View Poll Results: What do you prioritize when selecting string gauge?

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  • I prioritize playability. Tone is secondary.

    8 11.43%
  • I prioritize tone. Playability is secondary.

    16 22.86%
  • I compromise tone and playability to achieve a balance.

    36 51.43%
  • I don't care about your silly poll.

    10 14.29%
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Posts 26 to 41 of 41
  1. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by achase4u
    So in other words, you find that a given gauge and type of string gives you everything you need and they are simply synonymous or intersect? I like the flatwound percussive/staccato thing as well.
    If I understand you correctly, not exactly. I mean I play overdriven stuff with note bending and a more legato approach (hammer-on/pull-offs). I also play stuff without much of those articulations, but with the sort of staccato/attacking tone and faster picking that fits with more straightahead jazz playing. Different set-ups favor each, but I don't find one easier to play than the other. I switch off between instruments and set-ups partly because the music may call for it and partly just for the sake of variety, but the different set-ups are equally easy to play.


    Quote Originally Posted by achase4u
    I remember Jim Campilongo on his forum saying lighter strings were easier on the left hand and harder on the right, while the opposite was true of heavier strings. Of course, it seems like lowering the action negates the left hand issue unless you set the action the same on all instruments. However the right hand point seems to ring true. I used to think there was no way anything was easier on bigger strings. The picking thing makes sense to me now, though after playing 13s. The shredders on 9s get my respect as those things wobble around like crazy.
    I guess I sort of agree with Campilongo on that, though if my do hands get more tired on one than the other it's vanishingly minimal. I definitely don't like anything lighter than 10's, though I guess I could get used to something lighter.

    Quote Originally Posted by achase4u
    Bending aside, it seems most instruments can be set up to feel close to the same despite gauge. As for warm/fat thin/bright, if electrified it does seem to be less gauge oriented. I can set the knobs and amp so they sound quite similar. After I am no longer playing the instrument and it is recorded, it's even harder to tell.
    I find I get a little more sustain and bounce to the sound with 12 flats vs 13. For me, I do have a bit harder time playing the 13s but I do prefer the sound I seem to get. That's why it seems to be a bit more of a compromise to go to 12s, for me.
    I sometimes can't tell from recordings whether I played my archtop or my semi-hollow. I have an idea in mind of my jazz tone, and I can get it out of either instrument. In the room through an amp, the differences are much more obvious, but recordings flatten the differences a lot.

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  3. #27

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    If I'm playing a lot 12s can start to feel a bit loose and I start thinking about a 13-56 set (ie, not Thomastik gauges). Of course, I always get side-tracked by work obligations by that time and go a week or so without playing, so the 12s just stay on there most of the time.

    I think tone is probably just a bit more important to me than playability, to answer the question. It's a mystery to me how some guys play "12s or 13s on the Archtop and skinny 9s or 10s on the Strat", although it's true that string bending with 12s can become finger bending

  4. #28

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    I go by feel and tone which happen to go together quiet well for me. I like a stiffer setup so I use .012 or .013 flatwounds on hollowbodies. Fat tones and a nice solid feel for our organ trio.
    OTOH I play telecaster in an 8-piece funk band and for that I use .010 roundwound strings. I'd love to use heavier gauges but even .011 didn't work out for me. The light strings produce the brighter tones needed for that context and I compromise feel for the tone here.

  5. #29

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    I don’t personally like how very light strings feel. My “slinky” strings are .011s. I like te resistance and am able to bend them ok. For jazz I like D’Addario .012s or TI .013s.
    Lately I’ve been playing D’Addario .012 roundwounds (pure nickel) on my Hollow body and have been enjoying them.

  6. #30

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    Seems that the poll assumes that thicker gauge equals better tone and less playability?

    Other than with string bending, I mostly find them...different. Both in playability and tone. They obviously require different setup, which I'm thinking people sometimes forget

  7. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by Runepune
    Seems that the poll assumes that thicker gauge equals better tone and less playability?

    Other than with string bending, I mostly find them...different. Both in playability and tone. They obviously require different setup, which I'm thinking people sometimes forget
    Not necessarily. It would assume that perhaps, for some, the feel of the strings for one hand or both hands is not optimal when the tone is optimal, or conversely, the tone is not right when the feel for one or both hands is. What some people have alluded to is the fact that these states or qualities are not only not diametrically opposed, they are concurrent/coincide. I have also gleaned that tone is more adjustable in a sense when electrified and therefore feel can be achieved regardless.

    I have personally had some issue accepting this thought, however I do recognize that you can adjust the action to suit the left hand feel of the instrument. I've heard from players I respect that gauge doesn't really matter. I think that it does somewhat, but not to the degree that I used to think.

