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I have a Jackson King V JS32T electric guitar in blue, see the linked text for specs and the look of it. Anyway, it came with 0.09-0.42 strings and I've been using 0.13-0.56's on it for a little while, but I worry that I could be putting extra strain on my neck and other components of the guitar. Should I be adjusting anything else on the guitar for it to properly handle such a thick gauge?

My friend (who doesn't really know much about guitars but likes to think he does) thinks I should adjust my bridge, but I'd much prefer to get a definitive answer and if anything needs to be changed, take it to a guitar shop.

I'd much prefer to work out what I need to do (if I do need to do something) so when I go to the shop I know what to ask for, and they don't try ripping me off.

I have noticed that my tuning keys for the higher strings (B and E) are a bit stiff and not working as well as they used too. I've also noticed my guitar regularly detunes itself even though I am using such a high gauge and only going to Drop B.

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5 Answers 5

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Thicker gauge strings do require more tension in order to maintain the proper pitch associated with standard tuning on a guitar--but it's nothing that your guitar isn't already designed to handle. Over a very, very long period of time the tension of those thicker strings could cause some damage, but it's likely that you will have retired the guitar before that happens; besides if it does indeed ever happen it's a simple repair. Electric guitarists are lucky because their instruments are so much easier to repair than acoustic instruments.

Any time you change the action on your instrument take it to a reputable luthier for a setup--that or learn how to do it yourself so you can save the cash for that cool pedal you want. String gauge changes usually require intonation adjustments, bridge height adjustments, pickup height adjustments, and in some special cases nut adjustments. The truss rod rarely needs any major adjustments in this case, but I have had to do a few turns here and there. The set you are using is pretty hefty, but unless the strings don't fit properly into the nut you shouldn't have any problems. If they fit really tight, then use some graphite lubricant as @ledfloyd suggests or get the nut slotted. Know this, however, once you expand the slots on the nut there's no going back without incurring additional costs.

Your tuning keys will likely be okay. Most mass produced guitars skimp in this area anyway--so a replacement there would likely be a nice upgrade, but I'd only do it if they break or cause serious tuning instability.

Concerning finding a luthier that won't rip you off: I'd recommend you find a local guy you can develop a relationship with instead of going to a mega-store. Local guys will usually work harder for your business--at least those who understand who their competition is i.e. those giant mega-stores. If you want to be armed with some ideas on how to approach talking to them, and I always support that, then simply follow this advice: if it doesn't play right take it back and make them fix it or don't do business there again. Tell them this, politely, up front. I took one of my firebirds in for a new nut to a local shop and they completely screwed it up--I don't really understand how they screwed it up that bad, the high e string was hanging off the fretboard by about a millimeter. I took it back and they said they'd fix it, but they charged me for the material for the new nut. I don't do business there anymore. Instead I found an older local guy who's honest and dynamite at what he does. No compaints since.

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Thank you for your in-depth and useful answer there Jduv. –  DigitalSea Mar 31 '11 at 0:06

Besides adjusting intonation the only other adjustment might be the trussrod. Are the strings really high off the fretboard when you go down past the 12th fret or do they bottom-out? Going from 9s to 13s might cause the nut to bind your strings a bit and may need to be slotted wider (try some graphite lube first), that might help the Tuner problems a bit. The extra tension isn't making it easier for your Tuners but they should be able to handle it. If your strings are completely stretched out your guitar should be staying more or less in tune especially in Drop B

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If you played single coil pickups, then you would notice a gain in volume with bigger strings. I took my Tele from .012s to .009s and thought "Where did my guitar go?!?" That is the big reason that people go heavy. You have humbuckers and your benefit for big strings would be much less.

I went back to .010s because I'd be bending sharp on accident and wanted some more tension so I wouldn't have to learn self control. That is another reason people go so heavy.

Sounds like you are playing tuning lambada: "How low can you go?" Drop-B implies C# otherwise. Which drops the tension down again.

Almost certainly you'll have to reintonate. The bridge should have sufficient play that you can get the saddles back, but I won't go as far as saying "will". That is the third main adjustment you will need.

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My Tele sees nothing other than .011's and I absolutely love it. Twelves are a little too rough on my dainty hands :D. –  Jduv Mar 31 '11 at 0:50
    
I see, I see. A friend of mine had his guitar adjusted (what was done I don't know) but it was tweaked in a way he couldn't go any higher than Drop C or he'd break his guitar strings. Speaking of tunings, I also sometimes Drop to Drop A as well, contemplating Drop G, but my guitar would sound like rubber bands on a cardboard box that low, better off getting a baritone for those kinds of tunings. –  DigitalSea Mar 31 '11 at 0:52
    
The more you drop, the more you have to pull the saddle back. If you go back to standard, the saddles need to go back again. You know you have it right when the note at the 12th fret is one octave above the open note. All you should need is a tuner and a screwdriver to adjust it. –  VarLogRant Mar 31 '11 at 1:58
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I tend to run .009s on all my floating bridge guitars, and .010s on the rest - but then I do tend to spec pretty high gain pickups. Combine the light gauge with a drop-D on my gigging guitars and the feel is really nice. It is always a shock to go back to my Warlock with the .010s. –  Dr Mayhem Mar 31 '11 at 9:19
    
My R8 Les Paul absolutely loves 0.11's too. I think those guitars were made for 0.11's despite that they ship with .09s because they get a ton of oomph when you drop the gauge. –  Jduv Apr 1 '11 at 16:09

well on my iceman i use .012-.056 and i have that in drop c sometimes drop b maybe pushing it to A and on my halberd .011-.054 and thats in standard maybe Eb but it all depends on scale length the longer the scale the more the tension on the strings thats why most people who have standard guitars the scale is usually around 25" which gives the thinner strings higher tension but on certain models e.g. Sg Les Paul's and icemen e.t.c. the scale is around 24.5" which doesn't seem alot but it defiantly feels it requires a thicker string gauge for more tension so if your guitars scale length is 25.5" (a bit longer than standard) and your strings feel real heavy then its cool just take it easy when tuning and restringing as a string snap may be bad for the neck so just measure the scale (from nut to the string saddle).

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Hi I play a carparelli S4 and had some modifications done but bottom line I've got my action down to 45 thou at 12th of low E and about 37 thou at 12th of high E. I have the relief set to 3 thou at the 7th of low E while capoing 1st and fretting 15th. I use the stewmac steel card tool and a very bright light and get it set exactly as to blend the string height up the neck. The gauge of strings I use are custom that I get from strings by mail, I order a 12-54 pure nickel rollerwound GHS string sets and special order (soi) for some .046's for my 5th string and a 56 for my low E. This works well for me, I find because of the mass of the strings I get awesome tone and less string Buzz mind you if I really dig in I'll get some Buzz but it stops quickly but the A and low E are a problem at lower action heights when you want to dig in and not have go mushy in tone thru a amp (I play thru a pre se 50 all tube amp) I find now any buzz I get now doesnt make it thru the amp enough to effect anything, I find a little string Buzz can make the guitar sound more acousticly dynamic and give a little acoustic like breakup just like a tube amp. The thicker A and low E string let over come enough of the string Buzz when I dig in abd got the amount of buzz right where I like it and I believe it helps me with controlling the string energy. Well that's what ice come to find what I like :-)

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The carparelli S4 is a les Paul style guitar, the scale length is 24.7 –  Bryan Procter 4 hours ago
    
If your play something like a Tele with a 25.5 scale length a set of 11's will feel the same in string tension when compared to a les Paul with a 24.7 to 24.75 with 12's –  Bryan Procter 4 hours ago

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