String Gauges On Steel String Acoustics

GuitarIV

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Hey everyone,

I'm currently in the process of building a top 40 song list for a project with a female singer I have going on. Nothing special, one guitar, two voices for harmonies and maybe a loop pedal. Play a 4 hour set (with breaks in between obviously) in pubs and bars and get paid for it.

Hence I'm spending more time with my steel string acoustic and apart from the fact that it's a welcomed change from my mindless noodling on my electrics and that I have learned a lot of new stuff and music theory when it comes to spicing up simple 3 chord song progressions, I have also noticed that the g-string is my biggest enemy.

I know steel string acoustics are a great way of practicing proper technique and building strength in ones hands that makes playing an electric a lot easier and I am doing barre chords and proper warm ups all the time so my hand gets stronger without injury. It takes practice and time, I'm aware of that.

When it comes to bending though, the G-string is the real show stopper. I have something like an Elixir 13-56 set strung up atm and whilst I can get away with bends on the E and the B, I feel like it wouldn't hurt to get rid of the wound G. I attempted to play the Hotel California solo, on my electrics, no biggie. On the steel string? Ouch. I can't bend the G to the proper notes. I know I can tweak the whole solo so I avoid bends on the G, but I saw that there are string sets ranging from 10-47 and 11-52.

I know the thicker strings are a necessity of the past, when you had to be loud in a band context to be heard. Nowadays we have PAs. And my steel string has a Fishman Pickup built in. How much would a lighter gauge affect loudness and will it really matter?

Just trying to get some insight here. I know some may write "grow some balls you pussy and practice", but in the long run I wanna keep my hands healthy. I had a pinched nervus ulnaris two years ago, took one year to recover and it thankfully did without surgery. Worst feeling ever. My picking hand was numb, all the time. I'd rather not have something like that happen to my left hand as well.

Thanks in advance guys and cheers!
 

Trumpet Rider

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I have a friend who strings his Yamaha acoustic with electric guitar strings (10-46 if I recall) precisely so that he can do bends and barre chords more easily. His tone and volume are surprisingly good. I have a similar Yamaha strung with normal acoustic strings and his guitar does not sound appreciably weaker than mine.

I would expect that plugged in it would make even less difference. It is certainly worth the price of a set of strings to find out.
 

MonstersOfTheMidway

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When it comes to bending though, the G-string is the real show stopper. I have something like an Elixir 13-56 set strung up atm and whilst I can get away with bends on the E and the B, I feel like it wouldn't hurt to get rid of the wound G. I attempted to play the Hotel California solo, on my electrics, no biggie. On the steel string? Ouch. I can't bend the G to the proper notes. I know I can tweak the whole solo so I avoid bends on the G, but I saw that there are string sets ranging from 10-47 and 11-52.

I know the thicker strings are a necessity of the past, when you had to be loud in a band context to be heard. Nowadays we have PAs. And my steel string has a Fishman Pickup built in. How much would a lighter gauge affect loudness and will it really matter?
How much would a light gauge affect loudness, and will it really matter?
Everyone's different, so I suspect you'll get a range of responses. For me, a lighter gauge won't affect loudness tremendously; I think that's more about playing style than the actual gauge itself.

I use Martin SP Acoustic string in .012-.054. Not a bad set with bend anywhere from 1/4 step to 1/2 step on all strings. I've dropped down to .011 and .010 sets without noticing any loss of loudness, sustain, or change in tone.

If you're interested in Martin strings, I suggest trying a set of Martin SP Flexible Core strings. They come in a variety of gauges and are designed for string bending. I've tried these and was extremely impressed. I didn't stick with them because I don't string bend much on acoustic at present. If you're not into Martin strings, try looking for another manufacturer who offers something similar. Here's the link to the Martin SP Flexible Core site:
https://www.martinguitar.com/strings/sp-flexible-core/

I do agree with you that protecting your health is very important. Also agree with you that PA systems are very common in many venues, and you can purchase your own mini PA system to augment your sound. Because most of these PA systems are very powerful, there's a good chance your volume will be just fine regardless of string gauge.

Let us know what you decide. Good luck.
 

royslead

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I've used .010's on acoustics quite a bit. The only issue I became aware of was the strings not sitting properly in the nut. If the guitar is worth it, get a nut properly made, and play away.
 

paul-e-mann

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Hey everyone,

I'm currently in the process of building a top 40 song list for a project with a female singer I have going on. Nothing special, one guitar, two voices for harmonies and maybe a loop pedal. Play a 4 hour set (with breaks in between obviously) in pubs and bars and get paid for it.

Hence I'm spending more time with my steel string acoustic and apart from the fact that it's a welcomed change from my mindless noodling on my electrics and that I have learned a lot of new stuff and music theory when it comes to spicing up simple 3 chord song progressions, I have also noticed that the g-string is my biggest enemy.

I know steel string acoustics are a great way of practicing proper technique and building strength in ones hands that makes playing an electric a lot easier and I am doing barre chords and proper warm ups all the time so my hand gets stronger without injury. It takes practice and time, I'm aware of that.

When it comes to bending though, the G-string is the real show stopper. I have something like an Elixir 13-56 set strung up atm and whilst I can get away with bends on the E and the B, I feel like it wouldn't hurt to get rid of the wound G. I attempted to play the Hotel California solo, on my electrics, no biggie. On the steel string? Ouch. I can't bend the G to the proper notes. I know I can tweak the whole solo so I avoid bends on the G, but I saw that there are string sets ranging from 10-47 and 11-52.

I know the thicker strings are a necessity of the past, when you had to be loud in a band context to be heard. Nowadays we have PAs. And my steel string has a Fishman Pickup built in. How much would a lighter gauge affect loudness and will it really matter?

Just trying to get some insight here. I know some may write "grow some balls you pussy and practice", but in the long run I wanna keep my hands healthy. I had a pinched nervus ulnaris two years ago, took one year to recover and it thankfully did without surgery. Worst feeling ever. My picking hand was numb, all the time. I'd rather not have something like that happen to my left hand as well.

Thanks in advance guys and cheers!

I've used 10 gauge electric strings on my acoustic for a long time so I get the feel of an electric with my acoustic, bends, pull offs, etc. feels natural and sounds great. Does your acoustic plug in?
 

mirrorman

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FWIW, if you are playing a Martin, do not change out of the 13-56.
And if that means "grow some balls you pussy and practice", then so be it.
All I can tell you is that I have had smaller gauges on my Martin and Yamaha acoustics and hated it.
If you have different manufacturer you may have a different opinion.
Spend $20 bucks and find out what gauge you like.
 

GuitarIV

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Thanks for all the posts guys, I will buy a set of Elixir Custom Lights and report back asap when I'm done working the weekend
 

axe4me

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11's; 12's or 13's on acoustic guitars.

17's on resonators.
 


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