What are the optimal gauges of strings for Drop C tuning (C G C F A D) for electric guitar? Since this involves lowering the pitch of all the strings, heavier string gauges would be helpful; I need to to know how to select the proper ones.
When I discovered Open F (C F C F A C), I hunted for strings until I found a set called George Benson Signature from Thomastik. I use the flats (.014 .018 .021w .031 .041 .055), but they have roundwounds, too. 14s are the biggest strings I've found that are still packaged as a regular set; beyond that, you're in custom-set experimentation land.
You'll need a BIG string for that low C: probably a .053 or even .055. But you can go a little lighter on top, if you want (14 is pretty extreme for D, I think).
It all depends on which gauge string you are playing in standard tuning. Think of each half-step of down tuning a gauge. For example, I play in standard with 10 gauge string set. If I drop down to e flat, 1 half step, they will feel like 9 gauge, so I use a 11 gauge set for my guitar I have set up for e flat tuning. For 2 whole step (C tuning), I would pick 14 gauge, as it will feel like 10 gauge but in drop C tuning (down 2 whole steps). Most stuff is in C tuning with the low string dropped down another step, like Drop D but down 2 whole steps. This keeps the guitar string tension close to what you are used to, as there is nothing worse than playing with 10 gauges, then all of a sudden dropping it down a step and boom... you feel like it's rubber bands (8 gauges). If you are going to always be playing with the low string dropped more than the others, like Drop B flat, you may want to get the low string in the next heavier gauge.
String manufacturers publish tables showing gauge/tension/pitch. See: How do I use string gauge tables?
First, decide what tension you want your strings to be at. Do that by looking up the tension of your preferred strings at standard tuning.
Then, for each string, find the string gauge that gives the pitch you want at close to that tension.
Armed with that information, you can either:
- Just buy the strings individually
- Find a pre-packaged set that's close enough
- Find a pre-packaged set that you can augment with individual strings
I'd like to notice that all dropped tunings require the last string to be thick enough. This is important because string manufacturers usually don't consider the last string to be dropped, so its tension is likely to be insufficient.
Personally, I'd prefer 11-56 or 58 for Drop C.
Also, you can use string tension applet to get some solid numbers and to find out how string gauges and tuning affect the tension.
That all depends on your style, preference and your guitar setup. I highly recommend DR: Drop-Down Tuning electric guitar strings. I have the DR DDT-12 (12-60) on my Ibanez-RG drop-C tuning. I play Melodic Death Metal and I have my action set very low and the DDT's have an amazingly heavy/crunchy tone without sacrificing clarity or string tension. They also make DR: Drop-DownTuning. bass guitar strings which my friend Bryan swears by.
I use 8-38. I am always tuned to C standard. I set up my guitars specifically for this.
It can be done with a Floyd Rose also by using 2 springs (spaced on outside positions) to keep the bridge flat. I have no tuning issues. My necks are flat. I have no intonation issues. My guitars have very low action, and 24.75" scale (shorter/less tension.)
I frequently use wide bends, speed picking, pinch harmonics, dumped and raised chime harmonics, gallops, tapping, and palm muting, all played forcefully. I am not limited to playing with a light touch. I play mostly with substantial force. My guitars have excellent tonal quality and clarity. They are very comfortable to play. I do not break strings.
The strings do not flap. I believe string tension is the key, but it's actually much easier with small strings. A flat truss rod setting and very low tail piece increases tension with a standard les paul-style guitar. For the Floyd, 2 springs and a flat truss rod setting is just right. I can pull way up, and push way down without tuning issues.
Many players equate larger strings with manliness and power of tone. Those qualities come from your mind, fingers, pickups, effects (if any) and amplification. I do not like to overexert my fingers when playing. I use 9's or 10 gauge electric strings on my steel string acoustics. I am however naturally heavy-handed. Still no issues.
It may sound too good to be true. It isn't. Anyone can do it. As long as your guitar is decent. Strangely, most are surprised to learn that smaller strings function better than bigger ones. It takes time, and patience during setup to maximize each instrument's potential. With careful attention to every detail, anyone can turn their guitar into an amazingly comfortable to play, and extremely powerful sonic force.
Btw,Tony Iommi, Jimmy Page, and Billy Gibbons, to name a few, use very light strings and lower tunings. If you like stiff, bass-like action on your guitars, please disregard my post. If you'd like an easy, and fully functional feel, I encourage you to try this method. It works very well for me. It will cost you approximately $5 for the strings, you'll need the appropriate Allen wrench(es) and screwdrivers, an adjustable tuner helps, and also about 2 hours of uninterrupted free time.
Update: I'm actually playing in B standard now. Also, I've recently switched to .80mm Clayton Spike Ultem picks. Pinch harmonics are still easy, speed pickng, tapping, tone, etc. are still great. This is the most comfortable, responsive, setup of my 33 years playing guitar. I highly recommend giving it a try. It's the biggest game changer I've ever experienced.