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  1. #1

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    Just picked up an Epi Es-175, that I will be using only for jazz guitar. Specifically I like playing chord melodies in the style of Johnny Smith, Kenny Burrell, Barney Kessel and so on... What string gauge would you guys recommend for this style?


    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #2

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    Play it with what it is currently set up with for a couple of weeks and go from there. I like these: Thomastik JS113 Medium Flatwound Jazz Swing Electric Guitar Strings - 13's.

  4. #3

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    Those guys probably played 13s, maybe 12-14 as a wider range. Confirmation?
    Oh, hi - if interested, I post a lot of playing/practice clips at

  5. #4

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    To my ears, it is usually the B and E strings that sound a bit thin, sometimes the G also. So I'd start with a gauge like 12's (TI Swing's are great) and then if you're happy with the low E to G, incrementally swap out the B and high E until you feel like those strings can hold their own. I'm up to 15 for my high E and 18 for my B - they really sing now.

  6. #5

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    Thanks so much for the replies, guys. I'll definitely check out those .13's, Bosko!

  7. #6

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    Hello all,
    for an archtop I always would use heavy gauges because these only exploit the resonance of hollow body guitars.
    Wes Montgomery for example used flatwounds from .14 to 0.58. I use flatwounds from 0.15 to 0.56 (on a Gibson L-5) for many years and didn't find better ones so far (LaBella 20PH) - but perhaps I am not up-to-date!?

  8. #7

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    Congrats on your new 175. Play it long and hard!

    Strings is, as you'd guess, a matter of personal preference. John McLaughlin uses .009s and flies like the wind. Pat Martino strings .015+ and flies like the wind.

    I use D'Addario "Jazz Light" set, .012-.052, because they're nice, available and fairly cheap. I have one guitar which I string .013-.056 just because that top likes to get kicked. I ALWAYS string with a wound G -- I don't bend much and prefer the extra tension.

    A few related points:

    . Don't forget to take the foam padding out from under the bridge. Sorry if that's obvious but some people do forget and their guitars sound like . . . foam padding.

    . Remember to adjust your pole-pieces. If you play wound G your G-string poles will be high -- probably as high as your high E string. If you play plain G it should be low, probably as low as your low E. Use your ears. It's fool-proof; you can't screw it up.

    . Remember to adjust your pickup height. There are two general approaches. Lots of people adjust so that the bridge pickup is about as close as it can get without woofing or choking, and the neck pickup is as low as it takes to generate the same volume as the bridge. Another approach is to set the neck where you dig the sound and who cares if the bridge is quieter. Use your ears and find what you like -- forget general approaches. It's pretty fool-proof; you can't screw it up permanently unless you somehow strip the screw-threads, which you won't.

    . Remember to adjust your intonation if you change gauges. If you play wound G your G-string saddle will be close to the pickups. If you play plain G is should be back away from the pickups. Use a tuner; match the octave harmonic with the fretted note. It's fool-proof; you can't screw it up.

    Don't pay someone to do this stuff. Setting pickups is a matter of personal taste; tweaking for personal taste is fun. All these adjustments are just a normal part of owning a guitar.

    Sorry I rattle on. Have fun and report back.
    "Don't worry about that. Everybody talks about finding your voice. Do your homework and your voice will find you." - Branford Marsalis

  9. #8

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    Firstly, there are 3 choices of string construction. Flat wound, round wound and half round. You probably want flats for what you are trying to do. Flats have considerably more tension. D'Addario calls their flat wound "Chromes". IMO, going too heavy is not good for phrasing and modern jazz guitar technique. If you check out George Benson and Pat Martino's gauges you'll see they are very similar. Pat Metheny's are considerably lighter in gauge. Metheny's are 11- 49 at present. GB and Martino's while being heavy on the high E and B (14 and 18) are considerably lighter than the standard medium gauges of D'Addario packages on the G,D,A,E. Anybody know GB and Martino's gauges? Standard 13-56 and 14-58 Flatwounds are way out of whack for string tension if you use the D'Addario. Can't believe people are using them still. I would start out with the D'Addario Chrome flat wound 12s which are a great value and price as Sam mentioned. If you want more meat, change out the E and B for a 13 and 17.

    EDIT- I found the gauge breakdown/comparison. String diameter doesn't necessarily correspond to string tension. It usually does but different makers use different materials. That being said, here are some specs. George Benson(Thomastik), Pat Martino(GHS), and the 13-56 D'Addario Chromes:

    .014 .015 .013
    .018 .017 .017
    .021w .024w .026w
    .031 .032 .035
    .041 .042 .045
    .055 .052 .056

    and finally the Chromes Pat Metheny used on his 175:


    All 3 (GB, PMart, PMeth) use a 24.75 string measure. Shorter string measure=Less tension.

