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question about down tuning and heavier gauge strings

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by GibsonMarshallguy41, Aug 1, 2020.

  1. GibsonMarshallguy41

    GibsonMarshallguy41 Member

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    I play Gibson SG's, and with the band that I play in, we tune down to open D standard. I normally use .011 - .049 gauge strings, and have been for a long time now... playing at home, I occasionally tune down to C standard when I'm messing around with Sabbath-y stoner/doom riffs.

    lately, I've been wanting to try some heavier gauge strings, specifically, a .012 - .052 set... my question is... will I need to do a complete set up on my guitars going from .011 - .049 to .012 - .052 strings? will it only require a slight truss rod adjustment, or nut re-slotting? or should I be able to make the switch without any adjustments?
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2020
  2. mdog114

    mdog114 Member

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    You’ll likely need a truss tweak if your SG has a thin neck, you may also need to widen that low E slot a bit.
     
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  3. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Member

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    Nobody can answer that without holding the guitar in their hands, and even then sometimes you won't know for sure until you just try it and see. But, if your nut is as from the factory and it hasn't been adjusted for the .011s, it's likely you'll have some issues going up to .012s. That said, if you don't bend a lot of strings and don't pick too hard you might be OK.
     
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  4. GibsonMarshallguy41

    GibsonMarshallguy41 Member

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    thanks for the input...

    also, I'm in the process of getting some more tools that I would need for doing a proper set up. I am still learning, though. to say that I'm a novice when it comes to all this guitar maintenance stuff is an understatement. aside from changing the strings, and tuning the guitar, I am less than proficient, and I barely know the basics about truss rod adjustments, string height, neck relief, etc... I only have a truss rod wrench currently, but I am looking to get feeler gauges, an action ruler, a neck rest cradle, and also a nut file set... hopefully I get the right tools, since I barely know what I need here.

    any recommendations regarding these tools would be greatly appreciated.
     
  5. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Member

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    Things like adjusting the truss rod and action are fairly straight forward, just go slow with the truss rod, never more than a 1/4 turn at a time and if there's too much resistance, stop! You don't really need more than the truss rod wrench/socket and whatever screwdrivers for adjusting the bridge to do that (bits of guitar string can make a fine feeler gauge), and there's a ton of info online explaining how to do it (try StewMac to start).

    That said, being able to properly cut and file a nut is a real skill and takes a lot of time and effort to develop. It's not as simple as taking a measurement and adjusting something, it's more of a feel thing. Not trying to dissuade you, just saying that if it's something you want to learn then by all means, dive in, but if you're trying to learn to do it to save money, it might actually end up costing you more. Look at it this way; you can always remove material, but you can't always put it back. So if you cut too deep, you either need to shim the whole nut and basically start over, or start with a whole new nut. It can be fairly tedious, especially without someone over your shoulder to guide you. Just something to consider...
     
  6. guitarbilly74

    guitarbilly74 Supporting Member

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    If you're using 11-49, you should be able to get away with 12-52 - at least for an initial test - with just a quick truss rod adjustment. If you like it, it's a good idea to make sure the nut is set up for it. But wait until you play them for a while before making any permanent changes.

    In my experience, strings that are too heavy don't sound right for doom. You need a bit of slack to get that sludgy bottom end. As you probably know, Iommi got his sound by down tuning light strings and that's the blueprint for doom. I think 11-49 would be fine for open C in a doom setting.
    If you were playing music that requires a tight bottom end like technical death metal or djent then yeah a 12-52 would probably be better for C. But for doom, again, a bit of slack is part of the sound. YMMV.
     
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  7. Dr. Tinnitus

    Dr. Tinnitus Member

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    Just put the 12s on and it will play fine.
     
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  8. Benz2112

    Benz2112 Supporting Member

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    I'd predict that you'll want to go bigger than a 52 on that low C, but try it and see where you want to go from there.
     
  9. GibsonMarshallguy41

    GibsonMarshallguy41 Member

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    no, .052 on the low string would definitely be plenty heavy enough for C standard tuning. I've already been dabbling with C standard at home for a while now with my regular .011 - .049 set, and they seem fine, so going up to .012 - .052 will be all the heaviness that I need... keep in mind, that when it comes to stoner/doom riffing, there are guitarists out there that actually use fairly light gauge strings and are able to get by just fine with low tunings - Tony Iommi, and Victor Griffin are two I can think of, but I'm sure there are more.

    and besides... C standard tuning is definitely not a regular thing for me. its what I do occasionally when I'm playing at home... primarily, D standard is what we use in the band that I play in. judging from some of the responses here, that's something I mentioned in my original post that I think a lot of people might have missed.

    we're not a stoner/doom band. we play old-school crossover punk/metal type of stuff.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2020
  10. Random1643

    Random1643 Member

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    My experience with this is that prior to making changes it helps to talk to a tech with the manufacturer laying out what you'd like to do, getting their feedback, and then I also brought the guitar to a local luthier/guitar tech asking the same questions. An abundance of caution cause I was worried about damaging the guitar. I had already gone from 11s up to 12s - for a guitar I had dedicated to open D and open G - and now I wanted to beef it up to .013-.056. Both experts gave me a green light and it has worked out fine. That was in 2012. I had no issues with string changes affecting the nut or changes to the setup.

