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Thread: Lower Gauge + Higher Action vs Higher Gauge + Lower Action

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    Tone Member evh_slash's Avatar
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    Default Lower Gauge + Higher Action vs Higher Gauge + Lower Action

    Wondering what you guys generally prefer??
    (people who've tried both preferably)

    I'm used to slightly lower action but hearing Yngwie using 8s for the plain strings with higher action has got me curious because even with low action, those high E string Bends are still a bit of an effort with gauge 10s...

    Wondering if anyone has tried using a super light gauge strings but raise the action to avoid the slop?
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    Mojo's Minions ItsaBass's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lower Gauge + Higher Action vs Higher Gauge + Lower Action

    I use high strings on all my guitars. 11s are my go to set, and I run them about 1.3 to 1.5 times as high as factory settings. I go even higher with lighter strings. My Page Mirror Tele, which is my only guitar that I keep 9s on, is approaching twice the factory string height settings. Plays great to me, and it's the only way I can tolerate 9s.

    Higher strings will make bends easier, not harder. They make fretting harder, but bends get significantly easier IME.
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    Sock Market Trader GuitarStv's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lower Gauge + Higher Action vs Higher Gauge + Lower Action

    I like medium guage 11-48s or 10-52s on all my guitars. My action is set as low as I can get it so that there is no buzzing at all when I pick hard. Usually about 3-3.5 mm at the low E and 2-2.5 mm at the high e. Agree with itsabass, slightly higher action is easier to bend with than slightly lower action . . . but harder to fret.
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    Chris JB_From_Hell's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lower Gauge + Higher Action vs Higher Gauge + Lower Action

    My stuff is all over the place, height and gauge wise. I used to advocate that heavier strings and higher action was best. Anymore, I have all my instruments strung and setup differently, whatever sounds and plays best.
    "Patience is key. Hard work is obligatory. And its the decisions you make right now, not the habits of the past, that will shape your success in the future." - Janek Gwizdala

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    Mojo's Minions
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    Default Re: Lower Gauge + Higher Action vs Higher Gauge + Lower Action

    There was a test done recently on string gauge and tone by Rick Beato. It seemed to indicate lighter strings gave more of a focussed mid tone rather than being thicker in the low end. The 11's-10's was the bigger change in gauge/tone than 10's - 9's.

    Personally I tend to set the guitar up to what it wants. Some guitars just seem to like certain strings better than others, and often some like different tunings better too.

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    Administrator Mincer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lower Gauge + Higher Action vs Higher Gauge + Lower Action

    lower+lower for me.
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    Ultimate Tone Slacker TMD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lower Gauge + Higher Action vs Higher Gauge + Lower Action

    Quote Originally Posted by ItsaBass View Post
    Higher strings will make bends easier, not harder. They make fretting harder, but bends get significantly easier IME.
    Why is that?

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    Mojo's Minions eclecticsynergy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lower Gauge + Higher Action vs Higher Gauge + Lower Action

    Quote Originally Posted by TMD View Post
    Why is that?
    I think he's talking higher action, not higher gauge. I too find bends more difficult with very low action; there isn't enough downward pressure to keep the strings secure under my fingers.
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    Mojo's Minions eclecticsynergy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lower Gauge + Higher Action vs Higher Gauge + Lower Action

    I've been considering a switch to lighter gauge strings. But not lower action.

    Low action deprives me of nearly half my dynamic range. And it's distracting; I have to concentrate on picking very gently just to keep the strings from splatting out.
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    Ultimate Tone Slacker TMD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lower Gauge + Higher Action vs Higher Gauge + Lower Action

    Quote Originally Posted by eclecticsynergy View Post
    I think he's talking higher action, not higher gauge. I too find bends more difficult with very low action; there isn't enough downward pressure to keep the strings secure under my fingers.
    I don’t follow. How do higher strings have more downward pressure, and how does that keep the strings secure under your fingers?

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    Mojo's Minions ICTGoober's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lower Gauge + Higher Action vs Higher Gauge + Lower Action

    Something to think about.... With heavier strings, you don't have to bend the string as far to raise the pitch.

