#1
I'm just really curious about this - people like Tony Iommi and B.B. King have had it said of them that they practically invented the idea of using light strings, apparently at rather different points in time, and if I spent more time reading up on such things I'm sure I could find several other names given such credit.

In a mythical time before time, but apparently not particularly well documented anymore, it is accepted fact that beefy strings were standard, with the memories of numerous very much alive people serving as evidence for this - back in those days 12s were considered light, apparently, because nobody bent strings (I guess maybe electric gauges of this time were more analogous to acoustic sets?)

At some point, I'm going to hazard a guess in the mid-to-late 60s or so, maybe a tad earlier, people started to come up with light gauge sets; by at least some accounts this involved using banjo strings for the high E and shoving everything else up a string. Over the course of the '70s it became established fact that string bends were the official and sole way to have Emotion™ in your solos.

It's 2015 and today a '52 AVRI Telecaster ships with 10-46 strings, people like Dick Dale, SRV and Zakk Wylde are regarded as freaks of nature, and I'm pretty sure if they make 14 gauge sets at all, they're for baritones.

When (and how quickly) did it come to be that heavy strings on electric became a specialist thing? Being that this must have been in the early portion of what constitutes the last 50 years, there must be plenty of long-time players who remember.
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#2
A lot of the old guys use light strings- some, because they're old. Most, probably, because they like to do big bends, etc.

Heavy strings probably caught on big time first with players who experimented with downtuning and alternative tunings. My suspects would be jazz, prog & metal players.
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#3
Read an article about Ernie Ball on Wikipedia a couple months ago and it had some info like you are asking about k33. Here is an excerpt:

With the guitar-based rock revival of the 1960s, Ball noticed that beginning students were having difficulty playing the bestselling Fender #100 medium gauge strings, particularly in holding down or bending the stiff 29-gauge third ("G") string. At the time, it was common for a set of strings to have a "wound" third string. He approached the Fender company with the problem, suggesting a lighter gauge but was rebuffed. Ball convinced a string manufacturer to make him custom sets with a 24-gauge third string which he sold in his store. It was the beginning of the Ernie Ball brand. Located not far from Hollywood, the store began to attract a large patronage of professional musicians, including The Beach Boys, Merle Travis, and The Ventures. Ball also began to notice the practice of "slack stringing" among players who discarded the bottom sixth string and added a banjo first string on top. This resulted in an overall lighter gauge set with a plain third string. Again, he contacted Fender with a suggestion for a lighter set and was turned down. He then approached Gibson, who also turned him down. So, once again he ordered from the manufacturer naming the product the Ernie Ball Slinky.[11] "Slinky" strings traveled the country with the pro musicians who used them and before long, Ball was receiving mail orders from individuals and stores.[12] Still not a string company, he ordered separate strings in various sizes and displayed them in a makeshift case allowing musicians to experiment in creating their own sets. It took off, and in 1967 he sold the store and moved his string business to Newport Beach, California.
#4
Style of play is important, as before the electric guitar, most players were playing acoustic in mostly rhythmic styles, and for the most part had little need to bend. Probably to do with frequency too, most guys playing lots of shows (like when the rock star boom arrived) use lighter gauges to save their hands, and when the idea of using lighter strings to make new sounds, it inspired a lot of creativity and expression. Think back to when everyone was using flats on bass, like double bass strings, then John Entwistle came along with Rotosound roundwound strings - similar idea.
#5
pretty sure billy gibbons has been known to use 8 guage....on a les paul 24.75 scale....that is SLACK as heck.
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#6
Quote by ikey_
pretty sure billy gibbons has been known to use 8 guage....on a les paul 24.75 scale....that is SLACK as heck.

even lighter than that, actually. his signature set is 07, 09, 11, 20w, 30, 38.

I think he uses 8s as his "heavy gauge" for open G slide playing
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#7
Quote by dannyalcatraz
A lot of the old guys use light strings- some, because they're old. Most, probably, because they like to do big bends, etc.

Heavy strings probably caught on big time first with players who experimented with downtuning and alternative tunings. My suspects would be jazz, prog & metal players.


You're SO steaming for some serious backlash <G>.

Light strings appeared in the early/mid '60's.

Prior to that, strings were about the same for acoustic and electric guitars, with a set of 12's pretty normal even on a 24.75" scale guitar. Heavy strings were the norm during the '30's and '40's because those big rhythm section archtop cannons like the Gibson Super 400 and the Epiphone Emperor needed them to boom out all that chord comping.

There were some folks using slightly lighter gauges when electrics showed up, and with the advent of the electric guitar as a solo instrument (Charlie Christian). Rock guitarists started bending in the early '60's, using banjo strings. Manufacturers caught on and began packaging the gauges we now use (9's and 10's), and by around '64, they were showing up regularly.

Heavy strings have still not "caught on bigtime". As a percentage of electric guitar string sets sold, the number is miniscule. UG's preponderance of metalistas aside, almost all guitars arrive with a set of 10's or 9's onboard.
#8
Quote by dspellman
You're SO steaming for some serious backlash <G>.

Light strings appeared in the early/mid '60's.

Prior to that, strings were about the same for acoustic and electric guitars, with a set of 12's pretty normal even on a 24.75" scale guitar. Heavy strings were the norm during the '30's and '40's because those big rhythm section archtop cannons like the Gibson Super 400 and the Epiphone Emperor needed them to boom out all that chord comping.

There were some folks using slightly lighter gauges when electrics showed up, and with the advent of the electric guitar as a solo instrument (Charlie Christian). Rock guitarists started bending in the early '60's, using banjo strings. Manufacturers caught on and began packaging the gauges we now use (9's and 10's), and by around '64, they were showing up regularly.

Heavy strings have still not "caught on bigtime". As a percentage of electric guitar string sets sold, the number is miniscule. UG's preponderance of metalistas aside, almost all guitars arrive with a set of 10's or 9's onboard.

Thank you! I think perhaps I wasn't totally clear with my question, but this is exactly the sort of response I was looking for
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#9
As an aside:

One of the reasons the LP headstock/nut combination has been such a tuning issue has been light strings and bending. Les Pauls in 1955 (to pick a year) weren't being used that way. The headstock (along with the clunky neck heel) was familiar to jazz/swing band musicians. When lightweight strings and lots of bending appeared, the LP headstock revealed itself as a tuning maintenance nightmare, but by that time Gibson had so entrenched itself into "tradition" that it really couldn't change without an uproar from its customers.

Leo Fender really hadn't considered string bending in his equations, either, but his emphasis on "cheap" was lucky in that regard. Straight pull headstocks are cheaper to produce (less wood, no finicky little "wings" on the headstocks) and, surprisingly, were ready for the "bendy" rock lifestyle pretty much by accident.

Other questions have always abided, however.
Did he really snitch the headstock shape from Paul Bigsby (this guitar was done in 1949 or so, and they DID play cards together):


and was THIS part of the plan?

#10
Quote by dspellman
UG's preponderance of metalistas aside, almost all guitars arrive with a set of 10's or 9's onboard.


I use light strings.
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#12
haha
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Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?