Let’s say you are playing someone else’s guitar or you’ve bought a second-hand guitar. The strings on it feel very comfortable, and you want to keep using strings of this gauge in the future. But there’s no information about the strings that you’ve found. How to identify the gauge of strings on your guitar?
To identify the gauge of strings, there’s only one way. Unless you have the original package the strings came in, you have to measure the string’s diameter using a digital caliper. If you have the box of the strings stored somewhere, you can find the gauge info on it.
All the renowned string manufacturers always mention the gauge information of every string on their packaging. But it’s sometimes tricky to identify the string gauge just by playing. You might even need to measure the gauge if you lost the original package of strings.
How To Find The Gauge of Guitar Strings?
Typically, the gauges of every string in a set will be written on the top of the box or pack of the strings.
If you are buying a new guitar, the gauge of the installed strings is generally given on the description, and also a card is issued with the guitar that provides information about the name of the strings used.
If you can’t find any of this information, you should buy a slide caliper or micrometer. It’s very inexpensive and can be purchased from any hardware store. They cost like $10 and are elementary to measure the thickness of strings or any thin wires.
Measuring String Gauge
Knowing the string gauge is essential because the string’s tension determines how it feels in hand. Also, it can help you adjust the truss rod of your guitar accordingly. If you like how it plays and feels, and you want to maintain that comfort in between string changes, knowing the string gauge helps.
Using Slide Calipers
You can get a digital caliper from the hardware store. It’s pretty cheap and will come in handy to measure the thickness of any thin object.
First, lay down your guitar and set the digital caliper to zero by moving the two jaws of it all the way to the closed position. Place it perpendicularly on the guitar and slide the string into it.
Again push the two jaws so that there’s no extra space except for the strings. The number will show on display. You can change the unit of the measurement if your caliper supports that feature.
Micrometers are another type of precision tool like the slide calipers or Vernier calipers. It is also known as a screw gauge.
This, too, can measure the diameter or thickness of thin objects. They come in both analog and digital forms. We are going to go with digital micrometers as they can calculate instantly.
You need to place the guitar in a lying position and place the string inside the C-clamp of the micrometer. Then close the clamp by rotating the internal screw. The device will measure a string gauge up to a thousandth of an inch.
Guitar String Gauges And Their Effect On Playing
String gauges are the measurement to determine the thickness of a guitar string. When it comes to choosing a string gauge, it’s all about personal preference and comfort.
The gauge of strings is measured in one-thousandth of an inch. Generally, the gauge of each string is written on the pack of the strings. Sometimes the packs refer to the string gauge by the thinnest string or the high E string.
How The String Gauges Are Labelled
As guitar strings tend to be very thin, it needs an acceptable measurement for an average consumer.
Brands categorize their string gauges with typical comparing adjectives such as light, medium, heavy. There are subcategories as well. There’s Super Light, Extra Light, or medium heavy.
Some sets also come with three high strings of light gauge and three low strings of a heavy gauge. They are called hybrid sets of strings.
The actual measurements look like 0.008 or 0.010, and so on. Companies address them as 8s, 9s, or 10s and 11s.
Generally, 9s and 10s are used by most of the guitarist as they are the middle place for every type of player. 8s are called extra super light. 9s are extra light, 10s are super light, 11s are medium, 12s and onwards are considered heavy gauges.
- All six strings gauges of 9s are 0.009 -0.011-0.016 -0.024 -0.032 -0.042
- All six-string gauges of 11s are 011 -0.015 -0.018 -0.026 -0.036 -0.050
Note that the examples here are for electric guitars. For acoustic guitars, the gauges tend to be a bit heavier.
How Each Gauge of Strings Differ
Notice how the gauges differ in every string. This is important because beginner guitarists may find the lighter gauge of strings more comfortable and easier to play as those require less finger strength.
Thicker strings produce more bass and warmth in the tone, whereas thinner gauges of strings are treble heavy and brighter.
If you are a guitarist who plays solos, you are better off with lighter gauges as they are easier to bend and helps in fast playing. Also, they produce a bright tone and quick attack, which many soloists seek.
If you like to rhythm and play riffs on your guitar, heavier strings may be the thing—especially the lower strings with heavier gauges.
Also, if you constantly change tuning and play in dropped tuning, heavier gauges of strings will hold the tune of dropped tuning better than lighter gauges.
As we pull the cord on this post, we hope you’ve learned a great deal about guitar strings and the gauges used to measure their thickness.
We’ve covered how to identify the gauge of strings on your guitar with various information regarding how each gauge sounds and feels. There’s also a deeper insight into how different gauges are labeled. Hope you can now play with much more confidence. Happy strumming!