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Does Acoustic String Gauge Make a Difference?
- Published on Mar 28, 2023 veröffentlicht
- Does string gauge matter? In this episode we test whether acoustic guitar string gauges actually make a difference in your sound.
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Comments • 1 583
I switched to lighter gauge strings to ease the load on my arthritic hands. A significant improvement in my ability to play, and to the length of time I can play.
I've recently put d'addario 10-47's on my Taylor 114ce. Never sounded better to my ears. I was stunned that the lower frequencies cleaned up, plus much more even across the spectrum. Plus, F/B/G/C barre chords much easier on my fingers.
Ditto. Although my pain is greater in my picking hand. I do more strumming than picking these days.
My hands were going numb. Quit for years. Turns out I was diabetic.stopped eating sugar, hands came back
I have bad arthritis and varying degrees of numbness in both hands and trigger finger in my middle finger on my left (fretting) hand. Switching from Martin lights 012 to custom lights 011 on my HD-28 certainly helped. As well as Voltarin!
Yeah I have it in my wrist plus fingers and can't use the heaver strings.
(CG Jung) All the same for me, except 400mg advil and a 600mg arthritis Tylenol every 12 hours. Plus 5mg thc an hour before playing. YMMV. ( Kidney & liver function blood tests every year or two). I'm getting cortisone injections in both hands next week. No question cortisone has helped with my lumbar arthritis. Totally worth it to keep playing. Take care!
I think it's always good to try different gauges on different acoustic guitars because they respond differently. It really depends a lot on the player too. There's no "one size fits all" string gauge for acoustic.
Spot on, brother!!!!
This is encouraging. I want to go back to playing on an acoustic, but I want to keep my 11's. I play a mix-up of different styles and genres aiming for modern jazz. The pins and needles of overtones and such from the high end are always the hardest spectrum to control. On an acoustic, they may sound tinny. But without them, the mid tones may sound raspy.
It'd be cool to do a 'blind' test, where we don't see the gauges and try to identify when it changes. Our ability to deceive ourselves is immense, especially in the studio.
I agree. In fact, this test is a must
@Jeff Taylor The high-brow wine snobs liked $8 wine that had been put into a blender for a few second.
We do tend to hear with our eyes.
I was thinking the comparison is only as good as my headphone speakers are. Having had room speakers in my youth, that were very expensive for the time, and had a very good range of impedance, I could sure tell the difference between them and cheaper speakers. Especially on songs like Love Reign on me.Quality made a huge difference.
@Jeff Taylor : And that's the thing. I have a student at the moment and the first thing I did was change out her strings to 11s instead of the 12s that she had on it. It makes it earier for her to play and she's able to play longer using the lighter strings. I use 11s on my acoustic all the time and I've been playing a long long time.
From my personal experience, the biggest difference when I play heavy vs light strings live, acoustic is the dynamic range. The light gauge is very even, so when I want to kick a solo, or any type of expression, the light gauge will be lost, I have to play that much harder to get a tiny bit of volume increase. Meanwhile, the heavy gauge have more room to get louder if I hit them harder, so I cut through the mix better by controlling my volume through my playing.
@2 Music Lover "I think this very much depends on the guitar." Yes! It also depends the strings model, picks, and the player. IOW, decide for yourself. For me, my guitars, my hands, the lighter gauge strings are superior. Even the extra lights sound better than mediums.
@Bernie Weller dynamic range != more projection , I did not see in the video any mention of dynamic range. maybe I missed it? have a time ref. ?
Which bears out what they say in their summing up. More mid range = more projection, which is what they said heavier strings produce.
Yes. Light gauges sounded more even to me as well. Which is what I'm looking for just strumming a solo acoustic act. Plus, methinks it will be easier on my arthritic hands.
As someone who hasn't played in 30 years and just getting back into it, I always kept lightest gauge on my 12-string, mainly for playability. Now, because old hands can't remember much less have the strength, I was really glad to see this. Rhett's playing was beautiful. I have so much to learn, re-learn, re-enjoy.
Yeah agreed the thinnest strings give the most control and nuance, which I like
Early in my playing experience , I had seen a guitar player called Michael Hedges. I had been listening to his first 2 records, and thought they were really ground breaking as far as the
acoustic guitar and composition goes, after the concert he invited everyone backstage to talk if they wanted to, no one showed but me, I was kind of blown away
by that..we talked and the first question out of my mouth was, "What kind of strings do you use? He smiled and said " what ever is there". I laughed, in other words, Its like
the old Frank Zappa album..."Shut up and play your guitar". I ended up opening for him in Colorado in 1997..What a talent! I was one of the best days of my life..I was terrified !!! But what a
great experience !! There has really been no one like him since, in my humble opinion !!
