Is It OK to Change E & B Strings to a Lighter Gauge for Bending?

Discussion in 'Acoustic BGU Questions and Comments' started by ChicagoNed, Sep 10, 2020.

  1. ChicagoNed

    ChicagoNed Blues Newbie

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    I like playing my Taylor 214CE in blues style but find it difficult to bend the two high strings. They are D'Addario Phosphor Bronze EJ17 .013-.056 Medium Gauge. I love the rich sound but want to be able to bend more easily. It takes me sooo long to bend these I get off rhythm. I see they make a light and extra light.

    If I go to the next lighter gauges, will the guitar sound tinnier? Is it OK to mix brands? Should I use what I have on my electric, which are Ernie Ball Paradigm 9-42?

    Thanks,

    Ned
     
  2. snarf

    snarf musician wannabe

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    I wouldn't put electric strings on my acoustics. They're made differently, and, in my experience, electric strings sound pretty thumpy and dull on an acoustic. Also, the gauge is often way too small for an acoustic.

    Do you remember what strings you had on it to begin with? If it came with 13s, you could probably get away with 12s without having to setup the guitar, but anything less is going to require a bit of work to make them work. If it came with 12s, you could probably drop to 11s without too much hassle. My experience has been that anything more than a single gauge drop has caused issues (basically it has to be setup) on my acoustics.

    If it came with 12s or 13s and you drop to 9s or 10s, they're not really going to work. The strings are too small, and they'll be floppy and buzzy. The nut won't be right for them. Even if you're just changing the first and second strings.

    If you want to try different strings, my recommendation would be to try a set of silk and steel strings that are 11s. They should be easier to bend. You'll see pretty quickly with them if they end up being floppy.

    Personally, I approach and play my acoustics completely different than I play my electrics. I don't bend much with them at all, and, when I do, the bends aren't anything like I do on my electrics. Depending on the guitar, I play 12s and 13s on my acoustics.
     
  3. Elwood

    Elwood "Skinny"

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    If I put 13s on a GA size Taylor (my 314ce is the same size, a Grand Auditorium) there's not gonna be much bending. 12s are factory gauge and they sound fine. They will bend as long as you want them to. D'Addario 11s will bend pretty good on that guitar (for me anyway) and they don't sound "too" thin.
    It you are willing to spend $12 bucks or so you could try what I am currently very happy with on my 314. John Pierce 11s. (I had to order them from Amazon) To my ears they have a nice full sound and still have the lightness of the 11s.
    Another big thing is what are you playing on your acoustic? You want the rich sound, usually this is more with fingerstyle or something that features the guitar. Blues, or combo stuff with the acoustic I find the trick is to get a nice full tone, that is clear and carries the acoustic feeling.
    I am slow to accept it but my best results using an acoustic with blues, either solo or with jam tracks (vjr) has been to roll off strategic bass levels here and there. Otherwise it seems the compression in your recording will make stuff sound lousy, it's trying to tame all that peaky muddy stuff down low (that sounds great when you play the right stuff alone- I think).
    Now, playing blues (or rock stuff) alone is different to me than doing typical "acoustic" stuff. I think that there too, you can get off cleaner fill lines between your chords, and sneak in bends, with lighter strings. Again, you don't want to fight with yourself for bandwidth and you need the physical work to be as least as possible and still get good results.
    My point in both examples is that in those situations heavy strings bring with them the very issues I will be trying to deal with to get a good sound, and they are more difficult for some things, like bends.
    Sorry for the long answer.
    Short answer: ditch the 13s. Do run matching string sets on your Taylor.
    My .02. Hope it helps.

    edit: just thinking...not a whole lot of bending fun (for me anyway) if you can't bend the G string anyway, hmmmmm
     
    #3 Elwood, Sep 10, 2020
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2020
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  4. ChrisGSP

    ChrisGSP Blues Journeyman

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    Remember when guitarists had to buy banjo strings to get lighter gauges for the high strings? AND when you could buy individual strings, not just bagged sets?

