.008 strings - the lost secret of classic rock?

Guitar Tricks Forum > Gear Discussion > .008 strings - the lost secret of classic rock?

PhillipBD

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Joined: 01/16/14

Posts: 18

Fellow GT'ers, I've been seeing some interesting discussion out there on .008 strings, or more precisely, string set gauges .008-.038. It's said by some sources that these gauges were used during the Golden Age of Classic Rock (60s & 70s) more than today's popular gauges (the heavier gauge sets, especially .010-.046).


Some great names in early Rock & early Blues used very light gauge strings, even .007s in some cases, but .008s (and .009s) mostly it seems. A casual look at the web has in the "Golden Age" as .008 guitarists Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Billy Gibbons (.007), Peter Frampton, Tony Iommi, and on...


Have we drifted these days as .010 gauge guitarists from one of the "secret sauces" of the original sound of Classic Rock and Blues?


I bought some .008s, and maybe it's the power of suggestion, but in my opinion they do have a snap and subtle jangle that the .010s and .009s don't have to my ears - to me they are awesome and closer sounding to the 60s/70s sounds, both clean and with heavy dirt.


And they're a lot easier on the fingers - as B.B. King said on very light gauge strings (and used .008s): "Why work so hard?"


Any fellow GT'ers have an opinion on this, or have tried .008s?


Phillip

Tampa Bay USA

#1

Fellow GT'ers, I've been seeing some interesting discussion out there on .008 strings, or more precisely, string set gauges .008-.038. It's said by some sources that these gauges were used during the Golden Age of Classic Rock (60s & 70s) more than today's popular gauges (the heavier gauge sets, especially .010-.046).


Some great names in early Rock & early Blues used very light gauge strings, even .007s in some cases, but .008s (and .009s) mostly it seems. A casual look at the web has in the "Golden Age" as .008 guitarists Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Billy Gibbons (.007), Peter Frampton, Tony Iommi, and on...


Have we drifted these days as .010 gauge guitarists from one of the "secret sauces" of the original sound of Classic Rock and Blues?


I bought some .008s, and maybe it's the power of suggestion, but in my opinion they do have a snap and subtle jangle that the .010s and .009s don't have to my ears - to me they are awesome and closer sounding to the 60s/70s sounds, both clean and with heavy dirt.


And they're a lot easier on the fingers - as B.B. King said on very light gauge strings (and used .008s): "Why work so hard?"


Any fellow GT'ers have an opinion on this, or have tried .008s?


Phillip

Tampa Bay USA

matonanjin2

Full Access

Joined: 08/11/17

Posts: 178

I hesitate to recommend a YT source because we know what most of those are worth. But Rick Beato (and Rhett Shull) have a huge following. And I find that a lot of their videos are, at a minimum interesting, and some educational.

They, and Dave Onorato and Ken "Grand" Lanyon produced this very unscientific study of the sound with lighter strings, titled "You’re Probably Using The WRONG Guitar Strings". Dave Onorato is a well know guitar tech. I'm not sure tabout Lanyon.

Here's the link: You’re Probably Using The WRONG Guitar Strings

I did not realize until seeing this that almost all rock guys used lighter strings "back in the day", the "Golden Age of Classic Rock" as you called it. I subscribed to the theory that one goes to thicker strings for tone. And that SRV did so. But as this video claims even he went to lighter strings not long before his death.

Without any intention of it being permanent I went to 9's on a couple guitars when I started working on bending. A year or more ago. I would use those guitars for bending. It was easier to bend and my thought process was that after I build up some finger strength I'll go back to larger guage. But then it occurred to me it didn't seem that I wasn't giving up any tone. I went to 9's on a couple more.

Now I am completely rethinking whether I'll ever return to thicker guage. I don't know.

Thanks for starting what I think will be an interesting conversation. I'm interested in what others here, especially some of the instructors, will have to say.

btw, I don't know if it is true but I read that BB King posed that question, "Why work so hard?", to Carlos Santana.

#2

I hesitate to recommend a YT source because we know what most of those are worth. But Rick Beato (and Rhett Shull) have a huge following. And I find that a lot of their videos are, at a minimum interesting, and some educational.

They, and Dave Onorato and Ken "Grand" Lanyon produced this very unscientific study of the sound with lighter strings, titled "You’re Probably Using The WRONG Guitar Strings". Dave Onorato is a well know guitar tech. I'm not sure tabout Lanyon.

Here's the link: You’re Probably Using The WRONG Guitar Strings

I did not realize until seeing this that almost all rock guys used lighter strings "back in the day", the "Golden Age of Classic Rock" as you called it. I subscribed to the theory that one goes to thicker strings for tone. And that SRV did so. But as this video claims even he went to lighter strings not long before his death.

