Question of the Day: Do I Have to Have My Guitar Re-Set Up if I change String Gauges?

This Question of the Day comes from a fellow named Hank in Oregon who asked me this question because of one of my Youtube videos. Hanks says that he has a  guitar with a tremolo bridge that is set up for .009 gauge strings and he’s switching up a gauge to .010’s. He wants to know if he has to do any adjustments to accommodate the heavier strings. This is a good question that many players probably have. Here’s what I told Hank.

Changing from .009’s to .010’s may not affect the guitar the guitar’s set-up too much. I have changed up one string gauge on guitars that needed barely any adjustment and some that needed an almost complete set-up. It can go either way but you will probably need to make a tweak or two to your guitar.

Some things to look out for are:

1- Nut slots. The nut slots may have to be filed and made a bit wider to accommodate the bigger string gauge. You don’t want to have the strings bind up in the nut which could cause tuning issues.

2- The neck may have to be adjusted to compensate for the increased string tension meaning that the truss rod may have to be tightened so the neck will be straight. This will probably be a slight tweak.

3- The intonation may be off because the the bigger string gauge so you may have to adjust it…..and only some of the strings may need adjustment. Some others may be 100% fine.

4- Lastly your tremolo bridge will probably need to have the springs tightened to compensate for the higher string tension. This way the tremolo bridge does not float excessively and cause other issues.

If Hank said he was going from .009’s to .011’s without hesitation I would say that he would need to get the guitar completely set up because of the jump in gauges. .009’s to .011’s is a more drastic jump. Similar rules will apply if you are going down in string gauges as well and opposite adjustments will have to be made.

So that’s it Hank. I hope that this answers your question and anyone else that was wondering the same thing. It’s probably best to expect to go over the entire guitar just to make sure that it will be set up at its best. Happiness is a great playing guitar!! Thanks for the question and feel free to hit me up any time!! -Billy

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