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aurora

String gauge question

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aurora    1

Hi everyone - I joined this forum about 6 years ago, having bought my first guitar at age 40, and had the best intentions of learning to play. Well, due to extreme finger pain that continued for more than a month, I let it drop. And I guess life got in the way a little bit too. Now, I'm determined to give it another try, but I'm getting a slightly better guitar in hopes that it will be easier to play.

My question is about the strings - it comes with a gauge range of 12-52. Should I get a set that starts with 9 instead? Would that make a significant difference in ease of play? I also plan on having the action adjusted so it's as low as possible without causing buzzing.

I wish I knew what gauges my current strings are. Is there any way to tell without having the package?

Any advice you more experienced players have for me would be much appreciated.

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gasbag    54

Depends on if you play acoustic or electric.

I play acoustic and I use D'Addario EXP26 which are 11-52's.

In my opinion lighter strings on an acoustic will hurt tone and depth.

On acoustics I have been told that on action height there is a "sweet spot"

where the tone is best and that is not typically the lowest height.

On an electric I really can't help. I tried for a while but the acoustic is my instrument

although I did use 9's for a while on the strat I had at the time. Very bendy and easy on the fingers.

I also got the action down as far as practical.

Finger pain is a common bugaboo for almost all guitarists, especially at the beginning.

Try playing more often for less time instead of one long session. I play about 6 times a day

but only for 15 or 20 minutes at a time.

If I stop playing for a few days I do get pain again a little but I am a hobbyist, not a pro.

I have met guitarists that can pound nails with their finger tips.

I am sure someone will come by who knows what they are talking about. I am still learning

but try to jump in once in a while. :clap:

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Lcjones    8

I'd start with 10's and graduate back up to 12's. 9's are probably too lanky. Personally I use 13's on my 6 strings and 10's on my 12 strings. But then my calluses are like rocks ... LOL

And quality of setup and of guitar makes a world of difference.

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aurora    1

Thanks for your replies! I'm on an acoustic. I considered learning on an electric and although they're cool, acoustic is what I really love. I considered a classical guitar as well, but again, it's not what I want to play in the end so I figured I'd better go with my gut. I appreciate the tip on playing more often but for less time; that makes sense.

I really think that what I have is not the best setup for me because it takes what I feel is an unreasonable amount of pressure to fret; it shouldn't be that hard. I'm not really a sissy when it comes to pain but it really was bad.

I'll find out from the music store whether they can start me out with some 10s.

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Lcjones    8

If your chording hand feels like it's getting fatigued quickly or cramping up then yes, a set up needs to be done. I might suggest taking your guitar to the music shop and while there try a few different guitars on display. Find one that feels comfortable for you and tell the guitar tech to compare yours against the display and see if he can replicate or get close to that nice action.

Ask the tech about the 10's for you. I'm sure he'll agree about setting up with the 10's. At this point what you're really after is the not so much learning songs but getting your fingers, hands and brain to all work together comfortably while learning the songs. If your guitar just doesn't feel good to you after a set up maybe ask about trading it to one that is more compatible with you. And you don't have to spend a boat load to get there. There are *plenty* of inexpensive guitars that play very well and easy. You just have to ferret them out.

**

LC

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karcey    42

G'day Aurora. Welcome back..

It doesn't seem fair when we get stopped from doing what we want, especially when millions of people can do it. I think this time we should be able to help you make it happen.

Each of the suggestions is worth a try. Maybe one will work, maybe a combination of several.

I disagree with your statement about you not wanting to play a classical guitar in the end, so not trying it now. Just because you want to drive a Ferrari doesn't mean you can't learn to drive on something more forgiving. The nylon strings on a classical guitar are heaps easier on the fingers and buying one now, even if it's not particularly expensive, could give you the chance to learn to play, to play often, and to toughen up your fingers over a longer period. The playing skills transfer from one instrument to another without drama. Beginners traditionally press too hard, and it makes me shudder when I think of soft fingers pressing hard on cheese-cutter strings. Finger joints ache after such hard work; the nylon strings take much less effort.