    My disclaimer is that my guitar is an acoustic parlor with a humbucker in the soundhole, not an SG. The fact that it's a short-scale guitar made a difference in going to heavier strings.
     
  11. Motorhed

    Motorhed Member

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    I use 11-49 for C# on my acrylic Warlock. For feel, I think I'd prefer 12-52 but, I agree, there is something about the floppiness that just works soundwise for that kind of thing. I do it for Sabbath and trying to come up with my own Sabbathy stuff.

    The only thing about it is I have a really hard time going back to standard tuning, which I use 11s for Gibson scale and 10s for Fender. It kills my fingers for a while. But, I also find it hard to not bend the strings right off the neck when I go from standard to C# lol.
     
  12. johnetone

    johnetone Member

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    The 11-53 Thomastik Power Brights are the best set for what you’re going for. I’ve tried many orher brands, but the core:wrap ratio of that 53 is the best for intonation and feel in drop C. I even go all the way to Bb without any issues.

    just a small set of files to slightly widen the nut slots on my SG Classic was all I needed.
     
  13. GibsonMarshallguy41

    GibsonMarshallguy41 Member

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    thanks... but once again, I am mainly using D standard tuning 90% of the time on my guitars... playing in C standard is only on a rare occasion, once in a while, at home.
     
  14. johnetone

    johnetone Member

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    Yeah, but you said you wanted bigly strings, so I just told you about the best. You're welcome!:aok
     
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  15. GibsonMarshallguy41

    GibsonMarshallguy41 Member

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    yes, that is correct, I do want to go up a tad heavier than the set I've been using... I just want to see if I need to do a complete set up again, considering that I will primarily be using D standard tuning with the .012 to .052 set, that's all... but yes, thanks for the advice. I appreciate it.
     
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  16. jvin248

    jvin248 Member

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    .

    Nut slot adjustments, neck relief, bridge height, and intonation will all need to be verified.

    Nut slot files, if you are doing one or two guitars a year, can be had for $6 seeking out a welding tip cleaner file set at a hardware store. Key is to keep an angle with a faster fall than the string makes from the fret side of the nut to the tuner it goes to. Otherwise you end up with a sitar sound. Cut too deep and the string frets out on the first frets when playing open. Fret the third fret and you should only have 1-2 pieces of paper gap at the first fret to the string. Higher than that and you'll get out of tune conditions playing the cowboy chords near the nut.

    Keep in mind, on the return trip ... when you decide you're tired of the big strings and want to go back to stock, you'll likely need a new nut installed (plus all the setup).

    Watch about a dozen 'daves world of fun stuff' videos to get an idea of the steps involved with a setup. Frudua and Sam Deeks are other good channels.

    .
     
  17. d'djembe mutombo

    d'djembe mutombo Member

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    I used to do this to my SGs. They are great guitars for abusing. I had one set up with 13's for Drop B. The rule of thumb I lived by is I'd go up a gauge every half step I went down. E std and drop D are 10's, Eb std & drop C# are 11's, etc. You just have to make sure to file the nut when you go up in gauges to you don't have sting binding. As long as you go down in tuning when you go up in gauge you shouldn't need to do a whole setup. Yeah, it's not going to be perfect, but it's going to be relatively close to the one you had at the lower gauge/higher tuning.
     
  18. johnetone

    johnetone Member

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    Everyone kindly keep in mind that Jimi ****ing Hendrix played in Eb standard with .008 - .038 gauge strings!
     
  19. GibsonMarshallguy41

    GibsonMarshallguy41 Member

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    yeah, I get it, but.... ugh... that gauge set would be WAY too light for me... the lightest I would ever go (only if I was using E standard tuning) would be a .010 to 0.46 set (with a wound third) that D'Addario makes.

    [​IMG]
    otherwise, THIS set is my normal go to 90% of the time, for D standard (and occasional drop C, and C standard)

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2020 at 10:39 AM
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  20. twoheadedboy

    twoheadedboy Member

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    I agree. Even for music other than doom, I don't love the sound of very heavy strings. With a heavier string, you get more fundamental and less upper harmonic. For heavy downtuned guitars, you actually don't want a lot of the fundamental, because the low end tends to get loose and woofy and conflicts with the bass guitar and kick drum.
     

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