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Does Guitar String Gauge Matter?

So you are a beginner guitarist and have spent a lot of time practising your instrument. After some time, you found your guitar strings have worn down. They are now dull and dirty. You figured it’s time to change your guitar strings. But now it’s time to consider what type of string gauge works best on your guitar, style of music and the way you play. If you are a newbie at changing your guitar strings, you might not know if guitar string gauge matters. In this post, we will share with you the various combinations of string gauges to help you out.

What is a guitar string gauge?

The most important thing to know when you are changing your guitar strings is to know the guitar string gauge. What is the guitar string gauge and why does it matter?

When we talk about guitar gauge, it means the thickness of the string. Guitar string thickness is measured in thousands of an inch (1/1000th). For example, a 10-gauge string is 0.010 inches. Guitar string packs are usually referred to by their thinnest string, such as 10s. ‘10’ means the high E string has a thickness of 0.010 inches. If you see the guitar string pack with the number “10|46”, this is a short way of writing string gauges. It means the high E string uses a 10 and the low E string uses a 46.

When guitarists talk about 9s, 10s, and 11s, it means guitar strings that start with a high E string with a gauge of 0.009, 0.010, 0.011 etc. The thicker the string gauge, the heavier the gauge and the reverse is true. Thicker strings create more bass frequencies and put up more resistance to your fingers. Thinner strings produce more treble and feel more slinky.

Why does guitar gauge matter?

Guitar strings are just as important as guitar neck shapes and tonewood because it determines how your music sounds and how you approach the instrument. Different gauges produce different types of sounds and it affects both fretting and strumming.

Let’s make a comparison between two sets of strings:

.009 .011 .016 .024 .032 .042

.011 .015 .018 .026 .036 .050

The first set is thinner across every string than the second set. This means in general, they are easier to play for beginner guitarists. They require less strength for your fingers to fret and bend. However, thinner strings do require more precision to really add flavour to your playing and to master techniques such as delicate vibrato, legato or arpeggios.

Heavier strings on the other hand hold more tension across the fretboard. They are more taught and tougher to bend. But heavier strings will train your picking endurance in your fretting hand. You also need to learn a little about guitar setup to adjust your string height, especially if you are replacing thin strings. That’s because you will likely get fret buzz from the larger strings hitting the frets in front of the one you play.

Really to change your guitar strings? We hope we have given you some information to help you with understanding the guitar string gauge.

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Dec 03, 2022

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Thomas Brodie-Sangster
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