As far as the sound of nylon against steel is concerned, the steel is bright, the nylon mellow. But for a beginner the sound is not the highest priority. What tops the list is the opportunity to persevere until you know your music. Then you'll be confident to play any guitar you might pick up.

If I sound a bit biased towards nylon ... I am! I own more steel strings than nylon, but I play nylon more than steel. At my high school we start all the kids on nylon simply because it's easier and we don't want kids dropping out.

Keep nylon in mind, even if it's just as a last resort, and keep in touch.

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aurora    1

Thank you so much, karcey, for your post. I hear what you're saying. I guess it's just that I read advice elsewhere that said since you're going to have pain either way, go with the instrument you're going to play most in the end. But you're right, it's not like the skills aren't transferable.

What about putting nylon strings on a steel guitar? I realize you shouldn't put steel strings on a classical, but is the reverse true?

I'm also interested in your statement that beginners press much too hard. For me, though, when I don't press really hard, the string is muted and I get a "thunk" rather than a "ring." What am I doing wrong?

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mset3    158

Aurora,

I agree with the above. Go with 10's and have your guitar set up correctly. It sounds like the action is way too high.

This is the setup for a Taylor acoustic guitar. Press the 6th string down at the 1st & 14th frets, the string should be approximately .004” - .007” away from the 6th fret—a little less than the thickness of a business card. You can capo the 1st fret. This might give you an idea if the action is too high. I don't recommend adjusting the truss rod unless you know what you are doing. Have it done at a music store, if it needs to be adjusted.

Mike

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aurora    1

Thanks, mset3. When I get my capo, I'll try that. The nearest music store that can do stuff like this is 2-1/2 hours away but next time I'm going that way, I'll have to bring my guitar with me and have them set it up.

Speaking of which, I'm excited because I just ordered a new guitar today from Kraft Music. It's entry-level, but almost all of the reviews I found were very complimentary, especially for the money. It's a Yamaha FG700s. It came in a bundle with a guitar stand, hard-shell case, capo, tuner, strap, extra strings, DVD, polish/cloth, picks, winding tool, and ... I think that's it. I thought it was a pretty good deal at $249 with free shipping. Can't wait!

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eddiez152    129

I use different gauges for different guitars. Currently a 13-56 set on one of my guitars. Usually, 12-53 on others. I do have a guitar set up for my daughter using (extra light light gauge) 10-47 which she likes a lot.

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karcey    42

you're going to have pain either way,

Probably true. But the pain from steel can make people give up, the pain from nylon, being much less, generally doesn't.

Let's agree right now that you aren't going to get problems like you did last time. The guitar is going to be better set up, the strings will be easier, your practice sessions will be more controlled, in fact all the advice the other members have posted will help you get past the previous pain issue.

Beginners often press the string in the middle of the fret, and push it all the way down to the fretboard, only stopping when they feel their fingers touch the board. That will hurt soft fingers. Pressing very close to the fret wire (almost on top of it) means the string doesn't have to go so far down, so requires less effort and in the end doesn't hurt as much. It's a skill you learn, but very important to get early.

The fingertips can also be toughened by other means. Some beginners use methylated spirits on their fingertips to harden the skin. Others use some sort of coarse board like sandpaper to press into when they're away from the guitar. The idea is to form callouses on the ends of the fingers so the strings don't cut in as much. I can't vouch for any of these systems, but if you can find a way to make your fingers harder it will help you in the long run.

I also don't subscribe to hand strengthening exercises, like squeezing tennis balls, but I do believe in relaxation of your hands both before and after playing. Warm them up before you start and treat them kindly when you finish. And remember, the muscles that control your fingers go all the way up to your elbows. Take care of the lot.

