Tips for low tuned guitars, choosing the right string gauge

January 5, 2017

Tips for low tuned guitars, choosing the right string gauge


I am sure many of you have tried a lot of different string gauges in the past and have asked yourself; Is this the right choice for my tuning?  Well; if you are one of those guys or gals then this article is for you!


When tuning low; string gauge and guitar scale is an important key to achieving good intonation and to keep those complex chords and riffs tights and clears.


Since many of us don’t own long scale guitar to experiment with, it’s recommended that you choose the right string gauge; if you are planning to ultimately record a great quality low tuned guitar performance with an standard scale length.


Bigger gauges means more tension


A standard guitar string tension goes between approx. 18 to 20 pounds for each string. This means that if we choose a string gauge that give us less than 20 pounds for the lower string, when played hard and open, the string won´t have the right tension to vibrate right and the note will oscillate. This is not what you want if you are after a tight and clear metal performance. Thicker strings also have more projection; more bass response & the guitar will be louder which is great for Rock/Metal players.


In my experience; after trying a lot of different gauges and combinations, I found that it’s better to have the higher strings with lower tension than the lower strings. Let´s say that if you like to play a lot of bends, then you need to have those higher strings a little bit loose, and also because these are the strings that you won't pick hard.


Different brands of strings will also have different tensions for their strings gauges. Another factor that can vary the tension is the material of the string. We need to have these things in mind when calculating the tension for our desired tuning. This is why I highly recommend using the same brand of strings for your guitar.


Nailing the gauge


In the last year I have used this great app D`Addario String Tension Pro to calculate the tension of the strings for my different tunings.


Of course there are no rules in terms of the perfect gauge for a specific tuning. For example; if you are a fast picking player who likes to do a lot of alternative picking and string jumping, then maybe you like to have all your strings with very similar tensions. So when playing very fast you won’t get stuck on a string that has a very different tension from the last string played when riffing.


In the picture below you can see my preference of string gauges for a Drop C guitar. 


Closing words


After reading this article, go and check D`Addario String Tension Pro, play around with it to work out your desired tuning and check if your actual string gauge is the right one. Alternatively, you can use it simply to discover a new gauge that will fit your playing style better.


Your technique is going to dictate your string gauge.


Sometimes I find myself buying single strings to make my own custom sets, although this is not the cheapest way I found it really useful for specific tunings.


I hope this article helps you to find the right gauge and tension for your playing style.


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