I want to know if I can split guitar string gauges, ie. using 12s on the bottom and 10s on the top, both for standard and drop tunings.


Sure, you can, but there are some considerations you should be aware of.

  • String sets are designed to have more-or-less the same string tension across all six strings in standard tuning. If you mix string sets and tune them to standard pitch, the string tension will be uneven, which may cause neck twisting. This isn't an issue if you down-tune the heavier strings.
  • String sets are also designed to have more-or-less even tone across all six strings. If you mix-and-match string sets, the heavier strings will have a fatter and louder sound than the lighter strings. You may prefer this, and if so, great—you should just be aware of it.
  • I can deal with the second issue-for super-heavy stuff, I like the lighter top to cut thru the bass. – segiddins Oct 12 '12 at 2:14
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    There's actually quite a lot of tension difference between strings in standard sets. The big manufacturers have only recently started to provide balanced sets, which are closer to what one intuitively would have thought the tension should be. – Meaningful Username Oct 2 '14 at 9:29

There are already hybrid sets of strings that have this done for you.

Take a look at Ernie Ball Skinny Top Heavy Bottom. These have the EAD strings from a heavy gauge set and GBE strings from a light set.

Ernie Ball STHB (Skinny Top Heavy Bottom) have the EAD from a set of gauge 12, so the E=52, A=42, D=30. And the GBE from a set of gauge 10, so the G=17, B=13, e=10.

D'Addario also make a set of Light Top / Heavy Bottom (EXL140) with the same gauge strings as STHB.

Hope this helps.


Of course you can! Just be wary because it may not sound very good (in certain styles).

  • This may cause your neck to twist due to uneven tension on the strings. This is why string manufacturers try to balance the string tension as well as possible.
  • You may also want to know that this will cause unbalanced volume/power produced by the strings. The strings if higher gauge will naturally be louder, because they are thicker and tighter.

There are risks of mixing string gauges but it can be beneficial. Just be especially careful about the first point. I'd only try that on a cheaper guitar.

  • You say manufactures try to balance the tension, then go on to say the higher gauge strings will be tighter. Can't be both!! – Tim Nov 22 '17 at 17:33

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