@RealJimSmith I live in Rochester NY and I was at that same show, he was like Pied Piper weaving in an out thru the audience.His death was a blow to all is Hedges fans...I listen to him all the time
Free Swinging Soul, Rest In Peace MH
Such a master and his too early passing was such a loss. I met and heard him in Chattanooga at a small venue after totally binging on his first released album and trying to learn his techniques as much as possible. I once played a wedding gig with a sax player, who’d played with Hedges. The gig was unrehearsed and I only learned there’d be a sax a few minutes before the gig. The saxophonist later told me my style reminded him a bit of Hedges, pretty much my fav compliment of all time. I own a D-28 because Hedges played one. Man, I miss that artist/beautiful soul.
@Dave Diegelman - Broker Associate Lucky guy you are Dave, I saw Michael a few times in San Diego in the 80's ... shed a tear when we lost him. I have a cassette recorded at New Varsity, a one of a kind show, soundboard quality and an amazing show.
How fortunate opportunity for you,meeting him and opening up for him.A once in a lifetime gig you never dreamed of.But it did happen so now you can sleep comfortably. Yahoo.
Fingerstyle and strumming both sounded best on the lowest gauge. Thank you for the detailed demo.
I used to worry I was missing a whole lot of range by playing my 10’s, but not so much now. Thanks for doing this!
When Covid hit, my daily and weekly playing dropped considerably, so when I started doing acoustic gigs again I switched from .12s to .11s on my Martin OM-28. The change was so much easier on my hands and I didn't notice that much of a change in the performance of the guitar. Great Video!
@ComboverSoul tig very true and scary...
Me too. Tendonitis in my forearm. I can pay much longer now. I like 13s a lot, but I really didn't notice a difference between 12s and 11s sound wise and there is no buzzing so I stuck with the 11 s
@ComboverSoul tig 🤣🤣🤣🤣
I use light gauge on acoustics as well and it's all about hand comfort. I find the difference in tone minimal and and changes that need to be made can be done using eq.
ohhh covid...............there's things coming that're gonna make you piss your slacks...
As someone who used to play out acoustic, my experience is that the thicker strings absolutely sound a little fuller and the lighter strings sound thinnner, but when you're playing for 3-4 hours that string thickness makes a difference on your fingertips so I used Elixer 11s (nanoweb I think) to play out. Even though they were a little thinner sounding, I just upped the bass a little on the EQ and close enough.
Medium gauge is a nice balance between the 2. I like Martin Bronze Wound.
I've always loved 10s on acoustics. Minor tonal difference, but the playability, especially with bluesy stuff, is really noticeable.
I am a bassist and am a big believer in light gauge strings, I feel I can control the dynamics a lot more by how hard I play. On a heavy gauge strings, especially flatwounds, you have to play very hard all the time to get a decent sound out of them. For some guys light gauge strings just feel like rubber bands because they are so used to playing hard on a heavy gauge strings. But you have to adjust to them. Play dynamically and have the amp do the work.
I feel that lighter gauge strings make you a better player. 7s & 8s on a 6, and the equivalent on bass because they're more sensitive to input, both the "tone starts in the hand" aspect and that since they are more reactive they make you play tighter.
@BryanRulz It's just funny, because lighter strings are *known* for sounding "fat" (subdued highs and mids). The thicker you go, the brighter and more piano-like it gets. Literally the opposite of what the less intelligent among us seem to think is the case.
I concur with this. It is for that reason that I have put 35-95 strings on my active basses and I am in the process of moving to 40-95 strings on my passive basses.
Know how to keep someone from stealing your guitar? Put it in a Bass case
Be interesting to put the recordings through frequency analysis to see whether the harmonics change.
Considering you could never have the microphone in the exact same spot during each recording, a frequency analysis may not show the difference in tone from string gauge in isolation. There would be TWO variables in that experiment: mic position and string gauge. My ear tells me mic position would provide a bigger change in sound/harmonic content than gauge of string.
seems like they missed out on an opportunity there. or they would be so similar the difference could be imperceptible.
Found this video so informative Rick thank you for making it. I had 13's on and as I'm a beginner I wanted to know if a lighter gauge would help after watching this I decided to put 10's on. I found it so much more comfortable to play and barre chords became easier to play helping me become a better player . Love your videos, thanks again!
Thanks for validating my preferences! After playing for years on "light" gauge, I made the switch to "extra light" and haven't looked back. To me, while the overall tone of the heavier strings is a bit fuller, the ease of fingering and bending the lighter strings more than offsets the slight loss of tone. Using the lighter guage strings also minimizes the difference in feel when switching back and forth from electric to acoustic.
Social media is designed to validate your opinions. Generally gets better as you teach it what you like.
I play a Yamaha parlor steel-string. You've convinced me to stay with the 10's. Easier to play (have some arthritis issues developing), and use both hybrid and finger styles. Great demo for us acoustic guys!
Interesting that the fatter gauge wasn’t better enough to pass up the lighter gauge. Player preference and feel is everything. As someone who plays both electric and acoustic it’s pretty apparent how much “easier” it is to manipulate the 10s on my electric than it is the 12s on my acoustic. But I do love both. Thanks for the video!!
To my ears, the .10s sounded the best on fingerstyle, but I noticed a pronounced improvement in projection and articulation with the .12 set in Rick's strumming. He may prefer .13s out of habit, but the .12s had clearer resonance to me.