Without any intention of it being permanent I went to 9's on a couple guitars when I started working on bending. A year or more ago. I would use those guitars for bending. It was easier to bend and my thought process was that after I build up some finger strength I'll go back to larger guage. But then it occurred to me it didn't seem that I wasn't giving up any tone. I went to 9's on a couple more.

Now I am completely rethinking whether I'll ever return to thicker guage. I don't know.

Thanks for starting what I think will be an interesting conversation. I'm interested in what others here, especially some of the instructors, will have to say.

btw, I don't know if it is true but I read that BB King posed that question, "Why work so hard?", to Carlos Santana.

rsg.gill

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Joined: 12/16/18

Posts: 18

Billy Gibbons was talking up the .08s.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiroorspVz8&t=830s

I just put them on my SG kit partscaster to give them a go.

- Ron

#3

Billy Gibbons was talking up the .08s.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiroorspVz8&t=830s

I just put them on my SG kit partscaster to give them a go.

- Ron

fuzzb0x

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Joined: 04/02/13

Posts: 484

The second guitarist in one of my old bands always played .08 strings whilst for the last 8 years I've been playing a hybrid set 10-52 and from what I remember his guitar still sounded just as heavy as my one did but he said he just found the bends a lot easier with the lighter gauge.

#4

The second guitarist in one of my old bands always played .08 strings whilst for the last 8 years I've been playing a hybrid set 10-52 and from what I remember his guitar still sounded just as heavy as my one did but he said he just found the bends a lot easier with the lighter gauge.

ChristopherSchlegel

Guitar Tricks Instructor

Joined: 08/09/05

Posts: 6173

Originally Posted by: PhillipBD
Some great names in early Rock & early Blues used very light gauge strings, even .007s in some cases, but .008s (and .009s) mostly it seems. A casual look at the web has in the "Golden Age" as .008 guitarists Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Billy Gibbons (.007), Peter Frampton, Tony Iommi, and on...

Supposedly the unwound G string was a big step forward because it allowed you to bend easier & do classic blues-rock licks more effectively. And of course lighter gauges make it easier to bend overall

I've read that Iommi used banjo strings in the early days because he couldn't find a manufactured set of light gauge strings. He needed them to compensate for his damaged fingers!

That's an extreme case, but I think a lot of this is due to necessity. If you want to be able to bend more, or downtune, or use a lot of volume, then it can help to have lighter strings.

Originally Posted by: PhillipBD
Have we drifted these days as .010 gauge guitarists from one of the "secret sauces" of the original sound of Classic Rock and Blues?

I think one reason for the relative popularity of .010s is SRV's influence on electric guitarists. He used really havey strings, but again because of necessity. He played really hard & needed strings that would stand up to that punishment. Lighter gauge strings would just snap & break.

Originally Posted by: PhillipBD
Any fellow GT'ers have an opinion on this, or have tried .008s?[/p]

I've used .011s, .010s, .009s & .008s.

I think most of this comes down to playing style. The heavier gauges work well if you are playing really aggressively and, or downtuning. The lighter gauges work well if you play with a lighter touch. I use .009s now because it saves my old hands from too much pain. :) And .008s break too easily.

And Rick Beato's video on the topic was fun to watch. Fun topic, thanks!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

#5

Originally Posted by: PhillipBD
Some great names in early Rock & early Blues used very light gauge strings, even .007s in some cases, but .008s (and .009s) mostly it seems. A casual look at the web has in the "Golden Age" as .008 guitarists Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Billy Gibbons (.007), Peter Frampton, Tony Iommi, and on...

Supposedly the unwound G string was a big step forward because it allowed you to bend easier & do classic blues-rock licks more effectively. And of course lighter gauges make it easier to bend overall

I've read that Iommi used banjo strings in the early days because he couldn't find a manufactured set of light gauge strings. He needed them to compensate for his damaged fingers!

That's an extreme case, but I think a lot of this is due to necessity. If you want to be able to bend more, or downtune, or use a lot of volume, then it can help to have lighter strings.

Originally Posted by: PhillipBD
Have we drifted these days as .010 gauge guitarists from one of the "secret sauces" of the original sound of Classic Rock and Blues?

I think one reason for the relative popularity of .010s is SRV's influence on electric guitarists. He used really havey strings, but again because of necessity. He played really hard & needed strings that would stand up to that punishment. Lighter gauge strings would just snap & break.

Originally Posted by: PhillipBD
Any fellow GT'ers have an opinion on this, or have tried .008s?[/p]

I've used .011s, .010s, .009s & .008s.

