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Old 01-15-2013, 11:40 AM
TD_Tom TD_Tom is offline
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Default Light vs. Medium Strings

Hello AGF Community,

I have been playing guitar for just under a year and I stumbled across this forum just recently. I just bought a new guitar, an Ibanez Aw300, which should be arriving any day now. It is a Dreadnaught and I can't wait to get my hands on it.

My question is about Light vs. Medium Strings. I was wondering what the practical difference is.

Do they really sound that different?
Is one that much easier to play than they other?
Like most new players I am having trouble barring chords so will it really make that much of a difference?

Thanks
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Old 01-15-2013, 11:55 AM
mr. beaumont mr. beaumont is offline
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It can make a remarkable difference, depending on the guitar...only one way to find out...
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Old 01-15-2013, 11:59 AM
The Old Gaffer The Old Gaffer is offline
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There isn't a set answer. My advice is to put a set of lights on your guitar and see if you like the sound. I also think that it is fine to play lighter gauge strings until you build up hand and finger strength. A good setup will make your guitar a lot easier to play. With a well positioned saddle and a well cut nut you should be able to play even medium strings.
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Old 01-15-2013, 12:02 PM
Opa John Opa John is offline
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First of all.......welcome to the forum. Glad to have ya.

In your case, I'd verify what gauge of strings are recommeded by Ibanez for your new guitar......and, I think I'd stay with that gauge.

Medium strings are used in a lot of cases because they usually tend to give you a fuller sound. I happen to have my own opinions on this. In other words, I don't think it's true in all cases.

I have two Martin dreads. A twelve year old DM and a practically brand new D-15M. I've got light gauge strings on both of them simply because I've tried mediums and I feel the lights sound better. I honestly think the mediums tend to exert more tension on the sound board of both of these guitars, thereby inhibiting the vibrations that occur when I use light gauge strings. That's just my humble opinion.....I've got nothing scientific to back it up with.

As far as playability goes...I don't notice much difference in the "feel" of one gauge vs. the other. Maybe if I did a lot of string bending (which I don't) I'd notice a differnce.......don't know.

I'm sure you'll get a lot more opinions......so stay tuned.
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Old 01-15-2013, 12:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TD_Tom View Post
...Do they really sound that different?
Is one that much easier to play than they other?
Like most new players I am having trouble barring chords so will it really make that much of a difference?
Hi TD_Tom

I want to say Hello and Welcome to the Forum! Glad you jumped in with a question.

Tonewise it varies whether it's an improvement, a volume boost, both or neither.

My experience is it requires a good setup unless you have hands/wrists of steel if you are accustomed to light and jump to medium. Technically mediums can be set a bit closer to the fretboard than lights...that doesn't mean they press as easily as lights...they are after all still mediums.

Enjoy the new guitar...

All things with guitars are compromise, so you'll want to string it up with each and play it for a week or two so you can really compare.

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Old 01-15-2013, 12:05 PM
L20A L20A is offline
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In my opinion, my Dred guitars sound better with medium gauge strings on them.
Lights are alright but they are not as full and as loud.
If you are playing alone and if you don't have good callouses you will probably like lights for now.
There is an alternative set called Bluegrass strings.
This set has light gauge strings for the high strings and medium gauge strings for the low 3 strings.
You may want to give them a try.
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Old 01-15-2013, 12:06 PM
DanSavage DanSavage is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TD_Tom View Post
I just bought a new guitar, an Ibanez Aw300, which should be arriving any day now. It is a Dreadnaught and I can't wait to get my hands on it.
I think you'll noticed a bigger difference between phosphor bronze vs. 80/20 strings.

My Ibanez dread sounded subdued with PBs and much more lively with 80/20s.

FWIW, I use lights. (.012-.053)
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Old 01-15-2013, 12:21 PM
blaren blaren is offline
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Ive found that sometimes light strings can be bigger sounding..louder with more bass even..on SOME guitars. I think it can have a lot to do with individual guitar tops and how much tension loads them best.

Lighter strings will feel quite a bit easier to play usually. Another thing that can help is to tune down a half step. If you want to play "in-tune" or open chords you can put a capo on the first fret and you now have a shortscale guitar with light strings. You should really feel better playability.

If it's hard to play though, it'll put hair on your chest and strengthen your hands and make a better player out of you.
That's one school of thought.
Another is that the easier the guitar is for you to play, the more and the longer you will play it without pain thus practicing more and becoming a better player.

Strings are relatively inexpensive. Try many different brands and gauges until you find the ones that work best for you and your guitar.
If you want real soft, try some silk and bronze or whatever they are.

With strings there is no real right or wrong. That's why there are a bizillion different varieties.
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Old 01-15-2013, 12:31 PM
cpeehler7 cpeehler7 is offline
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Feel free to play around with all the strings you want, I'm currently doing so myself. I do think it would be smarter to start with light strings though. I remember when I first started and tried medium strings, I played less because of sore fingers, and playing barre chords was significantly harder. I don't have that problem anymore, but it was a major problem when I started getting serious about 2 years ago.

