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I usually play on electric guitar with strings that are marked as '10 in gauge. I learned to play bends in tune (most of the time) and recently I bought a new (electric) guitar that's also set up to '10. I'm thinking about switching to '9 (only on that new guitar, I'd still practice on my '10 for part of the time) and giving the guitar a proper setup. I'm not sure how changing the tension of the strings will affect my ability to bend in tune.

The reason for this is to be able to play faster, facilitate the legato, play bends easier & not hurt my fingers when playing for a while. I learned to bend mostly by muscle memory (with tuner), but I also hear when I'm out of tune.

Does anybody have any experience in this matter? Is there anything else I should be aware of when I switch to lighter gauge? I'm worrying that this could require me to completely relearn the technique, so I hope you can share your observations. Thank you kindly.

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  • I know this is a completely heretic idea, but ... metal bands use sample triggers in drums and quantize it to grid in protools for their records, so why don't guitarists use pitch correction? It works great. Singers use pitch correction and nobody questions it. People use harmonizer pedals for guitar. Virtual guitars, guitar synths, MIDI guitars... Play an electric guitar and have all sorts of sounds come out. A simple effect could set your bends in tune. :) – piiperi Reinstate Monica Jun 14 '20 at 12:32
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    @piiperiReinstateMonica - I thought people question and ridicule Autotune all the time. – Dekkadeci Jun 14 '20 at 13:40
  • @Dekkadeci Maybe if it's used on extreme settings, producing the infamous "Cher effect". When it's used at moderate speed and tolerance settings, nobody notices anything. I think its use is completely accepted in music production. Just autotune and get your stuff in tune immediately, get the project going. But try it in a guitar solo! – piiperi Reinstate Monica Jun 14 '20 at 17:25
  • @piiperiReinstateMonica - Needing to use autotune, how could someone even call themselves a singer?Surely being in tune is the basic premise of being a vocalist. – Tim Jun 15 '20 at 5:13
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    @piiperiReinstateMonica - I know what you're saying, and recording time was never cheap, even back in the '60s. But it seems sad that untalent can be made to sound good. Technology to the rescue, so that second rate stuff can be made to sound good. The upshot of this has become 'don't bother getting it good, wasting time practising, it will be faked anyhow'. That 10,000 hrs could come down to 'give us half an hour, and I'll be ready enough...' Just goes against the grain! – Tim Jun 15 '20 at 8:37
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There's little difference, and always the possibility that the two guitars aren't the same scale length exactly anyway. You won't have to bend quite so much to get the same semitone/tone bend, and using ears is really the only way to accomplish this properly. Imagine being on stage and relying on a tuner?!

Vibrato will be slightly easier, but be careful not to fret too hard, as .009s will go sharper more easily than .010s.

If you were going to .008s or .007s, then there would be some concerns, but you'll be surprised at how quickly you adapt to such a small change.

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  • I used tuner to start, I didn't want to be too much off the desired pitch. When I improvise/play some artists solo I rely on ears and muscle memory, so you're completely right. Thank you for your insight, it's really helpful! – Snaz Jun 14 '20 at 11:24
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Be aware that lighter strings are easier to bend when you want to, but they are also easier to bend unintentionally and get some notes a bit sharp just because they are harder to finger.

Lighter strings also easier get out of tune (esp. by bending).

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  • Having used .008s for 40+ yrs, I dispute the last statement. And the first is open to question. – Tim Jun 15 '20 at 5:16
  • @Tim - I think they are saying the same thing you put in your second sentence in your answer – Doktor Mayhem Jun 15 '20 at 10:42

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