The magic number is a string gauge. It’s the outer diameter of your chosen strings measured in inches, and it determines how they’ll feel and sound. The simple playing of super lights (.009-.042) to the thunderous sustain of a heavy set are all gauged (.012-.052). Experimenting with multiple gauges is a great concept, but you must first prepare your instrument’s setup before changing your string gauge.
Steps to change your string gauge:
- Many players forget that the slots on their instrument’s nut have been carved to a precise diameter when switching extreme string gauges. Forcing heavy strings into spaces designed for lesser gauge strings will cause the string to stick, causing tuning issues and perhaps cracking the nut. Installing light strings in a too wide nut slot, on the other hand, will cause vibrations and buzz. If you need to make a change, take it to a competent technician who may expand the slots or replace the nut totally.
- Also keep in mind that heavier-gauge strings are more tense. As a result, fretting and bending notes requires more physical effort, whereas light strings require the opposite. As a result, you’ll need to alter your instrument’s ‘action’ (the height of the strings above the fingerboard) to suit your string gauge. There are several ways to change your instrument’s ‘action.’ Please consult an experienced repair expert if you are unsure which components to change.
- When you change strings, regardless of brand or gauge, you’ll need to alter the position of the bridge saddles to fine-tune your instrument’s intonation. The procedure varies depending on the model, however the essential premise is as follows: To begin, tune your instrument to pitch with an electronic tuner. Begin by playing a harmonic at the 12th fret on the lowest string. Compare the note’s pitch on the tuner to the note’s pitch after fretting. You’ll need to shorten the string length by placing the saddle closer to the pickups if the fretted note is flat in relation to the harmonic. If the angle is too acute, move the saddle back towards the strap pin.
- When it comes to bass strings, there’s an extra layer to consider because you’ll need to match the string length to your instrument’s scale (i.e. the distance from the bridge saddles to the nut). From extra-long six-string basses (35″), to Fender’s famed Precision and Jazz models (34″), to Gibson’s short-scale 30″ SG models, there’s a wide range of scales. If you’re unsure about which length to choose, consult your local dealer.
Have fun playing with your gauging and keep in mind the potential impact of a gauge modification on your instrument’s setup. If you have any questions, contact a competent repair specialist.