Heavy strings and why?

alex1fly

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TLDR: who’s using heavy strings and what advantages to they bring to your playing?


I’ve been experimenting over the last several months with heavier strings on a couple of my guitars. It’s been fun to have a different feeling under my fingers than the .10s I’ve been using for years. But they are much less zingy and slow me down considerably. So I’m just think through whether to keep them, switch them to another guitar, etc and thought I’d see what other folks are using heavy strings for!
 

schoolie

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I think it's just a feel thing. Also, heavy strings don't go out of tune with finger pressure. I like 0.011s on everything, except 24" scale guitars where I use 0.012s. I like lights on all of my acoustics.
 

schmee

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Along these lines I just changed to 9.5- 044 strings for my old hands. Gigged last night for the first time with that. Seemed fine at home but just couldn't feel any "bite" with the lighter strings last night on the high E and B.
But then, everything seemed out of whack for some reason last night. We had a fabulous sax player along, amazing... but he was filling every hole and I like some space in the music.
One reason for heavier strings I can say after last night: playing slide guitar the more bendy strings were terrible. I kept fretting out on the G B highE trying to play slide. UGH. So one of two things; I'll have to raise the action with lighter strings, or go back to 10-46 strings.
Or I guess carry a special guitar for slide to gigs.
:mad:
 

drmordo

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I learned on heavy strings (11s -13s) back in the late 80s early 90s. I swapped around over the years but have settled into 9s on almost all my guitars. I have one Strat that loves 8s for some reason (it's absolutely the slinkiest guitar I have every played), and my jazz archtops get 11-12 flats.

When I ran big strings, I ran the action extremely low - as low as I could possibly get it without buzzing. Bigger strings vibrate less so you can drop the action more than 9s, which makes them easier to play. On my archtops the strings are SLAMMED to the fretboard.

The advantages of skinnier strings are less hand fatigue and I love bending them past a whole step. I regularly bend between 1 and 1.5 whole steps, and it's possible I might go more than 1.5 whole steps though I doubt I make it to 2. Three of my heroes - Clapton, McLaughlin, and Page - exploited the emotion you get from overbending, and it's just part of my style now.

Also, as you pointed out, it's just easier to play a guitar with light strings. There's less stress on my fingers, my fingertips take less damage, and I can play *more* - not only faster but it's easier to fret odd chords where leverage is a problem.

I will finish with what will likely be a controversial statement - if you can't play 9s in tune, you need to work on your technique. Gripping the neck like you are trying to crush it is bad for your hand and bad for the frets. Lighten up, fellas!

 

Doc Smotpoker

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Billy Gibbons has some pretty heavy tones with his Rev Willy’s Mexican Lottery strings which are 8’s, and I’ve put them on a couple of my PRS guitars. You can play them with a light touch, and yet still deliver some face melting power when called upon.

As for people using the heavier gauges, I dunno, for the chugging factor? It could be that they enjoy punishing their fingers by making them work harder? Everyone has their individual “ideal” strings. I used to play D’Addario 10’s across all my guitars, but I notice that I seem to play sweeter with the Mexican Lottery strings that are 8’s. They seem to require less work to get the tone I’m looking for when I play.

My 60th Anniversary Nashville Deluxe Telecaster is the exception. I won’t put light strings on that, I’ll keep them in the 9-10 range as that just feels right on a Tele. I don’t do anything heavier than 10’s. Good luck in your search for answers, and be open to trying out different gauges, you might be surprised at what you end up liking. You may want to give those Rev Willy’s Mexican Lotteries a try just to check them out. I’m always open to new ideas, and boy do they play really nice. You just never know what you may find yourself digging.

I listened to what BB said "why you wanna work so hard?".
 

SRHmusic

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...
One reason for heavier strings I can say after last night: playing slide guitar the more bendy strings were terrible. I kept fretting out on the G B highE trying to play slide. UGH. So one of two things; I'll have to raise the action with lighter strings, or go back to 10-46 strings.
Or I guess carry a special guitar for slide to gigs.
:mad:
Yessir, that would work well since slide sounds better with higher action and thicker strings. The slide player I gig with always has one guitar dedicated to slide and another for 'regular' playing. Of course he also has the slide guitar in open E, so it saves a time to just switch the guitar rather than retuning. (He can do it in the middle of songs even, sometimes while singing(!))

For those super light strings like 8's it takes a really light touch to avoid pulling them out of tune when just fretting. 9's don't seem to be so difficult in that way.
 

nvilletele

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I like the fatter tone one can get from meatier strings, but do prefer the playability of light strings. I usually use 10.5, but have also tried some light top heavy bottom sets as well. I haven’t ever much cared for 9’s, but 10’s are fine.
 

Swirling Snow

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TLDR: who’s using heavy strings and what advantages to they bring to your playing?
Back when I played heavy strings (12-60), I worked out by crimping RG6s all day long.

They gave me more output. And a mellower tone. That .060 through a 50 watt Marshall shook the walls!

Then again, they likely helped destroy my joints and give me arthritis.


On the other side, the light strings I use now sound just as awesome through a modern amp and they're much easier to bend into tune.
 

Mr. St. Paul

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I played .011s and used a thick pick for years, convinced it would get me the tonez. Finally realized that I couldn't execute some things the way I wanted because of the heaviness of the strings and the lack of give in the pick. Switched to .010s (on both 24.75" and 25.5" scale guitars) and a yellow Dunlop pick and haven't looked back.

I do have .011 - .50 flatwounds on my hollowbody, but I'm playing fingerstyle chord/melody on that guitar, so it's a different beast.

I will finish with what will likely be a controversial statement - if you can't play 9s in tune, you need to work on your technique. Gripping the neck like you are trying to crush it is bad for your hand and bad for the frets. Lighten up, fellas!
Perhaps you're right--but after playing heavier gauges for so long, anything below .010 feels like fishing line to me. It's not that I'm trying to crush the neck, I'm just used to a certain amount of resistance. And I don't get that from .009s.
 

JL_LI

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I’m using nickel wound 10’s with a wound G on all my electrics now. They sound and feel great and don’t hurt to play. I changed to 11’s on short scale guitars and switched back. Intonation, sound, and power were not appreciably different. I use 11’s on my acoustic. 10’s we’re hard to find and when I found them they made my dred sound thin. I have other battles to fight. I’m not fighting my strings.
 

Cali Dude

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I played .11s for years, in my gigging days. I eventually discovered that .10 sounded as good, and we're so much easier to manipulate. I have never been comfortable playing with .9s. They feel too flimsy.
 

estreet

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I don't think it's only overgripping that can make light strings play out of tune. If you sometimes employ a Pete Townsend approach to chord work you get a split-second after really hitting the strings hard where the tuning sounds unstable. I use 9.5 strings these days as I find that they are the lightest gauge that sounds stable when I hit them hard.
 

regularslinky

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Heavier strings make it easier to play slide. Other than that, I don’t see the purpose. I try to avoid doing things that cause pain. Despite my TDPRI name, I’ve used D’Addario 9’s for years, but recently switched tried a Fender Hendrix 10-38 set as an experiment. I like them so far. They sound more balanced, if that makes sense.
 




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