Is there a way to tell if a spoke or spokes are too tight, if you don't have access to a tensionometer?

I had to tighten several, and obviously I don't want them too tight, otherwise you risk broken spokes and damaged nipples/rims/maybe hubs.

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    "Twang" them, and compare to the "twang" of other spokes. – Daniel R Hicks Feb 24 '17 at 16:55
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    People did build wheels before tensiometers, though its not preferable these days. – Batman Feb 24 '17 at 17:06
  • Good tips and perspective, thanks. My situation is I suspected a loose wheel was causing the brakes to rub (front wheel) while turning right, so I checked it out and most spokes seemed loose, and several seemed very loose. (I'd checked and trued the back before, but not the front.) I tightened all at least some and several a lot. This makes me think I can't use other spokes as a reference, but I guess I could compare with the other wheel, which didn't get adjusted so radically. Still, since I don't have experience, I'd like an absolute reference, which may be the bike shop this time. – compton Feb 24 '17 at 17:28
  • Did you use any form of spoke prep or thread prep liquid? Some wheels just want to undo their nipples over time, which often means there was a bit much play. – Criggie Feb 24 '17 at 20:11
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    @criggie Not so far, this is the first time I've touched the spokes in front. Thanks, I'll look into that. – compton Feb 24 '17 at 23:40

Roger Musson's book "Professional Guide to Wheel Building" simply states that: "The best place to start when judging the correct tension is to examine a similar wheel you know to be good and reliable and compare the spoke tension to the one being built."

Musson does not use the sound of the spokes to determine their tension, only to find differences in tension between them.

Roger Musson's website does also have a good discussion about tensionmeters and their necessity when building wheels. http://www.wheelpro.co.uk/support/tensiometers/

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    Sound is a surprisingly good way to find odd spokes. I've had a wheel that made sounds like tang-tang-tang_THONK_ting-THONK_tang-tang-tang where the ting spoke was way high tension. – Criggie Feb 24 '17 at 20:13
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    The issue with this approach is that you need a similar wheel. I don't have any friends with a similar wheelset to either of my bikes. – Batman Feb 27 '17 at 0:05

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