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String Gauge Shootout 8s vs 11s


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So theres been lots of discussions about string gauges and what difference they make... (to my ears the 8s sounded brighter)

 

I found this video which even though goes on a bit and has some nonsense in it (why did he show us him cooking? :)) has quite alot of interesting stuff in there too (including the type of strings that Jimi used which were apparently very thin which I didnt know).. See what you think

 

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That was interesting (cooking aside). I could hear the difference more with the cleaner sounds than with the higher gain sounds (duh). The 11's sounded much richer on the clean sounds than the 8s. The differences become negligible once the gain goes way up.

 

That said, the fingers are a big part of the issue not just the tone. Like he said - light strings require a light touch. I've always played a lot of acoustic guitar, You hand me 8s and I will be sharp faster than you can say sharp.

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I personally use 9's on most of my Electrics. I went from 11's, to 10's, then 9's because it was all they had left in the store. I've been hooked on 9's since. I honestly liked the sound of the 8's better. I prefer a little more of a percussive attack, and the 8's to me sounded more complex, while the 11's sounded too round and punchy in the cleans, and muddy in the gain sounds. The 8's sounded much more defined and cut through better throughout. Not to mention the difference in feel is night and day. With lighter gauge strings I can just relax and play guitar, rather than fighting my guitar.

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For what it's worth, I also think a lot has to do with a given guitar, too.

 

My old Guild S100c always has worn 8s. It seems just right. All my other electrics wear 9s. All the AEs have 10s except one smaller AE body that gets 9s for fingerpicking only.

 

I can't imagine trying to play Bluegrass or "old time" with anything less than 10s, and even then I'm probably a lot more gentle with a flatpick than some folks.

 

I think 11s and above may be fine for some folks and some guitars, but I've a hunch you'd best think an entirely different game for both setup and playing style.

 

m

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I think there is some sustain to be had there - with a little higher - action myself.

 

I've heard people say that before and I just can't wrap my head around how that could be physically possible.

 

Of course I may be missing something obvious and not understanding it correctly.

 

But the proximity to the fretboard has nothing to do with how much more or less the string vibrates --- taking fret buzz out of the equation of course.

 

If there is nothing physically hindering the string from vibrating --- how can the vibration possibly be affected whether it's 2mm or 2 inches from the fretboard?

 

Yes, I'm exaggerating with the 2-inches but you get my point. ;)

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I'll agree that there are things to be said in favor of heavier strings and a higher action - and cdntac, I think with a lot of low actions, fret buzz does become a limiting factor of right hand technique.

 

But I've seen a lot of various ways of dealing with different string gauges depending on how one plays different styles of music.

 

It finally hit me a cupla years ago why back in the mid '60s why I was unable to even halfway easily fret Mother Maybelle's big Gibbie archtop and she just seemed to skim the strings to do the Carter Family scratch or whatever you wanna call it. I never really considered that those Mapes extra heavy strings weren't that high above the fingerboard in the first place and that she seemed to use a capo in about everything I've been able to see on vids and couldn't see from backstage.

 

Also, in retrospect she was playing the guitar much like an autoharp with a very horizontal movement either of her thumbpick or fingerpicks. It was a brush or scratch rather than a plucking motion. On the autoharp one simply cannot use a plucking movement, so I can see how the same basic right hand technique is an entirely different game from most picking styles.

 

Some left hand techniques simply cannot be done by players of average hand strength with heavier strings. I'm getting pushed even with some 10s on some of my AEs to do certain things that are a piece of cake with 9s. Some of that may also have something to do with neck shape and the geometry of Guitar A vs. Guitar B. But...

 

The 8-38s are marvelous strings on one of my guitars with a specific neck shape - but for some reason I'm more comfortable with my other electrics using the 9-42.

 

Frankly tone has little to do with it.

 

Acoustics and AEs seem to me to be more far more sensitive to tone differences at the same preamp and amp settings than electrics. But depending on your technique, I don't see much diff in tone between 9s and 10s - and I enjoy fancier fingerpicking left hand technique far more with the 9s on the smaller instrument than 10s on the dread size boxes. Yet... for flatpicking I'll almost certainly stick to 10s.

 

Picking technique actually in my experience will also affect fret buzz. If you pick to give the string a more horizontal vibration, it seems to have far less problems with buzz at a given non-electrified volume than if your technique induces much of upward angled plucking.

 

So... I dunno. I think there are so many variables in a guitar player's hand positioning, let alone right and left hand technique, that there's likely only a "wrong" for a picker if he/she doesn't have strings and setup matched for overall technique and playing geometry.

 

m

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I've heard people say that before and I just can't wrap my head around how that could be physically possible.

 

Of course I may be missing something obvious and not understanding it correctly.

 

But the proximity to the fretboard has nothing to do with how much more or less the string vibrates --- taking fret buzz out of the equation of course.

 

If there is nothing physically hindering the string from vibrating --- how can the vibration possibly be affected whether it's 2mm or 2 inches from the fretboard?

 

Yes, I'm exaggerating with the 2-inches but you get my point. ;)

 

Well, here's my thoughts on it. Action is a product of a few things; Bridge(saddle) height, neck angle, neck relief and nut slot height. Obviously the gauge of the strings are a factor.

 

Now, there are too many variables that affect sustain. Wood types, construction, quality of hardware/materials e.c.t. The list goes on. One thing related to Action And Sustain is break angle over the bridge saddle. Ever notice how guitars with long stretches of string between the bridge and tailpiece (like many jazz boxes) just don't have very much sustain? It's because the break angle over the bridge is so shallow.

 

That's one of the reasons a Les Paul, SG or any tune-o-matic/stopbar combo guitar have decent sustain, most of the time. You're putting more downward pressure on the bridge, transferring vibrational energy to the body more efficiently. There are two ways to achieve a sharp break angle.

 

Lowering the tailpiece. This is limited in it's effectiveness if you have your tune-o-matic set really low, as it normally is with low action, which leads to the second option;

 

Raise the bridge, and therefore the action (neck angle not being taken into consideration).

 

This is just my understanding of it. I'm probably wrong at some point in there. Can't be bothered to double check :P

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Some acoustic guitars resonate differently from one another. For many, strings are a negligible factor but some guitars come alive with certain strings.

 

Typically it's splitting hairs, and you psych yourself out because the guitar feels very different so you think you hear a difference that's not really there.

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I've heard people say that before and I just can't wrap my head around how that could be physically possible.

 

Of course I may be missing something obvious and not understanding it correctly.

 

But the proximity to the fretboard has nothing to do with how much more or less the string vibrates --- taking fret buzz out of the equation of course.

 

If there is nothing physically hindering the string from vibrating --- how can the vibration possibly be affected whether it's 2mm or 2 inches from the fretboard?

 

Yes, I'm exaggerating with the 2-inches but you get my point. ;)

 

It's the distance from the pickups, not the fretboard. The magnet has a limited field of "vision", and the closer you get the string to it, the less distance from the center of a still string it can actually "see" the vibrating string, and there goes yer sustain. If bent notes fall off and you can't hang one up there as long as a joker like me can, get yer pickups away from yer strings and see if that helps.

 

Pickups down all the way, strings up to a comfortable height, I learned that as a 17 year old from Betts himself, his white Les Paul had stupid high strings on it. Super wicked fast shredderifficly low action is a myth, it is harder to play and harder to get decent sounds. Not that Betts had the greatest tone ever or anything, just very clean, very loud, sometimes slightly overdriven, but always nice long notes lofted out over the arena whenever he wanted. Always better to have maximum sustain available and break them notes off long before they start decaying. That contributes greatly to the power and effect of having great sustain.

 

rct

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