If you’ve been following this Boles Blues blog for any length of time, you’ve seen me do many guitar strings reviews with varying gauges and technologies.  In my article — Why Can’t You Pick a Strings Gauge? — I endeavored to explain the madness of setting up my guitars with different strings sets.

Since I wrote that article, I discovered my Clapton Custom Strat, my Gilmour Black Strat and my Eric Johnson Strat really did not like D’Addario EXL115s at all.  I think the 11-49s were just too much string for the guitars.  The action was high, as was the growing tension in my head.

Necks were bowing.  Not mine.  The guitars’.  Maybe mine a little bit.

I could fiddle around with those guitars to get them sounding right with the higher gauge strings — but why?

I didn’t want to mess with the truss rods just to use a higher gauge string.  All those guitars were setup by an expert guitar tech before they were sent to me — so for me to now mess with the neck and intonation and strings height just seemed a little odd.

I have now decided to just let a guitar live as it was born to be.

I am honoring the Born-On Strings Gauge.

If a guitar comes with 9 strings, that is the gauge it will forever have.  If a guitar comes with 10s or 11s — those are what will subsequently be strung.  This plan relies on knowing the guitars have been properly setup in the first place.

If a guitar is built to handle a certain strings gauge, then I plan to honor that factory setup.

When I took Clapton and Johnson back down to D’Addario EXL110s, and Gilmour to his Blues, the world became right and bright again as the original setup was rediscovered and all their chiming personalities re-emerged.

The only outlier in this scheme is my 2008 Les Paul Standard.  That workhorse doesn’t care if it is wearing 9s, or 10s or 11s or David Gilmour Reds — it can handle anything I install and always sounds great.

My Les Paul arrived with Gibson Brites 10, but someone online told me all Gibson guitars are cut with a nut to handle 9s.  If that’s true — why would Gibson install 10s at the factory?  I’m sticking with 10s on my Les Paul.

I will continue to brand experiment when it comes to strings, so keep an eye vibrating here for new reviews.  I’ll keep the same gauge, but seeing what lots of companies offer in the “Born-On Strings Gauge” range is important for us to continue to test and know.

5 Comments

    1. Gordon —

      Knowing what strings come on a guitar can be bothersome. Fender is very good about revealing strings gauge and brand in their spec sheets. Gibson, and Ibanez and Gretsch… not so much.

      Brand doesn’t matter as much as gauge. If you aren’t a member of the Epiphone forum yet, you should be — that will be The Place To Go! — for help and answers. Here’s a thread on strings gauge for your guitar:

      http://forums.epiphone.com/default.aspx?g=posts&t=6696

      The only real way to know what strings gauge is on a guitar is to measure each of them with a good digital caliper when they are removed from the guitar. You get different readings when the strings are under pressure.

  1. Hey David,

    I came across this article on “String Gage Myth” which I thought you might find interesting, or atleast worth a read:
    http://www.premierguitar.com/Magazine/Issue/2010/Jul/String_Myths_Part_1.aspx

    That reminded me of The Edge’s current 360 Tour set-up, which includes no less than 11 different sets of strings, ranging from 9’s to various sets of 11’s. And he knows when his tech hasn’t changed them daily :)…
    http://www.musicradar.com/news/guitars/u2-exclusive-the-edges-stage-setup-revealed-223342/10

    Sean

    1. Those are excellent reads, Sean, thanks!

      There seems to be some confusion about Jimmy Page’s strings. I thought he always played 8s, but now it seems he always played 9s and the “8” reference was actually referring to his super-low strings height measurement. I think that makes the most sense because, from what I’ve read, 8s didn’t exist when he was starting out.

      10s seem to fit my style best — or maybe the fit my guitar setups the best. I loved the sound and feel of 11s but my guitars didn’t like the strain. 9s, while super easy to play, now seem a little bit mushy to me and slightly imprecise unless you have a delicate touch. My Nashville Power Tele was born with 9s — and they sound great on that guitar — but they still feel weak to me when I bend and hammer-on.

      Love the Edge article! He’s a sort of silly guy with a great sense of humor and that is reflected in his endless guitar pedals fascination.