#1
I'm wondering if anybody else has this problem -- I literally can't walk into a guitar store and try a guitar -- effectively, anyway. The reason is the strings are too damn light!!! 99% of all guitars I've tried in stores are setup this way -- it feels like I'm going to rip the strings right off the thing. And bends/vibrato get out of control quite easily. I haven't had my own guitar setup for E standard in a long while, but when I did, I preferred .10- .52s. For my current C# Standard tuning I use a custom .13-59 set. I have no trouble whatsoever with bending or vibrato.

But a thought occurred to me: would it be in my best interest to learn how to play with less tension? So much of advanced guitar playing centers on economy of motion, minimizing tension, etc. If I could learn to control my hands so as to not overpower lighter strings, could this improve my playing?

Or is it simply a matter of preference and the fact that I have strong hands and fingers necessitates heavier strings. For what it's worth, I prefer the sound of heavier strings as well; I'm not anxious to change unless there's a real benefit in playing ability. Please weigh-in with your thoughts.
#2
If it works for you and it doesn't inhibit your playing then i don't see why you should change. I play C# standard also and these days i prefer 10-46, but i have in the past used 9-42
#3
First, these string gauge discussions usually start the best arguments ever.

I favor heavier strings, but I play mostly rhythm. For clean playing, and playing with an emphasis on dynamics, there really isn't a substitute for strings that provide a good, healthy resistance, to pick attack.

Ibanez, (and one guesses many other makers), ships their electrics with, "electric light", (,009 to .042). I bought an Ibanez "ART100", (Les Paul type thingy). The makers ship with those strings so when the wannbe shredders pick up the guitar they'll think, "wow this thing is fast", and, "wow this thing is easy to play". Sold to the youngster with the delusions of grandeur!

First time I plugged the Ibby in, all that came out of it was noise, uncontrolled noise. So, I changed the strings to electric regular, (.010 to .046) racked the pickups down, which improved my experience with the guitar. However, not enough to take it out of the case more than once or twice a year, but better.

I should have know better, bought the subsequently purchased acoustics first, and saved myself $300.00...

OTOH, if you're going to play with a ton of gain, then the strings matter far less, since you're really playing your amp rig, not so much the guitar.

Here's where the question gets tossed back to you. Are you playing as fast as you'd like? Are you happy with the way you're bends come out?

You'll usually find me in the acoustic forum, where we get visited with many "shredlings", moaning, "my fingeys hurt", the first time they're confronted with the urge to play the acoustic guitar. Acoustic light strings have 165 Lbs. of tension, electric lights, right around 100! So yeah, they're gonna be a shock to the system of the uninitiated.

With thin strings you'll be able to go faster, plain and simple, and all those platitudes about "economy of motion, etc.," will make a lot more sense.

So, I think you should string to suit the purpose you're playing to. Some people make bizarre, (at least to me), choices, like putting electric lights on a jumbo acoustic. But, it's a matter of taste I suppose.

I would point out the many famous people have played the cards they were dealt, with respect to the instrument they were playing, and the effect they were trying to accomplish. Jimmy Page played an acoustic 12 string quite often, and they're monsters to fret as compared to his Les Pauls. Which is also why you'll hear a shitload of open chords when he did pick up the 12.

Some people claim playing the acoustic can ruin your touch for the electric, and I have to assume the reverse could be true also. I guess versatile players, the ones that can do both well, are like cream, and rise to the top.
Last edited by Captaincranky at Dec 13, 2014,
#4
Speed and string thickness don't matter all that much.

I will explain why.

You often hear speed to be the biproduct of accuracy, and this is 100% exactly right as far as the left hand goes.

If you play a note, you press them down as fast on a slow tempo as on a fast tempo. There is no slow or fast press, as this would result in a note not sounding, or buzzing on the fret. Even on a slow piece you need to hit the chord on the beat, it's 'perfect speed' or you would be an 8th, 16th, 32nd etc. note too late in time.

Now when talking speed on a series of notes, every note is pressed down at a different, faster interval. Yet every single note is pressed down just as fast as if you play one note.

Your mind needs to be able to arrange multiple press downs in series.

Left hand fretting though is so extremely minimal, it has almost nothing to do with power, beyond the beginning stages. That's why so so many young (asian) kids can play very virtuosic pieces like chopin on piano, you really think they are stronger in their hands?

Hit a rake on guitar, there's the motion for very very fast lines, now you need to make the timing perfect on a micro level to make it a sweep.

Tldr;

String tension does not matter much when fretting/speed is concerned.

