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Re-setup for switch to lower gauge?


(@rain85)
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Joined: 9 years ago
Posts: 5
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Hi All,

I own a Ibanez RG321. Factory setup gauge of strings on it are regular light gauge (.01 to .046). I use Daddario regular light gauge. I would like to switch to a lower guage, ernie ball super slinky (9 - 42).

I am not expert on this stuff but would i mess up setup of my guitar if i go ahead with this switch. Any other possible problem i should be aware of?

If it would then can i fix/re-setup guitar on my own, especially if i do not have much experience in this area. How complicated a job can it be and should i consider doing it on my own with guidance from more experienced and expert people on this forum.

Any advice is really appreciated. Thanks!


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(@imalone)
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Joined: 12 years ago
Posts: 267
 

Short version: you can't damage the guitar changing from .010 to 0.009 and may not have to adjust anything.

Longer version: changing gauge there are three things (that I can think of) to worry about: intonation, neck relief and nut slots.
Intonation may be slightly different because string thickness has changed. On a guitar with a tremolo bridge the different tension can also move the bridge resulting in a larger change in intonation. Yours has a fixed bridge so it's purely the string width that's changed and you might not even need to do this. In any case it's pretty easy to check and adjust (once everything else has settled down). Check open or 12th fret harmonic against lightly fretted 12th fret note.
Neck relief - lower tension means the neck may pick up some more back bow. Before you do change anything look down the neck to get an idea of the line, it will either bow slightly or be nearly flat. What you don't want is it to be bending backwards, but it will take a while to settle down after changing strings (say leave it an hour after changing before you check it). If it does become too flat or back-bows then the truss rod needs loosened, usual advice is to mark the start point and go maybe a quarter turn at a time, allowing time to settle between adjustments.
Nut slots. Probably not an issue at all here, if the nut is cut for 10 then 9 will fit without problem.
The other factor in a setup is string height or action. This is set by the nut slots and bridge saddles, but is not going to change with a gauge change. The preferred action may be different for a different gauge, but this isn't a big change so if you're happy with it currently then no modification needed.


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(@rain85)
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Joined: 9 years ago
Posts: 5
Topic starter  

thanks a lot, i am alone, that was very helpful!


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(@imalone)
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Joined: 12 years ago
Posts: 267
 

:) No worries.
(It's actually I(an) Malone... but you're not the first to misread it.)


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(@ezraplaysezra)
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Joined: 10 years ago
Posts: 487
 

haha. I always thought it was I am alone! I thought, jeez he doesn't seem like that much of a downer! Anyway. Every thing Ian said is correct and true including that it might not effect anything noticeably. But the RG's do have super slim necks from what I know, they counter this with multiple laminates but they are very thing and easily effected as such. You're not going to break it changing gauges you may need to adjust.


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(@rice33)
Active Member
Joined: 10 years ago
Posts: 11
 

Short version: you can't damage the guitar changing from .010 to 0.009 and may not have to adjust anything.

Longer version: changing gauge there are three things (that I can think of) to worry about: intonation, neck relief and nut slots.
Intonation may be slightly different because string thickness has changed. On a guitar with a tremolo bridge the different tension can also move the bridge resulting in a larger change in intonation. Yours has a fixed bridge so it's purely the string width that's changed and you might not even need to do this. In any case it's pretty easy to check and adjust (once everything else has settled down). Check open or 12th fret harmonic against lightly fretted 12th fret note.
Neck relief - lower tension means the neck may pick up some more back bow. Before you do change anything look down the neck to get an idea of the line, it will either bow slightly or be nearly flat. What you don't want is it to be bending backwards, but it will take a while to settle down after changing strings (say leave it an hour after changing before you check it). If it does become too flat or back-bows then the truss rod needs loosened, usual advice is to mark the start point and go maybe a quarter turn at a time, allowing time to settle between adjustments.
Nut slots. Probably not an issue at all here, if the nut is cut for 10 then 9 will fit without problem.
The other factor in a setup is string height or action. This is set by the nut slots and bridge saddles, but is not going to change with a gauge change. The preferred action may be different for a different gauge, but this isn't a big change so if you're happy with it currently then no modification needed.

So all this applies in reverse? I am thinking of going up to 11's or 12's from 10's on my les paul standard. Should I just get an expert to adjust it because it doesn't sound like I would neck relief thing right!


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(@imalone)
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Joined: 12 years ago
Posts: 267
 

Well, a LP standard is a much nicer guitar, so I wouldn't be so quick to dole out advice. However, as long as you're careful if the truss rod does need adjusted (probably the only realistic way you could damage the guitar here and you'd need to go a little crazy to achieve it) then most of this applies in reverse. Hadn't occurred to me, Ezra's point about the thin neck on the RG, from what I know LPs come with both thick and thin necks. It's not difficult though, maybe take a picture of the profile as it is before so you have a reference, give it a while after changing strings then check whether the profile has changed. The only complication I can think of is actually the truss rod cover, I don't have any guitars with one, getting it on and off without removing the strings might be a little fiddly.
For thicker strings it's possible the nut may need recut, that's a tricky job and needs the right files. Also, no experience using 12s, but I suspect intonation might need adjusted. If you've got some way to plug the guitar into your computer there are lots of sound-card based tuners that would be good for that (I've used Lingot before, but haven't tried the windows version).


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(@rice33)
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Joined: 10 years ago
Posts: 11
 

You seem to talk perfect sense thus I will get an expert to do it. Better sorry than safe!


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(@imalone)
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Joined: 12 years ago
Posts: 267
 

Well, my wall of text omitted the simple fact you could just put the 11 or 12 set on and see how it behaves. It's only if it needs adjustment that you need to start thinking about truss rods or special files.


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