Light Vs. Heavy Guitar Strings

by Michael Black

Guitar string gauge can be quite confusing to novice guitarists. The idea that a few thousandths of an inch can make a noticeable difference in the feel and sound of a guitar may seem preposterous, but nonetheless, it is true. Light strings and heavy strings each have their own positives and negatives.

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Light Strings

When talking about guitar strings, light means thin. Generally speaking, light electric guitar strings are those with a high E string gauge of 0.009 or less and light acoustic guitar strings have a high E string that has a gauge of 0.012 or less. Light strings are generally thought of as easier to play than heavy guitar strings. Bending in particular is much easier with light strings.

Heavy Strings

Just as light guitar strings are thin, heavy guitar strings are thick. Heavy electric guitar strings are those with a high E gauge of 0.011 or greater, and heavy acoustic strings are those with a high E string gauge of 0.014 or greater. Heavy strings are a bit more difficult to play than light strings, but they usually sound beefier than thin strings. Because of the extra thickness of heavy strings, they are better suited for tuning down than light strings. Heavy strings also tend to last longer than light strings.

Combo Strings

Some guitar string manufacturers offer string sets with light high strings and heavy low strings. The light high strings allow guitarists to play leads with ease, while the heavy low strings give them thicker and chunkier rhythm tones. These strings are worth looking into if you can't decide between light or heavy gauge strings.

Tension Issues

If you decide to use very heavy or very light strings, you may need to have your guitar set up to compensate for the different tension of the nonstandard strings. This tension can actually warp the neck of your guitar. A rod runs up the neck of a guitar that counteracts the force that the strings apply. If you have experience making truss rod adjustments, you can do this yourself, but if not, you should take your guitar to a qualified repair person. You can permanently damage your guitar if you make the wrong truss rod adjustment.


About the Author

Michael Black has been a freelance writer based in South Central Pennsylvania since 2010. He graduated from York College of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts degree in professional writing. He has written music- and writing-related articles for various websites.

Photo Credits

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