A thread about strings -- are you manly?

Discussion in 'The Backstage' started by Paul G., Jul 30, 2017.

  1. Paul G.

    Paul G. Well-Known Member

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    1. My oldest, and one of my best friends in the world is a monster guitar player. He is world-class. He is a player that other guitarists (including people like Joe Bonamassa -- I was there) walk up to and tell him he's amazing.

      Yesterday, I drove down to NYC to visit him as we hardly see each other. He asked me to bring my Bonamassa Firebird I because he wanted to see it.

      I got to his house, we shot the breeze for a bit then I went over to pick up a guitar. He said "you won't like my guitars, they're all strung with eights."

      Wasn't expecting that, but we had some fun playing, passing guitars back and forth, showing each other tunes. The eights felt strange at first but I got used to it. He also had ridiculously low action, but you don't need air under the strings if they're so soft.

      Then he strapped on my Firebird, plugged it into a Tweed Twin, turned almost all the way up.

      It sounded incredible, but after a couple of minutes he put the guitar down and said he liked it, but didn't like fighting the action (set to Gibson specs) and the strings (.010-.046).

      He said the guitar would be tons better with the light strings, it would have more bite, be louder and more aggressive.

      So, we got out a set of strings and swapped it out. Asked if he had a tuner, he made a face, picked up the phone and told me the dial tone is an "F'.

      Tuned her up. Stretched strings a bit. I checked the relief on the neck and started to take the truss rod cover off as it was almost perfectly straight. He said, "leave it, why do you want the action higher in the middle than the ends? They tell you that you need relief so they can be sloppy with the fretwork. If the guitar is good, you'll be fine."

      He lowered the action. There was a hint of fret rattle, but no fretting out. He said "don't worry, won't come through the amp.Plugged in.

      Holy crap, he was right. The guitar not only sounded more aggressive, with a crisp top end but still plenty of body.

      Anybody who knows me knows I'm not a notey sort of player, but suddenly I was double-picking, moving around the board very energetically.

      When I got home, I did some measurement. The action is consistent from nut to 22nd fret at a hair over 1/32" treble, 3/64" bass.

      I decided to play this guitar for a bit before deciding what to do, but I woke up this morning and started playing and you know what? It feels normal today. Didn't take too long to get used to it.

      That's it, just something to think about.
     
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  2. Paul G.

    Paul G. Well-Known Member

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    Update: all my Gibsons have been set up to take the .008s and super low action. Liking it.

    A lot!!
     
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  3. AngelDeVille

    AngelDeVille Well-Known Member

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    I don't have anything to prove, 8-38 on all my electrics.
     
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  4. Rox

    Rox Active Member

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    Sounds interesting. With light strings like that, and being a monster player, were you round at the Reverend Billy Gibbons' house? :smile:
     
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  5. grausch

    grausch Active Member

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    My fingernails tend to pull away from the nailbed when bending the unwound strings. The most annoying bit of this is the need to stop playing guitar until the nails grow out again. Yeah, I know - cry me a river... In any case, this has led to me experimenting with different strings and I have noticed quite a few things that affect how easy a guitar plays.

    Dunlop has some Billy Gibbons strings that are 7-38. These strings are insanely light, but I tend to overbend them much too easily. The 8-40s are great though. The downside to the light strings is that the fast Iron Maiden type rhythms are more difficult as the strings flop around too much. A decent compromise is creating custom sets - I use wound strings from a set of 9-42s and unwound strings from 8-38s on my SG now, and it rocks.

    The fret profile also changes things quite a bit. Paul Gilbert with his Ibanez Fireman mentions that the narrow and tall frets (Dunlop 6105) are easier to bend and vibrato. He is correct - the Ibanez Fireman with 10-46s bends just slightly harder than the SG with my custom set. Both have the same scale length, so that variable is eliminated. Guitar handles Iron Maiden gallops like a dream with the thick wound strings, but if I haven't played it in a while I still get new callouses, i.e. you know your playing 10s.

    I don't have direct experience with this, but several sources indicate that stainless steel frets should make bending significantly easier. I have been considering refretting some guitars with stainless steel Jescar frets that have the 6105 profile, but it would cost the same as the guitars originally cost. :shock:

    Finally, I do think the fretboard wood makes a difference. I have 2 PRS SEs and they have pretty low frets. Bending on them involves a lot of contact with the fretboard and there is a lot of resistance when bending. Even though they have a shorter scale length (24.5 inches) , my fingernails can't handle 10-46 for more than a few bends. 9-42s are OK, but I need to be careful. 8-40s or 8-38s work like a dream. I also have a USA PRS with 10-46s. I never play it that much, but after getting the Fireman, I decided to inspect the frets. I was quite surprised at how flat the frets are, yet it bending strings feels similar to the SEs with 9-42. I have heard that PRS uses Pledge to seal the fretboard. Perhaps that makes it more slippery and allows for easier bending. Perhaps they use a different fret material - I have no clue...:hmm:

    That summarises my experience with different string gauges, but also other items that make guitars easier to play. In a perfect world I would get all my guitars refretted and see if Pledge makes the fretboard play smoother, but using custom gauge strings tends to address all of the issues at a fraction of the price. Fender makes a Malmsteen set and Pyramid makes the Beyrodt set. These handle Maiden rhythms and bend pretty easily.
     
