Help Me Understand Electirc Guitar Strings

Discussion in 'Guitar Gear Talk Forum' started by roadkill, Sep 25, 2009.

  1. roadkill

    roadkill New Member

    I just bought a Ibanez GRG170DX and a Marshall 15CD.
    The stock strings dont feel so good so i thought ill get some new strings.
    Im looking at Ernie Ball but i dont understand the lingo. I think ill settle with the same gauge as my stock ones.
    There are drop tune strings and heavy bottom strings and power slinkys.
    How do these work? Im a newbie so im just looking at strings what feel good to practice.
    Also if i get a different gauge does it mean that some additional setup has to be done while changing the strings?
  2. wylder

    wylder New Member

    If this is your first electric guitar and you are unfamiliar to setting up your guitar neck and bridge, it is best you get the same gauge of strings as stock. For an Ibanez RG type of guitar, this should be 9-42 gauge. I think Ernie ball calls them super slinkys.

    There are several reasons why you might want to go up a gauge or two later on. You might want the higher output and longer sustain of a heavier string. Or you may not like the flabby feel of your lower strings especially if you tune your guitar lower than standard or if you are using a shorter scale guitar like a Les Paul.

    Using a higher gauge has some disadvantages that take time to get used to. The strings will be tougher to bend as you will require more force to bend a thicker string. It can also take some callus off your fingertips. So till you really get seriously concerned about your tone and sustain, it is better to keep the 9 gauge.
  3. wylder

    wylder New Member

    And yeah... Getting heavier gauge strings will put a little more stress on the neck of the guitar. So you'll notice that the guitar's action (distance between strings and fretboard) has increased. To correct this, you'll have to adjust the truss rod. This takes some experience and doing it wrong can seriously ruin your new guitar.
  4. flood

    flood New Member

    hey roadkill,

    101: in general, the string gauge you use ends up being a matter of both taste and comfort. to state the obvious: if your fingers aren't too strong, you will be less at comfort with thicker gauges. with super-thin guages e.g. 8s, you can do some extreme bending with ease (it was almost like i could bend them by just looking at them!)...

    let's go a bit further - if it was that simple, we would all simply use thinner strings, right? sure. BUT: the thickness of the string also plays a huge role in your sound and tone. it's one of those differences you can hear directly. you might be playing the same note in the same octave with e.g. 8s and 12s, but there is so much more meat to the thicker strings! so the thickness directly affects timbre and the frequency composition of your electric guitar signal.

    now, any self respecting thrash-metchul satan worshipping rhythm guitarist named nimesh from sakinaka doesn't want wimpy guitar tone... he wants FAT power chords! i mean, john goodman fat! so he would prefer to have thicker guages that bring out the meat a bit, have a better lower harmonic response and are in general a lot manlier. since he doesn't have to do any solos, he just buys a standard pack of 13s.

    but let's imagine the following situation - poor nimesss also has to handle lead duties and his fingers are already affected by CTS from typing "O HAI im RagingHeat frm mumbai b3st c1ty in w0rld asl plzzzz" to unsuspecting underage american girls on yahoo chat. he can't possibly bend those 13s! and playing rhythm on 9s is so emasculating! a-ha, fear nto, string manufacturers have understood the needs of the modern musical ensemble and have come up with bottom-heavy, top-light sets, so the wound strings (or perhaps only strings 4-6) are a thicker guage than would normally be expected of a set having thin guage high strings. to simplify that even further - nimesss goes to singh musicals, buys a set of karuna 13s and karuna 8s (yes, i'm aware they don't exist). he takes strings 4-6 from the 13s and 1-3 from the 8ths. voila! bottom heavy set.


    you mentioned downtuning. the thicker the string guage, the higher tension it exerts on the neck. lets say you want to drop your tuning by a 5th to go to B baritone (BEADGB). now, you will not be able to achieve this in an acceptable manner by simply tuning down your "normal guage" strings, because they will flop like hell.

    what is now necessary are thicker guage strings at a lower tension that can give you the lower note range at a shorter (or standard) neck scale. so manufacturers make downtuned packs.

    in general, i do not recommend putting ultra-heavy guage strings at a normal tension on a guitar that was not designed for them, especially lower price-range guitars will develop nasty neck warp. it will work for a while, but in the long run you will need a better solution. the best way to go about downtuned is to byu a guitar with a longer neck scale, like a baritone (28").

    hope this helps!

