Heavy/Light Gauge String Sets = stress on neck?

Discussion in 'Tonefreaks' started by cooljuk, Nov 13, 2009.

  1. cooljuk

    cooljuk Transducer Producer Premium Member MLP Vendor

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    I was (over?)thinking about this the other day. Do the mixed gauge string sets (heavy low strings with light high strings) that manufacturers sell put uneven stress on a guitar neck? If so, are there any negative side effects to having more string tension on one side of the neck than the other?

    A heavier gauge string will require more tension to tune to the same note as a lighter gauge string due to the increased mass - I think.

    Am I just over analyzing this?
     
  2. axepilot

    axepilot Senior Member

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    Guitars are actually pretty robust instruments. A heavy / light string set won't hurt it at all.
     
  3. cooljuk

    cooljuk Transducer Producer Premium Member MLP Vendor

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    I thought that was probably the case.

    I recently learned that the average guitar neck has 200+ lbs of string pressure on it. That's what started my thought process on the matter.
     
  4. diceman

    diceman V.I.P. Member

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    When you're talking 10, 20, 40 years - I'm sure it could cause a bit of a twist.
     
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  5. captcoolaid

    captcoolaid Senior Member

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    Most of the set up guysI know will set up your neck( truss rod/intonation) according to the strings you place on it. So I would say no as long as your guitar is set up for that particular combonation.
     
  6. cooljuk

    cooljuk Transducer Producer Premium Member MLP Vendor

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    Yes, but unless you have two truss rods (one for the higher side and one for the lower side) the original question still stands.

    EDIT: as in not a matter of "how much tension" but a question of "uneven tension."
     
  7. cooljuk

    cooljuk Transducer Producer Premium Member MLP Vendor

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    Really? Anyone else think so? That would not be good.

    I do plan to keep my LP for life and also to play it that long, so I would want to avoid long-term damage as well.
     
  8. freddarl82

    freddarl82 Senior Member

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    This may sound crazy, but here's what happened to me. I had a 76 LP Custom I'd owned since 1977 (3 piece maple neck). It had 10's on it for about 30 years. Then I tried to use a heavy set (I think they were 11-56's, so really, a heavy set with an even heavier bottom). The truss rod definitely needed adjusting, but what really shocked me was that they seemed to warp the neck a little even after the adjustment - frets 1-5 seemed too low, which introduced buzzing and necessitated raising the bridge...but now the action was higher further up the neck than I liked. After only a few weeks I changed back to 10's, and the neck seemed to return to it's old, straight, comfortable self.

    So, it seemed that this particular guitar could not handle the heavier strings. (yeah, I know -- it's a Norlin)
     
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  9. diceman

    diceman V.I.P. Member

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    My Guild Starfire (1969) is getting refretted right now. It has a "very slight" twist on the bass side down in 1-5 or so. When the new frets are leveled they are going to be able to compensate for it - but it is something that happens over time, and is normal, so I am told. (my guitar is in Nashville at the Fender/Guild repair center - the guy I'm talking to seems very knowledgeable). The twist towards the bass side is most common since there is more tension on the bass side with a regular set of strings. I'd imagine that a heavy low end set will only make the problem more likely to occur with time.
     
  10. axepilot

    axepilot Senior Member

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    Come on! :wow:

    You're talking like the guitar is made of paper...................

    With every set of strings, there is an uneven tension on the neck axis. Guess what? Guitar necks are designed to handle this. You are reading way too deeply into a non problem.

    Relax.................forget the the physics theories...............just play your guitar and have fun.

    It's all good. :dude:
     
  11. cooljuk

    cooljuk Transducer Producer Premium Member MLP Vendor

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    Well, mostly I'm just theorizing. I have used light/heavy sets in the past on other guitars, but didn't own them long enough to see any long term effects.
    I appreciate all the responses... diverse as they are.
     
  12. H.E.L.Shane

    H.E.L.Shane Senior Member

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    OK.....

    Heavier strings........

    Your guitar should be set up for the strings.. YES..

    HOWEVER...

    I do NOT reccomend monster gauge strings for STANDARD tuning!!!

    When you start running "skinny top, heavy bottoms, and Zakk Sets" you really should be downtuning or at least drop tuning.

    For Example..... I recently set up my 80's hamer scarab that has had boomer 9's on it its entire lif with a set of EB skinny top/ heavy bottoms, BUT, We tune to DROP-C.... thats two steps down on 1-5 and four steps on 6!

    The guitar did NOT need any adjustment to the truss rod whatsoever and the trem was only barely off

    Why? Because a thicker string at the same tension as a thin string is going to produce a lower resonant frequency.... therefore, to get a bigger string to standard "E" tuning, you are going to have to put MORE stress on it than a smaller gauge string...

    Similarly... if you were to tune a set of boomer 9's to drop "C" you would have mushy strings and a truss rod that was out of wack to the rear!!!!


    SO... Its all relative to string tension... bigger strings put more output to the pickups at the same tuning because they contain more mass, and thus more conetic energy for the pup to recieve. However, they also put more stress on the neck, at the same tuning... BUT, there is a limit to what the guitar should be expected to take without complaining!

    Big, Fat Strings are for Drop Tunings!!!!!! (if you want to kepp your neck straight that is!!!)
     
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  13. cooljuk

    cooljuk Transducer Producer Premium Member MLP Vendor

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    I was mainly asking about twisting the neck with mixed gauge sets. Not so much the difference between heavy and light sets.
     
  14. axepilot

    axepilot Senior Member

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    Theorizing is OK. But just what guage strings are you thinking of?
     
  15. axepilot

    axepilot Senior Member

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    Not going to happen. Like I said.................guitars are pretty tough instruments.
     
  16. cooljuk

    cooljuk Transducer Producer Premium Member MLP Vendor

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    EXL116 Medium Top / Heavy Bottom 11-52

    [​IMG]
     
  17. cooljuk

    cooljuk Transducer Producer Premium Member MLP Vendor

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    Right on.

    There's always my faithful "try it on one of the Fenders first" approach. :hmm: (half joking)
     
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  18. axepilot

    axepilot Senior Member

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    The only thing you have to worry about with those strings is the nut being filed to handle them without tuning issues.

    The guitar's neck won't care a whit.........but you might need to tweak the truss rod a bit to set relief and reset the action on the bridge.
     
  19. cooljuk

    cooljuk Transducer Producer Premium Member MLP Vendor

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    The setup change is no problem, I can tweak that stuff. The nut filing, I'd take to my local luthier, if needed. I'm set up for DR 11's now so there's not much difference. Not sure if I'm really going to pull the trigger on a gauge change either. I'm mostly just kicking the idea's tires. A one-way job like a nut filing is admittedly a bit intimidating to me on this guitar, even if I trust the luthier.

    I played some D'Addarios on a friend's LP and liked the tone. Thought I might give them a try, but I didn't want to use a lighter gauge than my current DR 11s, so the D'Addario 11-52s are the closest without going lighter. Sometimes my chords/notes go a bit sharp on the lower frets if I use lighter strings. I can be a bit heavy handed. It's both hands faults. I pick hard and I fret hard. Also, I'm in full D tuning 90% of the time, so that probably plays into it.
     
  20. WatchYoNuggetz

    WatchYoNuggetz Junior Member

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    A maple neck is a pretty robust neck, yes, but not all the necks have the same properties, I suggest you take a look down your Les Paul headstock towards the body, to see what even a regular 9 gauge set of strings can do to your mahogany neck.

    Cheers.
     

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