Strings


JohnGC
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JohnGC
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09/22/2020 1:08 pm

Hi guys, I would like a bit of advice regarding string gauges. Since I started learning I have been using .009 -.042 guage strings. Just recently even though my guitar is in tune I have noticed it sounded a bit off. Just as an experiment I left my tuner on while using the guitar and when I struck the open B string it was in tune but I noticed as soon as I went down to the next fret on C it was well out. Obviously this occuring on all strings. By releasing the tension on my fretting finger by a fair amount the note C was spot on. I am now wondering if I require thicker strings as I am having difficulty trying not to press too hard. As an ex mechanic I have fairly strong fingers. I know I can experiment with trying thicker guage strings but would welcome suggestions of a good compromise or should I persevere until I adjust my touch. Is this a common problem. I did not realise by pressing too hard the note could sound off.

Cheers JohnC.


# 1
William MG
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William MG
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09/22/2020 2:50 pm

Hi John

I am not a tech but I have electric guitars strung with 9's to 11's and they stay in tune. I don't think string gauge is the issue.


This year the diet is definitely gonna stick!

# 2
snojones
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snojones
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09/22/2020 4:02 pm

10s might solve your problem but, there could be other issues as well. How old are your strings?That could be your problem. If they are more than a month old, try changing them and see if that helps.

As to squeezing the notes out of tune... My Parker (with 09s) can be pushed out of tune if I squeeze the neck too tight. Not easily, but it can be done. I think it depends a lot on how high your frets are. I don't have a mechinic's finger strength and I can do it. I suspect that anybody with strong hands could do so if their frets were high enough.

If new strings don't do the trick, maybe you could benifit with seeing if you can play with a lighter touch. If you can, does the problem go away? I do think that a good part of how people learn to play guitar is learning how to apply only enough pressure to sound a clear note. Any more pressure is just wasted energy. Experiment with using the most gentle touch you can manage. If you have a strong fingers that could be part of your problem.

On the other hand many people play with 10s or greater strings and love it. They swear they get better tone. Myself, I enjoy the light touch and bending ablity of 9s.

If all other considerations are equal, it really comes down to your personal preferances. Sorry if this is not a yes or no answer, but it might give you some other things to consider as you make your choices.


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# 3
JeffS65
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JeffS65
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09/22/2020 7:16 pm
Originally Posted by: JohnGC

Hi guys, I would like a bit of advice regarding string gauges. Since I started learning I have been using .009 -.042 guage strings. Just recently even though my guitar is in tune I have noticed it sounded a bit off. Just as an experiment I left my tuner on while using the guitar and when I struck the open B string it was in tune but I noticed as soon as I went down to the next fret on C it was well out. Obviously this occuring on all strings. By releasing the tension on my fretting finger by a fair amount the note C was spot on. I am now wondering if I require thicker strings as I am having difficulty trying not to press too hard. As an ex mechanic I have fairly strong fingers. I know I can experiment with trying thicker guage strings but would welcome suggestions of a good compromise or should I persevere until I adjust my touch. Is this a common problem. I did not realise by pressing too hard the note could sound off.

Cheers JohnC.

I will side on not needing new strings. Billy Gibbons uses 8's! I would not run to change to a new guage. I used 9's for years. For most of my guitars, I now use 10's but for whatever reason, my Strat wants 9's. Who am I to argule with a guitar?

The string guage should not change too radically from an open note (B) to the first fretted note (C) unless either you are pressing really hard or your need your guitar adjusted and set up. It's possible even both.

Firstly, you should realize, unless you already do, that fretting a note does not need much pressure. The truth is, you're not actually trying to press the string in to the wood. You're actually trying to give just enough pressure so that the string sits firmly on the fret. You're note ringing is not from the wood but from the pressure you place to seat the string down on the fret. That doesn't take much. Granted, if you start talking fretless, like a violin, I'm out..I know nothing! ;)

So, consider your finger pressure. The string guage should not impact that. Particularly on a very, very common set of 9's.

