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Author Topic:  Why keyless?
Frank Parish


From:
Nashville,Tn. USA
Post Posted 1 Dec 2002 7:17 pm     Reply with quote

What are the advantages or otherwise of a keyless guitar? It doesn't appear to be any easier to tune so why not have the keys?
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LARRY COLE


From:
LANCASTER, OHIO, USA
Post Posted 1 Dec 2002 8:07 pm     Reply with quote

Less weight, no backlash that tuners have, easier to string up, strings won;t slip, less moveing parts, more bend and more uniform over the rollers, less string area between the nut and key to stop unwanted overtones for starters. I'm sure there is more.

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LC. WILLIAMS U12, SHO-BUD PRO1,CARVIN TL60


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Bobby Lee


From:
Cloverdale, California, USA
Post Posted 1 Dec 2002 8:57 pm     Reply with quote

A keyed guitar has hysteresis. If a string is both raised and lowered, the lower will return sharp (or the raise will return flat, depending on your point of view). This is caused by the length of string between the nut and the tuner. Some keyed guitars have compensators that solve the hysteresis problem, but eliminating the section of string behind the nut is the more direct approach.

The resonance of that extra length of string behind the nut also affects the tone of the instrument. On some guitars it creates false harmonics that will drive you crazy when you're trying to tune. Some keyed guitars leverage that extra resonance to improve the tone, though. A keyless won't have the false harmonics problem, but it also won't benefit from happy accidents in the tone department resulting from key head resonance.

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Bobby Lee - email: quasar@b0b.com - gigs - CDs
Sierra Session 12 (E9), Williams 400X (Emaj9, D6), Sierra Olympic 12 (F Diatonic), Sierra Laptop 8 (D13), Fender Stringmaster (E13, A6), Roland Handsonic
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Michael Johnstone


From:
Sylmar,Ca. USA
Post Posted 2 Dec 2002 12:06 am     Reply with quote

I'll never go back to a keyed guitar.I've been playing a Sierra keyless 12 string for about 8 years now and it makes a world of difference for all the reasons stated above.Plus,I just got an Excel 12 string w/8&6 - also keyless and it only weighs 40 Lbs in the case and the case is only slightly larger than a tenor sax case.Sweet sound(like a Zum) - stays in tune - a breeze to dial in and tweak - 29" long - fits in the overhead bin on a plane.I rest my case.
-MJ-
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SveinungL


From:
Gjøvik - Norway - Europe - Earth
Post Posted 2 Dec 2002 3:02 am     Reply with quote

Anapegs doesn't come with keys, but I like keys too. A matter of taste really and most pros use keys anyway. I don't think neighter PF or BE returns sharp.....

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Thanks Sveinung Lilleheier
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Kentucky Riders
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Bob Strum


From:
Seneca, SC
Post Posted 2 Dec 2002 4:28 am     Reply with quote

I like the fact that the distance between the strings is the same the whole length of the neck. Bob (Pedalmaster 12)
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George Kimery


From:
Limestone, TN, USA
Post Posted 2 Dec 2002 4:45 am     Reply with quote

From a physics or mechanical standpoint, you just can't improve on the tug of war approach of "grab hold and pull" that a keyless offers. Also, the string length is much shorter, so you don't have to tighten the string as much to get the same pitch. Results in less string breakage. As stated above, you can tune down to a note as well as up.
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Scott Howard


From:
Georgetown, TN, USA
Post Posted 2 Dec 2002 5:41 am     Reply with quote

They also take less pedal travel.In the 90's I put one on a P/P emonns S-10 and had to adjust everything.The only thing that changed was the head and the pulls were all sharp and the lowers were flat.I changed it back before I sold it.
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richard burton


From:
Britain
Post Posted 2 Dec 2002 11:29 am     Reply with quote

Keyless also means that the scale length can be longer with no extra tension on the strings = better tone.
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LARRY COLE


From:
LANCASTER, OHIO, USA
Post Posted 2 Dec 2002 1:40 pm     Reply with quote

Quote "you don't have to tighten the string as much to get the same pitch".
Quote "Keyless also means that the scale length can be longer with no extra tension on the strings". The string tension is determined by the distance from the changer to the nut, not to the key. If not it wouldn't matter where you placed the bar because you would have the same pitch anywhere.

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LC. WILLIAMS U12, SHO-BUD PRO1,CARVIN TL60


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Donny Hinson


From:
Glen Burnie, Md. U.S.A.
Post Posted 2 Dec 2002 2:03 pm     Reply with quote

I'd hazard a guess that 95% of all pro's (famous pedal steelers, both past and present) still play the keyed variety...there's gotta be a reason! That alone is enough reason for me to stay with 'em.