    Action isn't infinitely adjustable, so the possibility exists of falling outside the margins of what is achievable. However, most can be satisfied, I would wager.

    You are correct about different feeling. I wish I had a pressure gauge of sorts to experiment and see what given action on a set of 10s equates to on a set of 13s to depress a string to the fret. With a guitar set up with 10s and action to keep buzzing minimal, it doesn't feel worlds apart to a guitar with 13s set up to the same, albeit hard to quantify, requirement.

    The same could almost be said about tone. Setting the amp differently, using a different pick material or thickness, altering your touch.

    Interesting discussion to me.

  8. #32

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    I have D'Addario pure nickel 11 round wounds on all solid bodies and semi-hollow. Flatwound 12s, TI Swings, on archtops, I bump the E & B up to 13 & 17. I have been thinking about moving down to 11s on the archtops, still deciding.
    Last edited by ESCC; 09-23-2021 at 01:24 PM.

  9. #33

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    Playing CG, the tradeoff is tension and string polish, while hard tension and regular polish can sound better, for me the fatigue from barres and the squeaks from regular polish have led me to use normal tension and lightly polished strings. My guitar also has a longer scale length, which increase string tension some


  10. #34

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    For me it's the way a guitar responds. Low action will make any string set comfortable, but the guitar will feel different with different string gauges.

    These days it's 12s on acoustics and archtops, 10s on fender scale electrics, hard tension on nylon strings. Also a tele with 9s for blues! Most of my guitars have medium action with some relief, I really need to do a good setup on some of them!

  11. #35

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    If you find heavy strings hard to play your guitar needs a set up.

  12. #36

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    If an instrument feels good to me, I can usually get sounds I like out of it. So my choice of string gauge and material is mostly driven by factors like how the guitar feels, intonation, string-to-string balance, longevity, and how much control they give me over tone. Of all those factors, intonation is probably #1.

  13. #37

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christian Miller
    If you find heavy strings hard to play your guitar needs a set up.
    Not in my experience: a .026 gauge 3rd string (tension 35lbs> on a 25.5" scale) will eventually kill my fretting hand on a flat top, which doesn't allow for very low action, and I imagine it would be the same with an acoustic archie. I do not have particularly weak hands.

  14. #38

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christian Miller
    If you find heavy strings hard to play your guitar needs a set up.
    The main issue is not accidently do vibrato or the slightest bending.

    I have no problems fretting notes, but doing the above will quickly kill my wrist

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  15. #39

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    9.5s on the Tele, 10s on the Strat, and 12 flats on the Eastman AR372. The 12s don't really feel any stiffer or harder to play to me, except big bends, which I really don't do anyway... Maybe its because the larger gauge allows for a lower action and the shallow break angle over the bridge might reduce some tension... I should try 13s... 14s, that sounds scary...

  16. #40

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter C View Post
    Not in my experience: a .026 gauge 3rd string (tension 35lbs> on a 25.5" scale) will eventually kill my fretting hand on a flat top, which doesn't allow for very low action, and I imagine it would be the same with an acoustic archie. I do not have particularly weak hands.
    oh yeah flat tops no way, forget about it.

    Archtops are easier to work with in a number of ways. I could take a gauge .15 top on an Archie - at one point that was my preference, until I got tired of buying separate strings. The thing is you have a few parameters you can tweak with an archtop to get an optimum set up - neck relief, action height, even nut height (if you are brave) etc etc... All very adjustable, in a way a flat top just isn't, so you can tweak it every time you play, if you like (although sometimes adjustments to the truss rod seem to take a while to settle, so best not to be too enthusiastic haha. plus temperature fluctuations and humidity can affect things a lot.)

    Heavy strings require less space to vibrate, and it seems to me mucking around with my own set ups on things like my Loar that you can get the action lower and reduce neck relief on a a heavy set. This somewhat offsets the difficulty of the higher tensions strings, a small amount of distance from the frets makes a big difference in playability. In general I still prefer heavy top light bottom sets, so it's not quite like with like, and heavier wound in particular I find make a big difference, but I do find there's a LOT you (our a luthier) can do. There's no need to compromise on tone OR playing comfort, if your frets etc are good.

    TBH every so often I take a guitar to be set up professionally, and I find that they just do the same things I do. So I tweak, a lot. Even as the strings settle in, lower the action as the tension goes up as the strings stretch in over their playing life, that type of thing.

    I find it harder on my old Gibson. just has more quirks - I don't think the frets are in the most amazing shape (not bad given he age of the guitar though). I still do this stuff a bit, and have a nice playable set up on it though.

    That said I do find light set ups (.10 and lower on electric) HARD to play unless the action is raised a little. I think I like a little tension in my set ups, not too much.

  17. #41

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    I use the set with the different colored ball-ends because it works with my ADD brain.