Listening to your ears not others or I hate thick strings or don't know how to dial low tunings

Discussion in 'Pickups, Electronics & General Tech' started by Edika, Jan 19, 2018.

  1. Edika

    Edika SS.org Regular

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    I guess this is more of a rant to exsorcise some frustration over my efforts to get a good tone on lower tuned guitars and some times expecting the results but not believing my ears. It also might have to do with the gear used rather than the actual materials used plus my expectations and maybe how I set up things.

    I've bitched about not being able to get a good sound out of my 7 strings and got some good advice here and while I'm not there yet I have made some progress and I have identified some key issues in terms of sound per guitar and what I need to do.

    My latest gripe is with Dimarzio 6 string D-Activators. In my experience with them so far they sound good in E stanard but I find them quite quite dark. Two guitars I had them in had a similar low mid full sounding sound with quite a bit of compression vs other sets. I actually needed to back off the gain with these pickups vs ohter sets. Anyway while I found them tight in E standrd the whole soundscape left me the impression they would not fair well in lower tunings. But a lot of people used them and reccomended the for lower tunings and have been really into the 7 string set (I know I know 6 string and 7 string Dimarzios don't sound the same).

    So I have a few 6 strings all in E standard and decided to set one up in C with a 12-60 D'Addario set I had laying around. I know the gauge is maybe overkill for C and I was considering B and still am. The guitar is a Jackson SL2H USA so neckthrough maple with alder wings and s sporting D-Activators. I changed strings, setup intonation, raised the action a bit to accommodate for the thicker strings, put a brass block on the trem for additional bells and whistles and checked neck curvature to see if any trussrod adjustments were needed. I plugged in the guitar on my Laney VH100R and got the most muddy buzzy sound I've ever have played a guitar with. I lowered the pickups and tried to change the EQ setting and it still sounded dull and muddy. That's with a TS808 in front too. I have an EQ pedal which I tried with my 7 strings and will try with this guitar. I tried the guitar on my Marshall Valestate without the Maxon with the same results. I tried it on my Peavey 5150II red channel with the Maxon and sounded a lot clearer. More like that thump in the chest aggressive sound rather than the soil your bowels I was getting with the other amps but still not quite there yet. I should mention that even though I have pushed the saddle all the way back without impeding the Floyds functionality I still am a bit sharp but I'm using a clip on tuner so I'm not sure about the accuracy it has. I just plugged in my Carvin right after that has a 10-46 set in E standard and it was like a blanket was lifted off the Marshal.

    I want to try a couple more things like putting 4 springs and not the 3 I have on a V pattern and tuning it down in B as the strings might be too stiff in this tuning and that might be why I don't like the sound. I did use a set like this for a Schecter with Blackouts and I remember I had the same results but I just wrote it off as the pickups being too bassy for low tunings. As I said I have similar issues with my 7 strings but I just got a BC Rich stealth that has a 9-54 set and it sounds stellar. A lot clearer and focused than my LTD EC407B that has the same pickups but a 10-59 set for B flat with the 27" scale.

    I don't know I love low tuned guitars and I remember the BC Rich JrV with EMG's I had in drop C sounded stellar through the Mesa Boogie Triple Rec I used to own without any boosts. I'm not sure if thick strings are my problem, the strings were bad (both sets), I'm not EQing everything correctly or the Laney and Marshal just can't handle those tunings as well as the Peavey without an EQ pedal that seems to compress and saturate a lot easier in the low frequencies than those two amps. I really like the Laney and Marshal for standard tuning. I did notice that when I tried the EQ pedal in the Laney I got more output and compression as well as tone shaping capabilities which of course the last was to be expected.

    Anyway if I can't make it sounds well, I'll just put a lighter gauge and try again or just set it to E flat or D standard. I always heard that D-Activators are tight and even sounding and can handle low tunings like chmpas but so far I'd say no that's not the case! Sorry for the rant, I love how my guitars sound in E standard and I hear all those great sounds in drop tunings. I just can't get there. Maybe I should try another brand for lower tunings other than D'Addario.
     
  2. Beheroth

    Beheroth SS.org Regular

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    what value are the pot ? If you find the d activator too dark, you must have a 250K pot, so try a 500K pot or 1M
     
  3. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    I never got the hype with overly tensioned strings myself. I've heard tons of guitarists and even non-guitarists swear that you only get good tone with ultra-thick finger crampers. Then you listen to Tony Iommi's tone and have to wonder. Hmm, maybe SRV's great tone wasn't just because he used fat strings, but because he was a great player with a good sense of tone.

    I like my tone, not to toot my own horn, so to speak, but I think I have a tone that I can at least say represents my voice. I use .009" for my high E and tension my B and G plain strings accordingly, then bump that up to .046" for my low E and tension wound strings accordingly. I've tried thicker and it looses brightness, and I've tried thinner and it looses punch. I think it's a popular choice because it works well.

    But then again, I'm running very hot and generally bright-ish pickups with no pots at all, so that makes a notable difference.

    I rarely have much of a problem with pickups - I "like" most aftermarket pickups I try, but I only "love" a few. The D Activators were certainly high up my "like" list, but didn't make the cut on my "love" list.
     
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  4. diagrammatiks

    diagrammatiks SS.org Regular

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    some amps aren't just made for low tunings and certain tones. that being said if it doesn't sound good on the 5153...then that's hard.

    never tried the d-activators...but there have been pickups I absolutely hated down-tuned. The cold sweats in my skervesen were weird sounding. Whatever lace the strandbergs come with are super weird sounding.

