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FDP Forum / FDP Unplugged - Acoustic Instruments / Going back and forth with mediums and lights

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Chris Greene
FDP Host

Idaho, USA

Nine mile skid on a ten mile ride
Oct 21st, 2017 04:50 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

In the Martin world, mediums are 13-56 and lights are 12-54. Some time ago, I changed my D-42 from mediums (what they're strung with) to lights. Easier to play for sure and OK sound. I left my HD-28V strung with mediums all along. Couple days ago, I restrung it, this time with lights. Easier to play but it really lost something in tone.

Today, it was time for new strings again on the D-42 and I pulled out a set of Martin Lifespan mediums and, OMG, I forgot what that guitar can sound like. However, gave up a little playability.

Lots of experienced players suggest lights because why kill yourself with heavier strings. Good point. However, you lose more than just volume; you lose that full dreadnought sound. At least to my ears.

I've got about 15 sets of lights and mediums but I think that I might try medium-lights when I run out. Those could be the Goldilocks strings.

Thoughts?

jvstratman

USA

Oct 21st, 2017 05:30 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

My acoustics have K&K pure mini 3 head bridge plate transducers. I run thru a Roland AC 60 with a powered sub woofer. I use 11-52's and have tone for days.

Te 52

Laws of Physics

strictly enforced
Oct 21st, 2017 05:58 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

"...Couple days ago, I restrung it, this time with lights. Easier to play but it really lost something in tone..."

Yeah, you've got to get some mass moving to drive that big box and bring out its full potential. Sure, you *can* use lights, but then why not just get an OO or OOO?

jhawkr
Contributing Member
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Wichita, KS USA

It's all gravy from here on...
Oct 22nd, 2017 04:00 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

"Sure, you *can* use lights, but then why not just get an OO or OOO?"


I did. And I enjoy playing it much more with lights.

000

Foggy1
Contributing Member
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Murrells Inlet, SC

So, so you think you can tell.
Oct 22nd, 2017 05:12 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Going through the same thing with my Taylor 210 e.

It came with 13s. I hated them and changed them right away with EB 80/20 lights. 11 - 52 and had to adjust the truss rod. I did lose some tone, but was able to play it better IMO.

Now I'm trying the same EBs in Medium light 12 - 54. Didn't have to adjust the rod and got some tone back.

Just trying to find that happy medium. I just can't do 13s, no way.

Ragtop
Contributing Member
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The older the violin

the sweeter the music.
Oct 22nd, 2017 06:29 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I tried both (Elixirs) on the HD28V that I used to own and actually preferred the tone of the lights.



thumbpicker
Contributing Member
*****

St. Louis

"Thumbpicks don't slide into soundholes"
Oct 22nd, 2017 07:34 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I’ve always felt it is more based on the individual instrument. Dreadnaught size guitars have traditionally needed a heavier string to make them sound larger,louder like expected.
Some makers have changed that up with bracing designs and general build specs to the point that the top is overdriven when faced with a heavier string. Taylor’s 314 or grand auditorium models "a smaller guitar" actually sound more muffled to me with heavier strings. Martin O M models seem to take the strain better but don’t seem to gain much from a heavier string. I guess the best thing to do is find a balance between fighting the strings and what your sound preference is. Heavier is not always better. My style of playing "finger style"suffers when I run into medium strings so it’s generally light gauges for me. Now a flat picker would differ. There is a video on YouTube I watched once that showed the difference between the same guitars strung with several different gauges of strings and played back to back without doing anything other than the string changes. You would be hard pressed to hear any differences in volume between them. As for tone YouTube can’t really convey that as well but the general difference wasn’t that you could tell any differences.

jvstratman

USA

Oct 22nd, 2017 08:14 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Giving up playabilty (for any reason) is counter-intuitive (imho) to enjoyment and continued learning of new material. I went with 11's to offset elbow issues. I play amplified 99% of the time and don't notice any losses but, agree that they sound a little quiter unplugged. Give & take...

Harleyboy
Contributing Member
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Oregon

Best dryfire is at the range with ammo
Oct 22nd, 2017 08:29 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

12's are as heavy as I can go these days. Arthritis isn't a fun thing.

SandBagger
Contributing Member
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Texas

Enjoy Every Popsicle
Oct 22nd, 2017 08:30 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Sadly, I am extremely weak on the left side (eye ear arm hand leg foot) as my last MRI shows the right side of my tiny brain looking like swiss cheese.

So, my Martin D42 which I purchased new in 1997 is consistently strung with Gauges 10-14-23-30-39-47. Certainly doesn't sound like the booming dreadnought that she was, but honestly, it is the only way I can play with any technique.