I think most of this comes down to playing style. The heavier gauges work well if you are playing really aggressively and, or downtuning. The lighter gauges work well if you play with a lighter touch. I use .009s now because it saves my old hands from too much pain. :) And .008s break too easily.

And Rick Beato's video on the topic was fun to watch. Fun topic, thanks!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

matonanjin2

Full Access

Joined: 08/11/17

Posts: 178

Originally Posted by: rsg.gill

Billy Gibbons was talking up the .08s.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiroorspVz8&t=830s

I just put them on my SG kit partscaster to give them a go.

- Ron

And?

#6

Originally Posted by: rsg.gill

Billy Gibbons was talking up the .08s.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiroorspVz8&t=830s

I just put them on my SG kit partscaster to give them a go.

- Ron

And?

PhillipBD

Full Access

Joined: 01/16/14

Posts: 18

Originally Posted by: matonanjin2

I hesitate to recommend a YT source because we know what most of those are worth. But Rick Beato (and Rhett Shull)...


...glad you did - the Beato video was one of the discussions that inspired me to buy the .008s, and afterwards how good they sounded on both my DSL5CR and GTX100 got me wondering what others think. You mentioned Shull also - he has a follow-up video on the same topic: Shull follow-up video to Beato[/p]


Originally Posted by: fuzzb0x

...I remember his guitar still sounded just as heavy as my one did but he said he just found the bends a lot easier with the lighter gauge.

That's what surprised me, not so much the easier bending (expected), but the great tone with different but pleasant subtle snap & jangle that almost like a DeLorean ;) took me back to the Golden Age sound of old LPs.


Originally Posted by: ChristopherSchlegel

Supposedly the unwound G string was a big step forward...


[edited] Interesting point Christopher, which has me wonder if the gradual migration away from .008s to .010s and above, resulting in a heavier non-wound G string, contributed to a loss of a special "something".


Originally Posted by: ChristopherSchlegel

I think one reason for the relative popularity of .010s is SRV's influence on electric guitarists.


I've heard the same, that "all roads lead to SRV" on the changeover influence to heavys (.010 and above esp.)

#7

Originally Posted by: matonanjin2

I hesitate to recommend a YT source because we know what most of those are worth. But Rick Beato (and Rhett Shull)...


...glad you did - the Beato video was one of the discussions that inspired me to buy the .008s, and afterwards how good they sounded on both my DSL5CR and GTX100 got me wondering what others think. You mentioned Shull also - he has a follow-up video on the same topic: Shull follow-up video to Beato[/p]


Originally Posted by: fuzzb0x

...I remember his guitar still sounded just as heavy as my one did but he said he just found the bends a lot easier with the lighter gauge.

That's what surprised me, not so much the easier bending (expected), but the great tone with different but pleasant subtle snap & jangle that almost like a DeLorean ;) took me back to the Golden Age sound of old LPs.


Originally Posted by: ChristopherSchlegel

Supposedly the unwound G string was a big step forward...


[edited] Interesting point Christopher, which has me wonder if the gradual migration away from .008s to .010s and above, resulting in a heavier non-wound G string, contributed to a loss of a special "something".


Originally Posted by: ChristopherSchlegel

I think one reason for the relative popularity of .010s is SRV's influence on electric guitarists.


I've heard the same, that "all roads lead to SRV" on the changeover influence to heavys (.010 and above esp.)

ChristopherSchlegel

Guitar Tricks Instructor

Joined: 08/09/05

Posts: 6173

Originally Posted by: PhillipBD
That's what surprised me, not so much the easier bending (expected), but the great tone with different but pleasant subtle snap & jangle that almost like a DeLorean ;) took me back to the Golden Age sound of old LPs.

All other things being equal (guitar, amp, speakers, cab, board), I think there are 3 things that might also factor in: pickup height, pick gauge & picking attack.

I have found that with lighter strings you can set the pickups a bit closer to the strings to get more "umph" or pop & snap. The closer the pickups are to heavy strings the more the string vibration can sort of "overload" the pickup. And the natural appication of heavy picks & picking to heavy strings can add to this.

With heavier strings I've had to lower the pickups considerably to maintain the same picking approach. Otherwise I get that "overloaded" overcompressed result that makes it seem like the string doesn't have the chance to ring fully. Like yelling right into a mic at a distance of an inch, instead of standing back a foot & yelling at the mic.

Contrast this with players that use lighter strings sometimes favor lighter picks & certainly a lighter picking attack because overwise the string breaks or warbles out of tune.

And I know I can get slightly different results from using different gauge picks & picking attacks. Setting the pickup height to the sweet spot is a must for whichever string gauge you are using & your choice of pick & typical pick attack should also be factored in.

