String Advice

Discussion in 'Beginners/FAQ' started by kleinenenten, Nov 21, 2020 at 11:09 AM.

  1. kleinenenten

    kleinenenten SS.org Regular

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    Hello all! Thanks in advance for the input.

    Here's my situation. I'm primarily a bass player, but have been playing more guitar lately. I've played bass for nearly 20 years, and guitar about 5. I have decent enough gear, and don't really need to upgrade anything (though I will upgrade some pickups soon anyway). But since I'm really trying to develop my guitar skills, I thought I'd go back to basics. REAL basics. Like holding a pick the "right" way. I am also ordering some picks soon, so that I can try different thicknesses and text flexibility, etc.

    Anyway, I think I've got the pick holding thing figured out, but in doing so, I realized that the strings on my guitars are certainly different gauges, and they felt differently with my pick. I realize that's totally normal and to be expected, but just want to get some advice for which strings to go with on my various guitars.

    I play almost exclusively metal, with plenty of distortion regardless of the specific sub-genre. My "clean" tone will typically be an OCD-style circuit set to classic rock style breakup (my reference point was to sound good for AC/DC). Often, I play fast riffs on single strings, but then will also throw power chords in those riffs. I want my guitars to be tuned to different tunings for ease of switching and so that intonation etc. is always spot on.

    On my basses, I like thick strings. I feel like the added tension keeps the string in place so I know where my fingers need to be to hit the string accurately. Is this the same as in guitar? I feel like my 7 strings have much lighter strings than my 6 string, and that as a result, my 7 string takes much less energy to play. However, I find that I often hit the wrong strings and over extend on picking (I realize that much of this is that I'm still tweaking and learning my picking, as well as different string spacing). But my 6 string will be tuned down, so I feel I need a thicker string in general to keep tension.

    To boil it down, how important is string gauge for ease of picking? Should I increase the gauge on my 7 strings? What gauge would you recommend for a 6 string dropped a half step? A whole step? I'm open to whatever brand, as I'm learning and want to draw upon this collective bank of knowledge here. Thanks again for the input, and apologies for the lengthy post. Specific guitar details to follow.

    7 Strings - Ibanez RG7321 and ARZ307 - These both have standard D'Addario XL Regular Light Gauge strings. They seem a bit flimsy, but I have no real complaints. These are my main guitars, and are pretty much the only strings I've ever used, so I don't have any other points of reference. I don't plan on downtuning these, as when I've tried in the past, the string tension is unbearably low for me and it just doesn't sound right. I feel that as much as I love the ARZ307, I am least accurate at picking on it. I think it's due to tighter string spacing, but is something to note. Regardless, it is my favorite in regards to tone, so I'd like to improve that!

    6 String - Ibanez RG3EX1 - This is currently tuned down 1/2 step. The strings are noticeably thicker, but seeing as I bought this used a few months ago, I am not sure of the exact strings on it. The ball ends are not colored, so I doubt it's D'Addario (isn't that a thing exclusive to them?). I prefer the tension overall, but am working on picking softer and more accurately in general, which I feel higher tension and thicker gauges will impede. I feel that I am more accurate in picking on this guitar. (At some point, I will likely change the pups to an SD Distortion set, but that's a different discussion.)

    6 String - Ibanez RG2EX2 - This one is in the mail as we speak. Not sure what's on it, but it will be tuned down a whole step. Just looking for recommendations on gauges here, as I clearly can't tell you how this one feels. (I'll likely upgrade to SD Invaders at some point, as I believe they will handle the drop tuning far better than the stock pickups.)

    Thanks again, all! I look forward to learning from you!
     
  2. nickgray

    nickgray SS.org Regular

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    Honestly? I think you're massively overthinking it :lol: At the end of the day, no one but you can figure out which string gauge to use. Just try a couple of sets and see what happens. It's all down to personal preference. Strings are cheap too, and unless you have a floating trem, changing gauges/brands is not at all a big deal.
     
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  3. kleinenenten

    kleinenenten SS.org Regular

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    You're probably right, and in just playing for an hour or so, my picking technique is much improved after a day of rest for my right hand. I'd been focusing on it for at least an hour a day the past week, and could tell my hand was tired towards the end. After taking last night off, it seemed much for fluid today, and without the fatigue.

    I guess I'm coming at it from my bass player experience, where the gauge makes a huge difference to me personally. And where my strings (flats) can run me almost $50! It is quite nice that I can get a set of strings for my guitar for like $7.
     
  4. nickgray

    nickgray SS.org Regular

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    The gauge makes a big difference, and so does the pick and the picking technique. But overall, taking E standard as an example, you don't have a whole lot of sensible choice as far as gauge goes. 9-42 and 10-46 are far and away the most popular ones. If you want some extra tension you can try 11-49, and you can try light top heavy bottom type of sets, some people like those. And that's kinda it gauge wise. Well, there are also progressive tension and equal tension ones, but these are a bit more exotic. There's also coated vs uncoated, and there are different materials and different brands will typically offer slightly different feeling strings because they might use slightly different wrapping and (I imagine) wrapping techniques. There's also core type (for wound strings, the windings are wound on a plain core, and the shape and thickness of the core will make a difference).

    Yeah, that's exactly my point - you're better off just buying a bunch and trying them out yourself.
     
  5. Rosal76

    Rosal76 SS.org Regular

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    If you are looking to play on very thin strings on a guitar tuned to Eb (1/2 down), I (cautiously) recommend Ernie Ball Extra Slinky (.008-.011-.014-.022.-030-.038) sets. I have been using that set on all of my guitars for many years now and one of them is tuned to Eb. Make absolutely no mistake about. You do have to pay very close attention on how hard you pick/strum. Even on my guitars tuned to E standard, I still have to pick lightly. You also cannot pick deep because the string will not let go easily from the pick because of it's slinkiness/extreme flexibility. It didn't take too long for me to adapt to that set because I was already a light picker to begin with. But anyways, if you have a strong intent on picking lighter, then I recommend trying the Ernie Ball Extra Slinky set.

    * Just so you don't waste your money/time, I would watch/read Youtube videos/reviews on what guitar players say about the Ernie Ball Extra Slinky set first.
     
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  6. kleinenenten

    kleinenenten SS.org Regular

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    Ok - that's some of the info I'm looking for. I can talk all day about the bass side of these things, but not so much the guitar stuff. I did look a bit after my original post, and like you said, there are fairly limited options gauge-wise. For instance, my 7 strings are strung with the only 7 string set that D'Addario makes, so that's it! This also makes me more confident that I want a heavier gauge for my downtuned guitars, because I found the tension on this guitar far too low when I downtuned it. So that much is certain - I need a bigger gauge! It also gives me a good starting point knowing what the exact size of the E string is on my 7 - I can easily make sure that whichever set I buy for my 6 strings is larger.

    Thanks for the insight!
     
  7. kleinenenten

    kleinenenten SS.org Regular

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    Not necessarily thin strings, just posting my experiences. I'm very much used to playing bass, where thicker strings are preferred. I just didn't know if there was a general rule of thumb for this stuff on guitar. I'm trying to learn. I'm thinking I'll need a bigger gauge than what is on my 7 string (at least bigger for the 6 string portion) as the 7 was very floppy when downtuned. Not what I want. Thanks for the input!
     

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