Oh, also even though I use the Martin Extra Light strings, about 10-15 minutes and I'm done.

thumbpicker
Contributing Member
*****

St. Louis

"Thumbpicks don't slide into soundholes"
Oct 22nd, 2017 08:37 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Link to comparison just a few minutes.

Comparison

Chris Greene
FDP Host

Idaho, USA

Nine mile skid on a ten mile ride
Oct 22nd, 2017 09:58 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I'll check that video out, thanks.

I guess I'm luckier than some in that I have no physical issues with playing my dreads or using mediums. Still, at some point, I need to try the medium-lights.

reverend mikey
Contributing Member
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N of I-90, E of I-29

You're old. Then vintage. Then good!
Oct 22nd, 2017 07:01 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Chris, Martin makes a set of PB Medium/Lights that are 12.5 - 55; their number is MSP4150. I've had them on both my D-18 and D-35 and they work great.

I like "thick" tone on the high B and E, so sometimes I'll put a 13 and 17 on those, but the 12.5 and 16.5 are certainly close enough (and slightly easier for bends).

Chris Greene
FDP Host

Idaho, USA

Nine mile skid on a ten mile ride
Oct 22nd, 2017 07:20 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I was thinking of those when I posted this topic. But I need to expand my horizons a little. For some years, all I've used are Martin strings. When I brought that D-18 to Dave Boehlke in Boise and a couple packs of Martin strings for him to choose between, he mentioned he liked D'Addario strings.

I wonder who makes all these brands?

Viera
Contributing Member
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Santee CA

I forgot my tagline
Oct 23rd, 2017 09:03 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

thumbpicker: "I’ve always felt it is more based on the individual instrument."

Agreed. My D-18 GE just wasn't the same with lights. My Gibson AJ sounds wonderful with lights.

A lot depends on what you play and how you play. If one plays in a bluegrass ensemble competing against banjos, fiddles, an other such contraptions mediums are typically the way to go.


Chris Greene
FDP Host

Idaho, USA

Nine mile skid on a ten mile ride
Oct 23rd, 2017 09:47 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I'm getting a little used to the lights on the HD-28V and for finger picking, they work pretty well. Strumming, not so much.

In this vein, I ended up restringing a Strat last night with 9-42 (I usually string electrics with 10-46) and it was fun because it was so easy. Electric is different though because amps. I suppose if you have a pup in your acoustic the same would apply.

thumbpicker
Contributing Member
*****

St. Louis

"Thumbpicks don't slide into soundholes"
Oct 23rd, 2017 12:04 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I find the biggest difference isn’t so much the actual initial note you play but the bending doesn’t really track between electric and acoustic guitars in general. I have put some really light gauges on acoustic and still can’t get the bending to work the same.
In contrast I’ve played some great acoustics with medium strings that sounded somewhat anemic because they were set up to play wonderfully but that evidently doesn’t let them ring out properly.
Could be you need quite a bit of downforce on the bridge to drive the top properly. Raised the action on the guitar and lost some playability but gained a lot of sound/tone.
I’ve rarely had to adjust anything on a stable guitar to accommodate a gauge up or down on an acoustic to keep the action the same. I guess it just takes some experimenting to find what makes you happy.

Chris Greene
FDP Host

Idaho, USA

Nine mile skid on a ten mile ride
Oct 23rd, 2017 12:32 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Playability trumps pretty much everything in my world. Doesn't matter how good the tone is if you have to fight the guitar. Jack White is wrong.

kego
Contributing Member
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Houston, TX

Give me a second to think of something..
Oct 23rd, 2017 01:42 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I keep 12's on my 000's and OM's and 13's on my dreads. When I switched to the 13's for the bigger guitars I had about a months worth of sore fingers, but once the muscles were built up no worries. I have an "overused tendon" in my left index finger according to my doctor, apparently from playing 2-3 hours most days - fortunately this didn't get any worse when I went with the bigger strings.

I definitely need the volume in my dreads for bluegrass, and I *love* the bass thump that you just don't see with 12's. And, once I got used to them I'm fine with them. I've always had a little different technique for acoustic vs electric, so it's not a big deal.

Chris Greene
FDP Host

Idaho, USA

Nine mile skid on a ten mile ride
Oct 23rd, 2017 02:22 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

If I was playing bluegrass I suppose I'd think about strings differently. As it is, I'm playing at home, on my couch, often without a pick. I play more of the Laurel Canyon sound type of music (CSN, NY, Eagles, Joni, etc.) so big volume isn't a requirement. But I've been back into playing guitar for awhile now and my fretting hand is in decent shape.

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FDP Forum / FDP Unplugged - Acoustic Instruments / Going back and forth with mediums and lights




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