This is a very overlooked part of the process. I think mostly because it's difficult to quantify. To my knowledge there is no book or standard measurement on correctly setting your pickup height factoring in pick attack, string gauge, playing style, etc. The only thing I know that is standard is to set the bass side a bit lower.

I do it by trial & error. Set the pickups, play & listen. Adjust the pickups, play & listen.

Originally Posted by: PhillipBD
which has me wonder if the gradual migration away from .008s to .010s and above, resulting in a heavier non-wound G string, contributed to a loss of a special "something".

I don't think so, because players have adjusted in other ways by carefully setting their gear (pickups, amp, FX chain) & developing their playing styles to get the result they want.

I think the main lesson to learn is to be aware of the possibilities & experiment to find your optimal individual preferred strings & settings.

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

#8

Originally Posted by: PhillipBD
That's what surprised me, not so much the easier bending (expected), but the great tone with different but pleasant subtle snap & jangle that almost like a DeLorean ;) took me back to the Golden Age sound of old LPs.

All other things being equal (guitar, amp, speakers, cab, board), I think there are 3 things that might also factor in: pickup height, pick gauge & picking attack.

I have found that with lighter strings you can set the pickups a bit closer to the strings to get more "umph" or pop & snap. The closer the pickups are to heavy strings the more the string vibration can sort of "overload" the pickup. And the natural appication of heavy picks & picking to heavy strings can add to this.

With heavier strings I've had to lower the pickups considerably to maintain the same picking approach. Otherwise I get that "overloaded" overcompressed result that makes it seem like the string doesn't have the chance to ring fully. Like yelling right into a mic at a distance of an inch, instead of standing back a foot & yelling at the mic.

Contrast this with players that use lighter strings sometimes favor lighter picks & certainly a lighter picking attack because overwise the string breaks or warbles out of tune.

And I know I can get slightly different results from using different gauge picks & picking attacks. Setting the pickup height to the sweet spot is a must for whichever string gauge you are using & your choice of pick & typical pick attack should also be factored in.

This is a very overlooked part of the process. I think mostly because it's difficult to quantify. To my knowledge there is no book or standard measurement on correctly setting your pickup height factoring in pick attack, string gauge, playing style, etc. The only thing I know that is standard is to set the bass side a bit lower.

I do it by trial & error. Set the pickups, play & listen. Adjust the pickups, play & listen.

Originally Posted by: PhillipBD
which has me wonder if the gradual migration away from .008s to .010s and above, resulting in a heavier non-wound G string, contributed to a loss of a special "something".

I don't think so, because players have adjusted in other ways by carefully setting their gear (pickups, amp, FX chain) & developing their playing styles to get the result they want.

I think the main lesson to learn is to be aware of the possibilities & experiment to find your optimal individual preferred strings & settings.

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

PhillipBD

Full Access

Joined: 01/16/14

Posts: 18

Originally Posted by: ChristopherSchlegel

I think there are 3 things that might also factor in: pickup height, pick gauge & picking attack.

I have found that with lighter strings you can set the pickups a bit closer to the strings to get more "umph" or pop & snap. The closer the pickups are to heavy strings the more the string vibration can sort of "overload" the pickup. And the natural appication of heavy picks & picking to heavy strings can add to this.

...

Setting the pickup height to the sweet spot is a must for whichever string gauge you are using & your choice of pick & typical pick attack should also be factored in.

This is very overlooked part of the process.

Great points Christopher. I hadn't considered that close relationship as you've described it between string gauge, pickup height, pick gauge, and pick attack.

I'll pay closer attention to my pickup heights after each set up I do hereon (I sometimes have neglected that part of a set up), especially with the .008s I have on now or if I change gauges in the future.

#9

Originally Posted by: ChristopherSchlegel

I think there are 3 things that might also factor in: pickup height, pick gauge & picking attack.

I have found that with lighter strings you can set the pickups a bit closer to the strings to get more "umph" or pop & snap. The closer the pickups are to heavy strings the more the string vibration can sort of "overload" the pickup. And the natural appication of heavy picks & picking to heavy strings can add to this.

...

Setting the pickup height to the sweet spot is a must for whichever string gauge you are using & your choice of pick & typical pick attack should also be factored in.

This is very overlooked part of the process.

Great points Christopher. I hadn't considered that close relationship as you've described it between string gauge, pickup height, pick gauge, and pick attack.

I'll pay closer attention to my pickup heights after each set up I do hereon (I sometimes have neglected that part of a set up), especially with the .008s I have on now or if I change gauges in the future.