    Gaaah, don't put those 9's on your Taylor - if the nut is cut for 13's, then 9's will probably move around in the slot and you might end up with tuning issues.
     
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  5. dvs

    dvs Green Mountain Blues

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    Elixir sells a set they call Custom Light that are .011 - .052. I use these on a Taylor 314ce and I like them a lot. Easy enough to do full step bends on the high E and B strings. The G string is wound so it doesn't take to bending so well. They work just fine in the stock nut slot.

    Sets of strings are often designed to balance the string tension across the neck, so it might not be an excellent idea to swap out the two highest strings for lighter gauges.
     
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  6. Rick23

    Rick23 Blues Newbie

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    I would suggest taking a look at Stringjoy. I first tried them a couple years ago and that's all I use. When you select a style and gauge there is a link "design a set". They have a form where they ask you some questions on what you like, what you want to do, and what problems you have with what you are using. Then you'll get an email with a recommendation of a balanced set. So if you want to change the gauge on 1 or 2 strings, they recommend a balanced set so it doesn't get your guitar out of whack. Their recommendation completely cured the issue I had with my MIM strat. They are a little pricey, but well worth it IMHO.
     
  7. ChicagoNed

    ChicagoNed Blues Newbie

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    Thanks everyone. I didn't know the nutws even a consideration?
     
  8. Elwood

    Elwood "Skinny"

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    @ChicagoNed , Maybe you noticed that dvs and I both are playing essentially the same guitar (214ce - 314ce, different woods) and we both are happy with our preference of 11s.

    The nut is an issue, however...in most cases you can get away with a +- .001 variance from what is was cut for. The 214 shipped with 12s (depending on the year it may even have shipped with the HD 12s that Andy Powers was promoting for a while) so I would expect it is "ok" with your 13s. By the same token the nut should be just as happy with 11s.

    Hopefully no well intended previous owner recut the nut slots or lowered the bridge. If all is stock you should be able to get it to play much nicer for the price of strings. Odds are your truss rod will be OK if it is now. None of my Taylors are finicky, just the owner.

    When you put them on, give them a day or two. Your ear is used to what you have been hearing. Right away you may think your new strings suck. Keep playing. (I believe) sometimes it takes a bit for an acoustic to settle in with a change of strings, and your ear has to re-calibrate.

    Rick23 has an interesting suggestion. My only thought would be it might be better (maybe) to try some 11 sets, see if anything needs fixing, and if it does there is a possibility. I have not done any cost comparisons, my acoustics get what they want.

    Not selling you a bill of goods but I think you will be surprised more by what you gain than what you loose. Good luck!
     
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  9. ChicagoNed

    ChicagoNed Blues Newbie

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    Thanks Elwood!
     
  10. ChicagoNed

    ChicagoNed Blues Newbie

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    UPDATE: Hi guys, I decided not to replace just the high strings, I received a set from Stringjoy based on the recommendations here, they are 11s, I think I had 12s on, (may have had 13s?), all is swell except my open G string is buzzing. I could get a set up at a guitar store but that would take a half day of my time with the driving and sitting in my car as they do a while-I-wait set up.

    So can I McGyver the G string upwards by adding a shim in the nut? I do NOT know where the buzz is coming from, it sounds like George Harrison's sitar. I'm thinking of cutting a piece of G string maybe 1/8" long, laying it in the nut's groove, keep adding to it until the buzz disappears. Is that an idea?

    Thanks for your input.

    Ned
     
  11. ChicagoNed

    ChicagoNed Blues Newbie

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    I just did an extensive search on raising the nut slot and came across this, which is over my ability to do and I think laying in a piece of G string is a decent idea. What are your thoughts?

