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Factory string gauges in 50s and 60s

Discussion in 'Pre-CBS Strats (before 1966)' started by Carl Sars, Oct 18, 2017.

  1. Carl Sars

    Carl Sars Strat-Talk Member

    Sep 20, 2017
    I bet this is a topic discussed many times before, but I can't help my curiosity. So, it seems that Strat's came from factory equipped with strings which were somewhat equivalent to 0.012-0.052 of nowadays strings.

    I spoke briefly to a guy who told me that his tech guy (who is a guitar builder) has told him that Fender instruments sound better and were designed to be played with thicker strings, f.e. 0.011 or 0.012 sets. Do you guys have any opinions regarding that thought? I understand that thicker strings resonate better that thinner, that's physics. But is there something real beyond that claim?
    abnormaltoy and dueducs like this.
  2. Ferret619

    Ferret619 Strat-Talker

    May 6, 2017
    I play 12 and 13 on my acoustics and most electrics I play 11s but my JV strat plays amazingly with 9s.
    I think it just depends on the guitar
  3. dueducs

    dueducs Senior Stratmaster

    If a vintage the Strat tone is what you want, then yes, this "real" physics aspect is important.
    I use big strings and they work well for the tone I prefer and the style in which I play, but like everything else tone related, this all boils down to personal preference and individual style of playing, right?
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2017
  4. Mipstoo

    Mipstoo Senior Stratmaster

    Mar 18, 2013
    Rockingham Palace
    It's all personal preference. For me all my Strats have 12's, 1/2 step down and pickup height lower as advised by Fender
    abnormaltoy likes this.
  5. banjaxed

    banjaxed Senior Stratmaster Strat-Talk Supporter

    Mar 14, 2014
    Liverpool UK
    I don't remember there being a lot of choice with string gauges back then.
    abnormaltoy and Ferret619 like this.

    LOSTVENTURE Strat-O-Master

    Jun 15, 2007
    I agree with banjaxed. Not only were there limited gauges (light , 12 and medium, 13) but around Richmond, Virginia the only makers were Gibson, Gretsh and of course Black Diamond. We did start to see flatwounds starting in '64.
    Those were Gretsch and they threw in spare E and B strings.
  7. Tone Guru

    Tone Guru Senior Stratmaster

    Dec 13, 2011
    Music City TN
    Physics - more metal vibrating over the pickups creates more output.
    With modern string guages you are literally getting a thinner sound.
    abnormaltoy likes this.
  8. sensei

    sensei Strat-Talker Gold Member

    Jul 5, 2011
    Milano, Italy
    Yes, back then Strats and Teles were shipped with thick gauges out of Fullerton. 0.13.
    Hank Marvin during an interview said that when he received his famous Fiesta red strat he opened the case and spent some minutes just looking at that beauty and once he got the guitar in his hands he was kind of disappointed as 'that thing was unplayable with those strings !!'
    skypeace and abnormaltoy like this.
  9. Uncle Fiesta

    Uncle Fiesta Senior Stratmaster

    Wonder what gauges he uses now? I seem to remember him saying in an interview that he still uses 12s for the really old stuff.

    I'm the same, my 'Shadows' Strat as I call it has 12s, all the others have 10s. On Les Pauls, I use 11s.
    abnormaltoy likes this.
  10. Biddlin

    Biddlin Senior Stratmaster

    Feb 11, 2013
    In the early days of homo sapiens, game was killed by many hunters using wooden spears and stone headed clubs and axes. These days one guy with a 30.06 Winchester does the job fine.
    The Black Diamond 12-54s that came came with my 1958 ES-225 were too thick for rock n roll and real players were making lighter gauge custom sets, way back then.
    skypeace and abnormaltoy like this.
  11. stratman in va

    stratman in va Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    Jul 27, 2012
    I saw a video in which James Burton talked about back in the 50s and 60s getting banjo strings for his high E and moving all the other strings over one, and not using the stock low E strings.
  12. Jack FFR1846

    Jack FFR1846 Senior Stratmaster

    May 4, 2011
    Hopkinton, MA
    Back in the 60's, when I started taking guitar lessons, the studio chose the strings when it was time to replace. They came as 12/52 and I could never figure out how string bending was done. Remember that Ernie Ball (was a signed artist with Fender) started the string company because Leo refused to put string sets together with a plain (not wound)) G string.

    Things are very different now. What's Billy Gibbons use? 8's? 7's?
  13. Rastus

    Rastus Senior Stratmaster

    Jan 1, 2014

    IMO, the lighter gauge strings when used on a Stratocaster ( say below 0.010 ) offer far more funk, & quack to your sound, or rather, it's easier to find these types of dynamics.