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  6. Bob Womack

    Bob Womack Well-Known Member

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    I run .009s on everything, Gibson and Fender, and have for over forty-five years. I heard the story about Billy Gibbons a LONG time ago and set my compromise level at .009s. I prefer jumbo frets such as 6105s and find that they make bending easier. Any guitar that goes in for a refret gets jumbos. The biggest difference with jumbos is the amount of finger pressure required to fret: the taller the fret the less pressure is needed or desirable. Fretting hard pushes the string sharp, so it is self-correcting. The result is less work for the fingers both in fretting and bending and a much more secure feel in a bend. I find that the biggest difference in smaller string gauges is that they make fine articulation in bends and vibrato much easier than the larger gauges. Yes, you can hear them detune at the attack when you play hard such as on surf, so you don't play as hard. It is all a trade off and only you can decide where you want to settle.

    Bob
     
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  7. Chubbles

    Chubbles Well-Known Member

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    Me too. I've used 9-42 for 45 years. I've experimented with heavier strings but never lighter. I'll have to give 8s a try.

    Edit: 40 years
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2017
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  8. fjrabon

    fjrabon Member

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    I'm a big fan of hybrid, skinny top heavy bottom sets. I tend to strike the low strings fairly hard and I can't deal with the floppiness, lack of solid bass punch, and detuning you get from light A and low E strings. Yes, I could play softer, but this is a lot of hard hitting power chord rhythm stuff. Kind of the point of those songs is to bash it out. Also, on some semi-hollows I find I get more of the "semi-hollow" tone with heavier bottom strings, as the higher tension gets them vibrating a little more. So, for me, depending on the guitar, I use hybrid 9s, hybrid 10s or regular 10s. Sometimes with my Gretsch I use 11s, but that's getting less common these days.

    I also top wrap the stop bar for the D, G, B and high E strings while regular wrapping the A and Low E.

    I also prefer a guitar that plays well with virtually no neck relief. I'll raise the bridge almost as much as I can before I start dialing in much neck relief. However, I do like fairly high action compared to a lot of players. So I usually end up going with a mix of raising the bridge and neck relief. But I use as little neck relief as I can get away with.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2017
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  9. Paul G.

    Paul G. Well-Known Member

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    On those guitars, I have my relief set to ~.0025(!)

    That's 2-1/2 thousandths -- as near straight as matters.
     
  10. Kep

    Kep Well-Known Member

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    Manly? Let's let the ladies make that call.

    I run 10s. Used 9s my whole life until I got turned on to PLEK. Part of the change with PLEK is that it makes strings seem lighter - 10s play like 8s or 9s. This is consistent with what your buddy was saying if you think about it Paul G - (if the neck is right it won't matter - PLEK gets it right)

    Love Bob Womack's post above (OPs story was very cool as well). I also prefer Jumbo frets. I want to add one thing I have noticed as well: The fret shape impacts how the guitar sounds especially on bends. I know I must be a cork sniffer (I am). Guitars with flat wide frets have a slightly different and pleasing tone to my ear when bending - I'm still happy to use the rounded profile b/c I think that sounds great under other circumstances. Also +1 on your comment about how deep frets act differently when striking chords.

    And yes the fret board makes a difference.

    Anyone else notice this? Disagree?
     
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  11. rotorhead

    rotorhead Well-Known Member

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    For most guitars and for most of my playing life I've used 9s almost exclusively, those after trial and error. The 8s just seem too squishy and 10s being too stiff.

    However, on my SGs (and only the SGs, so far) I run 10s. Idk why, maybe it's nut-to-bridge length but running 9s just doesn't work for me on those.
     
  12. kiko

    kiko Active Member

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    I used 9s except for my topped wrapped gibson MM. I used to play 11s, then 10s, when down to 9s for playing comfort, I love it. I don't care what other people think and what strings other people play. To each his own.
     
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  13. cerebral gasket

    cerebral gasket Well-Known Member

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    SG #1 tuned to E : 9 - 42
    SG #2 tuned to E-flat : 9.5 - 44
    SG #3 tuned to C# : 10 - 46
     
  14. LDS

    LDS Member

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    I like this guy already. :cheers:
     
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  15. jtcnj

    jtcnj Well-Known Member

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    I thought about this as I re-strung a 25" scale guitar last night with 10-46, and as I tuned and stretched the strings in.

    I really like 10's on everything with a 24 3/4" to 25 1/2" scale except i like 9's on a strat.
     
  16. Biddlin

    Biddlin Well-Known Member

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    I'm using 7s on my Strats and 9s on my shorter scale guitars. The lighter the touch required, the less friction and improved speed.

    I'll assume you mean "tall" when you type "deep" and just say that proper technique is required whatever width or height of frets are employed. The true meaning of intonation is the player's ability to modulate the pitch with his/her fingers. Try to remember you're "playing" a guitar, not driving railroad spikes. If I actually "feel" my fretboard I'm pressing way too hard. Fretboard radius makes a difference, though by playing a variety of different shapes one learns to adapt without difficulty. I have a preference for, but am not exclusively wed to, flatter radii, shorter scale necks.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2017
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  17. Sp8ctre

    Sp8ctre Well-Known Member

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    Yes...I have .11's on my Les Paul.
     
  18. DCCable

    DCCable Active Member

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    So what thickness picks do you guys use with 8s and 9s as opposed to playing 10s? Any difference?
     
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  19. Kep

    Kep Well-Known Member

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    Almost all GM car horns are F as well.
     
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  20. rotorhead

    rotorhead Well-Known Member

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    Same ones always- orange turtles.
     
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