Getting your guitar set up properly. Be sure that your get a good setup. Make sure that the action is low enough (not too low so as to buzz) and that the neck is properly adjusted to ensure that your string is reasonably even all the way down the length of the fretboard. I say 'reasonably' since there will be a little bit of variance/difference.

By getting a good tech to do your guitar set up, you'll also have the intonation set properly too. What's intonation? In short, it's ensuring that your as you fret a note, that it is true to the note. For instance, if you fret the 6 string (E) at the 12th fret, it should be an E as well. If intonation is off, it might be sharp or flat. The bridge saddles have adjustments to fine tune intonation. Just to note, intonation is probably not you issue as much if you're fretting the first fret (like the B string C note).

No matter the guage of string, these are things that you should understand going forward. Strings are rarely the culprit but other things that could be causing the note to go 'out'.

Your guitar is always living in 'balance' as it is by its nature, always in tension. That's why there's neck adjustments, saddle intonation and your headstock tuners.

Still, I'd say it's not the strings just yet.


# 4
William MG
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William MG
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09/22/2020 8:39 pm

I saw an interview with Billy where he said he went to 7s after talking to BB King, Jeff. Not sure what he uses now, might be 8s. Whatever it is, he doesnt use heavy strings for sure.


This year the diet is definitely gonna stick!

# 5
JohnGC
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JohnGC
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09/22/2020 10:43 pm

Thanks guys ,you have all been a big help and all are valid answers, and for that I thank you. I have had the guitar set up professionaly and the action set low, I also know the the intonation is correct. The strings are probably due to be change soon. The problem does go away if played with a lighter touch. As I am very heavy handed, playing lightly is going to be a challenge, as all beginners know so is learning to play the guitar in general. I am going to persevere with the light strings and see how I go. I really appreciate having the back up to be able to ask the questions on here, I will let you know how if there is any improvement in a few weeks time.

Thank you all,

JohnGC


# 6
ddiddler
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ddiddler
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09/23/2020 11:58 am

no harm going a set higher when you change your strings.

One of our cheapest options.

I mean usually they tell us beginners to get lighter strings and lower the action to make fretting easier.

Your situation is just the reverse of that position.

Higher gauge and a higher action until you can modify your fretting.

Do let us know how you go and what the results are.


# 7
snojones
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snojones
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09/23/2020 3:29 pm

Having never done it, I have to ask if you need to get your nut recut to change to 10s from 9s?


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# 8
Carl King
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Carl King
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09/23/2020 4:45 pm

Hey JohnGC,

I'm glad you are messing with this and observing it. It's not really the string guage, although that can have some effect.

Try your same experiment and try every note up the neck one fret at a time, see how the tuning is against the tuner. I'm no expert on why this is, but I always encounter out of tune fretted notes, especially when low on the neck.

I have found that there are sort of "nodes" where notes go in and out of intonation. For instance, open string will be intonated perfectly, then it will go sharp at the first fret until the 5th or 7th or so, where it corrects itself. Then back out again to varying degrees until the 12th where it is dead-on with the tuner again. This particular oddity has something to do with natural string tension, I believe.

It's pretty common as a recording trick to tune certain fretted notes on areas of the neck to avoid these oddities. We've done this many times when filming songs.

There have been some pretty interesting inventions over the years to try to solve intonation "problems" inherent in electric guitar. (Depending on if you consider them problems.) Check out some of this stuff to get deeper into it and maybe get even more confused:

Buzz Feiten Tuning System:[br]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2Yfee69bTk

True Temperament:[br]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8EjCTb88oA

-Carl.


Carl King[br]GuitarTricks Video Director / Producer

# 9
JeffS65
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JeffS65
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09/23/2020 4:45 pm
Originally Posted by: William MG

I saw an interview with Billy where he said he went to 7s after talking to BB King, Jeff. Not sure what he uses now, might be 8s. Whatever it is, he doesnt use heavy strings for sure.