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    Mojo's Minions ItsaBass's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lower Gauge + Higher Action vs Higher Gauge + Lower Action

    Quote Originally Posted by TMD View Post
    Why is that?
    More of the meat of your finger gets into the string. You don't have to press as hard to keep the string from slipping, or attempt to get "under" the string as much. The middle of your finger tip lands on the string. Faster to seat your finger, more sure grip once you do, not as much finger pressure needed to keep the string from slipping (less joint strain, less fret wear).

    High action + high frets + skinny frets make the best bending guitars. High action = as described above. High frets = finger doesn't drag on the fretboard as much. Narrow frets = you're dragging less string across less fret, i.e. less friction.

    Scalloping simulates very high frets. And the higher your frets, the less of a benefit higher action becomes, because the higher frets also make it easier to get "under" the string.
    Last edited by ItsaBass; 06-06-2020 at 09:50 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by LesStrat View Post
    Yogi Berra was correct.
    Quote Originally Posted by JOLLY View Post
    I do a few chord things, some crappy lead stuff, and then some rhythm stuff.

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    A Ficus ehdwuld's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lower Gauge + Higher Action vs Higher Gauge + Lower Action

    I use 9s and low action on everything
    why try so hard
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    Mojo's Minions Sirion's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lower Gauge + Higher Action vs Higher Gauge + Lower Action

    Quote Originally Posted by ICTGoober View Post
    Something to think about.... With heavier strings, you don't have to bend the string as far to raise the pitch.
    True, and that might make avoiding noise from other strings when bending easier. However, you still have to use a fair bit more force with thicker strings; the underbenders almost always use relatively thick strings.

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    Mojo's Minions dave74's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lower Gauge + Higher Action vs Higher Gauge + Lower Action

    Quote Originally Posted by Sirion View Post
    the underbenders almost always use relatively thick strings.
    I just went to the show last weekend and they said all their guitars had 9's.

  16. #16
    Mojo's Minions Sirion's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lower Gauge + Higher Action vs Higher Gauge + Lower Action

    To my ears, thicker strings never really sound right. There is a certain muddiness and lack of detail to them that I don't care for for my purposes. I try not to raise the action too much on the guitars I use when playing with other people (I have one set up with higher action for practice), but given the choice I would go for thinner strings and higher action for tonal reasons.

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    Ultimate Tone Member Francois's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lower Gauge + Higher Action vs Higher Gauge + Lower Action

    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarStv View Post
    My action is set as low as I can get it so that there is no buzzing at all when I pick hard.
    This is the rule !
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    Toneologist Erlend_G's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lower Gauge + Higher Action vs Higher Gauge + Lower Action

    Guitars are different...

    I've always liked 0,11's because they gave me a thicker tone,

    but I once owned a Yamaha SA-5, 1966 model (sn. 374), that sounded the best with 009's!! :o
    (guitar was stolen).

    So,

    To answer your question;

    it depends on the guitar, and use-
    but nowadays, 011's and quite high action.

    I get more dynamics out of higher action;
    and playability is seldom an issue, as I'm of the "slow hand" type, and never learn't how to "shred"
    Last edited by Erlend_G; 06-07-2020 at 04:31 AM.
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    of the Forum PFDarkside's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lower Gauge + Higher Action vs Higher Gauge + Lower Action

    I’ve never understood the debate on string gauges. I just looked at Ernie Ball, they have 17 different gauges under standard Slinky 6 string gauges. Everyone has a different preference. Strings are so cheap, buy a set of 9-42, do a setup high and low, then get a set of 10-52, do a setup high and low. You’ll have some preferences that you can use to dial in where you want to be. I’ve been running my main Strat with 10-52, sight relief and low action with a stiff Trem for a few years now, it works well for me. I could see how others want higher or maybe even lower action, and higher/lower gauge.
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  20. #20
    Administrator Mincer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lower Gauge + Higher Action vs Higher Gauge + Lower Action

    You can set up a guitar with most string sizes to play well. Some people like to fight the guitar, some want things to be super easy. Good thing is that we don't all have to share a guitar, so in the end, it is up to you. Learning how to do your own setup will allow you to do some experimentation for the cost of a few sets of strings.
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