String gauge??

Discussion in 'Technical Side of Things' started by Randy99CL, Aug 10, 2020.

  1. Randy99CL

    Randy99CL Synchromatic

    Feb 17, 2020
    Rookie question: what differences are there between different gauge strings?
    It's well known that Stevie liked to play thick strings when Fenders usually come with 9s.

    It seems to me that lighter strings would get less output from the pickups but be easier to fret and bend?
    Do thicker strings vibrate with stronger lower harmonics?? And thinner strings with exaggerated higher harmonics?

    One of my favorite guitars (Gibson) came new with a hybrid set from the factory and I'm wondering why they would do that, what advantages could there be? 9-11-16-26-36-46, isn't it strange that the steps between sizes are so uneven?

    I've read that many of you install 11s on your Gretsches, why??
  2. jarrodtaylor

    jarrodtaylor Gretschie

    Mar 14, 2019
    Delray Beach, FL
    Lots to unpack on this one. I'll start and I'm sure others will chime in.

    If you need to adjust out output, adjust your pickups not your string gauge.

    Different gauges can sound different. Thicker strings can sound more bass-y. There's a ton of variables though. Core size and shape, materials, etc. Generally your pedals and/or amp can make up for any of that.

    Why do factories ship with certain gauges? Probably a combination of what they think will appeal to the most players and what deals they have worked out with string manufacturers. There's no one-size-always-works set.

    I'm guessing SRV (guessing that's the Stevie you're talking about) liked the way thicker strings sounded and felt. He switched it up at times for various reasons. The guy could probably makes 8s sound good. I think Billy Gibbons uses 7s or 8s or something thin like that. There's lots of folklore.

    A lot of people put 11s on their Gretsch guitars because they stay in tune better, especially with a Bigsby. I've found they also intonate a little better on bar bridges, but I don't have any numbers to back that up or anything. I'm a fan of TI Jazz Bebop 11s myself.

    IIRC Brian Setzer uses thinner strings. He also re-tunes a lot, but the point is it's really about what size feels better to you. Try a few sets out and see for yourself.
  3. JT19

    JT19 Gretschie

    Nov 28, 2009
    Atlanta, GA
    I like thicker strings (.011's) because the increased tension seems to help hold tuning better (and I'm less likely to accidentally bend strings slightly out of tune when fretting chords), and the tone has a little "thicker" sound to my ears. I'm also primarily an acoustic player, so .011's still feel light to me. :)
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  4. YouFellowRebels

    YouFellowRebels Gretschie

    Jun 17, 2020
    I’ve grown from playing 9’s for many years to loving 12’s. I think they sound better (as I mostly play rhythm guitar). They don’t accidentally stretch out of tune, they sound fuller to me and I think I get a bit more ring/jangle out of them on the open strings. I also strongly prefer the sound g.
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  5. G5422T

    G5422T Country Gent

    May 24, 2012
    No "manhood" involved with string gauges. (This comment always comes up with string gauge threads.) Play what is comfortable to you on each guitar.

    I use D'Addario XL's on all my electrics.

    9's on my Phoenix
    9.5's presently on my 6120 and 6122
    9.5's on my Tele

    No tuning issues on any of my Bigsby equipped guitars using these gauges.

    That said, I'm anal about setting up Bigsbys.

    Align the base, screw down the base, sand the bridge base to match the top's contour, fiddle rosin to hold base in place, and a properly cut nut.

    The the, string properly, which is the last key for stable tuning.

    Sometimes I go up to 10's on the 6120 and 6122. Depends on my fingers mood! Lol

    Sticking with 9's on the Phoenix, as it finally feels just right.

    I've had 11's on everything, and sometimes I feel like I'm fighting them. Why? No sense to it, move down a gage or make a custom set.

    Best of luck choosing yours.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2020
  6. Shadowy_Man

    Shadowy_Man Gretschie

    May 18, 2020
    I've played .12s forever. Usually I play flats. I don't do bending over a semitone, and usually not even that. I do like the tone and tuning stability of heavy strings. But light strings can sound great too.

    I recently tried .11s. Took me forever to get used to them, but now they feel familiar.
    Randy99CL and YouFellowRebels like this.
  7. Gewdkharma

    Gewdkharma Gretschie

    Jan 14, 2018
    Gig Harbor, WA
    .10s on my 6120, plays right for me. Tried .11s for a while but always felt too stiff for my fingers and pinky would always hurt, oddly. No pain with 10s and no noticeable difference in tone or tuning stability for me.

