Should You Customize Your Guitar Strings?

Should You Customize Your Guitar Strings?

Look — I get it.

You chose your guitar carefully, hot-rodded your pickups, collected a board’s worth of boutique, hand-wired pedals, got a quality power supply, and strung it all together with cables that cost more than you’d care to admit. Sure, it isn’t cheap, but your tone is all you have — it’s what you are — so it’s always worth it. After all that hard work (and money!) you’re probably hoping you’re done, right?

Wrong.

There’s a reason that most of the famous guitarists you know don’t play a standard set of strings. From Jimi Hendrix to Stevie Ray Vaughan, David Gilmour to Tony Iommi, throughout history, most players that have had the opportunity to play a custom set of strings have jumped at the chance. Why? Because they know how much of a difference string gauges make. Let’s look at two examples:

David Gilmour uses a custom set that’s just a few small tweaks away from a standard set of 10s:

  • He lowers the 2nd and 3rd string gauge to facilitate bigger, smoother bends.
  • He ups the gauges of the 4th, 5th, and 6th strings for a more powerful rhythm tone.
  • Gilmour’s Custom Set: .010 – .012 – .016 – .028 – .038 – .048 (more info here)

Stevie Ray Vaughan is famous for a more wholesale change from the norm, starting with a set of 13s as the base:

  • He lowered the 2nd and 3rd string gauges drastically, from .017 and .026w to .015 and .019p.
  • He also lowered the 4th and 5th strings to .028 and .038, but upped the 6th string to a .058, for better balance when playing aggressive blues licks on the 6th string, but not too much tension to bend the 4th and 5th strings.
  • SRV’s Custom Set: .013 – .015 – .019p – .028 – .038 – .058 (more info here)

Whether it’s a small tweak you’re after, or a more significant change from the norm, there aren’t many things that can make as significant of a difference for both the way you play the guitar and that way it sounds through an amp as a custom set of strings can. And dollar for dollar, there’s absolutely nothing that can beat it.

So if you can’t wait to get going on your own custom set, check out our shop — every set of strings we offer is fully customizable, so you can design the perfect set for your gear and playing style. If you’d like us to design a set just for you, we’d be more than happy to, just give us some info. Otherwise, stick around, because I’ve got plenty more to say.

What makes a string high quality?

This is an important question, particularly in a world where there’s so much marketing nonsense floating around (I saw a company say the other day that their strings provide “20% more tone!” — What does that even mean!?). The truth is, from an engineering standpoint, the guitar string is a relatively, even beautifully, uncomplicated.

So you have a core wire — either hex core or round core, we actually use hex core for our electric strings and round core for our bass strings — wrapped around a ball end, and you have a wrap wire that is coiled around it. Basically, there are two major factors that differentiate one company’s strings from another, and that’s the type of metal a company uses, and how much they care about quality control.

All of our strings are made using a nickel alloy, wrapped around a steel core wire (all of which are sourced in the USA, by the way). Without making any snake oil-ey claims about how long our strings last or how great they sound, I can say that our goal with our strings is to have the fullest, most natural sound, for the longest time. Some string brands string up a hair brighter than ours, but lose their tone after just a couple of days (I won’t say any names, but if you’ve been playing for awhile you probably know who I’m talking about). We don’t go for any tricks like that — there’s plenty of guitar players out there, we don’t need you to have to put on new strings every week for us to stay afloat.

We set ourselves apart even further when it comes to quality control. Every set of strings we sell is assembled after you order it, to your exact specs. This is important for a few reasons:

Quality: We examine every string individually before it goes into your set. Honestly, we’ve thrown away plenty of strings. If we see anything wrong with a string, from the way it’s secured around the ball end, through the entire winding, it doesn’t make the cut.

Freshness: Because we make each set to order, you can be sure your strings haven’t been sitting in a warehouse gathering dust for months before you get them on your guitar. On average, when you get your strings from us, they’re not more than a couple of weeks from the winders. This helps us guarantee that they’re as fresh as possible, but it also has an added benefit. One of the worst things you can do to a guitar string is to keep it tightly coiled. This can cause the string to warp over time, and it will neither play nor intonate properly. We store our strings flat, and only coil them once you order them in order to minimize how long they spend coiled up.

Why do we care?

People ask me all the time why I work so hard to make a sale — working back and forth with players to find the perfect set for them, helping them make any tweaks to it once they’ve got it strung up, replacing individual strings if anything goes wrong, etc. Wouldn’t it be easier to just mass produce a bunch of string sets and send them off to Guitar Center, like everyone else does? Well of course it would, but that’s not what this is about for me.

A bit of background on me, in addition to playing in bands since forever, I was always pretty alright at school. When I graduated college I was offered, and actually accepted a gig at a big tech company (one you’d certainly know the name of) with a salary near six figures. In the eleventh hour, I turned it down to work in the music industry making hardly anything.

The point is, it isn’t about the money, it’s about the kind of world you want to create for yourself. Stringjoy is my own little utopia, and here everyone gets treated equally, whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been touring for years — everyone matters and everyone gets treated like a VIP. If you break a string, I’ll send you another one. I don’t care if I lose a bit of money in the short term, I don’t want to make a quick buck off you, I want you to join my team and stick around for good.

So if that all sounds like something you can get behind, give our strings a shot. If for any reason you’re not completely satisfied, send them back and I’ll give you a refund (though I should warn you, that’s only happened one time in history). You couldn’t have less to lose.

So, check out our shop — as I mentioned before, every set of strings we offer is fully customizable, so you can design the perfect set for your gear and playing style. If you’d like us to design a set just for you, we’d love to. Just give us some info, and we’ll get to work.

2 Comments

  1. Heavier strings means more tension means plays louder. More tension also means harder to bend notes. I myself can't feel a difference in tension if two strings are within .5 lbs, I definitely feel a difference if they're 2 lbs apart. Your mileage may vary. Some off-the-rack string sets from major & well known manufacturers have absolutely absurd variations in tension. One set I just took off an acoustic guitar had the highest tension on string 4 (70 lbs) and the lowest tension on string 1 (23 lbs), and then 53 lbs on string 6. I can't wrap my brain around that, it just can't be the product of rational thought. String tension should be close to even unless you want a string louder or softer for a particular musical purpose. Although, since it takes more energy to produce low notes, the lower pitched strings may need to be a little heavier than the higher ones to make it sound even. So I can't trust the off-the-rack strings, at least not without plugging their dimensions into a string tension calculator. And I won't buy 5 sets of strings to build the one set I want. Stringjoy lets me build the set I want without feeling like a diva. Thank you Stringjoy!
  2. I honesty think you guys are awesome. There is no offense when I questioned something, only a polite and helpful answer. It would take a lot for me to move from you guys and I'm still on my first set! And because of the excellent experience I know what minor things I would change for next time.

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