Aha! Jimmy Page Used 8s!

November 23, 2010 | By | 8 Replies More

Page_Jimmy_another_1If 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.

Category: Ernie Ball/Music Man, Jimmy Page/Zep, Marshall

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  1. Jimmy Page’s Marshall Settings | December 16, 2010
  1. Guitar5986 says:

    Billy Gibbons used to use heavy strings until BB King asked him why. Billy said that he used them for the tone. Mr. King then replied that he uses light strings but just makes sure to turn his amp up.

    If you have a heavy attack then use thicker strings to match your play style. There is no need to sacrifice your playing for more "tone". If you have a good amp and solid technique it doesn't matter whether you're playing 9's or 13's.

  2. @GeeHalen says:

    Well, I just recently changed from 9s to 10s with tuning half step down on one of my guitars. It put so much weight on the sound that the Kramer superstrat I had been using before with 9s has not been taken out of its case since!

    For me the heavier string (and note that not that much heavy in E flat) adds more accuracy in bending and vibratos and I am more comfortable on the neck since.

  3. James says:

    I grew up listening to “Classic Rock”. All of my heroes used “8’s”. Billy Gibbons used Ernie Ball .008’s until he found some .007’s. Same with Eric Clapton during the Cream days. Tony Iommi from Black Sabbath uses 8’s and always has. Most people would be surprised who uses them. Also, since I’ve used 8’s since 1969 or so (and still do), I’ve noticed the tone is better, not just the playability. You’re right about the SRV era. It seems that people thought you couldn’t get “tone” unless your first string was at least a .012. LOL. What a load of crap. People like SRV tore up more equipment than most of us will ever own. Playing guitar (especially Classic Rock) shouldn’t have to be an act of violence. I want to bend strings like Eric Clapton and B.B. King and have control over the vibrato with my wrist. The smaller the string, the easier that is to do. I have seen people that shouldn’t be allowed to touch a guitar playing with monter strings and beating the guitar to death. That usually sounds like dog sh*t.

  4. 'Nother Plucker says:

    SRV’s style lent itself to heavier strings. He played a lot big open E shuffles with more open chords and open strings ringing out. Guys like B.B. King who only play lead can get away with using really light strings, though I think his current Gibson signature gauge is 10-52. Light strings work for power chord rock, but even Clapton admitted open chords sounded like crap when his used extra lights. I recently found out Hendrix used 9-38’s, which was a bit stunning considering his profound influence on SRV.

  5. James says:

    I’m not going on hearsay—I have used .008’s since they came out. I’ve worked on a lot of famous guitars when I lived in L.A. I promise—the rock heroes used really small strings. I never had any trouble with open chords, or anything. You don’t have to turn the amp up louder, either. I once let a British guitarist friend of mine use one my own guitars. He said it sounded the same, but was so easy to play. How did I do it? He asked. .008’s I replied. He has used .008’s ever since. Listen, if Tony Iommi, Brian May, Billy Gibbons and scores of others use them, I believe I’m in pretty good company.

  6. Wayne says:

    I’ve used hybrid .008 sets since the mid-70s, and still do, although these days I’ve bumped the low end up a little because of playing different styles. For the past eight years or so, I’ve been using .008 – .048 on my custom Tele copy and .008 – .042 on my hot-rodded ’78 MusicMaster – the same gauge I’ve used since it was new.

  7. Jorge says:

    I was recently forced to switch to .008s due to a hand condition. I was pleasantly surprised. I love the bends I can get out of them. Vibrato is much easier. I’m using D’Addario 8-38’s and couldn’t be happier

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