Skip to content
Notifications
Clear all

String gauges

14 Posts
7 Users
0 Likes
3,540 Views
(@jesus-of-suburbia)
Eminent Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 18
Topic starter  

Been away for a while saving up money to spend on new gear and such and getting my desired tone and the one thing i have been having trouble with are guitar strings.

You can look online and find guides to materials and gauges but never on how they should be organised and by that i mean what gauge compliments another e.g you can get a 13 mm gauge on a (e) 1st string, but a 10mm on a (b) 2nd string and that was quite a confusing concept for someone who desires to pick their own strings individual ratheir then get a pre-made set as that is what i don't have availiable to me .

So is there any rule of thumb picking string gauges which compliment each other for a good even tone ? like always pick a string 2mm thicker then the bottom or such.This thought has only really come to me when looking up a certain guitarists rig (one of which i like) using a string set 11mm (e) to 52mm (E) and going on the string company website and seeing no such set made me only assume he made it himself leaving me to work out what gauges are the rest on b-g-D-A.

So for the experianced who have been to hell and back could leave a comment on a rule of thumb that people could go by when picking string gauges.

P.s i know that there are very strange custom sets out there eg the top heavy bottom light combination but just throw me a bone.

Anotheir P.s I'm not leaving any names or links to website e.g like the string companies or website with guitarists rigs and such as i dont know what this websites opinion is on my leaving links so message me if you want some of the resources i was using or if a moderator gave me the all clear i'll leave them done.


   
Quote
(@kent_eh)
Noble Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 1882
 

Links generally make it easier to understand what you are discussing. as long as it's not spam, the mods don't have a problem.

I'm guessing you are not in North America. Even in Canada (where we do speak metric) all the strings that I see at the shop are labelled in portions of inches, not nice understandable millimetres.

Hopefully someone will be able to help you.

I wrapped a newspaper ’round my head
So I looked like I was deep


   
ReplyQuote
(@greybeard)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5840
 

The thickness relates to the tone - thicker strings have fatter tone.

The cost is that the strings are harder to bend and, to a lesser degree, harder to fret.

The rest is up to the kind of music you play.

I started with nothing - and I've still got most of it left.
Did you know that the word "gullible" is not in any dictionary?
Greybeard's Pages
My Articles & Reviews on GN


   
ReplyQuote
(@noteboat)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4921
 

Kent is right - string gauges are measured in thousandths of an inch... a 10 gauge string is 1/100th of an inch in diameter

Greybeard is also right - heavier strings generally give better 'tone', but at a cost.

There are three factors that affect the sound of a string: the length (which is fixed by the scale length), the tension, and the mass, which translates more or less to gauge - if two strings are made out of the SAME material, the thicker one will always be heavier.

Because heavier strings require more tension to come up to a given pitch, designing your own string mix can be tricky. In general, you want the strings to have roughly the same amount of tension... because if you don't, the stresses won't be distributed evenly across the face of the neck, and that can lead to warping. I think that will be more of a factor as humidity rises, so how much flexibility you have will depend in part on where you live.

And speaking of flexibility (of the strings this time), if everything else is equal (the material and string construction), heavier strings are less flexible. That's why the lower strings are wound... making a string of multiple pieces of thinner wire gives you a more flexible string than making it out of one solid, heavier wire. This will affect your intonation - the ability to play in tune on every fret.

The reason is a bit complicated: there's a difference between "scale length" (the distance from nut to bridge, or from fret to bridge for a fretted note) and "speaking length" - the portion of the string that actually vibrates to create the sound. The heavier you get, the stiffer the string will be. As Newton noted, a body in motion tends to stay in motion (inertia), so once a string starts moving in one direction, it's hard to stop and change directions. The stiffer your string gets, the less able it is to change direction as it's required to - the result is that the very ends of the string effectively don't move. Your "speaking length" is now shorter than it needs to be to produce the right pitch.

The solution is to make the string longer - and that's why electric guitar bridge saddles are adjustable. They'll let you get pretty close to where you need to be to have all the notes acceptably in tune. (To get them REALLY in tune requires compensating at both ends with a compensated nut, and/or fanning the frets... but the saddle alone will usually get you "close enough for rock and roll")

So if you start messing around with individual string gauges, you may also need to be considering stresses, materials, and intonation adjustments.

