Relationship Between String Gauge and String Height

nielDa

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A low E string will have more travel than a high e. But the original question was about changing string gauge. If for example the d string gauge were to be increased, there would be more tension and less wobble. As an experiment, lower your d string tension to a "c" or less - more wobble. Now tighten it to an "e" or more - less wobble. How much difference? Small, I don't know the specific numbers, but enough for me to check all related adjustments if I'm changing string gauge. Or even if trying a new set of strings, a different set of 10s for instance, since the lower string gauges may be different from my current set. (You can experiment with this just by stretching a rubber band or an elastic cord.)
 

ale.istotle

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For an experiment you could put a 10 on as your B and a 9 on as your e. Tune them both to e and goof around with the saddle height.
You could do the same with two different gauges of A strings in the 6th and 5th string positions.
 

Wound_Up

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I'm waiting for the mathematical equations requested, not that I would understand them. j/k. My experience has been the same as dsutton24's. When younger, I tried to move from 10s to 9s. My hands still being strong, I could not adjust and fretted out of tune every time. Over the last 2 years I have gradually gone from 10s to 8s with very little adjustment to bridges. Intonation of course but I have done that with each string change even using the same size. I used to really hit and fret the strings hard but has arthritis has become a factor, I don't hit them so hard any more. Lighter touch on the fretboard also and not by choice, by necessary adaptation. dsutton24 is correct You will need to make little if any adjustment to your guitar. To your playing technique? Maybe.

And here is where I'm thankful to still be somewhat new to guitar playing. A little while after I started in Dec 2019, I realized I was pressing pretty hard when fretting notes because I thought my finger needed to touch the wood. That, and I know now my first guitar has short vintage frets on it so it was easy to touch wood without much thought.

It was when I picked up my 2nd guitar with bigger frets that I noticed how hard I was pressing. So I actively worked on not being so heavy handed. It worked and now I don't press nearly as hard as I used to. I'm not so sure where I'm going with this lol. But there it is nonetheless.
 

anonymous

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To the extent it's possible to generalize about something like this, is it normally thought that if you switch to a little heavier-gauge string set (say, moving from 10's to 11's), you may be able to lower your action at least a little bit without experiencing unwanted string "buzz" on the fretboard?

When physicists think of a vibrating string they usually think of Mersenne’s laws.

Frequency = 1/2L * SQRT (T/u)

Where L is the length of the string, T is the tension on the string, and u is the linear density (mass/length) of the string (SQRT = square root).

It basically says that as the mass of the string goes up the string tension needs to go up to keep the same frequency. Nothing new here – 11’s are bigger and are used at a higher tension than 8’s for the same frequency.

Changing from a Gibson with a 24.75” scale length to a Telecaster with a 25.5” scale length is just a 3% change, but guitarists can easily detect a string height difference of a few thousands of an inch so 3% may sound like a a small change but it is meaningful. Some may use larger gauge strings on Gibson's over Tele's to keep the same string tension feel. That’s the key point, not that it is different but is it different enough to matter (to most people).

So what about string height? A higher tensioned string needs more force to vibrate than a lower tensioned string (all else being equal). Or, a heavy car is harder to push than a lighter car. The math is a bit more complicated, so consider this example. Using 8-38 strings for a while a friend sent me the biggest strings I’ve ever used (12-54?). I had to wack them so hard to make a sound my guitar could only buzz. So, yes, string gauge does impact string height. Smaller strings can go on a lower action than heavier strings.

But the key point is it’s different, but does it matter? If you play 8’s like 11’s – no. If you finesse 8’s and like to push with 11’s – yes.
 
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Bill Sheehan

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When physicists think of a vibrating string they usually think of Mersenne’s laws.

Frequency = 1/2L * SQRT (T/u)

Where L is the length of the string, T is the tension on the string, and u is the linear density (mass/length) of the string (SQRT = square root).

It basically says that as the mass of the string goes up the string tension needs to go up to keep the same frequency. Nothing new here – 11’s are bigger and are used at a higher tension than 8’s for the same frequency.

Changing from a Gibson with a 24.75” scale length to a Telecaster with a 25.5” scale length is just a 3% change, but guitarists can easily detect a string height difference of a few thousands of an inch so 3% may sound like a a small change but it is meaningful. Some may use larger gauge strings on Gibson's over Tele's to keep the same string tension feel. That’s the key point, not that it is different but is it different enough to matter (to most people).

So what about string height? A higher tensioned string needs more force to vibrate than a lower tensioned string (all else being equal). Or, a heavy car is harder to push than a lighter car. The math is a bit more complicated, so consider this example. Using 8-38 strings for a while a friend sent me the biggest strings I’ve ever used (12-54?). I had to wack them so hard to make a sound my guitar could only buzz. So, yes, string gauge does impact string height. Smaller strings can go on a lower action than heavier strings.

But the key point is it’s different, but does it matter? If you play 8’s like 11’s – no. If you finesse 8’s and like to push with 11’s – yes.
Thank you, A !! Very interesting analysis!
 

Toast

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I have very little expertise in this area. I always assumed that most guitar techs use their ears, along with the manufacturer's suggested height, to help determine the optimal distance between the string and the PU.
 

Recalcitrant

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My anecdotal opinion— I use 10s, 11s and 12s on different guitars. Although a truss rod adjustment is usually needed with a gauge change, I don’t find heavier strings make a tremendous difference in getting lower action. I do find I move pickups closer to heavier strings, however, maybe because I don’t hit heavier strings as hard to get the tone heavier strings are known for.
 




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