All About Guitar Strings Gauge

String gauges majorly influence the playability and sound of your guitar. String gauge affects the way how your guitar feels to your fingers, how your guitar will sound and how easy or difficult it becomes to play your guitar. 
In short, a perfect choice of string gauge is important for a musician who cares about his/her playing and sound. 
Ernie Ball Slinky Banner Different Gauges

In The Picture - Ernie Ball RPS Slinky Different Gauges

What Does String Gauge Mean?

String gauge is the thickness or the diameter of the string. On a 6 string Guitar, all six strings are of different thicknesses. The first string is the thinnest or the lightest gauge. The 6th string is the thickest or the heaviest gauge. 
Same stands for other stringed instruments like bass guitars, cellos, etc. They have strings of varying thicknesses or gauges. First being the thinnest and gradually with each string, thickness or gauge increases.  
Image of Electric Guitar Strings
Strings on an Electric Guitar - 1st string is the thinnest or lightest gauge. 6th string is the thickest or the heaviest gauge.

What is Light String and Heavy String Gauge On a Guitar?

Thinner the string of the guitar, the lighter the string gauge. The thicker the string of the guitar, the heavier the string gauge. For e.g 1st string on a six-string electric guitar is the thinnest and have string gauges like .08, .09, .010. While the 6th string of an electric guitar, which is the thickest,  have string gauges like .042, .044, .46, etc.

What are the different guitar string gauges?

Three fundamental guitar string gauges are Light String Gauge, Medium String Gauge, and Heavy String Gauge. Apart from these fundamental string gauges, there are other string gauges. All these are subcategories of the three fundamental guitar string gauges. These string gauges are like super-light, light-medium, heavy top-light bottom, Drop tuning etc.

    • Light Gauge Strings: - Light gauge strings are thin in diameter. Gauges like .010-.048, .011-.050  are light gauges in acoustic guitar strings. String Gauge - 008-.038 and .009-.042 are light gauges in electric guitar.
      You Should select Light gauge strings for the following reasons: -
      • light Gauge strings are easy to play with, easy to bend.
      • Light Gauges sound brighter than medium or heavier gauges.
      • Light gauge strings exert less tension on the guitar neck and are a safe choice for old guitars.
Few reasons to avoid Light String Gauge
    • Light Gauge Strings produce less volume and sustain.
    • Light gauge strings are more prone to buzzing, especially if you are a player with a rough touch and like a low neck action.
  • Medium/Heavy Gauge Strings: - Medium or Heavy gauge strings are thick. They are heavy. They have more mass. So they exert more tension on the guitar neck and are difficult to play, as compared to light gauges. Heavier gauges generate more volume and sustain. They don't break easily and are less prone to buzzing so they are an excellent choice for those who play rough. Acoustic strings medium gauges are generally .013 -.056 and similar.
  • Light-Heavy Gauge: - Light heavy gauges are a combination of light and heavy strings. In modern-day playing, you cannot ignore aspects like string bending and neither can you ignore a good low end. This is why light heavy gauges are made. They offer you the best of both worlds. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd strings are of the light gauge while the 4th, 5th, and 6th strings are heavier gauges. This way you get easy playing and bright sounding with the first three strings while the top three strings produce a more bass prominent tone, good for riffs. Acoustic strings light-heavy gauges are .012-.054 and similar.

String Gauges On An Acoustic Guitar

 

Why String Gauge is Important?

Reason Number 1:- Strings are a physical aspect of your guitar that plays a major role in how your guitar sounds. As we have already learned, lighter gauges generate a more treble tone while heavier gauges generate a more mid and bass-rich tone. So if you are an electric guitar player and opt for a lighter string gauge set( like .09-.042) you will get a much more treble tone from your electric guitar. If you opt for a Heavier string gauge(like .012-.052) you will get a more mid rich tone. Same stands for other stringed instruments like acoustic guitar, bass guitar, ukulele, etc.
Reason Number 2:-The second major reason you should carefully choose your string gauge is that it greatly alters the way your guitar plays and feels. Lighter string gauges are easy to play and bend but they are more prone to fret buzz. A lighter gauge feels easy on your fingers. Most lead guitar players prefer a lighter gauge to get an easy feel. Also if you are a beginner and If you feel that playing the guitar is tough and it hurts your fingers, try out with a lighter string gauge. This could change your learning experience completely. 
Heavier gauges are difficult to play and bend but are stable and less prone to buzzing. Heavier gauges are preferred by rhythm and jazz players. 
Reason Number 3:-  This difference in thickness or gauge is the reason why different strings on a guitar are capable of tuning to a different note and produce different sounds. The thin strings oscillate on a higher frequency(treble) while the thick strings oscillate on a lower frequency(mids/bass). 
Reason Number 4:-  Tuning Stability. The third major reason is that string gauges are a major game player when it comes to guitar tuning and intonation stability. If your guitar easily gets out of tune. One of the many reasons could be your guitar strings stability and the string gauge you play. While lighter gauges easily get detuned, heavier gauges tend to stay more in tune.
Also, if you are in a drop or alternate tuning. You might need a heavier gauge to get more tuning stability and better intonation. 
Reason Number 5:- More Volume. If you want more output out of your acoustic, electric, bass guitars. Switch to a heavier gauge. Heavier gauges equal more volume or more output. 
Factors Affected By String Gauge Info graphic

