Friday, September 9, 2011

Tremolo is Affected by String Gauge

You cannot change your strings gauges without other reactions occurring!
Changing your strings requires a little forethought and hopefully this post will help walk you through a gauge change while decreasing some set-up surprises.
I changed my strings from this gauges; .010-.013-.017- .026- .036-.046 to .010-.013-.017- .030- 042- .-52, this probably doesn't seem like much but the tension changes enough to effect the tremolo in a big way! The tension is roughly 49.75 kg with the Daddario EXL110 gauge. After installing Daddario EXL140 gauge my tension changes to 58.23 Kg. That is a 8.48 Kg difference in tension! Similar 440 mhz tuning to E was used in both instances. 
This doesn't seem like a drastic change but the gauge also changes the height of the strings on the bridge set-up which also changes the intonation. I think the most dramatic effect is the distance the tremolo changes. I moves from being flush to the surface of the instrument - Seen in the picture below.

To this floating level
The gauge affects the guitar dramatically and the photos prove it.

Of course you can tighten the tremolo springs to bring the tremolo unit flush to the surface of the Fender Stratocaster but the intonation will still need to be adjusted.

If you change string gauge, your set up will change! You will need to check the following adjustments if you do change gauge.
  1. String height
  2. Pickup height
  3. Intonation
  4. Tremolo height
I use different string gauges for different guitars. For example: I do NOT use the same gauge for my Stratocaster as I do for my Archtop guitars. My Acoustics also have different gauges. I've worked mine out so even though I use different gauges - The guitar all feel similar in gauge. That is another can of worms - See my posts about Tension.

Above all remember that changing guitar strings gauges can improve your tone (thicker has more mass moving over the pickups but tone is a subjective thing) but it will also change how your guitar plays. Follow the steps outlined above and have fun!

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