But, to each his own. Like the D12's, you do see them occasionally, but after 30 years...they've just never really "caught on".
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Frank Parish


From:
Nashville,Tn. USA
Post Posted 2 Dec 2002 5:17 pm     Reply with quote

These are all very interesting points to ponder. I'm with Donny wondering how come you never see any of the pros use them. I can't think of any time seeing one on TV or at a club or anywhere except here on the forum. It just seems to me that if a keyless guitar had that much more to offer, especially better tone that more players would have them.
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Michael Johnstone


From:
Sylmar,Ca. USA
Post Posted 2 Dec 2002 5:55 pm     Reply with quote

I've played for 30+ years mostly on keyed guitars but I've played keyless for a number of years now and I'm here to tell you there are HUGE advantages in a keyless design.Longer scales,quick string change,better tone,etc,etc. As to why more visible pros don't play them - I'm baffled.They can't all be that stupid and play so well.My guess is they're either stuck in their ways or are afraid of the look of them or just plain never tried one long enough to fall in love. Besides the mechanical advantages they offer,I love the symmetry and the compactness of them.And like I said,when it's pack up time and I'm carrying it out to the car,my new Excel is real easy on the old arm. -MJ-
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Jim Smith


From:
Valley Ranch (north Irving), TX, USA
Post Posted 2 Dec 2002 6:25 pm     Reply with quote

Wasn't Buddy Emmons' Sierra keyless? Also, I don't recall seeing any 12 string Universals on TV and only a handful at shows.
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Bobby Lee


From:
Cloverdale, California, USA
Post Posted 2 Dec 2002 9:10 pm     Reply with quote

Donny's right that 95% of the pros play keyed guitars, but the exceptions are notable:
  • Joe Wright plays a Sierra keyless.
  • BJ Cole plays a Williams keyless.
  • Tom Brumley plays an Anapeg keyless.
I think that a lot of people don't like the way keyless guitars look. Steel players are a conservative bunch. Most of us prefer traditional-looking instruments.

------------------
Bobby Lee - email: quasar@b0b.com - gigs - CDs
Sierra Session 12 (E9), Williams 400X (Emaj9, D6), Sierra Olympic 12 (F Diatonic), Sierra Laptop 8 (D13), Fender Stringmaster (E13, A6), Roland Handsonic

[This message was edited by Bobby Lee on 02 December 2002 at 09:10 PM.]

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Scott Howard


From:
Georgetown, TN, USA
Post Posted 3 Dec 2002 3:29 am     Reply with quote

I think Bobby is right about the looks.I have heard it said before that they look funny.I think they look good.
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Frank Parish


From:
Nashville,Tn. USA
Post Posted 3 Dec 2002 6:09 am     Reply with quote

You may be right about Buddy playing a keyless Sierra. It seems I remember him playing a white one somewhere but I could be wrong. I'm with you on the looks too Bob. It's like a headless bass guitar, it looks like the head's been cut off or something is missing. Why is it quicker to change strings and why is the scale longer?
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Michael Johnstone


From:
Sylmar,Ca. USA
Post Posted 3 Dec 2002 10:21 am     Reply with quote

The strings are easier to change - and just about all keyless guitars are something like this - you just hook the string on at the changer end and bring the other end up and wrap it around a small allen head bolt about 1/2 wrap,tighten down the bolt,bend the excess string back and forth a couple times to break it off and the string is on. Then you tune up the string either with the same allen key you used to tighten down the bolt or like on my Sierra and also GFIs work like this - you can tune the string with your fingers using little knurled buttons which look like the fine tuners on a violin. If I break a string onstage,I can have a new one on and be playing again within a verse and a chorus.As far as scales lengths go,most keyed guitars max out at 24.5" before you run into excessive string breakage because the section of string under tension(changer to tuning post)is as much as 27" on the middle strings of a keyed guitar.Conversely on a keyless design,say on a 25" scale,the section of string under tension is only 25" in total. So there is actually more tension on most of the strings on a keyed 24.5" guitar than all the strings of a keyless 25" guitar. Less tension means less string breakage and a shorter pedal pull/string stretch to achieve a given pitch change - so strings last longer and don't break nearly as much.Plus all the strings are the same length with no overhang past the roller nut which translates into zero unwanted overtones that many keyed guitars display and most guys damp out with foam rubber or plastic tubing.Not to mention that harmonics are easier to get,high register stuff is easier to play in tune and the tone is just fundamentally more pure and phat.Lightweight - compact - stays in tune for months - you can't knock it out of tune just by taking it out of the case - it's just a better design from every angle you want to talk about. C'mon guys - On with the future!
-MJ-
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Scott Swartz


From:
St. Louis, MO
Post Posted 3 Dec 2002 10:43 am     Reply with quote

I have a Sierra keyless and am a true believer also, there is one trick about putting the strings on that should be mentioned.