I preferred the thinner sound on the strumming with the 10s. I put 9s on my Takamine and it still sounds huge, but plays way easier.
flatpicking the light gauge sounded awful. so much chitter-chatter mish-mash noise. 12s did sound good but i prefer the 13s as its cleaner - free of that chitter-chatter mish-mash noise! ...fingerstyle didnt seem to make as much difference - i expect as a player the lighter gauge much more enjoyable. ...with both flatpick and fingerstyle heavier gauge made them play slower - guitar seems to sound fatter.thicker.more bloom - so forces u to want to play slower. (and the thicker gauge may slow you down anyway)
the notes being played is what sticks out to me
I agree Troy. My first feeling upon the demo played was the same as yours.
Agreed, the 13s almost have a muted quality.
Man, they all sound great but I'm so with you on the ease of playability and impact on your performance being the most important factor. I recently went from 12s to 11s on my Martin (GPC 13e). I play 2-3 live solo acoustic shows a week and the lighter strings are so much better on my fingers.
I'm still at the beginner stage. Started 6 months ago. I started out with 12 gauge strings. I really couldn't achieve bar chords. Nearly everything was plunk and chunk. My teacher said I should change to a lighter gauge. I went to 11 gauge. Immediately noticed a wonderful difference. Not only was I finally able to play bar chords, but also my sound on all my other chords was so much better.
That's an interesting experience, I'm a beginner as well and I'm switching to a lighter gauge for the same reason. Thanks for sharing!
@lilgreenmomo please do, makes a world of difference
I also like (extra)lights for finger style, the treble comes through better, but overall for strumming I prefer medium
This is the comment I came for. I really need to change my strings.
Try the EJ26 11-52 Custom Light - I usually play EJ16s 12-53 but just put some 26s on and love them, just a little easier all round…
So you're learning on steel strings, that's great, when I kicked off fifty five years ago I played a Spanish and the nylon strings were a bit easier to play besides I couldn't afford a dreadnought. For the rest of my life I played electric until recently where I've packed the electrics away and play acoustic i.e. a Hummingbird and a Sigma Jumbo both with 0012s which suit me the best.
Interesting. I've developed hand issues but have stuck with 12's because I always believed that was the lightest acceptable acoustic I actually liked the 12''s the least - the attack transients seemed over emphasized. I'm definitely going to try 10's and 11's. My acoustic is one of the Breedlove DR Deluxes, a Martin copy and the only Breedlove I've ever liked. Nicely balanced. Thanks, guys.
Great video, guys! As someone who prefers 80/20s to PH/BRs, I like the sound of 12-53s best to get plenty of depth while still retaining brightness. I find this is especially important when playing higher capo positions, such as many of Jethro Tull's tunes with the capo at the 5th fret.
Absolutely love how you give a full rig rundown so we can get a full picture of the sound we’re hearing. It might not mean much to many, but for the people who care, it’s a welcome feature of the videos with tracked audio.
It's been more than 15 years since I play only on nylon strings, but maybe my input can be of any help:
I think string gauge affects the sound since it affects playability, mainly.
I used to play on hard/super hard tension strings and my left hand used to hurt a lot. When I switched to normal tension, I never looked back. My sound really improved, just by feeling more comfortable.
Have almost always used 11’s in parlor styles, 12’s (EJ16’s) on my Dreds, and 13’s on my Jumbo type (Taylor GS8) guitars.
You guys are making me feel like-I’m losing my religion! 😢😊
Really nice video. Rick summed up this experiment with the phrase "You played better with the 10's". Strings can make some difference, but the player still makes the most difference. What helps you play easier and better is ultimately what's going to sound best. In my case, it is 13's, but I tune the guitar to C. I try to use the highest gauge that will not kill the guitar or my ability to play for long periods of time, and that can bring out the tones I want.
I think Rhett made a great point about using equalizers. If you are playing live with an equalizer I think the 10s are the way to go. Very surprising to me. I am going to try it out on my live rig.
I think one reason this comparison is a bit more difficult than the electric string test is because it's impossible to perfectly recreate the mic placement. When I've tracked acoustics and comped them in the studio I would hear tonal differences take to take because of minute shifts in my position relative to the mic. It's very difficult to account for that here, although I did hear a bit of what I would expect to hear, the 13's very slightly warmer. My takeaway is that all of these tones were perfectly usable, and with minor EQ adjustments the 10's would have a similar body to the 13's. The biggest difference would be in how the guitar feels and how easy it is to pull off certain techniques. That's largely more about what a player is used to than anything else. Bottom line, you can make 10's sound great if it's more comfortable for you. Play the gauge that feels best for you and allow EQ and compression to get it to sit properly in the mix.
I think a lot of it can come down to the string composition and the guitar itself - What wood(s) it's made from, how it's braced, size, etc. None of that means diddly on an electric, but those are everything for an acoustic.
Definitely hear the low mids getting stronger as you get thicker, but to myself not in a good way. I actually prefer the twang and clarity of the smallest strings even if they sound a little chimey.