You'll be disappointed with nylon strings on your steel guitar. The soundboard has been designed to resonate to much higher tension than nylon strings can produce. They will sound dull. However, they won't do any damage, so if you find the steel strings are still causing you grief, then spend the five dollars and give them a go. It's only for a short time while you are getting your fingers conditioned. Might be easier to just try a nylon string guitar to see how it feels.

All of the above is only my opinion. Others can (and probably will) disagree. But the one thing we all agree on is that we want you to succeed and we'll help you whenever we can. So keep in touch.

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aurora    1

Those are all great tips, thanks! I will put them into practice. I did order a product called Rock-Tips to help while the calluses form. We'll see how that works.

I am definitely excited about getting back into it. It's discouraging at the moment, but I know all beginners go through that, and I'm going to try to power through this time.

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eddiez152    129

Those are all great tips, thanks! I will put them into practice. I did order a product called Rock-Tips to help while the calluses form. We'll see how that works.

I am definitely excited about getting back into it. It's discouraging at the moment, but I know all beginners go through that, and I'm going to try to power through this time.

Great attitude, looks like we got a guitar playing keeper here. I got to check out the Rock-Tips thing.

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pHGTRSpider    32

Hey Aurora,

looks like the gtr shop is quite few miles away. If the gtr is hard to play, one quick and easy answer is to put less tension on the strings to make it easier to play. Heaps of heavy metal & pop guitarists do this. I guess you are currently tuning normally i.e. A440 as it's known. Try tuning the guitar down a semi-tone or a whole tone. If you're not sure how to tune down. write back and I or someone will get back to you quickly. cheers.

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romi1212    4

use light strings first they will help u getting the pace for rhythm but it also depends on the kind of guitar u use if u have have jumbo body

like i use 13 gauge strings can give real pain but also a heavy sound

most of the times in summers and rains it acquires moisture and get high actioned but as u want to start with start with a light set of strings and then increase ur difficulty level

repeat until u get ur tone in acoustic if ur a bass lover u will get ur tone in

13 gauge strings

if u like it trebly then 11 or even u will like 9

by the way what model of guitar u use

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aurora    1

If the gtr is hard to play, one quick and easy answer is to put less tension on the strings to make it easier to play. Heaps of heavy metal & pop guitarists do this. I guess you are currently tuning normally i.e. A440 as it's known. Try tuning the guitar down a semi-tone or a whole tone. If you're not sure how to tune down. write back and I or someone will get back to you quickly. cheers.

I wonder if that would help. The strings do seem to have an awful lot of tension. When I'm tuning, I sometimes feel like I'm going to break one. But maybe that's normal, I don't know! :) If you have tips on how to do that, I'll give it a try.

use light strings first they will help u getting the pace for rhythm but it also depends on the kind of guitar u use if u have have jumbo body

by the way what model of guitar u use

Actually, I'm not sure if the one I ordered is a jumbo body or not. It's a Yamaha FG700s.

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pHGTRSpider    32

Hey Aurora, The trick with tuning down is to realise that a guitar only has to be in tune with itself as long as you are playing by yourself. If you're learning a song, I will tune to that song. So what this means is you should start by tuning down a semi-tone (or half-step).

See the following links;

http://www.guitarforbeginners.com/tuning.html and for down half a step http://www.guitarforbeginners.com/onlinetuner.html

If the half-step down is still to hard on the fingers and your guitar is not rattling too much from loose strings go down another half-step.

You'll need the chromatic tuner for this one http://www.guitarforbeginners.com/chromatictuner.html . So if normally the strings are EADGBE and you've already tuned down half a step they should now all be flat, So for a full step down, tune DGCFAD.

Still play all you notes and songs in the usual fashion after tuning. If the gtr is still tough after this and all the advice above, get to that gtr store. Good luck & cheers, :rockon:

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aurora    1

Thanks, Spider! (if I may call you that for simplicity) :-) I knew how to tune normally, but I didn't realize that you could simply make it in tune with itself in order to loosen the strings a bit. I will try that tomorrow and report back. Thanks again!

