Heavier gauge strings and the reason for tuning down 1/2 step

Discussion in 'Epiphone SG' started by living room rocker, May 14, 2018.

  1. living room rocker

    living room rocker Member

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    Most of you guys use 10's on your SG? Are there significant tonal differences to heavier strings on an SG and dropping down from standard tuning? I'm fairly new to guitar playing. Why do guitarists tune down 1/2 step anyway; assuming tuning down means all 6 strings are dropped 1/2 step? Why not keep standard tuning and just drop your starting point 1 fret; same thing isn't it? Does tuning down 1/2 step make bending notes that much easier? I've read about matching the vocal range reasoning, but again keeping standard tuning and dropping your starting point to a lower key achieves the same thing doesn't it?
     
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  2. plankton

    plankton Well-Known Member

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    I use 10's on everything. I have my SG in standard tuning, but keep my Strat tuned a half step down. It does make bends easier on the longer scale guitar.

    Eb tuning also makes playing Hendrix, SRV, EVH and some Slash stuff easier as it's what they used mostly.
     
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  3. Daniel.S

    Daniel.S Well-Known Member

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    Depends on what you want to play. I play a lot of Scars on Broadway and System of a Down stuff, so my SG is tuned to Drop D# with Ernie Ball Skinny top Heavy bottom (52-10) strings.
    For the drop C stuff I use the DR Tite-fit Jeff Healey (56-10) set on my Iceman and ESP Alexi guitars.
     
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  4. living room rocker

    living room rocker Member

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    Thanks for replying. Interesting about easier bending on a longer scale length. I've no experience on anything other than the Gibson/Epi length.
     
  5. Bonzo21

    Bonzo21 Active Member

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    It does and doesn't. You can change the key but the low Eb is still not available elsewhere in standard tuning. In any case, I think people use it like a 'reverse capo'. You want to drop it in vocal range but you don't have the knowledge, time, or energy to transcribe in a different key. Personally my theoretical knowledge is so lacking that if I was to change the key on a song it would require google, pen, paper and some time to figure it out (unless they were all barre chords). Its much easier to capo or to drop-tune (not that I sing at all, but If I accompany someone).

    The drop tuning thing is self evident if you start thinking about metal, its like turning a regular scale guitar into a baritone (Daniel.s above). In this instance the heavier gauge strings will keep the guitar feeling tight. Without it, aggressive picking or fretting will pull notes out of tune. In my opinion this is not an issue if you are just going to Eb... Thought Plankton's 1/2 tone drop to make a fender feel closer to a Gibson scale length also makes sense to me, I just do it by dropping from 11s to 10s.
     
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  6. living room rocker

    living room rocker Member

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    That makes total sense Bonzo21; didn't think about the required chord shape changes to simply start out in a lower key. I was looking at it from pentatonic scale patterns for lead melodies which would simply shift down, but chord shapes would require transposing. Yeah......I GET it now, thanks.
     
  7. living room rocker

    living room rocker Member

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    And if I understand the 2nd half of your reply correctly, you are saying lowered (drop) tuning can result in sloppy tuning from an aggressive attack that may need compensated with heavier strings?
     
  8. living room rocker

    living room rocker Member

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    So I'm assuming based on Bonzo21's reply that Scars & System are heavy metal? So you tune down for a darker tone or easier chord shapes and compensate for an aggressive attack with heavier strings?
     
  9. Bonzo21

    Bonzo21 Active Member

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    Yes, but people with a light touch and light fretting hand may not have as much of a problem. But in general, and for most people, you need heavier strings if you downtune by a lot (again, a half step is usually not a problem unless you are playing 9s...). When you strike a string that is too slack you hear a kind of whomp because the attack itself pulls the string sharp (like a bend) and then it comes back to pitch. It is not a problem with technique, the guitar requires a certain amount of tension to be playable. Try loosening one of your strings wildly just to see, you'll see how much the string pitch changes as you fret and wiggle the string. It takes so little movement that just fretting or striking the string pulls it out of tune.
     