I’m so glad you did this episode b/c I play more acoustic than electric, although your electric show helped out a lot. I actually thought that the 13s sounded muddy, especially on the fingerpicked song. It was hard to differentiate between the others, though, which would suggest that going with the lighter gauge is a better option b/c they are easier to play. I thought you might show the variation on the computer - because frankly, why even show it if you’re not going to present the results. In any case, helpful video as always. Thanks.
To be honest, the 0.11's, maybe 0.12's at the most, just hitted the sweet spot to my ears. But I would be a lot more curious to hear different string materials, like Silk Steels, Silk Bronze, Flat Tops, Flatwounds, 85/15 Bronze, Phospor Bronze, and so on...
I bought "medium" strings for a few years until, a guitar tech at my local shop asked me why. I had no answer. Medium just seemed like it would be a good choice. He told me if I let him put lighter gauge strings on, and I didn't like them, they were free. I did like them. I also learned to string my own guitar. After watching him for several changes. Recently I saw a video where BB King asked another player, I forget who, why he was playing such heavy gauge strings? He said "Why you working so hard'? So I go to the light side. Good enough for BB King, who am I?
11's seem like the best compromise tonally. I think the high end starts to get lost in the 12s and 13s especially. The 10s to sound just a little more jangly, which could be why you and Dave perceived a difference in the midrange. I recently switched to a 10 set on my acoustics because I'm teaching a friend who hasn't built his finger calluses yet and I was surprised at how good they sounded! Lighter gauges are coming back!
I thought the same thing. to me the 11's were perfect .
@Azhar Az It really depends.. Havier strings give more "depth" to the sound imo, however they require more finger strength. If you feel comfortable with 10th, you've got what you want. 12th and 13th are harder to pull off just because of the pressure you need to put on a string.
As for me I'm used to D'Addario 12, which makes it a breath to get tricks on lighter strings. However, I need to adopt with a struming pattern and play it closer to the neck to get the sound I want.
I tried 12, didn't like it, as felt hand stress after long hours...10 is ok for me...
Change is good. But at the end of the day it’s what works for the individual. Obviously.
I’ve tried light for a change a few times over the years and end up changing back to heavy gauge not long after the light ones being on.
I’ve always used the XL’s, though I currently have custom lights on mine. I really like the XL’s, but I do have to say that the crisp “new strings” sound lasts a lot longer with the customs, even though the gauge increase is pretty minimal.
I did a test a few years back on my Lowden and Avalon guitars using 12s on the Lowden and 11s on the Avalon and I found the Avalon more comfortable on my fingers which in turn allowed me to play it longer without my fingers getting sore. I'd definatley recommend new players use extra light strings like 11s.
I find that the pressure I use pushing down on the strings can more easily make them sound out of tune when I use the lighter strings. Maybe it's my mediocre playing or mediocre guitar, or maybe both. 😁 Keeping in mind that even though I've played for many years, I am self-taught and really, really need to work with someone like Rick to smooth out my many rough edges because I still consider myself (an old-er) "weekend guys get together in the garage" player that's mediocre at best so take it for what it's worth. 😂
In that situation, it would be a gift to have another, musician to play with. 2nd choice for sure, but now we have backing tracks that can make it more interesting, satisfying, AND LONG AGO, mentors would insist on practice with a metronome, because that's everyone's shortcoming, especially playing alone for awhile. Do all of them.
Yes, they have small tonal differences. But playing whatever feels best to you and ispires a better performance will be a much bigger benefit to your overall sound in the big picture.
I play 13s around the house, but the acoustic I take to church gigs has 11s. I never need to worry about my performance on the 11s, or whether I'll make the chord transition or whatever. That makes all the difference in the world!
In terms of recording _that_ guitar (perhaps a different instrument would respond differently,) I liked the incredibly bright highs of the 10s. And I agree with Rhett that most of the high end on the heavier gauges was coming from the pick instead of the instrument.
I took a lot of grief for years from guitar friends about using 9s on my electrics and 10s on my acoustics and with Rick's two videos I feel vindicated! The same people that gave me shit about it would play my guitars and wonder why they were easier to play and sounded better.
@Skeeter Man We're also not playing in Drop C. 🤣
@ZX7 -RR 12s seem to be the defacto gauge for acoustics these days, so I drop to one gauge lighter. Then I get a better feel for me and I don't have to do major adjustments to anything.
@Scott B 🤣
Yes, I know what you mean. Just all the players I knew used 9s.. but I get that there is a macho thing about using heavier gauges. I am still trying to figure out what works best for me on Acoustic. I am learning finger picking, so I don't want to be fighting the fretboard too much.
@ZX7 -RR Have you met guitar players? LOL
I like light strings. To me they feel better, they play better, and they sound better. And my fingers don't ache afterwards.
My acoustics are all loaded with 11 Earthwoods for the same reasons.
As usual I’m loving what you guys are doing! How much more interesting would it have been if the players were in isolated in their impressions of the playback not knowing what gauge they were hearing.
