut & beyond the saddle) contributes to the total elasticity/slinky-ness, unless the string is locked at the nut and/or saddle.

If you've ever been around a large ship, you already know this. The big woven nylon ropes used to moor big ships to a pier are also used (in a short length) for tug-o-war. When playing tug-o-war, pulling that line yanks forward the other team. But when a several-hundred feet of the same line moor a ship to the pier, the line will stretch 20-40 feet or more. Per-unit-length elasticity is the same, but the longer total length yields more slinky-ness.

Top-wrapping slightly increases the total string length, which is why it slightly increases slinky-ness. Same reason the strings on a Fender headstock that have longer travel from nut to tuner are slightly slinkier than the strings with a shorter travel, despite the tension and pitch being the same as if there were a short span from nut to tuner.
 

rick c

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B Ingram: You are by far one of my most favorite contributors. Your comments regarding elasticity are valid and this may well explain the difference between slinkiness (for all other things equal) between a conventional stop piece and a trapeze where there really is a significant difference in string length after the saddle, same for your Fender head example. This is not the case when comparing a string end from stop piece hole to saddle vs stop bar top to saddle; this difference in length must be a very small. I have a PTTP micro tuner on my Les Paul so I can't measure but just looking at Les Pauls with conventional set-ups, it looks like the string length from the bar hole to the saddle is shorter than from the mid point of the top of the bar to the saddle. Maybe you could measure this.

Whatever, I've got light strings on all my electrics and I have a number of different bridge setups; with 008 - 038 strings my EBMM Majesty (trem, strings threaded through the back so no extra length at all), equally as slinky as my Les Paul (PTTP), equally slinky as my ES-335 (conventional stop bar, not top wound), equally slinky as my Shergold (ugly, weird plate but it works fine). Maybe, as my choice of strings is so light and the tension to tune is relatively low, this really is a non-event for me.


The only way to put this to rest would be to attach a sensitive force gauge to a string and measure the force required to pull an equal distance over a range of set-ups. Let's add this to the tone wood study!

zacknorton: this is a users forum for Les Paul owners; we are all on the same side so there really is no need for your condescending attitude. I apologize if I've offended you in some way; I've got a weird collection of guitars and been playing for over 45 years. I also have a very practical approach to things and a formal physics and chemistry background. Let's agree to disagree on this; that's OK. You have said almost as much in your last response; "set up your guitar however you want" ; I am a really strong proponent of exactly this perspective. Have a great weekend.
 

Wilko

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That's a thoughtful post. Knowing that there is a difference between a stop bar and a trapeze proves that there is a difference in elasticity in different setups.

Whether or not it's top-wrapped (with the same breakover angle) is likely a negligible difference. Most top wrap to reduce the breakover angle which is known to make for more "give" when the string is played. That also makes for less down pressure on the saddle, and transfers more of the load to the tailpiece.

Set up how you like, for sure!

I don't like top wrap and lower the tail as much as possible for a more comfortable palm mute and the stiffer feel.

Cheers:salude
 
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