    Different Acoustic Guitar Strings Gauge

    • Light: - In an acoustic guitar, light string gauges are generally .010-.050 and .011 -.052
      Acoustic String Gauge - Light 1-E 2-B 3-G 4-D 5-A 6-E
      Extra Light - .010 - .050 .010 .014 .020 .028 .040 .050
      Light - .011 - .052 .011 .015 .022 .030 .042 .052
    • Medium: - Acoustic Guitar Medium String gauge is generally .012-.054
      Acoustic String Gauge - Medium 1-E 2-B 3-G 4-D 5-A 6-E
      Medium .012 .016 .024 .032 .042 .054
    • Heavy:- Acoustic Guitar Strings heavy String gauge is generally .013-.056
      Acoustic String Gauge - Heavy 1-E 2-B 3-G 4-D 5-A 6-E
      Heavy .013 .017 .026 .034 .045 .056
    • Custom: - Every guitar string manufacturer tends to alter string gauges as per their specs. We do have a lot of custom string gauges available in the market. These are different combinations of string gauges depending on manufacturer to manufacturer. Some of the custom string gauge combinations available in the market are:
      Acoustic String Gauge - Custom 1-E 2-B 3-G 4-D 5-A 6-E
      DR strings Custom Light - .011-.050 .011 .015 .022 .030 .040 .050
      Ernie Ball Rock & Blues - .010 -.052 .010 .013 .017 .030 .042 .052
      Elixir String HD Light - .013-.053 .013 .017 .025 .032 .042 .053
      Above are a few examples of custom string gauges offered by a few strings manufacturer. You can find hundreds of other string gauge variants in our store. We do recommend you explore and find a string gauge that fits your need. 

    Different Electric Guitar Strings Gauge

    • Light: -  In electric guitar, light string gauges are generally .08-.038 and .09 -.042 
       6 String Electric String Gauge - Light 1-E 2-B 3-G 4-D 5-A 6-E
      Extra Light- .008 - .038 .008 .011 .014 .022w .030 .038
      Light - .009 - .042 .009 .011 .016 .024w .032 .042
    • Medium: - Electric guitar medium string gauges are .010 - .046/.048
      6 String Electric String Gauge - Medium 1-E 2-B 3-G 4-D 5-A 6-E
      Medium - .010 - .046 .010 ..013 .017 .026 .036 .046
      Medium - .010 - .048 .010 .013 .017 .028 .038 .048
    • Heavy: - Heavy string gauges are ranging from .011 up to .062
      6 String Electric String Gauge - Heavy 1-E 2-B 3-G 4-D 5-A 6-E
      Heavy - .011 - .052 .011 .014 .018p .030 .042 .052
      Heavy - .011 - .054 .011 .015 .022p .030 .042 .054
      Super Heavy- .012 - .056 .012 .016 .024p .032 .044 .056
    • Custom: - Custom string gauges vary from one manufacturer to another. Again these are just a few examples. I recommend you browse through our store to explore string gauges as per your need.
      6 String Electric String Gauge - Custom 1-E 2-B 3-G 4-D 5-A 6-E
      DR Strings - DSE-9/46 Light - Heavy .09 .011 .016 .026 .036 .046
      Ernie Ball - Mega Slinky - .0105 - 048 .0105 .0135 .0175 .028 .038 .048
      GHS - True Medium - 011-050 .011 .015 .018 .028DY .038DY .050DY

    7 String/ 8 String Electric Guitar Gauges: -

    7 and 8 String Electric Guitar string gauges are different from the 6 string electric string gauges. Most 7 and 8 string players prefer heavier string gauges because they tend to tune the guitars in a low tuning.
    7 String Electric Guitar String Gauges 1-E 2-B 3-G 4-D 5-A 6-E 7-B
    DR DDT7-10 Medium 7-String 10 13 17 26 36 46 56
    DR DDT7-11 Extra Heavy 7-String 11 15 19 32 42 54 65

    8 String Electric Guitar String Gauge 1-E 2-B 3-G 4-D 5-A 6-E 7-B 8-F#
    Elixir - Light - .010 - .074 .010 .013 .017 .030 .042 .054 .064 .074

