There's been an age old rumor that the gauge of strings you use affects your tone, with people like SRV using strings as thick as 13's while, speedy players like EVH , Dimebag Darrell and Jason Becker using 9s or players like Billy Gibbons and Yngwie Malmsteen using 8's. Players that seek a balance between lead and rhythm such as James Hetfield, Marty Friedman, Kirk Hammett, Dave Mustaine and Randy Rhoads using 10's or 11's.
My question is, does string gauge actually affect tone enough to be noticeable. Also what are some advantages or disadvantages or heavier vs. lighter strings, (I've heard rumors of lighter being easier for legato, but heavier being easier for picking.)
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Originally Posted by Tulkas
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all true. bicker strings immediately sound more full and loud. probably omen of the best ways to get rick tone on an acoustic is put 11s or 12s on it instead of 9s or something. for an electric, thicker strings are more magnetic, so there is more output into the pickups.

however, yes, of course light strings are easier to bend, easier to get good dynamics, vibrato ets. they are more expressive. practically so shredder is going to use 12s or 13s, and if they are, they are probably using dropped tuning or they have CRAZY string hands.

that being said, thicker strings have more tension, which is more stress on the guitar (may need a truss adjustment) and better for dropped tuning. they may also be better for heavy strumming or chording. with thinner strings, you may need a lighter touch to prevent buzz or breakage. play 8s would definitely require a change in playing style as would 13s.

personally, i find even 1 string gauge significant. i have a 25 scale guitar, and right now i prefer 9 heavy bottoms (size 9 on the small strings, going to like regular 10 size for the 3 thick strings). i find it the best of both worlds.

it is a personal thing. if i have the slightest bit of a problem bending up to a pitch, then obviously, your playing is off. with the 9s, my bends just seem right. i am more effortlessly bending to pitch correctly, especially on the higher frets.

even string type matters. the strings that came on my carvin were crap tactic. they were 9s, but for some reason they were super hard to bend. i don't know if they were slightly rusted, or something, but they were not "slinky" or flexible, i felt like i had to fight them. they felt rough and scratchy. i threw GHS boomers on and BOOM immediate improvement. it was literally an "ohhh yeses" moment. and i was glad too, for a second i thought my guitar was hard to play, or i should have gotten bigger frets.

so yeah find a gauge that works for you, and change strings when you should.
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an to answer your question - yes. among playing skill, the dumble amp, etc etc....13s on SRVs guitar would allow FULL sound, tight bass, a good snap and tone even with a crazy hard playing style and hard riffs on single string notes (like just hacking away at the E string), and give more output from the guitar, which probably contributed to pushing an amp with the tubescreamers, etc.

and yes, SRV apparently had really big gorilla hands.
Carvin CT624
Walden G630ce Acoustic
Carvin V3M, Avatar 2x12 WGS Reaper, vet 30
(crybaby, Fairfield circuitry Comp, GFS tuner, Vick Audio 73 Ram's Head, Xotic AC booster, lovepedal trem, TC Flashback, PGS Trinity Reverb, Walrus Audio Aetos power)
Last edited by ikey_ at Nov 10, 2013,
If you hit the string like a panzie then use your light gauges. I myself use 12s and i like to attack the string although that wasnt always the case. I started out with 10s but i like the tone you get with thicker strings. To answer your question YES it is quite noticable. It will be hard doing your bends the same sure but over time you'll get used to it.

Btw you dont need gorrilla hands. I have stupidly small hands and i make it work.
I use the Dean Markley Blue Steel Custom Lights, which provide a slightly lighter high end with a normal low end. They work really well for riffing and solos.
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does it affect the tone? yeah, especially if you're playing with a cleaner tone.

however, i personally think it doesn't affect it enough to justify using a gauge you're not comfortable with. I'd rather listen to someone playing well with the "wrong" gauge of strings than listen to someone play badly because they're using telegraph wires for strings and as a result can't bend in tune or vibrato properly.

I'd also say that (again, IMO) thicker strings sound "different", not "better".

And I'd also be wary of anyone who mainly plays rhythm who tells you that you should use thicker strings. Most (not all, but most) players who play a fair bit of lead use lighter strings.
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It affects tone because strings are what generate your tone. It's common sense. Nothing besides your strings are what generate the sound you hear. Everything else just shapes the sound. Without strings, there is no sound.

As Dave stated though, it just depends if you think it affects your tone to a degree where you'd prefer a different gauge.

Find the right gauge that works for you. If you tune down you will generally want to use thicker strings to keep the tension up. You don't want to sacrifice playability though. Find your balance.

I use 11's in E standard. Nice tone, still bendable. I might switch back to 10's though. I don't know.