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Heavy Gauge strings

Postby The Bunk » Wed Nov 28, 2018 8:23 pm

I've just re-strung one of my teles with a set of "not even slinky" Ernie Balls . I've always used "Power Slinkys", 11-48, but these b*ggers are 12-56 and it hurt just putting them on! (Wonks may know where I'm heading with this... ;) )

I've had it around 5-6 years and it's a pretty standard non-US tele.

Is this likely to cause problems and should I have it re set-up?

I only need to be able to play three chords on it. :bouncy:
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Re: Heavy Gauge strings

Postby zenguitar » Wed Nov 28, 2018 9:17 pm

That's a question best asked before you put on the new, heavier gauge strings. It's not critical, but a full set-up is an opportunity to clean and service all the hardware as well as giving the guitar a good clean.

However, it's worth letting your tech have a look because the truss rod may need a tweak and it is worth checking the nut to ensure the strings won't bind in the slots. And the intonation might need some attention too.

My tele has a the nut cut for 11's but I am coming back after a few years of not playing so I am about to set it up for a set of 9's. I've got a new nut blank which I will cut for the 9's but will be keeping the existing nut so I can swap it back in if/when I need to go back to heavier strings.

Andy :beamup:
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Re: Heavy Gauge strings

Postby Wonks » Wed Nov 28, 2018 9:32 pm

I've got some of those on a Vintage V130 set up for slide. High nut slots and high action. I actually need a heavier top E as it still gives a bit too much for my tastes in open G.

As 12s or 13s are what I put on my acoustics, then I don't find them too hard to play as long as I'm not really bending them and the action is nice and low.

But it's certainly going to cause more neck bow and the truss rod will probably need a 1/4 turn clockwise. And as Zen says. there may be nut issues that need sorting out.

But if you can't stand the heat...
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Re: Heavy Gauge strings

Postby ore_terra » Wed Nov 28, 2018 10:21 pm

It’s up to you really. If you see the neck bowing too far you’re going to have to re set it for the new scenario. Other than that, the guitar wont break for a 12-56 string set.
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Re: Heavy Gauge strings

Postby Sam Spoons » Wed Nov 28, 2018 10:38 pm

I'm a fan of heavier strings as I believe they usually sound better. But, on an acoustic, there is often a sweet spot where too light is weak and rattly and to heavy chokes the top and resonance. My 1981 Eastwood custom acoustic (24.75" scale length) likes 12s and is happy with 11s, 13's kill it stone dead. The Gypsy Jazzer (26.5" scale) sounds best with Argentines 10s.

On my Strats I use 10s and plan on restringing the Les Paul with 11s next time. I will look at the truss rod but, with a single step up or down, it probably won't be crucial. The LP, in theory, has the most flexible neck so is most likely to need adjustment.

There is always a compromise between playability and tone (and, up to a point, light strings are always easier to play) so I'm about to put 11's on my Emerald X7 (24" scale) as I am recovering from a dodgy left index finger and playing for more than a few minutes hurts at the moment.

If your Tele was set up for 11s then putting 12s on it (even with the heavier bottom) would probably be ok (FWIW a vintage tele with a 'baseball bat' neck was probably built for 13-56 strings), and it certainly shouldn't suffer as a result so try them and see. OTOH, A proper setup is never a bad idea so might make the playing experience a whole heap nicer.
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Re: Heavy Gauge strings

Postby ore_terra » Wed Nov 28, 2018 11:32 pm

[quote=Sam Spoons]There is always a compromise between playability and tone [/quote]

For me the main compromise is between wrist pain and no wrist pain :lol:

I think we’ve all gone through the “gonna put heavier strings to improve my tone” stage at some point. But there are other ways to get a thicker tone when you have little girl hands like me :thumbdown:

For more that I love S R Vaughan, there are other examples of ace tone with very light strings. Billy Gibbons, Jimmy Page...
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Re: Heavy Gauge strings

Postby Sam Spoons » Thu Nov 29, 2018 1:15 am

But Gibbons used loads of distortion to get his tone as did Page (and, no disagreement, they were/are great guitar players) But, if you don't use much distortion then thin strings don't usually sound that great. It is possible to get a great clean tone with 9s but it's not as easy as with 10s or 11s, a fat pick and a big action. Knopfler even managed it with light strings and fingers but he does use a fair bit of gain to help things along. Stevie used a minimum of processing and a loud amp, along with 13 gauge strings (but, IIRC, tuned down a half step or more) and he did sound amazing.

TBH my current issue is with fingertips not finger/wrist strength, hence the switch to 11s on my X7. It's purely temporary as 12s sound a fair bit better on it but acoustics are far more critical than electric WRT to string gauges (assuming each is properly set up for the current gauge).
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Re: Heavy Gauge strings

Postby Humble Bee » Thu Nov 29, 2018 9:34 am

I like the D'addario light top/heavy bottom on 25,5 inch scales. This for bendability in the top strings and stability and heft on the lower. They go 010-052. I found it a good compromise. On a Gibson scale I like 011 on the top. It gives approximately the same tension as 010 on a strat or tele.
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Re: Heavy Gauge strings

Postby The Bunk » Thu Nov 29, 2018 11:48 am

Hmm, yep....I should have thought about a set-up / service before changing. And it's well overdue for one anyway. If that means another trip to Anderton's, well, so be it...!

