Quick Tip: Heavier Gauge Strings for Fatter Tone

Here’s a quick, cheap and easy tip on how to beef up your guitar’s sound for a fatter tone: new guitar strings! A lot of manufacturers offer lighter gauge strings for players who want to be able to perform bends much more easily than they would a heavier gauge set. A good example is the Ernie Ball Super Slinky light set which features a gauge range of .011 to .042. While a lighter set of strings will definitely makes those bends easier to pull-off, they will also thin out your guitar tone – a consequence some players might not realize. Luckily, you have a few choices.

If you’re looking to beef up tone, an overall heavier set is a great upgrade that’s quick, cheap and effective. Normally, a set of lighter gauge strings come with the high E at around .009 (typically referred to as a set of 9s) and a low E gauge at around .042. If fatter, fuller tone is what you’re after, try a set of 11s or 12s which tend to feature a low E string with a .048 to .052 gauge instead, such as the Xotic SG-NR3 strings. Stevie Ray Vaughan for example was said to play from time to time with a set of 13s which typically features a low E string gauge of .056! While a heavier set will make bending more difficult, some players find it a worthwhile trade-off for the thicker, more powerful tone they yield.

If you’d like to take advantage of the more bend-friendly lighter string gauges primarily for soloing but want to beef up the tone of your lower three strings, many manufacturers offer sets that blend extra light and heavier strings in the same package, such as the Ernie Ball Skinny Top/Heavy Bottom set (Gauges .010 .013 .017 .030 .042 .052).

For about the price of a meal, you don't have to break the bank to beef up your tone! Looking to replace or upgrade your old set? Check out our entire selection of electric guitar strings right here!


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One thought on “Quick Tip: Heavier Gauge Strings for Fatter Tone”

  • Donny

    There are several schools of thought here. I have read that Edward van halen uses .008s, Eric Clapton uses .009s. And I think we can all agree they both have tone for days. I use .009s and have used them for 40 years. Of course you have never heard of me so maybe I should have tried .012s

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