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Last edited by xxdarrenxx at Dec 14, 2014,
#5
Just keep the strings you like and feels good to you when you play. regarding speed, it's important to be able to really release all the tension once you play a note. in order to develop this, you have to start really slowly, whole notes at 60bmp just play a lick or scale and concentrate on what's going on in you body. how's right hand, forearm, shoulder, neck, back, abdomen area, how's left hand doing, is there any tension, are your fingers relaxed over the fret board and so on. you really have to dive deep in order to discover the hidden discomfort you might me having somewhere in your body.
#6
Quote by xxdarrenxx
...[ ]....Left hand fretting though is so extremely minimal, it has almost nothing to do with power, beyond the beginning stages. That's why so so many young (asian) kids can play very virtuosic pieces like chopin on piano, you really think they are stronger in their hands?
I just love it when people start comparing apples to oranges to reinforce their stance. A 12 string guitar isn't a piano. A piano is easier to play than a 12 string guitar. That's what I say when fielding complaints about a person's fingers hurting when playing the guitar. "If the guitar causes you too much pain, take up the piano".
#7
Thanks for the thoughts guys. I've actually been playing for quite a long time (20ish years), and played acoustic-only for the first few. That could be why I favor heavier strings.

To clarify, I mostly have trouble with my picking hand, as I can adapt to bends/left hand technique, etc. fairly easily. But I do a lot of alternate picking and tremelo picking (black/death metal player mostly) and I find it impossible with light strings. For instance, take a fast, alternate-picked lead run: with my tighter string preference, the pick glides quickly back and forth across the strings. But with lighter gauge strings, the pick "catches" more easily and moves the string with it, making the same speed very difficult to achieve. I just didn't know if it would be beneficial to learn to overcome that by picking more lightly and precisely.

My biggest frustration lies only with my ability to choose a new guitar and not being able to get an accurate representation of how it will play when I set it up the way I like. I don't think I'll change the way I set them up, as I can play pretty well as is. I just wanted to hear some thoughts on this.
#8
Quote by xxdarrenxx
String tension does not matter much when fretting/speed is concerned.


Tighter strings require more force to fret though which would have an effect. Actually I'm not actually sure how you could think it doesn't unless you have only ever played one set of string gauges with the same tension for all of your playing.
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#9
Quote by KailM
...[ ]...My biggest frustration lies only with my ability to choose a new guitar and not being able to get an accurate representation of how it will play when I set it up the way I like. I don't think I'll change the way I set them up, as I can play pretty well as is. I just wanted to hear some thoughts on this.
Well, when you're dealing with acoustic guitars of the dreadnought and jumbo variety, thicker strings sound way better. Thin strings will sound, well, "thin and stringy". As soon as you go to acoustic light or medium, the sound of the guitar really opens up, with better and more solid sounding bass.

I don't think even solid bodies are immune to this phenomenon. The heavier the strings, the more excitation they provide. Unplugged volume should go up and the tonal bandwidth should increase, much as it would in an acoustic. The difference likely will be a decent improvement, just perhaps not as dramatic as it would be with an acoustic.

So, I think if you go into a store and try out a guitar, you be happier with it when you get it home, and your anxiety isn't all that warranted. And hey, don't forget you can always the guitar back if you don't like it.

I would perhaps caution you to look at guitars with substantial neck profiles. Those ultra thin Ibanez, "Wizard" necks, are really made with light gauge strings in mind. It's doubtful that your run of the mill Les Paul, Tele, or Strat would encounter any problems though.

Keep in mind the shredlings are the demographic the makers are targeting with the very light string sets.

When you compare the string gauges you use, with many bluegrass and jazz players, yours in some cases, are right in the mix, or even a twitch lighter.

So, I wouldn't "fret" about it. (Yeah, I had to work that stinker of a pun in there, so what)?
Last edited by Captaincranky at Dec 15, 2014,
#10
Quote by KailM
To clarify, I mostly have trouble with my picking hand, as I can adapt to bends/left hand technique, etc. fairly easily. But I do a lot of alternate picking and tremelo picking (black/death metal player mostly) and I find it impossible with light strings. For instance, take a fast, alternate-picked lead run: with my tighter string preference, the pick glides quickly back and forth across the strings. But with lighter gauge strings, the pick "catches" more easily and moves the string with it, making the same speed very difficult to achieve. I just didn't know if it would be beneficial to learn to overcome that by picking more lightly and precisely.

My biggest frustration lies only with my ability to choose a new guitar and not being able to get an accurate representation of how it will play when I set it up the way I like. I don't think I'll change the way I set them up, as I can play pretty well as is. I just wanted to hear some thoughts on this.


I agree, in terms of feel, I have a difficult time picking on really light strings.

In regards to buying a guitar, have you ever asked to have the store string up the guitars you are looking at with a thicker gauge? If you are looking at a $300 guitar they may laugh at you, but if you are looking to spend thousands, I would think they would be happy to put the strings you want on there to make the sale.