    My recollection is that Johnny Smith had a 25. string measure, Barney Kessel 25.5 and Kenny Burell 24.75 Seemed like Johnny had heavy strings 14s but down real low with less relief in the truss rod. He could slide 4 note chords up 12 frets with ease. That's what I'm hearing (IMO) on 'Moonlight in Vermont'.Barney sounds like he used 13s on the Julie London stuff and Kenny sounds lighter, like he's using 11 or 12s. Wes sounds like he had his truss rod tight (later in career) and the action flat and even with the heavy strings (14-58). Interestingly, according to Jon Raney's blog (N.Y.jazz pianist-Jimmy's son), Jimmy Raney (12s) had his action a little higher on his 175 than you would think so he could use finger pressure to squeeze out his sound. Johnny's not squeezing it out the same way as Jimmy in other words. The 3 guys the OP mentioned above used flat wound strings. The string gauge, string measure, string construction, truss rod adjustment and string height are crucial to these guys sound, as is the way their frets are dressed and the size of the frets. Sorry for the OT. Seems like this stuff isn't hashed out all the time. It's a big deal for your sound IME.

    PS.............Just a little side note:

    George Benson and Johnny Smith were both quite adept at doing work on their guitars. GB did a lot of his work (set ups, fret dressing, truss rod adjustments etc.) on his guitars in the old days. Johnny had his own guitar shop in Colorado Springs later in life and was a Luthier. Trivia: Johnny did not injure his left finger with a saw after his retirement in his shop. He did it while flying his plane and adjusting his seat. It was repaired surgically and took some time to heal and required quite a bit of PT.
    Last edited by ChuckCorbis; 11-30-2013 at 02:37 PM.

  10. #9

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    Thanks so much for all the additional responses, guys - much appreciated!

  11. #10

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    I've owned my ES 175 since 1980. It had acoustic strings fitted when I bought it, but I changed to D'Dadarrio straight away. I am not a particularly 'clean' player, and I produce a lot of string-squeaks with acoustic strings. I chose 10s at first but soon changed to 11s. Then one time in an emergency, I fitted 12s as they were all I had. I loved the extra mellow sound, and I stay with them. I find the 6th string a bit heavy, and it's difficult to get it through the machine-head, but the sound is great so that's it for me. When I have a set up I take pains to tell the luthier and I do give them a set of 12s to fit for me. It's quite important that the guitar be set up for the gauge of string you use, I am told, and a good luthier will usually ask you what strings you use.

    I didn't realise I could get a 'half-round' string. These are probably what I used to call 'monel-wound'. I.e., the wrapping tape is a D section rather than circular, and it was acoustic strings that were wrapped that way, to lessen string-squeak.

    Best wishes.

    60 years a player and 38 years a Gibson owner and saving to buy a Byrdland!) . (I should have bought one when I started; but the 'never-never' payments were a bind! )
    Last edited by Chordwayze; 04-13-2018 at 11:11 AM.
    'How can there be a wrong note in music?' ~ Joe Pass. ~

    Joe was right. Now I don't play wrong notes. I just get 'shed-loads' in the wrong place!

  12. #11

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    I don't know if it's true but I've heard that 1/2 rounds actually start off round but are ground down. Seems hard to believe.

  13. #12

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    From the D'Addario website:
    D'Addario Half Rounds Electric Guitar Strings are round wound with stainless steel and then precision ground leaving the outer surface smooth and "semi flat." The result is a string with the tone and tension characteristics of round wound strings, with a smoother feel, similar to flat wound strings.
    I'm not sure I'm in 100% agreement with the second sentence, but the first one seems factual.

  14. #13

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    I have used monel, or half rounds in the past on my arch-top (Hofner President). Most string makers did them back in the day, but now maybe only D'addario do them. Either way I liked them. They were quite bright and full, and they reduced my 'scuffing' sounds a lot.

    'How can there be a wrong note in music?' ~ Joe Pass. ~

    Joe was right. Now I don't play wrong notes. I just get 'shed-loads' in the wrong place!

  15. #14

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    They seem harder to find. I used them (12s) on a Howard Roberts Fusion III and liked them.

  16. #15

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    Incidentally I don't often break a string, but when I do, it usually means the strings have been on the guitar for some time. So if I am not out gigging, I usually change the set; and clean and polish the Guitar too!

    Anyone else adopt this practice?

    'How can there be a wrong note in music?' ~ Joe Pass. ~

    Joe was right. Now I don't play wrong notes. I just get 'shed-loads' in the wrong place!

  17. #16

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    FWIW, Monel is a metal alloy sometimes used to make guitar strings and has nothing to do with the strings being round, flat or half-round. Monel is more magnetic than bronze strings, less mangetic than nickel or stainless strings.
    Beauty is as close to terror as we can well endure. -Rainer Maria Rilke

  18. #17

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    Thanks for that.
    I was half aware that Monel referred to the metal, but the winding was definitely a 'D' section which would give a flatter curve, and reduce finger-squeak on the string. As it did. It seems D'addario grind the 'half round windings, obviously on a CNC machine of some sort! So maybe that's how it was always done?


    'How can there be a wrong note in music?' ~ Joe Pass. ~

    Joe was right. Now I don't play wrong notes. I just get 'shed-loads' in the wrong place!