String Gauge and Lead Playing

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2,517
As I get more and more into lead playing I'm finding that the 11's I have been using for many years is making it hard for me to play great lead. I'm having a hard time bending a whole step and more each time in tune and my fingers tips are getting sore. So, my guitar teacher has been saying for awhile now to give up on the "Puppet Wire" and go with a lighter gauge.

Any thoughts or experience on this?

If I go down from 11's to 10's how much setup will I have to do on my Strat?
 

Lucidology

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
27,006
You'll have to raise your action & do a little intonation...
Probably not all that much intonating really ...

Plus, you just might like the lower action you'll get wih 10's...
So maybe, just maybe, a little neck relief ...

Bending should be easier, even with the lower action ....
 

KRosser

Member
Messages
14,317
I'd probably want to get a thorough pro setup anyway.

I've been using 10-46 with low action for as long as I can remember
 

steven.rogers

Member
Messages
1,629
I moved from 11s to 12s recently on my Strat and I had it set up professionally - did wonders for the playability, so I'd also recommend a pro setup.
 
Messages
2,517
Thanks guy's, I was thinking the same thing about the setup. I'm good at basic setup's and keeping my guitar's setup, but's it's time for a really good setup.

It's really been eye opening working on bends and cleaning them up. Doing it makes it easier to see why guy's like Ronnie Earl or Harry J have great tone.
 
M

Member 995

You'll find most guitarists use .010s or .009s. The focus of my playing isn't traditional guitar solos, but I find the .012s that I use to work reasonably well for that kind of playing, so it can be done. I should mention that I rarely bend over a step or a step and a half.

Bryan
 

steven.rogers

Member
Messages
1,629
You'll find most guitarists use .010s or .009s. The focus of my playing isn't traditional guitar solos, but I find the .012s that I use to work reasonably well for that kind of playing, so it can be done. I should mention that I rarely bend over a step or a step and a half.

Bryan
Yeah, same situation here - mostly straight ahead jazz.
 

Vegas Bob

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
462
Try 9.5's...
I've put them on both my Strat and Johnny A.
The tones still there and they're much easier to play.
I can play longer and the bends are easier to control.
 

countandduke

Member
Messages
1,268
My only comment would be to learn how to do setups yourself. It's really not that hard. Setting the intonation is easier than you'd think. I have gotten to the point where I actually prefer my own fret work. Almost every company skimps on the fret work and it can make a HUGE difference.

Great books can be found at www.stewmac.com

Take care.

Chris
 

Dave Orban

Member
Messages
16,866
I've been using 12s and 13s for several years now. Don't know if I could ever go back to 9s or 10s...
 

mojoslide

Member
Messages
1,118
I tried going back to 10s after using 11s for awhile...Man I couldn't stand the 10s, they sounded tinny (tiny too) and felt like rubber bands. Of course I can do 2 - 2 1/2 step bends pretty easily with 11s (at least on the B and G strings). I can easily do 1 1/2 steps on the high E too. A lot of it is setup and I am definitely finicky about that. I learned how to do a really professional job setting up my axes, which was a worthwhile investment. Get something like Dan Erlwine's How to make Your Electric Guitar Play Great and you should be good to go after a little trial and error. And this is not to say that 10s aren't for you. Either way you go, a good setup will help.
 

Flyin' Brian

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
30,111
Of course I can do 2 - 2 1/2 step bends pretty easily with 11s (at least on the B and G strings).
Damn those must be some meathooks you have!! Bend a G to a C at the 8th fret 2nd string? Back to the gym I guess for me.
 

Bussman

Member
Messages
2,740
I use a "light top/heavy bottom' string set (10-52) and I find it to be a good compromise between huge sounding rhythm and easier lead playing.
 

