If you were around when Stevie Ray Vaughan was king of the guitar scene, you witnessed guit-heads going nuts about two things: old Strats and heavy gauge strings. Not at all strange for people to want to copy that era’s guitar hero, and to Stevie’s credit both of those things are still important to the guitar scene today.
Maybe too important. I remember getting into one thankfully civil back-and-forth on the Seymour Duncan forum with a guy who I think makes pickups. His position was that you’re stupid or a wuss if you don’t use heavy strings – stupid because heavy strings “sound better,” and a wuss because you didn’t have the hand strength. My position was that was a bunch of BS.
Most of the guitar heroes whose tones I love used light or extra-light strings. One of the best examples will always be Edward Van Halen, who in the early VH days used 8s and 9s. Obviously a huge tone nonetheless. Billy Gibbons uses 7s! Many more examples, the latest to my knowledge base is Jimmy Page.
Remember that old ’90s magazine Guitar Shop? I recently acquired a few of what was a very gear-heavy magazine, and one has a bunch of cool Page info. Here’s some of it:
For his amp setup, the guitarist continued plugging into Marshall 100w heads, though they were customized to put out close to 200w. His accessories included Herco Flex 75 heavy gauge pics and Ernie Ball Super Slinky strings, .008 for the high E.
How about that? That’s his live rig, which for sure blasted out some wood.
Key to Wood
So what’s the key to getting wood with light strings? In my opinion, a good amp and volume – or at least the amp working hard (i.e., attenuated).
Why use light strings? I like them because they’re easier to bend and thus it’s easier to get huge, emotional bends. But I also prefer how they sound: I hear greater separation between the notes – almost like more “air” around the notes. I noticed that going from 10s to 9s, by the way.
So if you’re stuck in the SRV days, maybe take a page from the book of Page and other woody kings: String up light, crank your amp and get to wailing.
Sites That Link to this Post
- Jimmy Page’s Marshall Settings | December 16, 2010