I'm actually working on a tune for which the guitarist - let's just call him "the blonde one in the band" - drops the bottom E to a B. An effing B !!! But he regularly used monster heavy strings routinely anyway and it's all about pure rhythm and power in this case. I'm not going to be attempting to bend anything!
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Re: Heavy Gauge strings

Postby Hewesy » Fri Nov 30, 2018 12:40 pm

As an aside I recall seeing a rig rundown with BFG and he was using a programmable EQ to essentially make every guitar sound like Pearly Gates. I seem to recall it was adding some hefty clean boost too.

I don't know if he still does as he seems to be using a fairly basic Magnatone rig these days but he may still have it tucked in with the wireless. Angus Young does something similar, using his high output wireless (or a replica of it these days) to punch the front end of the Marshall's he uses.

Another consideration is pick gauge - both Joe Bonamassa and Paul Gilbert have spoken about this recently but interestingly on opposing opinions (Joe going heavy, Paul moving to thinner picks).

Again, YMMV but worth tinkering with picks too if you are trying other gauges of strings. Gotta get that energy in there...

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Re: Heavy Gauge strings

Postby JFairweather » Sun Dec 02, 2018 2:18 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:Stevie used a minimum of processing and a loud amp, along with 13 gauge strings (but, IIRC, tuned down a half step or more) and he did sound amazing.

I played his "number one" once – back when he was "Stevie Hurricane Vaughan". I couldn't believe the gauge of the stings. They were like telephone poles. I don't see how he could do it.

My recommendation for someone moving up to heavy gauge is to not do it on your main guitar. Limit your playing time on the heavies to a few minutes a day and slowly build up to it. If you start feeling pain, it might not be muscular but you might be ripping up some tendons.

Frankly, it could take months. I learned this to my own dismay. Back in the early days of shred, I ended up doing 22 takes on a solo before I got it down – studio time doesn't allow for breaks. By the time I finished my fingers were burning. I later found out I had overdone it. I had to spend half a year in a splint, and I wasn't able to recover enough to resume lead guitar work for over a year after that.
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Re: Heavy Gauge strings

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Dec 02, 2018 3:16 pm

Or playing a lot of acoustic guitar will build up finger strength. I don't play so much electric at the moment but when I do it feels so easy and a legacy of trying to play fast Gypsy Jazz improv solos on the Selmer style is that playing fast on electric is a breeze. There are some down sides mostly related to over bending and fretting hard enough to push the string sharp but I can usually reacclimatise in a few minutes.

Definitely beware of overdoing it, you'll know if you are doing so if you are conscious of the possibility so listen to your body as well as your music.
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Re: Heavy Gauge strings

Postby The Bunk » Mon Dec 03, 2018 4:21 pm

Yep, the fingers have been aching and that hasn't been helped by having not played a great deal recently anyway (and have hardly picked up the acoustic in months), so the fingertips have softened as it is. The other thing is that now the new heavy strings are on, they were too bright to record at first, so it's a question of patience. Not one of my strong points...
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Re: Heavy Gauge strings

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon Dec 03, 2018 5:01 pm

I remember reading an interview with a top producer/engineer (probably in SOS but possibly Guitarist mag) who would ask any session guitarists coming into the studio if they had put fresh strings on for the session, if they said no he would present them with a set and deduct the cost from their fee.

TBH I prefer strings a couple days old, particularly on an acoustic. But I usually use Elixir or, lately, D'Addario EXP which are not quite as bright straight out of the packet and don't change for several weeks (or months on my less played instruments). Haven't tried them on electric yet though.
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Re: Heavy Gauge strings

Postby blinddrew » Mon Dec 03, 2018 6:53 pm

Yep, I'm not such a fan of brand new strings, give 'em a few days I say.

[EDIT] there's the usual horses-for-courses argument naturally. Sometimes that ultra-bright effect is what you're looking for.
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Re: Heavy Gauge strings

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon Dec 03, 2018 7:01 pm

Yup there's many different ways to string a racoon (as my old da used to say).

Off to put some 11's on the '61 Strat now and tweak up the truss rod to see if it'll stop the annoying mechanical buzz/rattle from inside the neck. Then fix the middle pickup which appears to have died and then stick a newly acquired hot bridge PU in.
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Re: Heavy Gauge strings

Postby The Bunk » Mon Dec 03, 2018 8:12 pm

blinddrew wrote:Yep, I'm not such a fan of brand new strings, give 'em a few days I say.

[EDIT] there's the usual horses-for-courses argument naturally. Sometimes that ultra-bright effect is what you're looking for.

I always give them a few days, plus a little basic playing thrown in for good measure, and I definitely did so before gigging; apart from anything it got them through the early stages of de-tuning. As Drew says, horses for courses obviously, but the story about the producer throwing in a new set of strings is interesting.
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Re: Heavy Gauge strings

Postby Wonks » Mon Dec 03, 2018 8:35 pm

It's for consistency. You know how a new set of strings will sound. If you then decide to re-do a small part a few days after it was originally recorded and still have the same set of strings on, it's never going to sit quite right with the original recording. So new strings, and you can re-create the sound.
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Re: Heavy Gauge strings

Postby blinddrew » Mon Dec 03, 2018 9:59 pm

That makes sense.
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Re: Heavy Gauge strings

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon Dec 03, 2018 10:57 pm

It does indeed, never thought of that (but never been in a proper professional recording studio either).

Using Elixers makes even more sense now too.....
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