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How To Choose Guitar String Gauge | Guitar Maintenance Part 2

By Miles Margritz December 10, 2021 0 comments

How To Choose The Correct String Gauge For Your Guitar.

The first place to start when deciding which string gauge to put on your guitar, is knowing what size came on your guitar to start with. Most manufacturers will list the factory string gauge on their website. If you are having trouble finding it you can always give a call or shoot an email to the company you bought the guitar from.

Why is this important?  If you change the gauge of strings on your guitar, it's likely the guitar will need to be "Set-Up" afterward to be in peak playing condition. This is especially true if your guitar features a tremolo bridge. If you simply replace the old strings with new strings that are the same gauge, then you won't need to worry. If you can't find the original gauge, then either get yourself a micrometer and measure them yourself, or take it to tech who can do that for you.

How To Choose String Gauge? 

Thicker strings create more string tension which greatly effects how the guitar feels when you play it, and to a lesser extent the tone of the instrument. If you are a heavy handed player and you often times find your fretted notes are sharp, it could be because you are bending the string from pressing too hard. Heavier string gauge might be what you need. On the other hand if you experience pain in your hand or you want effortless bending then you may want to go with a lighter string gauge.


Alternate Tunings. 

Perhaps the biggest factor in selecting a string gauge is your preferred tuning. Follow me for a minute... Drop tunings (loosening the strings) lowers the string tension. Putting on a thicker string gauge raises the string tension, so if you de-tune simply use thicker strings to meet-in-the-middle and keep the string tension the same. Some guys have used trial and error to figure out what strings work best for their specific tuning but certain string  companies like D'Addario have tension calculators on their websites to take the guess-work out for us.

String Gauge Effects Tone.

The third reason for changing string gauge is for how it affects the sound. Now there is plenty of debate about whether or not string gauge make any real difference on the tone of the instrument. Here is what I say; if you think it sounds different or if it affects the way you play in a positive way, embrace it and ignore all the naysayers!  

Basically if it's not broke don't fix it. In fact your guitar should be set-up when you change strings so I wouldn't buy a different set every time you go to the music store. Changing brands isn't a problem but I would keep the size the same so long as you are happy with it. Quick tip: if you have trouble remembering what you put on last just keep you outer package in your case with your guitar as a reminder for when you buy strings next. But if any of the above reasons sound appealing to you a new gauge of strings might be the ticket. Just remember you may need to make a few adjustments to your guitar's set-up so that it plays the best that is can.

What is your favorite string gauge? What guitar are they on and why? Comment below! 

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