I've always preferred D'Addario Medium Phosphor Bronze (13-56) for their robust tone. I've been using mediums for more than 40 years so I'm used to the feel, sound, and tuning stability. I'm a rhythm guitarist, so bending and hammer-ons are not paramount for me, but after so many years of playing mediums, I don't have any problem with these techniques. I've recently discovered D'Addario Nickel Bronze Medium Gauge Balanced Tension strings (13.5, 18, 24, 32, 42, and 56). I can hear the guitar breathe better and sound more natural. The 3rd, 4th, and 5th strings don't dominate the sound so much and the increased size of the 1st and 2nd strings keep them from getting lost in the mix. Also, the balanced tension on this set makes each string pull almost exactly 29 lbs. per string - that's where the balanced tension idea comes from. Actually, I like these strings so much that I have them on all my acoustic guitars including two archtops. Lots of guitar sound, not so much the strings, and as I said, I think the guitar breathes better.
The .12 seems the most even and balanced for sure. The smaller gages are as if you used a HP filter. .13 feel like it's LP with a bump in the low end.
That was great, thanks.... I am a busker, so I lean towards heavier strings. I heard exactly what Rhett was saying about the Rick's performance with the 12s and am mightily reassured in my choice of a set of 12's with a 56 subbed in for the 53.....
the 13 guage strings are great for live gigs in a strum heavy role, especially if the acoustic guitar is the "driving force" sonically. They are louder and don't break as easily if you are playing hard especially if it's a hot and humid environment. However, the toll on the hands is noticeable and if you're prone to aches after playing, they can really take their toll if you are playing a lot.
I play mainly on the sidewalk, unamplified, and play with the heaviest strings I can find for this reason. Heavier strings respond better to being hammered away at and can take the abuse
Dude so true. I lead worship at my church and the acoustic is a big timekeeping piece for us. I use it to set tempo and change dynamics. Mediums let me dig in without worrying about the strings and I can get loud if need be. It's unrefined... but it serves the purpose. Bonus, they add a little depth to my Taylor to nudge it a bit closer to the Martin side of the spectrum.
It really depends so much on the guitar (wood, construction, frets!, setup) and the player (technique, taste) and what the musical situation is, which string gauge will be best. Recently played my friend's guitar with 10's and thought it felt and sounded like 12s while he thought my guitar had 10s and it actually it had 12s on. Also I once played one (standard tuned) with 16s on and it was great tone and feel-wise.
Dope guitar, nice gear - good knowledge shared - Love Rick & Rhett's content! Very very useful video here - Even for bedroom guitar enthusiast - Always interested to understand differences in tone for string gauge - Both recorded and acoustic...
Interesting and well done. Thanks for posting. The "best" gauge depends on the guitar. player, and style of music. I liked the 12's on Rick's takes and the 10's or 11's on Rhetts. No doubt the 10's brought out the best performance from Rhett. Great tones and playing all!
Leo Kottke gave me a tip on string gauge. He uses a standard set tuned down half a step and replaces the 12 and 16 to a 13 and 17 for strings 1 and 2. He felt the guitar just sounded better. Great video. Something to be said for making a guitar easier to play.
@bootlebeats Awesome, thank you.
These are rounds or flats?
@stogies3 Third string- .024 |Fourth string-.032 |Fifth string-.042 |Sixth string-. 053 or .054 depending on string brand. Remember that all six strings are to be tuned down half a step from standard tuning. You could go lower if you want less tension or like lower pitches.
@bootlebeats ok 13 17 and the rest?
We were just talking about six string guitars, not twelve strings. Where the open high E string was a .012, he switched to a .013 . Where the open B string was a .016, he switched to a .017. Because the string action is generally lower plus the string break angle over the bridge is less on the upper strings, the additional string tension offsets the affects of a lower bridge The end result brings out the melodies for fingerstyle players in a positive way. Hope this clarifies this . If it doesn't, I'm happy to keep trying ways to explain this. :)@stogies3
Do you mean 1 and 6 ? Because 1 and 2 doesn’t make sense. 13 and 17?
I would be very curious to see the volume levels. My archtop is super quiet with 10s and 11s but comes alive with 12s and 13s
I use 12's on my Lowden and sometimes 13's when I tune down (dadgad and cgcgce). On my standby guitar I use 11's and I could play that guitar all day, so easy. I was surprised at how little difference there was between most of the gauges though I thought the 13's were more mellow and for a fingerstyle player I want the attack. I'll stick to my 12's but very interesting test, thanks guys
I recently went from 12s to 11s on my Taylor 714ce and I really love how it feels. I play lead and it makes a big difference, and same for chords around the 7th or 9th frets. Sounds about the same to me.
I always play custom light d’addario strings on my acoustic (11s) but I think I might downsize to 10s, since I mostly play fingerstyle and strum without a pick. I like the balance of all the notes with that gauge
I always use the EJ-12s and I decided to try the EJ-11s. Haven’t put them on now, but I’m curious how it sounds now. Thanks for doing this, awesome to compare the gauges.
