Balanced Guitar Strings…
What Are They, And Do They Matter?
I noticed several years ago that D’Addario offered “Balanced Strings.” I began to research them. The idea behind these strings is the amount of tension required on each string to obtain a standard tuning.
A Bit of the Science
For those of you who enjoy intense mathematics, here is a link to a chart published by D’Addario explaining the commutations. For those like me who learned to play guitar to avoid such brain strain, here’s the real world explanation.
Each string on your guitar requires a specific amount of tension to obtain a desired note. For example: A standard “High E” plain steel .009 gauge guitar string, on a guitar with a standard scale length, requires approximately thirteen pounds of pull to obtain a tuning frequency of 329.6 hertz.
Therefore, a balanced set of guitar strings would demand that each string on your guitar require approximately the same thirteen pounds of pull.
Balanced Strings – Who Cares?
Okay, so all my strings require the same amount of tension. Does it allow me to play better? The answer is yes and no! No: there is no string set that will improve bad technique. Yes: it allows those with technique to play with more consistency. Why? Because the bending technique is more consistent from string to string. When I first tried a set of balanced strings I noticed that it felt better when bending multiple strings simultaneously. If one string requires 15 pounds of pull and another below requires 13, you will feel the difference!
Additionally, it allows better fretting, strumming, and picking on guitar, as well as plucking, slapping, and bending on a bass.
Floating Tremolo Systems: for those who favor “The Whammy Bar,” having your guitar set up by a professional to a specific set of guitar strings is critical.
The overall string tension will directly affect the amount of preset tension of the tremolo strings. I love very low action and light gauge .009 strings on most of my guitars. Several years ago I had a string manufacturer send me their strings for review. I really didn’t pay attention to the overall string gauge. As I was tightening the strings on my Floyd Rose Tremolo, I suddenly realized my strings were sitting nearly a half inch off the fretboard, and the tremolo was extended as far as it would come up.
My point here for tremolos: always be conscious of string tension, consider balanced strings, find the strings you love, have a pro pair your favorite strings to your tremolo system, and stick with them!
Playing guitar is all about sound and feel. A great guitar will allow a player complete expression. Never discount quality strings. It is just as much of the equation as effects, amps, and the guitar itself.