    9.5 s on my Strat and Tele. Feels stable yet flexible. .10s too stiff and 9s too light, lol.
    Randy99CL likes this.
  8. loudnlousy

    loudnlousy Gretschified

    Oct 18, 2015
    I usally use a set of 009s.
    I used to like heavier gauges on Strats but that was strictly for getting an different feel compared to my Gibson shorter scale guitars. If you like more stiffness go for heavier string gauges.
    To me it is not a question of tone but it is a question of feel, purely.

    If you play a floating bridge that moves with lighter strings go for a more heavier gauge as well. That`s physics. On my Gretsch hollows a 010 set is usually spot-on. If the bridge feels locked even with lighter strings go for it. Why not?
    The tone is not much different. The electric induction is not much different as well.

    If you have a heavy touch, don`t use light strings. If you push them down too hard they will sound out-of-tune every time.
    I have a very light touch so that issue does not matter to me at all.
    I remember playing with a second guitarist in my band who pushed the strings down so hard. That was really bad and I wished he would have used heavier strings.

    The reality is that lighter gauges are much nicer to your fingertips and far easier to play.
    BB King, Billy Gibbons, Malmsteen are all known for using very, very if not crazy-light strings.
    If it is o.k with them it should be o.k . with us mere mortals.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2020
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  9. Stefan87

    Stefan87 Synchromatic

    May 20, 2019
    Brisbane, Australia
    As others have said, I just play what is comfortable for me and work everything else from there, I play 10's on everything for no other reason then I like them.
    Randy99CL likes this.
  10. audept

    audept Senior Gretsch-Talker

    Dec 1, 2010
    Sydney, Australia
    These days my string gauge choice is mostly driven by arthritis. I always used 10s but now I'm moving to 9s just so I can keep playing with less pain.
  11. johnny g

    johnny g Country Gent

    Sep 2, 2017
    union, ms
    Find some strings that feel good to your fingers, don't bind at the nut and are on sale.
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  12. LivingMyDream

    LivingMyDream Friend of Fred

    Randy, I started on 9's, but along the way I heard about improved tone with 10's and have been there ever since. Recently, I have been pondering whether I should try going back, and then I found a pack of 9's that I got as a gift, so I'll be stringing up one of my Strats in the next few days.
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  13. slickfaster

    slickfaster Synchromatic

    Dec 29, 2009
    10’s on everything... used 11’s for the longest time till I started getting more aggressive with bends and my fretting wrist consistently got sore.. Gona try 9’s on my next three box purchase.
    love the chime of fresh strings!!
    Randy99CL likes this.
  14. BFTmarshall

    BFTmarshall Gretschie

    Jan 12, 2020
    9's on 25.5
    10's on 24.75 & 24
    9's on my fav lead guitar's the Dean V & Gibson SGJ with 24.75. The action is so touch sensitive for super quick fretting
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  15. Groutsch

    Groutsch Gretschie

    Jun 9, 2018
    Maryland, US
    Typically, I use 10s, but I put 11s or 12s on my archtops because I'm more likely to use those guitars for jazz chords and I don't want to bend notes accidentally. Guitars that have weaker necks get lighter strings.
    Randy99CL likes this.
  16. coryb

    coryb Electromatic

    Jul 15, 2017
    10's on Gretsches, 9's on Les Pauls, 11's on the ES-175, Godin 5th Ave and Epi Zephyr Regent Reissue. 9.5's on the Strats and PRS.

    I put a set of 11's on a 6120 and took them off a week later. My arthritis didn't like them on that guitar.

    Gibson acoustics get 10's and Martins get 11's.
    Randy99CL likes this.
  17. cowmoo

    cowmoo Country Gent

    Aug 19, 2011
    North Wales
    11 to anything from 49-54 on my Phoenix and Falcon but i always change the third to a 17. Prefer D’addarios but have some slinkys on atm. got a deal at the local shop on some oddball packs. Put some Rotosound on and the guitar felt and sounded horrible to me. Weird.
    I use Newtones roundcore (11-54 or 12-56) on my Lowden acoustic. Keep meaning to try some on the Gretsch too.

    Note; to clarify, the Gretsch are tuned down E flat. Changing that 3rd to a 17 really makes country bends a breeze.
    Lowden is in C or D of some type usually.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2020
  18. lathoto

    lathoto Gretschie

    Apr 23, 2020
    .010 Electric
    .012 Acoustic
    .045 Bass
  19. buzzanderson

    buzzanderson Gretschie

    Jan 19, 2015
    Centreville, VA
    10's for me. The feel best, especially on a Gretsch.
  20. Robbie

    Robbie Friend of Fred

    Jun 17, 2013
    Sarnia Ontario Canada
    You don’t lose points on your “man card” for playing lighter strings. Remember a significant number of players using 12’s etc. that bend are also tuned down a half step, or more.

    Experiment and settle on what feels best for you with the your own style of playing.
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