I recently got a 12 string acoustic, and due to availability, put a set of D'addario mediums on (they had light, the store owner recommended meduim). It sounded great, however that's my first time buying non-coated strings in a long time. They died quick (my hands sweat when I play), much quicker than I'm used to my elixirs dying.

12 string elixir, nanoweb, medium strings don't seem easy to find, and they're 55$ a set on amazon, light strings are significantly cheaper (30$)

So my question is this - will I notice a significant decrease in sound if I drop to light strings, but then tune back up the half step? (This will also make it easier to play with friends without needing a capo)

Currently, the string nut is cut for light strings, I have yet to file it out for mediums and that's causing sticky tuning right now. I also feel like I'm right on the edge of fret buzz as well at the moment, sometimes a bar chord will buzz if I don't fret it right.

  • Is your concern mostly about volume?
    – user28
    Aug 2, 2016 at 14:57
  • I wouldn't say volume as much as sound. The mediums are quite loud and I could handle a drop in volume, but I don't want to give up tone. Aug 2, 2016 at 15:01
  • I'm not really sure you can add tension. Guitar strings are not typically tuned up.
    – Neil Meyer
    Aug 2, 2016 at 15:41
  • I would be tuning back up to standard if I went with light, I'm currently a half-step down with medium strings. Aug 2, 2016 at 15:43

1 Answer 1


I'm not sure you'd have the same tension there - you'd need to use one of the tension calculators - but yes, changes will include:

  • a thinner tone (perhaps not much, though, so don't let this be a showstopper)
  • slight decrease in volume
  • slightly greater sensitivity to bends or pressing too hard against the fret

It doesn't sound like fret buzz is going to cause any greater problem. The fact that it is down to how fretting incorrectly is not an indicator of insufficient neck relief.

Cutting the nut to accept thicker strings may cause a slight increase in buzz, though, as you will bring the strings marginally closer to the neck.

  • Good point about the nut - I didn't think of that. I think I'll have to live with light gauge strings. Aug 2, 2016 at 17:35
  • I run a light set on my 12 string acoustic and my twin neck SG, and the sound from both of them is absolutely fine for most purposes :-)
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Aug 2, 2016 at 17:51

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