    As for tension...you don't need super tight strings. I used to play very tight strings but I've backed down to medium strings. My Drop A seven runs the nyxl 11-64 set.

    I have a guitar in C# with 12-60s right now and I find it a bit too tight.
     
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  5. Edika

    Edika SS.org Regular

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    They are 500K pots but I don't think I want to go to 1M, I think it's a bit overkill as the guitar sounds good in E standard.

    I really likeδ the D-Activators initially but over the years they have started sounding a bit fizzy in comparison to other pickups. I was surprised how well the JB and 59 SD's sounded in the other Jackson SL2H I got but I know the JB won't behave that well in a low tuning. I think I'll get a standard 12 D'adario set. Or try something else first like an 11-56 I got for Drop C on another guitar.

    That's what I've noticed in terms of string tension. The Laney and Marshal either need to be pushed a lot or compressed to get to sound well. The guitars sounded a lot better on the Peavey 5150II to be honest but I like the Laney as it has an awesome clean and more versatility. However I don't want to use it only with E standard or E flat guitars only. Up to Drop D and D they seem to perform well but C and below it's flub city. I think I need to employ the EQ pedal a bit more for those amps.
     
  6. diagrammatiks

    diagrammatiks SS.org Regular

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    you need pedals and probably some tone shaping in the eq. Some amps just can't do certain things.

    I love the soldano Slo to death but it's not doing downtuned 8 string metal.
     
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  7. Edika

    Edika SS.org Regular

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    Yeah I think I need to accept that and use them accordingly. Surprisingly the Valvestate sounds quite good with the 7 strings, better than the Laney. But the clean on the Laney is good it's the main reason I'm still keeping it after I got the Peavey. Maybe I'll sell it and put the money into a Mesa Boogie as the Triple Rec I had, had a stellar clean channel plus brutal distortion channels.
     
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  8. angl2k

    angl2k SS.org Regular

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    I struggled with this as well and for my setup lighter strings were the solution.

    Running 10-52 for drop C (6 string) and 9-56 for drop A (7 string) sounds best with my rig. I use a regular 9-42 set with an extra 56.

    For gain, you need less gain than you think. Start by dialing it in real low and then adjust in small steps.
     
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  9. Edika

    Edika SS.org Regular

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    Yeah I'll try lowering the tuning a bit more and see how I feel about it or just change the strings to an 11-56 set I have.
     
  10. Mathemagician

    Mathemagician SS.org Regular

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    I use a 56 for the low C# on my 6, and a 64 for the low B on my 7, both are 25.5.

    A 60 for C isn’t crazy, but in the past I used a 12-56 for drop C so maybe go a bit lighter on the strings? I tend to like heavier strings, but I’ve been changing that some on the highest 3 and going a tad lighter there. I don’t mind having to work for a bend in low tunings.
     
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  11. kindsage

    kindsage SS.org Regular

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    I learned that i hate super thick strings too but like the stiffer response. That’s what led me down the baritone route where you can have tighter strings at lower tuning without having to have thick gauges
     
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  12. Edika

    Edika SS.org Regular

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    I don't mind working for bends and when I had light tops heave bottoms on E standard they sounded ok just a bit duller than lighter strings. It's just the sound that it's quite disappointing.
     
  13. Mathemagician

    Mathemagician SS.org Regular

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    Try using non-nickel strings. I use the Ernie Ball cobalts and the D’addario NYXL strings only now. They sound better for WAY longer. Worth the price to me.
     
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  14. Edika

    Edika SS.org Regular

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    I have been meaning to give them a shot. Maybe it's time.
     
  15. Noisy Humbucker

    Noisy Humbucker Red Handed Riff Raff

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    Call me crazy, but I use a 74 for the low E on my 2228. Tuning stability isn’t an issue with everything locked down, and it just sounds more like a guitar to me (and less like a bass).

    One thing I’ve been paying a LOT more attention to lately is pickup height, it really can make all the difference.
     
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  16. Matt08642

    Matt08642 SS.org Regular

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    I personally use 9-54 (Ernie Ball Super Slinky 7 set) in standard BEADGBe and it's awesome. I thought I was doing something wrong when I was using 10-64 cause everything sucked, then I just switched to 9s and the guitar is fun to play again.
     
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  17. Edika

    Edika SS.org Regular

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    So it's not only me that hears this.
     
  18. chopeth

    chopeth SS.org Regular

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    It happens to me to, I gave up using such as 68 or 66 for A and got used to thinner strings, much easier to intonate and more consistent tone overall, didn't look back.
     
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  19. Edika

    Edika SS.org Regular

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    That was the part I was mentioning about listening to my ears. Because all the advice here is usually for thick strings for tension and everybody seems to be happy and get better results. Everything I tried with thick just sounds like a wet fart to my ears so it seems I have to stick with thinner strings.
     
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  20. prlgmnr

    prlgmnr ...that kind of idea

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    Heavier strings = more fundamental, less of the harmonics

    Lighter strings = more harmonics, less fundamental

    BB King - light strings, searing harmonics that seem to float off the guitar

    SRV - heavy strings, punchy, powerful, percussive

    So when it comes to low tuning, if your scale forces you to use thicker and thicker strings to get the tension you want/need, you're going to get more of the fundamental, which is exactly what you DON'T want once you're playing with high gain, and infact are probably trimming away with a TS or something before you even get to your amp.

    Someone mentioned using a 74 on their RG2228 - this is I think the largest gauge that isn't double wound, and so still sounds more like a guitar string than a bass string.
     

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