Thick vs Thin Guitar Strings
We have all heard that thick strings are better than thin strings. People who like to have this argument generally cite that Stevie Ray Vaughan played extremely thick strings (.013 gauge). While that’s cool and all, plenty of guitar heros have notoriously played light gauge strings. Jimmy Page, Chuck Berry, and BB King all used ultra-light strings (.008 gauge). Regardless of string gauge, each of these guitarists sound great! With that said, let’s get into which strings will help you achieve YOUR sound!
What makes you comfortable?
The absolute most important thing you need to consider when choosing strings is comfortability. There are plenty of players who are extremely comfortable when playing lighter gauge strings, but for others, they prefer the strings to fight back a little. A big part of this is due to the fact that some people are heavy handed, while others are not.
I have hyper-flexible joints in my hands, which makes it hard to apply pressure on the strings without my joints collapsing, so gripping thicker strings does not bode well for me. I also happen to have a really light picking touch, so I feel extremely comfortable on 9’s. When I feel comfortable, I play better, and I sound better.
I have guitar buddies that hit their strings as if they are trying to relieve some built up stress from their wives who nag them about spending “too much money on guitars” (yeah right, that isn’t a thing). In all seriousness, If you are a heavy picker, you will need thicker strings. If you have a death grip on your fretting hand, you will also need thicker strings, or else, you will bend the strings out of tune, and tuning is a non-negotiable in music.
What does style have to do with it?
Another thing to consider with string size is the tuning or style of music that you play. Many metal guitarists drop tune their guitars. When you drop tune thinner strings, they become floppy and lose their ability to hold pitch. For instance, Dimebag Darrell played 9’s when he was in standard tuning, but he used 11’s when he drop tuned his guitar. Despite the difference in thickness, the tension was most likely consistent between tunings, which made him most comfortable to play.
Using the same concept above, you may want to get a custom set of strings if you play crazy tunings, like the one found in Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls (BDDDDD). You can pick and choose different thicknesses to give you the desired pitches, without breaking a string.
As far as tone goes, there are subtle differences between string gauges, but it is not worth sacrificing your comfort. If you feel better, you will sound better, I promise you! When it comes to finding YOUR sound, buy a pack of cheap strings in every guage you want to try. Switch them out for a different gauge, and see which string thickness is most comfortable to you.
If you are having trouble choosing between two thicknesses, then consider hybrid options. For instance, if I love how the low strings sound on a set of 10’s, but I love the comfort I get from the high strings on a set of 9’s, then I would get a hybrid set. The hybrid options are great for allowing comfort, while still obtaining any tonal advantages of larger string gauges.
I hope this was helpful in equipping you to find YOUR sound! If you found this article helpful, please follow Moustache Audio on social media, and download our free ebook here.
At Moustache Audio, we build gear that allows you to dial in something unique to fit your personal playing style. We want to help you groom your tone, and shape it into the masterpiece that you have always dreamed of.