String Gauge, Tension and Tuning

Will switching string gauges create any problems for my guitar?

Generally, there should be no problem in switching from one string gauge to the next, although truss rod adjustments may be needed to accommodate the new string tension. Problems can arise in making a more drastic switch, such as changing from extra-light strings to mediums. In a case like this, the slots in the nut may not fit properly, making precise tuning difficult if not impossible. In some cases, the guitarís intonation also suffers and needs to be adjusted by a qualified luthier.

Please note, however, that certain vintage and smaller-bodied guitars should not be strung with anything heavier than a light-gauge set. The use of alternate tunings can also affect how much tension the strings put on the guitar. For example, open-E tuning will stress the instrument more than D A D G A D. If there is any doubt about the guitarís ability to withstand the tension of heavier strings, it should be checked out by a qualified luthier or repairperson.

óTeja Gerken

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Will going back and forth between standard tuning and open D or open E harm my guitarís neck? Is open E likely to cause more damage than open D?

In most cases, youíll be OK tuning up to E, especially if youíre using light-gauge strings and itís only for a couple of tunes. An option that is easier on the guitar is to use D tuning and add a capo at the second fret to bring the guitarís pitch up to match your vocal range or to be in tune with a recording. In any case, itís a good idea to put the guitar back in standard tuning when youíre done playing.

óDale Miller

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What is Nashville tuning?

Nashville tuning, also known as "high-strung guitar," is often used to create a 12-string effect when layering guitars in a multi-track studio. Essentially, it uses the octave strings of a 12-string set on a six-string guitar. The first two strings (high E and B) remain unchanged, while the lowest four strings (G through low E) are tuned an octave above standard tuning. To my knowledge, there is no ready-made set for this tuning available, so you either have to rob a 12-string set or assemble your own from your music storeís single-string bin. The gauges for a medium set would be as follows (high to low): .012, .016, .010, .014, .020, .030. All strings are unwound, except for the low E.

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