The string has to be pulled tight prior to tightening the screw, especially for the 3rd string. Sierra provides a gizmo to help with this.

It is still way quicker than keyed.

BTW good tip for the extra string length (break it off) by MJ. I have been using a diagonal cutters for years to do this. Duhhh!

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ed packard


From:
Show Low AZ
Post Posted 3 Dec 2002 12:52 pm     Reply with quote

I think that you will find that the string length from nut to bridge determines the required tension , not the total length of the string from fastening point to fastening point; Just think of the bar as the nut to visualize the concept.
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Jim Smith


From:
Valley Ranch (north Irving), TX, USA
Post Posted 3 Dec 2002 12:59 pm     Reply with quote

There's a picture of Buddy's keyless white Sierra on Ernie Renn's Buddy Emmons web site here: http://www.buddyemmons.com/convention.htm
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Michael Johnstone


From:
Sylmar,Ca. USA
Post Posted 3 Dec 2002 1:36 pm     Reply with quote

Yeah Ed -
But the section of string behind the nut IS under tension and when a pedal change is activated and the string is pulled,there is more stretchiness to overcome to pull the string up to a given pitch than on a keyless guitar. This is because you're pulling the unused part of the string(behind the nut)as well as the active section.Not so on a keyless device.Hence the shorter stroke required. -MJ-
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ed packard


From:
Show Low AZ
Post Posted 3 Dec 2002 2:36 pm     Reply with quote

MJ-
Agreed that the amount of stretch required to reach a given tension is required for longer distances between tethering points on the same diameter strings of the same material(s), but the required tensions to pitch are the same for the same scale lengths.

You might add to your "goodness" points that keyless/gearless should have less change in pitch from body bend, and thermally induced dimensional changes of a given amount (in the direction of string length).

Some keyless designs have the disadvantage that the amount of travel in the tuning mechanism is such that there is less than a two tone range of tuning. This means that if one strings up to within 1/2 tone of the desired pitch and then tunes to pitch, they cannot later lower more than 1/2 tone on the same string. Most folk won't care about this but I use the 2nd string as D# for some conditions, and as C# for others.

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Pete Burak


From:
Portland, OR USA
Post Posted 3 Dec 2002 2:42 pm     Reply with quote

Hi Ed,
Hey, You could put D# to C# on a change lock if you wanted to.
Just a thought.
Pete B.

ps
I chickened out on the S14U idea (so far ).
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Scott Swartz


From:
St. Louis, MO
Post Posted 3 Dec 2002 2:50 pm     Reply with quote

The formula that explains this is the classic for axial deformation

D (deformation) = PL/AE

where P= the load, L is length of rod (the string in this case), A is area of string, E is Young's modulus (a constant).

To determine D1 (keyed) versus D2 (keyless), assume P1 =P2=P and set up the following equality (after some formula rearranging)



D1*A*E D2*A*E
--------- = P = -----------
L1 L2



The ratio D/L must remain constant, so longer L means longer D.

For a fixed P (raise in pitch), the deformation has to be longer if there is string behind the nut (keyed).

On the issue of more or less tension on the strings for a keyless, I found the following document.
http://www.mcdonaldstrings.com/String_tensions.pdf

In summary, it states that frequency is inversely related to vibrating length and the mass of the vibrating length, which makes sense.

Rearranged for frequency, the formula is



F = SQRT ( (980621*T) / (4*L*M) )



So for a given pitch, if the length and mass increase (ie going to a 25" scale from a 24" scale), the tension T must increase to keep F constant.

The "total" length of the string is nowhere in the formula, so the tension on a 25 inch scale is in fact more than a 24 inch scale (assuming the pitch and string are the same), but keyed or keyless doesn't impact this.

This matches my experience, I own a 24" scale keyless Sierra and a 25" scale keyless Sierra and with them both adjusted for the same pedal travel on a given pitch raise (and the same slack on both of course), the 24" is noticeably softer.

I think the reduction in breakage on keyless long scale guitars is probably more related to reduced metal fatigue from the shorter travel, but it does work.

[This message was edited by Scott Swartz on 03 December 2002 at 02:52 PM.]

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