People ask us all the time what gauge we recommend for a given guitar, and the truth is, there’s no one correct answer. String gauges depend way more on the player than they do on the guitar. That said, of course we have our favorite ways to set up different guitars for different purposes, so in this series, Scott is sharing his favorite string gauges for a couple of different types of guitars, and in this video he’s going over his favorite strings for Les Paul guitars.
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What’s up everybody, I’m Scott from Stringjoy Guitar Strings in Nashville, Tennessee. Today we’re talking a little bit about what gauge of strings I tend to prefer on a Les Paul. This should be a little bit of an interesting one, because personally I’m really specifically not a Les Paul player these days, but that said, there are a lot of players that do play Les Pauls, or similar style guitars that I have worked with to dial-in perfectly gauged sets of strings for their particular tastes.
As such, I’ve got a pretty solid understanding of what strings do work for Les Pauls, even though I don’t really play much these days on a Les Paul myself. Now while I may not be a huge LP player these days, that wasn’t always the case. I first started off with a cheap LP style Epiphone guitar, and after a little while, I graduated to what I thought at the time was the Holy Grail of guitars, which was an Epiphone, but I was 14.
An Epiphone Les Paul standard, that was the first guitar I remember being truly special to me. I loved it, I feel like I went everywhere with it. I played tons of gigs with it when I was like anywhere from 13 up to 17. It was everything for me, it was totally my tone, I had no desires that weren’t fulfilled by it. I hot rodded it a bunch with a bunch of different stuff to make it sound and feel and play a little bit more the way that I wanted it to.
Then one time when I was playing a metal show at 17, it fell off. I didn’t have strap locks on it, and I chipped where the fretboard meets the neck. As such, because that guitar was so special to me, I completely retired it, put it in its case, and it’s basically been there ever since. Actually, that is the guitar that is sitting in front of me today. I don’t know that I’ve had it out of its case in I don’t know, maybe 10 years, maybe more.
It’s had probably the same set of strings on it for almost all that time. It’s really interesting to look at now. These are probably old D’Addario strings. They look like hell, they’ve been on here for 10 years, and today long-overdue, we’re going to actually put a proper set of strings on it in some proper gauges that I think are going to sound really, really good.
Alright so down to brass tacks, different players, even really famous players have used completely different gauges on Les Paul’s over the years. You have people like Jimmy Page, even Billy Gibbons on a couple of LPs playing things that are like 8s or even 7s in BFG’s case. You have people playing like anyone all the way up to 12s and 13s, and on and up for some slide players that favor the LP. It’s worth noting that there’s no specific gauge that is just right for a Les Paul. What matters is more what your tastes are, what you’re looking for in a given guitar, and how those gauges can complement it.
For me, I have a lot of different guitars, so what I’m looking more to do with each guitar that I have, as you’ve seen probably in this series where I go through different guitars, and what I prefer on them. For me, I’m looking more to bring out the characteristics that make a certain guitar unique. You could certainly take a different approach and balance out and try to counteract what makes a Strat sound like a Strat, or Les Paul sound like a Les Paul.
For me, because I have a Strat, I don’t want my Les Paul to sound not like a Les Paul. I want it to sound as Les Paul-y as a Les Paul can get. That’s more what I look to do with my gauges on my LP’s. For me, on the top end of a Les Paul, I don’t find that I need to go that heavy. On a lot of different guitars, I might go something like 11, or 11.5 depending. I usually tend to favor slightly heavier gauges when I can.
For a Les Paul, it’s so darn meaty already, I don’t think it really needs it. I also don’t like to go all the way down to like Jimmy Page style 8s, but that’s just me. For me, I favor 10s up top, I use a 10, a 13.5, and a 17, which is our balanced couplet. All those different gauges are going to have fairly balanced tension on this 24 and three-quarter inch scale guitar.
I think those work great, I don’t think I need to go too much heavier or anything like that. I might favor a wound third, it looks like when I was 17 I did favor a wound third on here. If that was the case, I’d with something like an 18W, but for me these days, 10, 13.5, 17 are going to do it on the top side for an LP.
Now the bottom end is where it gets a little bit more interesting…
I could certainly stick with 26, 36, 48, keep it just a balanced light set like our typical 10 to 48 set that we sell the most of. For me, I like to bring out that heavy, rich bottom end of the Les Paul a little bit more. I feel like skinny top or light top, heavy bottom strings can be a little bit too much on these guitars, because they’re already so boomy. I like to hit the balance right in the middle between a standard set of 10s and a light top heavy bottom guitar string set.
I will go 28, 38, and 50 on the bottom end, which is basically what we use on a set of Balanced Mediums. The set that I’m using here, we call it our husky light set. Basically it’s our light gauge strings for the plain steel strings and the bottom end of our medium set. For me, this brings out the true, boomy, fat character of a Les Paul, without being too much in getting just way too much boom on the bottom end.
If you really wanted to counteract your Les Paul, you could always go wild and do like a 24W, a 34, and a 44, or something like that. Go with a lighter bottom end to make it sound a little bit less like a Les Paul. For me again as I’ve said a bunch of times, I want my Les Paul to sound like the most Les Paul of Les Pauls, and so that’s why I favor this particular set up.
Without further ado let’s get this guy strung up and see how it sounds and plays with the set that I recommend.
All right, we’ve got everything strung up, and I do have to say kudos to Grover for making a pretty quality tuning machine. These things have not been turned in a long time and they worked really, really well. Everything is super meaty and solid, so good work on that side guys. Anyway, we got our Les Paul all fixed up, I think it sounds great, it has that really full, warm, boomy bottom end I was talking. It’s not too much again, just the right amount.
That’s a lot of dirty tones, Les Pauls can also sound great clean. I like them in the middle position as well. For me, when I’m playing a Les Paul, I like that meaty heaviness that you get on power cords. Again, like all guitars, you can do a lot of different things, a lot of different genres on them, so don’t feel like it’s boxed in there.
For me, I think that’s what sounds pretty good on a Les Paul. I think this set of strings brings out everything that I really want in that character of the guitar. I couldn’t ask for any more, and that’s why this setup, 10, 13.5, 17, 28, 38, 50 is what I personally play on Les Pauls. It’s the first choice I usually recommend to players, unless they have something specific that they’re going for, or some particular needs that they want to adjust for a little bit better.
But that said, I really want to know what gauge of strings you prefer on your Les Paul! Like I said before, there are all sorts of different possible answers. There’s no right away for everybody. Do you play 7s? Do you play 13s? 10s? 11s? Let us know down in the comments.