Will lighter strings extend an acoustic guitar's life?

I just sold an old acoustic I acquired in bad condition and restrung with new nut and saddle, whose bridge was beginning to lift out of the body. I traded it in for a different guitar whose bridge I checked is not lifting.

The new guitar has a set of .10 gauge steel strings on it - unusually light for an acoustic. This got me thinking, if the string gauge and thus tension is lower, would this help avoid pulling the bridge out?

Here's a bonus part of the question, the converse of the title. I normally use .12s on an acoustic, would changing this guitar from .10 to a heavier set, say .11 or .12, be likely to reduce its lifespan? I understand it would probably need a truss adjustment after changing size but even after that how would my working life be affected?

A good answer would probably cite material from luthiers or manufacturers as well as giving from personal experience.

Addition: (Following Scott's answer): The guitar in question is a Yamaha F-310, which is a dreadnought with spruce top, Meranti B&S, all laminate, Nato neck, Rosewood board and bridge. The bridge is quite wide and the guitar has a reputation for having brittle wood.

  • Sounds like it needs some restoration work. – SDsolar May 25 '17 at 7:54
  • Rob- from your description, my guess would be that your guitar would take the heavier strings with no problems. But that's just my guess- I haven't seen an F-310 and have no information of other's experiences with them. You should probably ask someone who knows the instrument and can check yours out. But even then, there are always imponderables no one can know about. Sorry I can't give you a definitive answer. – Scott Wallace May 25 '17 at 8:24
  • I may provide an answer when time permits but I would suggest that a reasonable quality guitar such as the Yamaha F-310 should not have any problem with medium strings as long as you are careful to keep it stored in a guitar friendly environment with humidity levels within optimal range. The bridge on most steel string acoustics (including the Yamaha) have a bridge plate inside the body directly under the bridge and the balls of the strings should actually be secured by this plate so the tension is not directly on the bridge. Nylon string guitars where the strings are tied - not the case. – Rockin Cowboy May 25 '17 at 15:01
  • SDsolar you may be confusing the old guitar with lifting bridge in the first paragraph (sold) with the guitar I'm asking about (2nd paragraph on). If you do mean the Yamaha needs work, what sort did you have in mind? Scott, don't worry, I learnt some new things and I understand absolutions aren't possible as every model and piece is different, so thanks :) Cowboy, it is on the cheaper end in materials but the workmanship seems good. My usual humidity control is a sponge in half-open bag tucked in the case. I'll watch for any shrinkage etc. When I restring it I'll check under the bridge. – Rob Stening May 26 '17 at 22:27

Okay, here's your answer from a luthier. Yes, if you change from .10 gauge to .12 gauge strings, assuming that all strings are thicker in this proportion, then there will be 44% more tension on the guitar for the same tuning (because tension is a square factor of diameter at the same pitch). It's a logical consequence that this means more wear and tear on the instrument.

But what that means as far as the bridge pulling up, or the truss needing adjustment, goes, is not so simple to say. It obviously depends on the construction of the instrument. My experience is that guitars (like violins and all other stringed instruments) eventually bend under the tension of the strings, and the more tension, the faster. That's why we luthiers have to continually reset necks, or adjust truss bars, or whatever. Lighter strings will slow the process, but perhaps not sound as good for your needs. There are no simple answers.

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