The odd string gauge combinations that you'll see on the market are usually the exact opposite of what you said: they're top light, bottom heavy. They're matched for players who like drop tunings - if you lower the pitch of the bass strings, you'll reduce their tension - and that means the tone (and tension) won't be in line with the other strings. But if you make the bass strings heavier, you can get a lot closer to an ideal sound on all strings in a non-standard tuning.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


   
ReplyQuote
(@jesus-of-suburbia)
Eminent Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 18
Topic starter  

This is all great information but if i wanted to make a set of strings with a range of e 11mm to E 52mm what would b,g,d,a strings what gauge should they be to complement e 11mm to 52 mm.

the point of this post i because string are talked about alot but this from what i can see i ignored as people tend to ask more on material or what heavier gauges do.

but what i want to know is there a rule of thumb that can be used to pick a set of string for those people that may this erne ball beefy slinkys are too strong of a sound but power slinkys to weak and want to create an inbetween combination


   
ReplyQuote
(@noteboat)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4921
 

I guess I don't get it. You don't want a premade set, because you want to be able to pick your own gauges. But you're looking for what would be in a premade set?

D'Addario has a set that's .011 .015 .022 .032 .042 .052. So does Elixir. Dean Markley's got the same, except for the G - that comes in either .018 plain or .020 wound. Gibson and GHS make sets in those gauges too - you should be able to find their gauges on line.

If you're trying to duplicate the gauges of a particular guitarist's rig (as you mentioned in the original post), it would sure help if you'd say who it is.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


   
ReplyQuote
(@jesus-of-suburbia)
Eminent Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 18
Topic starter  

Thank you that is the best ansewer i have had and i do feel quite stupid to find that what i was looking for was already a pre made set as i had looked around otheir guitar strings makers to find something similar and just in time for going to the music shop twmarrow.

As for resourse i had been looking at www.uberproaudio.com/who-plays-what a website that has a libary of famous musicians rigs not just guitarist drummer and bass players too and i was looking at ray toro rig as it was so simple and i like his tone so im trying to aim towards that as a starter rig with a few of my personal touches.

you will see how confusing it was to see his string 11-52 but not actully find the set from the company he endorses make that in a pre made set

so again thank you


   
ReplyQuote
(@imalone)
Reputable Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 267
 

"At least one new post has been made to this topic. You may wish to review your post in light of this." looks like you got the answer you needed, but having already written the following it might be useful to post anyway. By the way, looks like a nice resource that site.

All the packs I have here have both mm and inch measurements, but I've never seen anyone use anything except 1/1000". 11mm isn't a guitar string, maybe a REALLY big bass string (it's about as thick as your little finger).

Anyway, I was going to leave this alone, thinking there are probably too many factors to be considered and leave it to someone more experienced, but NoteBoat's point about even tension across the neck seems quite important and sets a fairly simple limit. String frequency is going to be proportional to square root of (tension / mass per length). Conveniently mass per length is proportional to cross section area, which is proportional to width squared and this means for constant tension you want frequency * width constant. Or, between two strings, if the frequency goes up by a certain ratio in one direction, the width goes up by the same ratio in the opposite direction (i.e. higher is thinner). So for standard tuning, five semitones between strings except 2nd and 3rd (B down to G) is 2^(5/12) ~ 1.33 or 1 1/3, four semitones needs 1.26.

Starting at 9 for the high E you then have:
9 E
9 * 1 1/3 = 12 B
12 * 1.26 = 15 G (I've cheated)
15 * 1 1/3 = 20 D
15 * 1 1/3 = 26 2/3 A
26 2/3 * 1 1/3 = 35 5/9
... which comes up a bit short as the Elixir electric box in front of me goes 9-42. If I get their ratios (calculated using the mm measurements in the hope they're more accurate) I get:
1.217 E->B
1.464 B->G
1.488 G->D unwound->wound jump
1.327 D->A
1.321 A->E

Basically the wound (E, A, D) strings follow this nice ratio, then the ratios start to climb a bit and drop on the high E. For both these electric 9s and the 11-52 (and I have a set of Addario super-light acoustics with exactly the widths NB gives) the bass E is about 4.5 times the width of the high E, if they were the same material then the two octaves across the neck would need 4*thickness for equal tension. The wound strings will be lower density than the pure metal so need to be thicker, which explains some of the variation. Also I suspect the climb and drop going along the unwound strings to high E is partly from getting nice integer values for widths (in 0.001") and partly from letting the thinnest string be a little lower tension than the others to reduce breaking. (I wasn't sure if we were talking about electric or acoustic, since 11 is super-light acoustic or medium electric.)