They got noticeably mellower as the strings got heavier. However, when you move to the 11s on the finger picking the extra tension allowed him to pluck harder and it brought out a lot of the guitar there.
Very true I noticed that myself on my guitars bought some used ones with med strings on them and did not like playing them at all
i had the same thought
Thanks for this outstanding video! I have recently been having some hand problems in my left hand. And have been contemplating a switch to tens, but was a bit reticent to do so. I think you guys have convinced me that that will be OK. Thanks a lot!
I definitely agree that both the 12-53 light gauge and the 10-47 extra gauge strings are easier to play with regard to applying fingertip pressure.
I usually play 12's and the 10's sounded a little thin to me, but I might try the 11's for ease of playing. Of course I use the Phosphor bronze
instead of the 80/20 so that could make a difference too. Thanks for the informative video!
It would be interesting to hear the difference with all gauges at the same tension. I think using different gauges on an acoustic is almost like switching instruments. They sound tonally slightly different, have different size of dynamic range, and sound different on the pick or finger attack. There is really no "right" choice that works for all situations but most of us pick something that works best most of the time for oyr most prominent styles. Also some of us old guys are running into hand strength limitations that are forcing use of lighter strings.
I would have liked to see a blind comparison.... see if they can accurately identify which string was which when they're played randomly. It's been a while, but I thought they did this for the electric string comparison and it pretty much nailed the fact that they're very, very similar.
Attack changes with string gauge. For myself I prefer a hybred set (J19 Bluegrass set) which gives the high strings of a light set and the lower strings of the medium set. This allows me some versatility as far as tunings, especially those tunings which have you detuning the low strings significantly.
What an excellent comparison! So well organised and recorded, with clear, expert and interesting discussion. Really helpful! Thank you.
I have two guitars, a Fender Newporter Player and a Martin D-10 E. The Fender came with 12s and the Martin came with 13s. I struggled with both. I changed both out to 10s, and playing is sure a lot easier. I believe that one must have a lot of finger strength to play with the heavier gauge strings. I use D'Addario strings on both. I did try out the Martin Lifespan 2.0s, but I much prefer the tone of D'Addario strings. I always like listening to these music videos, they give me new ideas. I just wish I could find strings that would make me play like Tommy Emmanuel. Just joking! Rick and Rhett are also great players.
Great timing for this video! I have basically always used 12's, sometimes trying 11's. As I play a mix of pick and finger style I found the 12's to be a good compromise. I was thinking of going to a lighter gauge as I'm trying to play some of Tommy Emmanuel's songs (with those insane stretches), but I guess I will stay with the 12's. (could always buy another guitar and set it up for 10/11) Great video, thanks!
Yeah. I’ve always thought that the choice in string gauge was mostly about balancing comfort and performance with intonation (especially on electric). Where strings start to impact tone is mostly based on what they’re made out of.
The difference between the gauges is subtle, and the average music listener would never notice it.
The only thing I've noticed when I played with medium strings, is that it is harder to play faster, legato, and tapping on medium strings on an acoustic. I love the acoustics and deep sounds I get from the medium strings.
Great test, thanks! As far as it's possible to hear the differences accurately on Clip-Share-compressed audio, I completely agree with everything you all said here. I did expect the strumming to be pretty consistent across stering sets, but I had predicted that the .012 set would sound best when fingerpicked. I was way wrong! Not only was it clearly easier for Rhett to play the lighter strings, but the attack and crispness of each note was spunkier enough to matter. Very interesting. Cheers!
For me 12s had the best tone and balance. Ease of playing is not the same as quality of tone. Depends which you prioritize. I just changed my jazz electric from 9's to 11's on the treble strings,and kept the 3 bass strings in the 9's ratio. A much brighter tone on trebles, where it counts most.
I was surprised that I even noticed a difference. I thought the 12s had the most even sound for strumming. And I heard the most even on the 10 but a better sound from the 12s. So the lesson I learned for myself is that the sound I want to get is from the 12. (runs to the music store to get strings for my folk guitar). Quite illuminating how much difference just the strings actually make.
I only have 6- Ibanez Folk, Ibanez 12 string, Ovation applause classical, Washburn Billy T, Starcaster and Epiphone semi hollowbody. Definitely going to play around with strings for a while,
I felt that the 11s were best for strumming but I enjoyed the 13's for the fingerpicking, as the notes had nuanced depth. That said, I can appreciate from a performance standpoint better deliverability with the tens.
I think the 11s and the 12s sounded just slightly better on the fingerstyle, but as Rhett said, that can be adjusted with the sound reinforcement. I play with light strings myself.
It would have been nice to make mor use of the whole fingerboard. But overall it's interesting how good the light ones sound. I know many people who simply quit playing because Steel Acoustics are so hard to finger. Sometimes simple destroyable myths are holding back people from doing what they want.
Something to consider especially on acoustic is the volume. Recorded I tend to like the lighter strings, my fingers prefer playing them too. I recently restrung with 10s to play bendy leads on acoustic and while the tone is nice the volume and fullness is very gone.
This is so helpful! Especially after the electric strings video! I stopped being a “tough guy”, got lighter strings and now my guitars sing!!! So much more fun!
