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.