Want to drop a string by a tone at constant tension (as NoteBoat says, thicker bass for drop tuning)? Thickness goes up by a factor of 1.12, a semitone is 1.06.

Hope that's a bit of a help: had a quick google but couldn't see anything discussing the width ratios from a basic perspective.

Last... yeah, that would drive me crazy too, had a look at their different ranges on the basis that might just be a stock photo for the brand, but SIT don't seem to have any 11-52 sets. Site could just be wrong of course, 52 vs 50 is not a massive difference. Think Total Guitar did a My Chemical Romance article a few issues ago, will try and look it out if I get time.


   
ReplyQuote
(@kent_eh)
Noble Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 1882
 

If he's an endorser for SIT, they might probably make up a few hundred custom sets for him. Maybe even with his name on the package.
Endorsers often get special treatment, and also sometimes get to "road test" new products that aren't available to us normal humans.

A bit of googling found that a common (electric) set if .11 - .52 might contain the following:
.011 .013 .020 .030 .042 .052.

Of course, if he's getting a custom set then they could be anything he wanted.

I wrapped a newspaper ’round my head
So I looked like I was deep


   
ReplyQuote
(@jesus-of-suburbia)
Eminent Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 18
Topic starter  

Thanks when you usually search for information about stings you dont get information like this and so to make this post is probably a good idea for poeple to look through it as not everybody has a good stocked music shop with libaries of pre made sets. So to go out and make your tends to be the ansewer so trying to work out ray toro set is a good start as he is quite a well known guitarist who's rig is quite simple to imitate unlike otheir great guitar icons like jimmy hendrixs who's rig to today would cost atleast the same as a kidney on the black market.

so it's nice to have the ansewer and i will try it out twmarrow when i go to the shop and see if it good. original using power slinkies on lessy but they were lacking in my opinion despite the name.

as for the mm i appear to be measuring strings in is wrong your meant to do 011. i don't why i do these things


   
ReplyQuote
(@fleaaaaaa)
Prominent Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 680
 

I have a friend who plays guitar (very well) and when we started talking about strings he said "I use 9s" and I said "Yeah so do I, I am just used to them" he then continues "there's a lot of people who muck around getting heavier and heavier strings because they think it will improve their tone but what they forget is that some of the greatest guitar solos ever were recorded using 9s" and he is right. It doesn't matter THAT much about what strings you use.

together we stand, divided we fall..........


   
ReplyQuote
(@kent_eh)
Noble Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 1882
 

some of the greatest guitar solos ever were recorded using 9s" and he is right. It doesn't matter THAT much about what strings you use.

Billy Gibbons currently plays with .007' s on most of his guitars, and he's always had a pretty heavy sound.

I wrapped a newspaper ’round my head
So I looked like I was deep


   
ReplyQuote
(@vic-lewis-vl)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 10264
 

I've always used 9's on all my guitars - electrics and acoustics - apart from a very early flirtation with 8's, but I found the top E string broke far too easily. I've recently tried upgrading to 10's for acoustic, and, while I was pleased with the tone at first, I'm finding it harder to put a full barre chord on, especially around the 9th fret, which was pretty easy with the 9's.

So, next time I change strings on the acoustic, I'm going back to 9's - they're what I've always been comfortable with, and they seem to suit my particular style of playing.

All I can say is, experiment with different gauges - you'll find the one that feels best for you. One of my favourite bands - Status Quo - features two guitarists who both use Telecasters. One guitarist - Frank Rossi - plays most of the leads, he uses 9's. The other - Rick Parfitt - plays mostly rhythm, he uses 13's with a wound 3rd string. 13's, to me, would feel like I'm playing a six-string bass!

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


   
ReplyQuote
(@imalone)
Reputable Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 267
 

Should have mentioned, I checked that MCR article and it didn't really deal with their gear, certainly not at this level.


   
ReplyQuote