[/quote]

I think you're right. My memory was when BB told Billy 'Why are you trying so hard with heavy strings?' since BB used 8s or something at that point. It's old memory so what do I know? ;)

I used to be a died in the wool 9s person but for whatever reason, I like 10's now. I'm going the opposite direction of lighter. Except for my acoustic, I dropping from 13's to 10's. 13 is too harsh for me.

[quote=snojones]

Having never done it, I have to ask if you need to get your nut recut to change to 10s from 9s?

No need to have recut. The difference isn't such that it makes much difference.


# 10
JohnGC
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JohnGC
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09/24/2020 10:37 am
Originally Posted by: Carl King

Hey JohnGC,

I'm glad you are messing with this and observing it. It's not really the string guage, although that can have some effect.

Try your same experiment and try every note up the neck one fret at a time, see how the tuning is against the tuner. I'm no expert on why this is, but I always encounter out of tune fretted notes, especially when low on the neck.

I have found that there are sort of "nodes" where notes go in and out of intonation. For instance, open string will be intonated perfectly, then it will go sharp at the first fret until the 5th or 7th or so, where it corrects itself. Then back out again to varying degrees until the 12th where it is dead-on with the tuner again. This particular oddity has something to do with natural string tension, I believe.

It's pretty common as a recording trick to tune certain fretted notes on areas of the neck to avoid these oddities. We've done this many times when filming songs.

There have been some pretty interesting inventions over the years to try to solve intonation "problems" inherent in electric guitar. (Depending on if you consider them problems.) Check out some of this stuff to get deeper into it and maybe get even more confused:

Buzz Feiten Tuning System:[br]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2Yfee69bTk

True Temperament:[br]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8EjCTb88oA

-Carl.

Hi Carl. Thank you for your reply. As per your suggestion I tried every note up the neck one fret at a time and made an interesting discovery. All the notes were in tune no matter how hard I pressed the strings down apart from the 1st and 2nd frets. On these I had to release slight pressure to get the notes spot on as they were slightly sharp. As stated before all open strings are in tune. This has now complicated matters as now I have to play 1st and 2nd frets lighter to have the notes in tune but all other frets with my normal pressure, tricky. I must thank you for the videos, I found both of them extremely interesting. The Buzz Feiten tuning system made good sense. My guitar is a Squier 60s vintage strat and I feel very comfortable with it and it stays in tune very well. It seems strange that only the first 2 frets are a problem. I wonder if I fit some new strings of the same guage and lubricate the nut if that will help. Maybe I am over thinking this and should get on with practising otherwise this will all be in vain. I realy appreciate all the help you guys are giving me, nice to feel I am not on my own. PS. I did see one article saying that if the first 2 frets are playing sharp it could be that the nut slots are to high. If anyone has any thoughts on this it may pay me to get the luthier to check it out.

Cheeers JohnGC


# 11
DavesGuitarJourney
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DavesGuitarJourney
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09/24/2020 12:48 pm

Hey John, you might want to post this on the Ask A Guitar Tech forum. Steve White might have some really good info for you. He is just about brilliant.


It takes as long as it takes unless you quit - then it takes forever and you will never get there.

# 12
JohnGC
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JohnGC
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09/24/2020 1:08 pm
Originally Posted by: DavesGuitarJourney

Hey John, you might want to post this on the Ask A Guitar Tech forum. Steve White might have some really good info for you. He is just about brilliant.

Great, thank you Dave. I will definately give that a go.

JohnGC


# 13
JeffS65
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JeffS65
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09/24/2020 1:45 pm
Originally Posted by: JohnGC

I did see one article saying that if the first 2 frets are playing sharp it could be that the nut slots are to high. If anyone has any thoughts on this it may pay me to get the luthier to check it out.

Yep. That's your next step. Honestly, I don't think you're fretting too hard. The nut slots should be filed. It's not at all a big job but want to be sure the person doing it isn't going to overcut. Then you're gonna have perpetual 1st fret buzz which ain't cool either. But given what Carl said and you following his advice, the nut seems to be the root cause.


# 14

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