Guitar Mythbuster: String Gauge

Do guitar strings noticeably lose sound with decreasing gauge? The gauge of your guitar strings is up for debate with some guitarists preferring a thin gauge string and others stating that there has to be some sound loss with thinner strings. Does it really make any noticeable difference?

Sound Loss With Decreasing String Gauge?

Many people unfortunately fall for the rumours that are being spread by salesmen in guitar shops and by other employees with a superficial knowledge . I can only assume that those salesmen and employees never really tested things out, or probably never even had a guitar in their hands.

An acoustic guitar string. 0.044-inch (1.117 m...
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I speak from experience when I say that both many salesmen are telling their customers some stuff about String Gauge that actually is completely not (or not quite) true and that mostly the opposite of what they are saying is the case.

So, let's come to the statement that strings noticeably lose sound with decreasing gauge.

Over the years I made some experiences with different gauges and with different types of strings, too. For many years I have played 010-013-017-026W-036W-046W strings by the producer D'Addario that were relatively rigid. In Logic (the music and studio software that I use) you could always see in the waveform graphics that there was a very slight overload when I picked the low e-string (also known as the 6th string). The overload lamp on my interface lit up shortly when I played that exact note.

A few years later I changed to 009-011-016-024W-032W-042W strings -- also by the producer D'Addario. The difference was none at all. Neither was there a difference in the sound, nor in the graphics, nor could you detect a difference by the response of the overload lamp.

Lately I stringed my guitar with 008-011-014-022W-030W-038W strings by Picato and shortly after by Ernie Ball, which are also generally a lot softer than D'Addario strings. Well, this time I actually was a little worried about the outcome, and I desperately hoped that I wouldn't have to reset all my amp and interface settings -- and I probably would have to because I really wanted to have these 008 strings. A salesman already advised me against these thin strings, but I didn't care -- firstly, I absolutely wanted to play them and furthermore, I already knew that in that guitar shop the employees were not as competent as they pretended to be.

So I tried them out and guess what? I exactly verified the individual aspects that might indicate a sound loss. First of all I tested diverse amp settings I had been using, and interestingly no difference was audible. Of course the audible part is the most important one, but I wanted to know if there was any sound loss at all, too. Well, the overload lamp as usual lit up shortly when I picked the low e-string, and I also checked the waveform graphics. They still told me there was that slight overload when I picked the 6th string.

And if you think something is wrong with my analysis I can reassure you. Of course there has to be some sound loss with thinner strings, but it is so insignificant and minimal that you neither perceive it, nor can you proof it with normal studio measuring instruments.

Therefore I have some good news for all those who always would have liked to play thin strings like for instance a 008-011-014-022W-030W-038W set or so (for these strings are extraordinary pleasant to play), but never dared to as they didn't want to put up with significant sound losses: In my experience there is no significant or audible sound loss, so get the strings you really want to play!

(c) Linus Schachten 2010. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

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About the Author:
Recently, my brother and I recorded the brilliant "White Room" by Cream and shot a video as well. In this video and on the recordings I played 008-011-014-022W-030W-038W strings by Ernie Ball on my Fender Strat. So, if you want to know how these strings really sound, click the following link and see how powerful they really are:

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