Author Topic: Strings, scale length & buzzing  (Read 539 times)

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Offline JulianFP

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Strings, scale length & buzzing
« on: May 12, 2018, 02:40:19 pm »
I'm a beginner. I got my first guitar about 10 months ago but have probably only been playing for maybe 4 or 5 months due to health issues. I now have 3 guitars, my first cheap Bullet strat that I bought to see if I would get anywhere with playing and, when I realised I would stick with it, a subsequently purchased Gibson SG and a Fender American strat. I play my guitars acoustically quite a lot, sometimes because I can't be bothered to get the amp out but often because I feel it masks fewer things such as bad fretting technique which I feel might be a good thing as a beginner. I have stuck with the factory-supplied string gauges on both guitars so 9-42 on the strat and 10-46 on the SG.

My SG is fantastic, it has what I think is quite a low action (a hair under 1.5mm at 12th fret on low-E) and plays 100% cleanly acoustically. My Strat however, despite having a higher action (just over 1.75mm at 12th fret on low-E) rattles quite a lot on the low E and A strings especially as I get further down the neck e.g. 12th fret.

Firstly, I think the strat deserves a professional setup anyway and by sheer good luck I live about 200 metres away from a highly rated guitar repair shop. I will of course ask them my first question but would value the opinions of people here as well. For my second question I'm asking here so that I don't have to ask the luthier.

First question - might the rattle on my strat, despite the higher action, simply be down to the fact that it has lighter strings (9s) on it vs the 10s on my SG? I've been told that lighter strings tend to oscillate more hence need more clearance to the frets. Should I be expecting buzz/rattle free acoustic playing on the thicker strings on a 1.75mm or lower action (at 12th fret low-E)?

Second question - when I put the strat in for a setup they will obviously ask me what strings I want on it. That is a dilemma for me. I have small hands so I've not got massively strong SRV fingers and the conventional wisdom that I've read is for a beginner to start out with light strings. Having said that though, I have no problems bending up a tone or playing a full F barre chord on my SG with its 10s. In fact the SG is so good that I can play an F barre chord without even having my thumb behind the neck (just). On that basis going to 10s on my strat would seem the obvious thing to do in the hope that, subject to the answers to my first question not proving me wrong, it would only help with getting the action lower without introducing acoustic rattles and buzzes. I'm also a simple soul so having the same string gauge on both guitars also feels a bit more elegant. The thing that is making me pause for thought though is whether scale length affects how hard it is to play a particular string gauge. Might putting 10s on my strat actually feel like an SG with 11s for instance or, if I am comfortable with barre chords and string bends on my SG with 10s, am I likely to be just fine with 10s on my strat?

- Julian

P.S. As a beginner when I say play barre chords I mean that I can form them and get each note ringing out cleanly. I'm not for a second claiming that I can switch between them at any meaningful speed. I am definitely still very much a beginner but seeing how easy/difficult it is to play an F barre chord cleanly does seem to me to be one pretty good test of playability even for a beginner who won't actually be able to switch to such a chord in a song for a while yet.

Offline joueur de guitare

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Re: Strings, scale length & buzzing
« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2018, 03:01:09 pm »
Question 1.  Very unlikely. The Strat would probably benefit from a proper set up with maybe a fret/nut dress. You should expect a MiA Fender to be pretty good out of the case, but experience has taught me otherwise.

Question 2.  If you're happy with 9s, then have the Strat strung with 9s. String gauge is not the cause of your problem.

Addendum. Poor technique can be a cause of string buzzing too, especially with beginners. I speak from experience. ;)

After you've had your guitar looked over by the shop, learn how to change your own strings. It's not difficult, and it'll save you some money. Justin has a video lesson here

Another addendum. Are you following Justin's beginner's course? If you are you probably shouldn't be worrying too much about barre chords at 5 months in.
Guitars. Fender Highway 1 Tele: Fender Shortboard LE Mustang: Ibanez AS73 semi-hollow: Ibanez SR370 bass: Squier Affinity Strat: Squier Jagmaster.

Online close2u

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Re: Strings, scale length & buzzing
« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2018, 08:08:38 pm »
Not addressing all your questions but just a quick point:

A Strat has a longer scale length than an SG.
The same gauge strings will be under more tension to reach tuning on a Strat.
10s on an SG may feel fine, they will feel a little bit 'tighter' on the Strat.

Offline JulianFP

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Re: Strings, scale length & buzzing
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2018, 12:37:06 pm »
Thanks for the answers.

On the string thing, I can change my own strings so I'm thinking that, for the sake of less than £5, I might as well at least try 10s for a few days anyway. I know that changing gauge affects setup but I can tweak the action and given I'm taking it in for a proper setup anyway it doesn't seem a big deal if it's not perfect. Upping the gauge won't back-bow the neck, it's going to increase relief, so for the sake of a quick experiment it probably wouldn't be worth touching the truss rod, or maybe a 1/8th turn if necessary. At worst I go back to 9s and have an almost brand new set of 10s for future use on my SG. I am aware that D'Addario do 9.5s but I think I'd rather stick with a more widely available gauge.

One other thought occurred to me. My bullet strat and SG are both rosewood fretboards but the American strat is maple. I wonder if I'm being fooled by the maple bouncing back more of the acoustic string sound than rosewood so I'm hearing string artefacts (for want of a better word) on the maple neck that are also there on the rosewood guitars but are mostly absorbed so not nearly as loud. I have no idea, just throwing out ideas from a position of ignorance. The problem isn't really coming through on an amp so technically not a huge deal but it is bugging me when playing acoustically and is also leaving a nagging doubt about the setup.

On the technique thing, I have no illusions about my technique but the fact that my issue is specific to one of my 3 guitars makes me suspect that is not the case. Also, I can hear the issues when statically holding chords so I have time to make sure I am fretting close enough to the frets, experiment with various pressures with my fretting fingers, etc.

Finally, on barre chords don't worry, I'm not running down a rabbit hole and getting lost. As a beginner though one really is bombarded by "the dreaded F chord", "here are easier ways to play F if you can't do the barre chord version" and even "can you play guitar without ever learning barre chords". With so much hype and mystique out there for a beginner regarding barre chords I find it really hard to imagine a beginner who, having been exposed to all this internet/YouTube stuff in their first few months of learning, doesn't at some point think "I'm just going to try this to see how difficult it is and how awful my first attempt to form an F barre chord is". That's all I've done really, I certainly haven't jumped into trying to learn CAGED or anything. I am following Justin's beginners course via his iPad app.

- Julian


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