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Thicker strings do not make a bigger guitar sound

If you play thick strings for sound and not for comfort, you've got it all wrong.

On the solid-body electric, there's this belief that you absolutely must use thick strings in order to make a "big" sound, with big meaning "fuller." Sorry, but that's not happening.

Above is me playing my Jazzmaster with an 8-38 set, which is the second thinnest string set you can get (the thinnest is 7 gauge, if you can even find them.) The 8-38 is what's generally known as extra super light. Alternatively, if you just search for 8-38 guitar strings, you find them that way too.

I won't be playing 8-38 full time and will go back to 9-42, however I bought and installed an 8-38 set to prove a point. Thin strings don't mean a thin sound on a solid-body electric.

Note that I said solid-body electric. Where you really hear the difference with thick strings is on semi-hollow and hollow body guitars. Slap on a set of 12s and yes, you will hear that extra-ringy, extra-bongy style string vibration come through. Great for jazz music.

However, for solid-body electrics, the thickness really doesn't do a damned thing for the sound. Want proof? Jimi Hendrix and Tony Iommi. Both players get "huge" sound, and both use very, very thin strings.

How do players with thin strings get the big sound? Easy answer. It's how the strings are plucked. Namely, the pick you use.

I've said this just recently but will say it again. Many players use picks that are way too thick and bang strings way too hard, causing all sorts of fret buzz and the strings going out-of-tune constantly.

Some believe the solution to fret buzz and strings that waver in tuning too much on hard pick strikes is to use thick strings. That won't help. It is better to use lighter strings and switch to a flexible pick or at least one with a pointy tip on it.

Then the belief goes into total fantasy land territory by stating thicker strings make for a bigger sound. On the solid-body, no. Never has and never will.

Switch to a "clacky" medium pick, which is basically any celluloid, and lo and behold, the strings actually ring out better without the need to strike them with the fury of the fist of an angry god.

Seriously, it works. Try lighter strings and picks that flex more.


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