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  10. rotorhead

    rotorhead Well-Known Member

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    I use 10s on everything and stay in standard tuning. The only real exception is my having the Sheraton II in open G.

    I never really latched onto the drop tuning thing. Maybe it's generational or something idk.
     
  11. Bonzo21

    Bonzo21 Active Member

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    I don't know who Scars on Broadway are, but I would assume so too. Some people tune down for other styles, but certainly it's mostly metal guys doing it...

    On acoustic it is very common (DADGAD for example), but strings are often thicker already for acoustic...
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2018
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  12. cerebral gasket

    cerebral gasket Well-Known Member

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    I use 10-46 on everything. One SG is tuned to standard pitch, another SG is tuned to E-flat, and another SG is tuned to C#. Got all eras of Black Sabbath covered.
     
  13. living room rocker

    living room rocker Member

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    Thanks for the explanation Bonzo21; it all makes more sense now.
     
  14. Layne Matz

    Layne Matz Active Member

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    For comfort as well as voicing. Thicker strings require different technique. I'll, note that thicker strings(12s,13s,14s) through a single coil have a different tone than that of thin strings(11s and anything smaller really).
    You also gain access to chords that will be octaves deeper than they normally would depending on what you are tuned to.
    Some people started eith heavy strings and dislike the tone and feel of light strings, at the same time heavy strings come with a physical price and sometimes you need something looser.

    I believe it depends on how you are going to use it. You ever listened to Cowgirl in the Sand by Neil Young and Crazy Horse? The guitars are tuned down a whole step. I dont like almost any of the metal I've heard. Some will argue that Motorhead is metal but i think they are very heavy rock and stay relatively true to blues influences as well.

    I have found that down tuning a whole step can help if you are trying to get a mystical or eastern sound, a little bit like a sitar. I have to reccomend the music of Ravi Shankaar since I mentioned the sitar. Initially i had the impression that drop tunings were primarily for metal and all that but it is just as valid as E standard and can be practically used to create some great jazz or ethereal tones. Im done on the soap box.
     
  15. sazista

    sazista Active Member

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    and KISS used that tuning. Really confused me as a kid trying to play along with them. Now i understand.
     
  16. sazista

    sazista Active Member

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    here i play in Eb and find it easier to sing with as i tend to sound better in that range. D is also nice and easier to play but some guitars may require a thicker gauge.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2018
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  17. rotorhead

    rotorhead Well-Known Member

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    I remember a few bands like Zeppelin and others who everyone thought they were tuning down, but really they were slowing tracks down during production and stuff came out sounding different from normal tunings lol.

    Used to piss me off til I figured out how they did it...
     
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  18. jvin248

    jvin248 Active Member

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    Do a Youtube search for Billy Gibbons and BB King on thick vs thin strings. BB King asked BG "why are you working so hard?" with thick strings and BG switched to 8s like BB King was using -- bends are easier and he didn't lose any 'tonez'.

    A Tele/Strat scale length with 9s will have the same tension/feel as an LP/SG with 10s.

    Many beginning players crush the strings out of tune if the tension is too low so upsizing until technique improves can be useful, otherwise thinner strings allow easier soulful note bending.

    Some guitars cannot intonate if you upsize the strings too much.

    .
     
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  19. Daniel.S

    Daniel.S Well-Known Member

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    Mainly for me to keep the tightness of the strings not flapping around while I hit an open chord. 24.75 scale length means a heavier string will be needed if tuned lower than standard (for me anyway) my ESP is a 25.5 scale and string has a 56-10 which really helps for fast playing.

    Yes, sort of heavy metal, alternate rock.
     
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  20. bwotw

    bwotw Well-Known Member

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    Keep in mind a lot of rock music uses either open strings, 1st position chords or pal muting chugging on the low E, you just can't get those sounds by transposing the key. Just for reference, I use 10's on E Standard and I used to use 12's when I was tuning 1 step down to D Standard, it feels the same tension wise. So I'd say 1/2 down with 11's would be the way to go if you're used to the feel and tension of 10's in Standard.
     
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