Interesting comparison. As a beginner fitted light strings to make it easier to play, particularly Barre chords. Then refitted medium strings when I had got past the "giving up" stage and could play reasonable well. Mediums definitely have the best sound for me.
As much as I love a heavier gauge string on my acoustic I always found it hard work. When I switched to a lighter gauge I definitely started to enjoy playing the guitar more and that for me was way more important and really not that much of a sacrifice regarding tone. I somehow, unintentionally, have a good, strong right hand especially when picking, dynamics, soft and loud. My biggest problem is plec noise when recording. That just means I have to go through the plec box and find the plec best suited to the project I’m working on. 🙂
I use a mix of 10s to 52s. I found on my acoustic I get good highs deep mids and a hefty low end. Very balanced. I detune a lot also and having lights and mids mixed goes a long way.
I played 10's for years and moved up to 11's, mostly because I use a lot of alternative ( drop) tunings, although I'd not really ever had any issue with flappiness or tuning stability issues, just fancied a change. I never liked anything heavier than 11's and in my 'day job' as a guitar tech, I've managed to convince several acts to move over to lighter strings on their acoustics. A. x
i think it totally depends on the guitar. different acoustics have different shapes, sizes, materials, bracing and voicing. even between the same models, the grain of the wood may effect tone. based on that, i say every guitar is different and only thing to do it try this at home with your own guitar and see what sounds best.
@Daniel Calzada yeah but that means their test didn't prove anything, except on THAT guitar
Its not just the gauge of string ..its also how you play the string , fingerstyle, strum ...how heavy you are with your fingers..
totally! Take gypsy jazz guitars, the heaviest you can go is 011 and on some of them you can only go for 010 to avoid destroying your fingers! It's a mix of guitar scale, bracing, woods. I am not convinced heavier gauge really gives ou more tone, it's a overall balance - and also your style of playing!
That sounds like a scientific answer.
@Daniel Calzada Of course, you are right, otherwise you can not test and hear the difference. I have a few different and all great guitars, but I prefer different strings for them, for instance no phosphor bronze ones on my Collings D42A, because it sounds to bright and brutal, but vintage bronze from GHS, no Elixer on my 1971 Martin D35, but mainly Darco phosphor bronze 0.13s etc. Then I´d rather have 0.12 or 0.13s than lighter ones as I found they are not stable when I play with a pick, playing Bluegrass for instance. And then, apart from the type and gauge of strings, My Boucher BG152GM sounds lovely, warm and full with Elixir 0.13s, but I cannot play too hard on it and it is lovely for finger picking as well, even with 0.13s, while on the Martin D35, Collings CJ (IRW) and D42A I can "ram" a powerful as I like to, no problem. The Yamaha LL36 is somewhere in the middle between these..... Still, an interesting video, although I never liked the sound of any Gibson acoustic - to me, that guitar looked great but did not sound attractive with any of those string gauges.... sorry
Another great video. When should we expect to see a BASS GUITAR edition for this series?
Hi folks. I have many guitars and (needless to say) burn through a ton of strings. For 45 years I have gone round and round on this subject and I really enjoy this scientific comparison. It appears to me that the players style is a larger factor in considering what string you use. For example, A finger stylist with a cedar top acoustic is better suited with a light gauge. That flexible tope can't handle the larger gauges anyway. But for a guy a like me (spruce top mahogany body J-45 type guitars) that hits the instrument for effect and the ability to get a "big" sound, with a balanced tone (not scooped as Dave so accurately points out) , medium gauge strings sound better to me. Additionally ( and obviously) they hold their tone and last much longer. In my experience, Light gauge strings ruin the midrange of most acoustic guitars (not all), making them sound 'cheap'. Mediums are harder to play, but that is just what it takes....
as a 30 year guitar player myself. I've always preferred the light guage strings as well. To me it offers more playing control in every way :)
Well done gang! I heard the same things you did. The only way to sound even better, would be using the Elixir brand strings! 🤙
The results are just what I would have expected. I think if I'm playing chords without out a lot of other instruments and especially without amplification, I would go with the 13s. If I'm doing jazzy or finger picking the lighter gauge is perfect. I usually play 12s now on all my acoustics because I can't switch guitars during a show (necessarily). I don't want any jangly sounds coming out if I bite down hard on a chord. The lighter gauges are always going to sustain more as well... not as much tension to snap them back to non-vibration.
Back in my pro days I used a 10-47 set on my 1967 D-18 and it sounded glorious. Unless you're playing rhythm in a bluegrass band around a single mic and need to fill that gap between the upright bass and loud, higher-pitched instruments (banjo, mando, fiddle) I don't think there's a reason to go with heavier strings, even on a big dread or jumbo.
I always use the 10s. These exact strings and the similarities in sound, even though I play a cutaway semi acoustic is amazing. It's a good feeling playing the lighter guage strings because it's easier. You're more likely to practice if you're comfortable. Thanks.
Spot on, brother!!!
