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Thread: Which string gauge for speed?

  1. #1
    Madisgp madisgp's Avatar
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    Which string gauge for speed?

    Should I be using a particular string gauge for speed practice? Lighter strings seems to help left hand speed and heavier strings seem to help picking speed. Should I not worry about it and just go with what sounds good? I'm using .010's on most of my electric's now. I have one with .009's. Any other tips on strings would be helpful. thanks.

  2. #2
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    Jimmy Bruno uses 13's and he's possibly the fastest guitarist to ever walk the planet

  3. #3
    Registered User sixstrings121's Avatar
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    I like 9's. Faster playing, but less tone. The thinner, the easier, the thicker, the better tone

  4. #4
    Registered Crutmauler
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    Tony Iommi uses thin strings and still gets a huge tone.

    08, 08, 12, 22 ,28, 38, from what I've heard. But in concert he's certainly not lacking in the tone area. He's one of the best sounding live players I've heard. Maybe it's just the overwhealming volume levels he plays at. But an 08 is an awfully thin B string.

  5. #5
    Part-time stupid Rob's Avatar
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    One year and a half ago I switched from 9-42 to 10-52 trying to improve my right hand picking. I picked too heavily and with a Floyd-Rose everything sounded like I was doing that "gargling" trick all the time .

    One month ago I switched back to 9-46 because my left hand got tired in less than an hour with 10-52 and now I notice that I can pick with a lot more control than before.

    Now I just need to improve my left hand technique... Anyway, I only wanted to point out how I felt with different string gauges. And my advice: use whatever feels more comfortable to you; don't worry about tone because that comes from your fingers, not from your strings.

  6. #6
    Registered User SeattleRuss's Avatar
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    Lighter strings seems to help left hand speed and heavier strings seem to help picking speed.
    I think that's true. Lighter is certainly better for legato stuff and it seems like heavier strings sort of snap back into place faster than light strings, making them better for fast picking.

  7. #7
    Weak Fingers MattW's Avatar
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    I used .08s for a while (tuned down a tone!) when I was recovering from tendonitis, it didn't really help my right hand at all, the strings were far too slack. I am playing .09s at standard tuning again and I think it is just about the best compromise for me, although I am going to have a look into trying some hybrid sets in the near future.

  8. #8
    IbreatheMusic Author Bizarro's Avatar
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    Practicing legato on thick strings may improve your strength and coordination. Same goes with picking. In my younger, shred-happy days I practiced on a bass guitar and a hard-to-play acoustic to build up stamina, strength, and control. I still do these exercises from time to time. For some reason my hands get *used* to a particular string size and I need some extra fitness workouts before I get to a point where I'm really comfortable.

    It works for me, YMMV.
    -Bizarro
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  9. #9
    Weak Fingers MattW's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bizarro
    Practicing legato on thick strings may improve your strength and coordination. Same goes with picking. In my younger, shred-happy days I practiced on a bass guitar and a hard-to-play acoustic to build up stamina, strength, and control. I still do these exercises from time to time. For some reason my hands get *used* to a particular string size and I need some extra fitness workouts before I get to a point where I'm really comfortable.

    It works for me, YMMV.
    Just one thing to add to that, be careful if you decide to try this! Practicing on a heavy guage acoustic & electric was problematic for me, I wont say that it caused my RSI per se, but it was certainly a catalyst and care should be taken when taking this approach. Stop if it hurts!

  10. #10
    Seany
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    I used 8's on my old guitar and when i got an ibanez it came with 9's and being tight as hell i didnt spend money replacinging them with 8's and the hastle of the setting up etc. but i got used to it and stuck with nines to not alter the setup. When i got familiar with setting up the guitar i put 8's on and HATED it, this is my fault but i kept pulling the high E off the fret board, it was too slack and as for picking i didnt like the tone and when i really whacked the e when alternate picking it sounded god awful almost like i was picking to hard (and im sure i dont; i just pick quite hard to get a good tone) i really didnt like 8's (tone with picking sucked to) anymore and stick with nines, my fingers have gotten used to it. Btw, when i tried legato on 8's i used to much force and the strings felt TOO light to get a nice stable control out of.

    Interestingly, when i snapped high e the other day (9's) and consequently the other stings all raised in tuning half a step because of the tension difference. I actually preferred playing on it, getting a real WHACK out of hitting the strings, but legato was still okay on low strings but was a little bit hard to pull off/hammer on higher ones strangly. I realised that for me 9's are perfectish, 10's are just too much for me.

    Paul Gilbert said in an interview he used 10's for a little while and 11's but they were hard for vibrato and legato and i think he may have said 8's were too thin (cant quite remember) but said 'he now uses' (this was an old intaview i think, caus he still had long hair, maybe Mr. Big) 9's but the lower 1 or two strings (e and maybe a) were heavier gauge i think 50 or something.

    Id disadvise 8's cause using them for a long time just made me feel like i had weak fingers and callouses got weaker on fingers + the tone sucked and was horrible to pick on.

    Sorry for this being sooo long
    Sean

  11. #11
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    pick thickness also helps I find..

    BTW Rob what is "gargling" trick ?
    sounds interesting.

  12. #12
    The only way is up Skyport's Avatar
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    I believe Petrucci switched to 9's after using 10's for most of his career. Also, Vai has said he often used 9's for studio recording and 10's live.

    I personally use 9's, used to use 10's but bending was a b*tch for my fingers. If bends are an issue then bear in mind that using graphite nut/string saver saddles can greatly add to the 'bendability' of your strings.

  13. #13
    Mad Scientist forgottenking2's Avatar
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    I've found 11s to work fine (I have a friend who always bugs me about the thickness if my strings and picks <I use .68, 1.14, 2.0 and 3.0 mm picks those strings>) bending used to be hard but since I eased into them (I started with 8s when I was starting out, then I switched to 9s when the store didn't carry 8s then tried 10s and then 11s.) I have 13s on the guitar I use for slide (the fretless frankenstein). I haven't had a problem with finger injury or anything so far. But then again I am every careful when it comes to warm ups and I don't play crazy fast all the time... I'd say it deppends on what sound/feel you want. You can be fast on any string gauge I believe. Check out your favorite players and you'll see that they aim for tone when they chose strings... not so much. "I like this gauge 'cause it helps me play faster" . Steve Morse and Zack Wylde use thick strings, Steve Vai and the Satch use thin gauges.

    Experiment and see what you like best.

    Regards,
    "If God had wanted us to play the piano he would've given us 88 fingers"

  14. #14
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    I don't subscribe to the theory that light strings equate to inferior tone, there are too many other variables. I do think that too many players set their guitars up with too low of an action when using light gauge strings causing excessive buzzing, and this will cause their tone to suffer. As far as picking speed with light gauge strings, try picking closer to the bridge where the strings have less slack. Oh, I use a hybrid string gauge, .009 to .046, tuned down a half step.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skyport
    I believe Petrucci switched to 9's after using 10's for most of his career. Also, Vai has said he often used 9's for studio recording and 10's live.

    I personally use 9's, used to use 10's but bending was a b*tch for my fingers. If bends are an issue then bear in mind that using graphite nut/string saver saddles can greatly add to the 'bendability' of your strings.
    Petrucci is on Ernie Ball's web site promoting their "Not Even Slinky" strings which are made for tuned down guitars. I think the gauge is .012 to .058 or something close to that, and he is tuned down two steps (E to C).

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