    RAISING THE NUT SLOTS
    You can fill and re-cut a nut slot by wicking either bone dust or the rolled-up fibers of a Q-tip in the slot with thin Cyanoacrylate glue. Using a super glue accelerator to instantly toughen the material, trim the excess, and then re-cut the slot.
     
  12. PapaBear

    PapaBear Guit Fiddlier

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    I'd personally make the trip to a trusted luthier
     
  13. MikeS

    MikeS Allen, TX
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    Yeah, If the problem is actually a high fret, you solution may work for a while (though I wouldn't do it), but in the long term you need to have a guitar tech look at it.
    Do you have a short straight edge that you can use that will cover 3 (and ONLY 3) frets (fret rocker)? That way you will be able to tell if one is too high. Your Taylor shouldn't have this problem, so I'd probably take it in.

    I case you don't know what it is, here's a picture of a Fret Rocker.

    Fret Rocker.jpg
     
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  14. Elwood

    Elwood "Skinny"

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    You changed strings and now have a buzz with an open G string only? What about all other strings at all other positions? If you capo does it how does it play/sound?

    I would not make any irreversible changes, especially until I found the cause of the new buzz. My first thought was the string itself, but if you capo it that wouldn't make any sense. Cheap possibility to eliminate. A fret most likely didn't go high because you change strings, I like logic.

    You really don't want to get aggressive with your shade tree fixes here. If you are not careful even removing the saddle on those, you can damage the ES-2 pickup.
    The is a solid "measure twice - cut once" moment. I'd probably swap the strings anyway. Even try 12s and see what happens.

    The only thing that makes sense to me other than strings is if your truss needs a nudge. Based on what you have told us, if it does, take it to a good luthier. If a previous owner got "inventive" you may find that necessary.
     
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  15. artyman

    artyman Fareham UK

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    Placing something under your G string at the nut shouldn't be dramatic just a piece of paper may well do it unless the slot is cut seriously low.
     
  16. ChicagoNed

    ChicagoNed Blues Newbie

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    Thanks everyone. In the few hours since I posted the update here's what I did:

    I put a small piece of a G string as a shim in the nut and it sounded muted, like palm muted, so I then used a piece of a B string and it sounds perfect now, although I had to take any extra length off my side of the nut because it must have interfered with the vibration of the G string. I also discovered a slight sitar buzz on the D string and placed a piece of a B string in the nut there and now it sounds fine.

    So I realize this is just a temporary DIY remedy until I have the time and find myself near the guitar store when I can make a While-U Wait appointment, although I hate when my action height is changed. I think I must have previously had 12s on. These Springjoys sound brighter than the D'Addarios I had on, but that may just be the "got new strings" sound. I am able to bend these easier for a more bluesy vibe.

    Here's for helping me out, I just retired from 44 years of making documentaries and discovered this in one of my feeds, enjoy.

    https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/18/us/cfc-making-instruments-to-fight-opioid-addiction/index.html

    See ya,

    Ned
     
  17. ChrisGSP

    ChrisGSP Blues Journeyman

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    Oh, man, I just can't imagine doing all that to a TAYLOR - why??????? The buzz you are hearing is possibly not the strings fretting out (putting lighter strings on the guitar should not have changed the action height), but moving around in the slots of the nut, which are now too wide for the lighter-gauge strings.
     
  18. Hangnman

    Hangnman Blues addicted

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    The weather is changing. Probably needs the truss rod adjusted as earlier stated by Elwood.
     
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  19. ChicagoNed

    ChicagoNed Blues Newbie

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    Well Chris it allows me to play the acoustic for a week or two before I can bring it in to the shop. I don't see how I can do any permanent damage putting shims in the nut.
     
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  20. ChrisGSP

    ChrisGSP Blues Journeyman

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    Yep, needs must Ned; enjoy playing. I just looked at your profile and see that it's a bit similar to mine - empty nesters, retired; and my wife came to Aus from Clarendon Hills, Illinois (I'm an Aussie).