TNJ

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
28,773
Damn those must be some meathooks you have!! Bend a G to a C at the 8th fret 2nd string? Back to the gym I guess for me.
No Brian,
Keep those 9.5's you have on your guits. That strat of yours played like buttah the other week.
I'm getting 9.5's on my Strat and my Custom 22, in your honor.
Seriously, the change in feel and ease of bending was perfect for the Fender scale.
:)

S.
j
 

Jon

Member
Messages
1,567
I think this is one area where there is a load of cr*p talked by various people. From my experience, there is no 'right' answer for string gauge - there are many variables which affect string gauge choice - scale length of guitar, height of action, style of music, individual physical differences, preferred tones...the list is endless and all affect what is used.

The bottom line is that you can adjust your technique to fit any gauge of string...those guys who say "I just couldn't get used to xx gauge" haven't really tried (and why should they?). There are great examples at all ends of the spectrum, from SRV to Brian May who have great tone and use very different gauges. But then again, this is just my opinion and I'm probably wrong!
 

mojoslide

Member
Messages
1,118
Damn those must be some meathooks you have!! Bend a G to a C at the 8th fret 2nd string? Back to the gym I guess for me.
Like Jon said, it just takes time to get used to it. Sometimes it is a bit of a push, but supporting with extra fingers and gripping the neck right make it very possible for me. I prefer the 11s because they sound better to my ears - not because I'm trying to prove my manhood. Thicker tone is what's more important to me. After adjusting to 11s, I don't want to go back to anything else. With that said, I also wouldn't want to change to 12s now because I know I couldn't do those bends as easily (even with a good amount of effort and break-in period).

Also the brand of strings makes a difference too. Right now Ernie Ball 11-48 Power Slinkys are what's working for me - flexible enough but still thick sounding.
 

KRosser

Member
Messages
14,317
I think this is one area where there is a load of cr*p talked by various people. From my experience, there is no 'right' answer for string gauge - there are many variables which affect string gauge choice - scale length of guitar, height of action, style of music, individual physical differences, preferred tones...the list is endless and all affect what is used.

The bottom line is that you can adjust your technique to fit any gauge of string...those guys who say "I just couldn't get used to xx gauge" haven't really tried (and why should they?). There are great examples at all ends of the spectrum, from SRV to Brian May who have great tone and use very different gauges. But then again, this is just my opinion and I'm probably wrong!
Well, sure...like I said, I use 10-46 with low action for most electric guitars, but I play with a fairly light touch. I use 11 flatwounds on the archtop & slide guitars, 12's on acoustics & hard tension on the classical
 

TommyStrat

Member
Messages
101
You will find if you have a whammy there will be more time invested to get the guitar to settle down. I have worked on two this week that changed set ups on string guage as well as floating and flat mount trem systems. Floating bridge set ups require more time to settle than flush mount setups. Stewart Mac has good stuff on settin up your axe. I do fine adjustments every time I change strings. Sometimes they are only very very minor but the beauty of a strat is having it as perfect as you can especially if you play with another guitar player who is in first through fifth positions. Inversions need to be spot on. Your hand pressure will be different so watch your guitar to see if it goes sharp or flat and make small adjustments until it settles down. I just got back from Texas and the strat was pretty freaked out due to having string tension taken off for baggage handlers. Takes several tunes to stabalize. Good luck and let us know how your doing.
 

kimock

Member
Messages
12,524
I think this is one area where there is a load of cr*p talked by various people. From my experience, there is no 'right' answer for string gauge - there are many variables which affect string gauge choice - scale length of guitar, height of action, style of music, individual physical differences, preferred tones...the list is endless and all affect what is used.

The bottom line is that you can adjust your technique to fit any gauge of string...those guys who say "I just couldn't get used to xx gauge" haven't really tried (and why should they?). There are great examples at all ends of the spectrum, from SRV to Brian May who have great tone and use very different gauges. But then again, this is just my opinion and I'm probably wrong!
That sounds right to me. I just try to make the axe happy and go from there. You can't really get the guitar to come to you anyway, right?
See what's best for that guitar and go to it.

peace
 

papersoul

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
13,618
I try to use 11s and deal with it. I tried 10-52 but the 10 side sounded dinky for leads...plus I am thinking a straight 11 set feels more balanced.
Keep in mind, I am in Eb tuning. If I was in standard...I may go with 10s.

Any guys find their tone is big...with 9s or 10s?
 




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