The Effects Of String Gauge On Guitar Tone – Part 2

Luckily for me, all signs and symptoms of tendonitis was averted. Phew.

Once I was fully recovered I decided to explore with my all my main guitars the three most popular gauges 9’s, 10’s and 11’s. I concluded that each set had the tone to which they were associated and the opinions held by each group are well founded. So as a result I decided to put together a brief guide to choosing your guitar string gauges.

A Brief Guide to String Gauges

#1 – Reconsider your String Gauge Occasionally – Whilst many people spend hundreds of pounds/dollars modifying their guitar with new pick-ups and hardware, sometimes that tone in your head is simply a different string gauge.

#2 – Choose a String Gauge that Suits Your Guitar – This may sound like a strange approach but certain woods and pick-ups may be complimented with a certain string. Dark guitars may let you get away with bright thin gauges whilst thinner sounding guitars need the warmth of thick strings.

#3 – Scale Length – If your used to a Fender scale length and you find the same strings don’t suit the shorter scale Gibson, try a heavier string. The same rule applies in reverse.

#4 – Tuning – If your accustomed to 10’s in standard tuning for example when drop tuning you may prefer a thicker gauge to keep a consistent feel. Alternatively you may prefer the loss in tension which is perfectly valid artistic choice.

#5 – Hybrid and Custom Gauges – Thanks to many intuitive string manufacturers, guitarists have more choice than ever. One popular departure from standard sets is a ‘hybrid’ set. For example 11’s on the thickest three strings with 10’s on the highest threes can give you the best of both worlds. For those with more specific need,s designing a custom set could be the answer to that tone in your head.

#6 – Ignore the Guitarists Around You – Don’t be swayed from a gauge that suits your playing style and is totally comfortable by other guitarists. Every player is different and often other guitarists can’t even hear the difference.

#7 – Playing Guitar shouldn’t be Painful! – Is that song full of barre chords or string bending causing you pain? If you find playing a specific technique  or guitar genrally for more than a certain period of time painful, even when warmed up, then reconsider your strings.

Hopefully these points will help you make informed choices next time a string breaks or preferable when they sound dead. What’s your opinion and prefered string gauge? Anything you want to add or disagree with? Let me know in the comments section.




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