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Thicker string gauge, theoretically, should NOT reduce fret buzz!

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by RedBarchetta, Jul 30, 2010.

  1. RedBarchetta

    RedBarchetta Tele-Meister

    Mar 7, 2010
    This is something which baffles me. Everyone says that if you go to a thicker gauge, say from .09 to .10, it will lower the fret buzz. This makes no sense because the thicker the gauge, the more it vibrates and, theoretically, should cause MORE buzz! What is up with that? The only explanation I can think of, perhaps, is that it's a tension issue and maybe the thicker gauge buzzes less because it has more tension? Experts please opine!
  2. gatimberframer

    gatimberframer Tele-Meister

    Feb 15, 2010
    bingo, the tighter the string, the less it moves.

    an extreme example: take any set of strings and tune down a whole step. You'll have more buzzes due to lower tension.
  3. smsuryan

    smsuryan Friend of Leo's

    after reading all these threads im gonna switch from .10s to .11s just to say i did...gotta see what all the hype is about lol...i dont bend anyway i just slide so what do i care yknow...
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  5. David Collins

    David Collins Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 28, 2009
    Ann Arbor, MI
    If you tune a .009" string to the same pitch as a .011" string, the .009" will be of course looser and the .011" tighter. If you pluck them with exactly the same force, the .009" string will therefore move in a larger orbit than the .011". This is opposite what it sounds like your original assumption was.

    That's how it works on paper anyway. If you adjust the setup for the thicker gauge to exactly match the previous setup, and actually pluck with the same force, then this rule will hold true. In practice however, most people don't play strings that feel different exactly the same way, so as they say, your milage may vary.

    Of course if you have major problems in setup, high frets, twisted neck, etc, changing string gauge isn't going to fix anything. If your setup is fairly good with .009"s, but you play heavy and get a bit more fret rattle than you like, you may get a bit less if you switch up to .010"s. It's not going to be a night and day difference, setup will have to be adjusted, but it can make a bit of a difference. Still, unless you are playing with extremely light strings or in drop tunings, changing string gauge is rarely the first choice for lessening buzz.
  6. lonewolf

    lonewolf Tele-Meister

    Dec 27, 2008
    San Antonio Texas
    Be aware that when you change string gauges, there is a good probability that the truss rod adjustment will need to be changed also. If you find you like the way the strings play for you, you need to make sure that the nut slots, are cut to the correct width for that new string gauge, and you probably will need to re-strobe the guitar also, as the intonation points will change.

    Sorry, but that's just how technical it gets, if you really want it right. Your guitar wants to be adjusted to one string size, tuned to one pitch, with no changes, without re-adjustment.

    It is true that the larger the string gauge, the tighter it's vibrating elipse becomes, tuned to any given pitch.
    Gene Warner
  7. Colt W. Knight

    Colt W. Knight Doctor of Teleocity

    Jan 21, 2007
    Tucson, AZ
    I just set me guitars up to play properly with whatever strings I am playing so I don't have string buzz.
  8. smsuryan

    smsuryan Friend of Leo's

    Well i switched to .11s (power slinkys) this last digging it...they seem to tune easier and stay in tune better...and since i don't bend strings and just slide usually it feels pretty comfortable and natural...once again the forum has talked me into something else :)
  9. 13ontheB

    13ontheB Tele-Afflicted

    Aug 16, 2005
    North West England
  10. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Nov 5, 2006
    Iowa City, IA
    Two points I find interesting. What do you mean by "re-strobe the guitar?" I am not sure if this is related, by I used to teach an acoustics class. One of the demos was a 6' length of a plain steel string about an 1/8th" thick. It was driven by a frequency controlled vibrating mechanism. I would shine a strobe on it and match the frequencies. It was the eeriest thing, one moment where everyone in class was utterly silent. Frozen in front of us was an image of the string bent at the harmonic nodes, like a snake. Then carefully changing the frequency of the strobe and/or the oscillator, we would go from, say, 6 harmonic, to 7 or 8, each smaller in height (or elliptical space?).

    This brings me to my second question. What do you mean by a vibrating ellipse? It is always hard for me to tell the space in which the string vibrates. Is it a perfect circle, or some other shape, like an ellipse. Is the a figure-eight? I wish we could have covered more in class.
  11. Jack Wells

    Jack Wells Doctor of Teleocity

    Oct 19, 2003
    Albuquerque, USA
    Theoretically that statement is just wrong.
  12. LeDocteur

    LeDocteur Tele-Meister

    Oct 20, 2009
    Just tune your nines up a half step or two and you'll see the sound is cleaner.
  13. David Collins

    David Collins Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 28, 2009
    Ann Arbor, MI
    He's referring to adjusting the intonation, for which the strobe tuner is a fairly standard tool. And yes, this works on a similar principle as your example. In the traditional strobe tuner, a wheel with "bars" on it is spinning at a governed reference speed, and the strobe light is controlled by the frequency of the signal generated by the string. When the frequency of the string matches the frequency of the bars on the wheel, they stand still, thus indicating the string is in tune.

    It can move in a number of different ways, some simple, but most complicated and every-changing shapes depending on a lot of variables. A figure eight however is one of the few patterns you will not see a string move in (viewed as a cross section of a single point on a string).
  14. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Nov 5, 2006
    Iowa City, IA
    Oh, duh, strobe tuner, of course. I even have a Peterson one on my iPhone. Somehow I had a different image in mind.

    My brain was still in off mode when I commented on figure 8s by strings. I don't even know where that came from.
  15. David Collins

    David Collins Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 28, 2009
    Ann Arbor, MI
    Well, you could describe the pattern of the second harmonic as a figure eight when looking at the wave pattern from the side. So I wouldn't say your brain was "off mode", but simply oriented from a different spacial perspective. ;)
  16. JBASH

    JBASH TDPRI Member

    Jun 13, 2010
    Not to mention a larger diameter string will sit higher in the nut slot, thus providing a bit more distance from string to fret.
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