    EDIT: oops! wylder beat me to it.
  5. roadkill

    roadkill New Member

    Awesome. Thats exactly what i wanted to know.
    I think ill stick with the same guage.. hopefully the local dealer here has the ernie balls. (im going to reynolds in bangalore.)
    Anyway ive noticed the action has increased a bit after i bought it. I think it was because of my stupid cousin who was messing with the tremolo cause he thought he could rock n shit.
    Is adjusting the action like a big thing? Reynolds is a good store but im scared whether the people there know what they're doing when it comes to repairing guitars.
    And thanks guys that was really some good info!
  6. thepacifist2013

    thepacifist2013 V.I.P Member

    Adjusting the action is not quite hard with truss-rod equipped guitars.
  7. wylder

    wylder New Member

    @flood: I think u gave a better n more graphic description of the idea here :D

    Adjusting the action is pretty simple but it has to be done in very small increments. Overdoing it can make your neck warp/bow badly. It is one of the most common setup jobs.
    I guess the guys at Reynolds could do it. I have heard a lot of good things about Furtado's; check if you can get it done there instead.
  8. wylder

    wylder New Member

    You should get Ernie Ball at Reynolds. Else look for D'Addario EXL120 9-42 set. I am pretty sure they had it the last time I went there (about a month back).
  9. roadkill

    roadkill New Member

    Thanks Buddy!
    Furtados is too far :)
    Ill go to reynolds.. They have like a branch which newly opened near my place.
  10. metalmickey

    metalmickey New Member

    yeah that store is basically a branch of the onstage,noida....guys there are decent enuff....ask for mr.earonna...kindah frndly guy....helped me out on my new jackson.....but as its a new store the guys in the service dept are pretty crappy(personal opinion).....thanks flood....really neat xplnation.....
  11. thehundredthone

    thehundredthone New Member

    If you have a 25.5" scale guitar then 9s are good. I took my guitar up from 8s to 9s because the 8s weren't manly enough for me. I'm currently on Dean Markley signature nickel wound 9s. I've never bought the fingers not strong enough excuse.
  12. flood

    flood New Member

    +1... unless you're tony iommi and have severely injured fingers, play 11s!!! there's no tone in 8s. i don't like 9s either, but that's a matter of choice. i mostly stick to 10s but am fine with 11s too.
  13. thehundredthone

    thehundredthone New Member

    I'm not sure about going up to 10s because I have a feeling I'll have to file the nut for them.
  14. thepacifist2013

    thepacifist2013 V.I.P Member

    Most standard nuts would have the slots filed enough for 10s. Atleast that's what I know.
    You might just buy a set and give it a try....intonating would be a bitch though. It is for me since I'm octave deaf and haven't really perfected the harmonic tunings......
  15. thehundredthone

    thehundredthone New Member

    Harmonic tunings aren't true to the guitar.

    I have a Buzz Feiten nut and so intonating by ear sort of defeats the purpose of the nut. There are certain (cent) offsets so that the nut can do its magic. Chromatic tuners are the way to go for this.

    I guess you're right, my next will be 10s. Although with my allowance I'd hate to end up losing Rs.300-400 because of the strings slipping.
  16. thehundredthone

    thehundredthone New Member

    I just had to say this. I AM using 10s. I don't know why I thought I was using 9s. I've been using 10s since I first changed the strings on my guitar. Whew. That's a load off my chest.
  17. thepacifist2013

    thepacifist2013 V.I.P Member

    ^ Lulz!
    Good morning !
  18. guitardoctor

    guitardoctor Will Rx for food

    Bumping this thread to ask a question: Snapped a string today and this is the precipitating event - I'm going to change all my strings - should I just buy standard strings or is there a particular type of string I can go for to get a better blues tone?
  19. rickkkyrich

    rickkkyrich Guest

    IMO string selection will also depend on your guitar and not only the genre you wanna play...i think you should use only the 9s or the 10s.. 11s and 12s are used for heavy blues.. but i'm not sure if your guitar is gonna take the heavy gauge easily.. Heavier strings are mostly used by metal players.. A lot depends on the guitar you play..
  20. flood

    flood New Member

    don't go below 10s. you NEED the mass! if you wanna be a real man, get fatter strings and bend the **** outta them. i'll pass, don't need the CTS since i don't have the methadone to deal with it :D

    for the blues, i believe your phrasing and expression will affect tone a LOT more than your string material ever will. :) i've heard that pure nickel produces a somewhat cleaner, fuller tone at the cost of output. never bothered to try though.

    as for me - i've never managed to develop a favorite among strings, and usually go with pretty much anything except for the really cheapshit ones, like karuna which cut my fingers and are dead within a month. i also avoid the generic asian ones. so it's d'addario EXL at the very minimum.

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