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Stu74    35

Im only learning myself so im not an expert but im not sure if tuning all your strings down a semi tone is a good idea for a bigginer.

Please someone correct me if im wrong but in the beggining we learn the most common and easy open chords to get us started but having the strings tuned down will not allow us to use the common way of fretting a particular open chord.

Hope that makes sense :confused:

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gasbag    54

Im only learning myself so im not an expert but im not sure if tuning all your strings down a semi tone is a good idea for a bigginer.

Please someone correct me if im wrong but in the beggining we learn the most common and easy open chords to get us started but having the strings tuned down will not allow us to use the common way of fretting a particular open chord.

Hope that makes sense :confused:

That makes sense to me but for a different reason.

I am one of the older guys in here (but still terribly good looking) and I have arthritis in my hands, fingers and wrists.

I tune my guitars down one full step and then capo it on the second fret which brings it back up to standard tuning.

It really helps old sore hands and makes playing a bit more fun. I imagine it would do the same thing for young hands that get sore from just starting out.

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Stu74    35

I will have to think hard about this one.

My 1st thought is if you tune the guitar down a step and then put a capo on, the strings would be as tight as before and just as hard to fret as before you tuned it down.

I am probably wrong.

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karcey    42

I will have to think hard about this one.

My 1st thought is if you tune the guitar down a step and then put a capo on, the strings would be as tight as before and just as hard to fret as before you tuned it down.

I am probably wrong.

I don't like telling folk they're wrong, so lets just say there's a concept that you haven't quite got hold of yet.

If you pick up your guitar, and a change in temperature has made all the strings flat, you won't know unless you compare your tuning to something else like another guitar or a tuner. So you play away quite unaware that you aren't actually playing pure, accurate notes. No problem. As long as the strings are in tune with each other you never need to know if they match the sounds suggested by your tuner. You form chords and pick and strum and learn just the same as if the instrument was in perfect tune. But. The strings have to be in tune to each other. (It's tuning by ear. If you can't tune this way yet, then that's something to achieve.)

The only time this can be a problem is when you play in company with someone else, like your teacher for example, or maybe a friend who's come over for a jam session. Then the guitars have to sound the same. Or if you're a purist trying to learn "perfect pitch" then you'll want to always be spot on. Most of us aren't.

Strings make sounds (oh boy, is that simplified!) according to how tight they are, and how long they are. Even a loose string, if you fret it up the neck, will sound higher, but the tension of the string remains loose. The capo trick is a great way to help sore fingers or the move the playing to where the frets are closer together so your hands don't have to stretch as much.

However you tune is up to you, and no-one else will even need to know why. Just make sure all the strings are in tune relative to each other.

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gasbag    54

I will have to think hard about this one.

My 1st thought is if you tune the guitar down a step and then put a capo on, the strings would be as tight as before and just as hard to fret as before you tuned it down.

I am probably wrong.

I won't tell you that you are wrong basically because I am a nice guy with compassion for all living things and some not so living things...........like my in-laws.

I am also quite fond of some inanimate objects. :tongue:

However..........If I tune my guitar down one full step and then capo it on the second fret I have not increased the tension on the strings. I have decreased the tension of my strings and I have made the neck of my guitar two frets shorter. A decrease in string tension but still at standard tuning.

It may be a small difference but for me it makes playing much easier. I know it is a crutch, but at my age I really don't care. Be nice or I will hit you with my cane.

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pHGTRSpider    32

Hey Stu, don't think about it. Pick that gtr up and try it. Capo at the 2nd fret is a great idea, I always thought it was mostly a pitch thing but to put the gtr back in concert pitch (std tuning, A440), good idea!!!

Karcey and Gasbag, your explanations are so much better than mine. Sometimes I am such a dummy! I only started fiddling with Capos about five years ago and I must admit that if the tune only involves open chords I'm okay but I seem to get lost every time I go up the neck with a capo (years of not using one). I wonder how Aurora is making out? cheers

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