I think for the sake of being able to practice more lights would be best, but it's up to you. Some guitars are different and sound better with lights/mediums. It's a cheap thing to experiment with, and a lot of fun trying to find the set of strings that works for you. Just use whatever works for you, on this forum not everyone agrees on strings. Just pick whatever you like the sound of, and what works with your body (meaning if your fingers erode a certain set fast, try something else)
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Old 01-15-2013, 12:38 PM
Dreadful Dreadful is offline
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There are also light/medium strings, .0125-.055, which I use on all my dreads now. Slightly more bass and volume than lights, and slightly easier to fret and bend than mediums.

Try different strings, and make your own decision based on playability/tone.

Last edited by Dreadful; 01-15-2013 at 12:41 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 01-15-2013, 01:02 PM
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bozz_2006 bozz_2006 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Old Gaffer View Post
There isn't a set answer. My advice is to put a set of lights on your guitar and see if you like the sound.
I actually do, and advise, the opposite. Find medium gauge strings you like. Then try the same set, only with lights. I have had a number of dread guitars and the difference in tone between meds and lights has always been enough for me to avoid the lights.

It's kind of like those cartoons where the wimp punches the bully in the face, and it has no effect. Light strings are wimpy. Dreadnaughts are bullies. You want your strings to be beefy enough (mass and tension) to "rock" your guitars soundboard when they "hit".

The decreased tension of light strings just aren't worth the trade-off for me. And I actually prefer the feel of heavier strings. With light strings, I don't know if it's real or if it's only in my mind, but I get the "wire cheese slicer" thing going on with my finger tips. The heavier strings are actually more comfortable to me.

The thing to do, no matter what gauge strings you use, is to get your guitar set up properly. Truss rod, nut slots, saddle height. People tend to worry only about saddle height, but in my opinion, the biggest X-factor is the height of the nut slots. You want those babies practically as deep as you can get without causing the string to buzz on the low frets.

Fret your guitar between the 2nd and 3rd fret on the low E, and look at how much space there is between the top of the first fret and the bottom of the string. You want that space to literally be so small that you can't even see it.
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Old 01-15-2013, 01:42 PM
Glennwillow Glennwillow is offline
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Hi Tom,

Welcome to the AGF! Glad you joined in!

You have already had a great bunch of responses here. We could argue all day about whether a guitar is better with medium or light strings -- kind of like whose light beer is better.

A well set up guitar, meaning strings no farther off the fretboard than necessary to avoid fret buzzing, can make a huge difference regardless of whether you use light or medium strings.

A lot of people here believe that dreadnought guitars, in particular, should have medium gauge strings. And I can see their point.

I have used mediums in the past on some of my guitars, but today, all my guitars -- dreads, OM/000, small jumbos, GA. GC, whatever -- all get light strings. As a fingerstyle player, I find that the difference in playability matters a great deal and I can MOST DEFINITELY feel the difference. Add to that opinion that I am fighting osteoarthritis in my older years and I simply can't take medium strings anymore. Continuing to use them would end my playing forever.

So now you have a few opinions. You will have to decide for yourself. Most beginners start out on light strings. When you get stronger you can experiment and see whether you think mediums are for you. They might be; they might not.

- Glenn
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Old 01-15-2013, 02:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glennwillow View Post
-- kind of like whose light beer is better.

- Glenn
Light beer? From the Pacific NW?? I'm sure you meant microbrew!

I generally like John Pearse New Mediums on most of my guitars. That gives me mediums on the first and second strings so they don't sound so brittle or tinny, and it gives me a medium on the sixth string for a strong, supportive bass. But, it gives me lights on the third, fourth and fifth strings for easier playing/manuverability. Only guitar I have that is all mediums is my Collings Dred. Only guitar I have that is all lights is my Olson SJ. Really like the New Mediums.
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Old 01-15-2013, 03:22 PM
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Landru Landru is offline
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Tell you what, Tom - I use fingers to pick and medium gauge chews up my nails pretty successfully. When I dropped down to light (.012 - .054 and about 170 lbs of tension), my D-28 changed tone. More treble and less lead in the mids and bottom - this was O.K. by me. I find that both the medium and light gauge string sets please me, though the sound is quite different.

You've got to go through the bother of putting on both gauges and deciding for yourself. Also, there is the matter of strings - they all sound different and only your guitar and your ears matter in this extremely subjective topic.

Enjoy!
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Old 01-15-2013, 03:40 PM
cedarkoa599 cedarkoa599 is offline
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Hello and welcome!
Dreads tend to go with med but I do know people out there that use lights so I would try both and see what you like best. If you are not used to plying with med. start with the lights.
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