    The same guitar fitted with 0.011's & above will have a much richer, & consistent tone whilst ringing-out, & will be far less prone to going out-of-tune. The funk & quack is still there of course, but to find it means pushing your fingers & attack harder, which folks don't like really, hence the popularity of lighter gauge strings.

    I've been using D'Addario XL-115's ( 0.011-0.049 ) for around 30-years now. Any gauge less than this is just that, less.


    Yves, altar, skypeace and 1 other person like this.
  14. TheDudeMan

    TheDudeMan Strat-Talker

    Sep 19, 2016
    The Crossroads
    11's on my strats, 10's on my Gibson's, and 12's on my Martin's.... I use lighter gauge strings on my Floyd guitars, usually 9's.... I've been playing 11's on my strats for 20 years and don't see any reason in changing them.
  15. LeicaBoss

    LeicaBoss Senior Stratmaster

    Sep 4, 2015
    New Jersey
    I feel bad for using wimpy .10s and am planning a move to 11.

    My pickups want some metal to move them.
    skypeace, abnormaltoy and martinpd like this.
  16. stratman in va

    stratman in va Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    Jul 27, 2012
    I think I used to play a lot heavier when I was 16 - 17. I put 9s on a my Gibson Sonex back then and broke strings right away! I went to 10s on electric for a while. I even broke the low E string at a practice for our senior play, which was a musical, and yes, a lot of fun too!

    I like 9s on the Strats/Teles, 10s on the Gibson and Gibson style, and 12s on the flattops. I have 11s on one Strat however, a Bulllet, and it seems pretty good. That is a nice way to keep up strength. I may even go to 11s on some of the acoustics.
    skypeace, abnormaltoy and martinpd like this.
  17. Rastus

    Rastus Senior Stratmaster

    Jan 1, 2014
    No need to feel bad about the strings you use lol ! Comfort is everything, & 0.010's are kind-of ( IMO ) right in the middle, where you get the slinky feel of a lighter gauge ( comfort ), & stability of a heavier gauge set IMO. - Nothing wimpy here lol !

    If you still decide to move up to 0.011's, I remember my 1st impression of them feeling much more heavier than the 0.010's, (& what seemed a much more noticeable difference than say moving from 0.009's to 0.010's).

    Give yourself a week to adjust, & you will not be in any discomfort. And generally your playing instantly improves, from your notes being louder, clearer, & chords too, ring-truer, since the strings resist your fingers moving them out-of-tune when fingering, etc etc.


    Yves, abnormaltoy and LeicaBoss like this.
  18. Electgumbo

    Electgumbo Lost Planet Airman Strat-Talk Supporter

    Dec 26, 2010
    Scott La.
    A few years back a non playing friend inherited a 60' Strat left to him by his father-in law. It had heavy flatwound strings on it. It played well as long as you didn't try to bend the strings.

    On another note I've been fighting the nickel allergy for a year now and finally had to switch to 9's Stainless Steel strings just to keep some skin on my fingers. Learning to live with the tone. Some amp adjustments required. But it's better then not playing at all.
  19. Chont

    Chont Senior Stratmaster

    Sep 25, 2012
    I like the feel of 10.5s and 11s but I like the G string to be a 16 gauge. All of the 10 and up gauge sets seem to have a 17 gauge G string except for the Gilmour 10s. I find bending with the heavier G string pulls the floating bridge towards the nut so its flattening while I'm bending thus requiring more effort to get it to proper pitch. Also seems to jump out more than the other strings i suppose due to the pole stagger. Have I gone cuckoo or is this a thing? I think i'm going to go back to heavier strings and deal with the G string .... i just liked the overall feel and tone of my strat before went down to 10s. I guess i could buy a separate G string but that seems a bit silly and obsessive for a couch plinker.

    jeez... that was like a stream of consciousness over a guitar string.
    Yves, skypeace, abnormaltoy and 2 others like this.
  20. bchaffin72

    bchaffin72 The wizard next door. Strat-Talk Supporter

    Oct 4, 2008
    My preference is for heavier strings, usually 12-54, but never less than 11s, with a wound 3rd. However, recently, I decided to experiment, just to see the difference it makes to me. I've got 9s on the SG and strat and a custom 8 set I put together, that runs 8-38, on the tele.

    Things I like are that the playing feel is definitely smoother and it is easier to get certain dynamics out of the guitar. That's kind of nice.

    Things I don't like are that I do seem to be fiddling with the tuning more than I used to and it's much easier to push things out of tune, as the strings offer very little resistance. That's kind of a pain.

    So, the verdict is still out as to how long I stay with small strings. I'll probably use what I have on hand and go back to at least 11swith a wound 3rd. I personally hate the sound of thicker plain 3rds.