    Different Bass Guitar Strings Gauge

    • Light: - In bass guitar, light string gauges are generally .40-.100

      4 String Bass - Light Gauge G D A E
      DR - PBVW-40 VICTOR WOOTEN SIGNATURE 40 55 75 95
      DR - PB-40 LIGHT - LIGHT 40 60 80 100
    • Medium: - Bass guitar string medium gauge is generally .045 - .105
      4 String Bass - Medium Gauge G D A E
      PB-45 MEDIUM 45 65 85 105

    • Heavy: - Bass guitar string-heavy gauges is generally .050 - .110
      4 String Bass - Heavy Gauge G D A E
      PB-50 HEAVY 50 70 90 110

    • Custom: - Some of the custom bass string gauges may be on the heavy side or the lighter side. These are designed keeping in mind the different musical needs of bass players. Some might be designed to achieve low tunings while others might be designed keeping in mind a more bright and treble tone. 
      Custom Bass Guitar Gauges G D A E
      DR - DDT-55 Heavier 55 75 95 115
      DR - DDT-65 Extra Heavy 65 85 105 125
    • 5 String/ 6 String Bass Guitar Gauges: - In 5 string bass guitars we generally add one additional bass string and in 6 string bass guitars we generally add one bass string and one treble string. Common String gauges for 5 and 6 string bass guitars are 
      5 and 6 String Bass Gauges C G D A E B
      DR - PB5-40 LIGHT 5 - STRING 40 60 80 100 120
      DR - PB5-45 MEDIUM 5 - STRING 45 65 85 105 125
      DR - PB5-130 MEDIUM 5 - STRING 45 65 85 105 130
      DR - PB6-30 MEDIUM 6 - STRING 30 45 65 85 105 125

    Which gauge guitar strings should you use?

    According to your playing ability, style of music and guitar body type you should select your string gauge. Generally - Beginners find playing lighter guitar string gauges easy. Advanced/Intermediate guitar players play medium or heavier string gauges as it provides a better tone.
    • Beginner Guitar String Gauge: - If you are a beginner, we recommend you stick to lighter string gauges. The reason is simple. When people begin playing the guitar, they feel a lot of pain in their fingers. Sticking to a lighter gauge can ease the pain and make learning guitar a much pleasing experience. So if you feel a lot of pain in your fingers while learning guitar, switch to a lighter gauge. 

    • Intermediate/ Advanced Guitar String Gauge: -
      Intermediate players and advanced players should carefully evaluate the following and decide what gauge will work best for them. 
      • Their Playing Style and Tone Needs
      • Their Guitar Tunings
      • Their Guitar Type and Guitar Age/Condition

    We have already covered all the aspects required to come to a decision that will best suit your needs. 

    String Gauges Used By Guitar Players

    Below are some of the highest-selling string gauges in the Indian market. again this doesn't mean that you should stick with these gauges. This merely indicates what the industry is aligned to. What best suits your need is completely dependent on your needs and requirements. 

    Best/Most Common Acoustic String Gauge: -  The most common and highest-selling acoustic guitar string gauge used in the industry is .011 -.052. 

    Best/Most Common Electric String Gauge: - Highest selling string gauge in the Indian market is .09-.046 and .09-.042. 

    Best/Most Common Bass String Gauge: - Highest selling bass gauge in the Indian market is .045 - .105 

    Now that you have put in a good amount of effort in learning about string gauges. I recommend you to not stop here. Get some strings and start experiencing what you have just learned. At last, the fun is all about putting the learning to practice. 

    If you have any suggestions or queries, do leave a comment below. I love to hear and learn from you.


      3 comments


      • Udeeksh Sood

        Hi Nethan!
        Thanks for your comment.
        The bridge choice completely depends upon your guitar body shape and size. I suggest, you consult any local luthiers. They will be able to help and guide you better.
        Regards,
        Udeeksh Sood


      • Jose

        Thanks for this lesson, I learned plenty!


      • Nethan Paul

        This is a detailed post and it has helped me understand the basics of guitar parts. I have just got a second hand guitar from a friend at a cheap price but the strings are not good. I have to replace them. I had no idea on gauge as well. Thank you for letting me know about it. Could you also suggest which Tune O Matic bridge (https://faberusa.com/product-category/faber-bridges/abr-59/) should I choose for my acoustic guitar because the strings are not sitting properly.


      Leave a comment

      Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

      This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.


      Udeeksh Sood Image

      Written By

      Udeeksh Sood on

      Udeeksh is an Audio Engineer and Co-Founder of learnmusicproduction.in. He loves to produce music, research music gear, play guitar, go on treks and road trips.