I started off on 10s, 30 years ago but was going through a set of strings every week which I couldn't afford at the time. (Always the G string). I discovered piano wound (Rotosound or Country gold) guitar strings and changed up to 13s. Absolute game changer. These really chime, last forever and I would even now struggle to go back to a standard wound string.
I would love you guys to have a look at them to see what you think. They are so different that it can take a couple of weeks to get used to them. A fellow band member hated them as they were so loud when he tried them and went back to his normal set. You would never change a set before a performance if you could help it.
I have dropped back to 11s now on my Yamaha Acoustic but use 10s on my KYairi semi acoustic. The 10s let you bend and play down the neck so much easier.
i have used 10's forever on my good acoustic due to hand pain issues. i think that your video validates my choice, the lightest guage did the best for finger picking, which is my main style of acoustic playing. The difference between the 13's and all of the others when strumming was so pronounced I was surprised. almost like a whole different guitar
Nice test. I do like phosphor bronze strings, but i prefer a bit heavier string because of the amount of dropped tunings I play in. Then mediums are much more likely to stay buzz free.
Great video. One thing this didn't address is that a lot of acoustic guitar players keep their instrument(s) tuned down a half step, usually to facilitate vocal range. I generally like the light gauge strings, but have never really compared them to mediums when tuned down a half-step. Would be an interesting comparison. So many variables...
I kinda knew what to expect on this test. In person, as the player, I find the heavier gauge strings sound best. They resonate better in the space I'm in. But once you start going through a mic all that is lost, and the ease of play on the lighter gauge strings plus the way the mic evens all the gauges out makes the lighter gauge strings win hands down.
@ZX7 -RR I play electric, but I'm getting an acoustic for practice, so I can play it where ever. I'm thinking of going with 11's. 10's are what I'm used to, but it seems thin for an acoustic. IDK.
Yes, that's what I thought. After many years shredding an electric, I just started playing acoustic. I don't even know what gauge is on my guitar I just bought from the shop. I am determined to learn fingerstyle and proper strumming - and was really wondering about string gauge and action. A lot to figure out. But as you say, whilst one gauge might sound great acoustically in a room you are sitting in, that might be cancelled out by the recording process. I actually thought the 11 gauge sounded best (when recorded), and that is probably relatively easy to play fingerstyle. I'll try those next.
Yes, you can hear the difference here, but in reality the difference is much stronger than on the record. I also did this test. In the end, I settled on 13. In reality, they seem to growl in comparison with other strings. If I had the opportunity to try something thicker, then I would definitely try. But... you should use them not with the standard tuning, but with D or C. I use Lag guitar and Elexir strings. The sound is so cool that it turns into a form of meditation where you can just pull a string and listen and feel the vibrations with your body
I love the 10’s for sitting in a mix. I’d likely chose the 12’s for solo and live to make sure the vocals have space.
It would have been great to also include some slide licks. I have found that 13s help in that regards volume but also tone wise for my acoustic guitar. I am curious if this is also the opinion of other fellow guitarists. Thanks again guys for the care taken in making this demonstration as objective and accurate as possible.
I’m late to the party but I think 11’s sound great and are a great compromise especially if you have strength issues with the fretting hand.
Gauge is for player comfort mostly. Having resonate hammer pull ons/offs is important if you play that style. Lighter the better! 👍🏻
I aways had the impression that the string gauge was for ease of use. When I use medium gauge strings I notice I am uncomfortable playing them and do not like that feeling. Where Light and Extra Light strings feel right and so I play more. It seemed to me that the sound went from bright to Mello. You pointed out that the extra lights also made it easier to do hammer ons and offs.
Good work. Weirdly, I made a similar video to this recently, having only seen your original electric version. Check it out if you like - I found there to be a noticeable difference in warmth and low end between 11s and 12s.
I’ve been a medium gauge player my whole life, so I’m used to the rigidity. Light gauge strings are much easier to bend, but they don’t last as long. I play an HD-28, so the big bass sound is what I’m looking for, and the D’Addario reds always deliver.
I like hearing comparisons recorded properly like this one. Job well done! Being of advanced years and suffering like many with arthritis etc., I still punish myself with heavier gauge strings. Currently using the 13-56 that was demonstrated here on the new Yamaha FG5 reissue - beautiful guitar by the way! I do find when playing in open position, hammer on's are ok, but pull offs are harder to do. But the good thing about the stiffness of the heavier guage strings is it prevents my fingers from pulling chords out of tune, as my fingers don't position exactly where I want them to anymore due to arthritis and fused joints. But then, my hands get tired more quickly. It's a conundrum to say the least. What I have tried lately is tuning to E flat to compensate. It does work for me somewhat, as it is easier to play, but I thnik the next strings I buy may be 11-52's, which is basically what I use on my electrics which are 10-52's.
Of course, one person's attack of picking also has to do with what the guitar will sound like regardless of the gauge used. I wouldn't recommend light strings for a hard player for example. And I thought I detected better resonance from the 11's and 12's whereas the 13's were starting to sound a little muted in the midrange. Again, good comparison! Thanks!