NGD and first world problem re. string gauge

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randellarandella Frets: 2785
edited April 30 in Acoustics
Just bought a new guitar. It's been years since I bought anything, and this one's been a long time coming. Many moons ago, dinosaurs roamed the earth and I learned to play on my dad's Martin D-35 which he bought around '85, I think. He still has the guitar and it's far and away my favourite instrument. My own acoustic - an old Yamaha APX-6 - pales a little in comparison (understatement). I'm very fond of that Yamaha, it plays very sweetly - but I don't think even the most optimistic player would rate its sound, amplified or otherwise.

Anyway long story short - I went out and bought a new HD-28 Reimagined. I think I'm in love, hahaha. I've never played so much guitar in years.

I chatted to the chap in the shop who was busy restringing the instruments, and asked him what he used. Martin 11s, apparently. He was very pleasant and helpful, so I don't want this to sound like a dig - but I wonder if he told me the wrong gauge. He was running around like a madman to be fair, it was the first Monday after lockdown eased so no worries.

The strings on the guitar were Martins alright (I kinda like them, but they don't half go dead quickly ). When I put some D'Addario Phosphor Bronze 11s on the guitar felt much softer. The slight relief in the neck has gone too, suggesting there might have been 12s on there. It's otherwise perfectly set up. So, do I...

- Enjoy the 11s and tweak the truss rod slightly, to put the relief back and stop the ever-so-slight buzz that's appeared with the lighter gauge (I'll need to buy an allen key)

- Stick some 12s on it and man up?

Answers on a postcard... what would you do?
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Comments

  • droflufdrofluf Frets: 1198
    Give the truss rod a quarter turn and enjoy it. That’s what I had to do today as my Martin also developed a buzz over the last couple of days. I did restring at the weekend but like for like so it may be the weather rather than the strings. 

    And to save you the trouble of looking it up you’ll need a 5mm Allen key :) I had to Google it this morning 

    I used my bike one but the handle is bulky so is only of interim use. I found one on eBay for less than £4 but that has to come from China. If your guitar is like my 00017 you’ll need a key with a long shaft. 
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  • Winny_PoohWinny_Pooh Frets: 5337
    edited April 30
    Unless you struggle, 12's if you play with a flat pick and enjoy projection. 
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 55379
    edited April 30
    Martin fit 12s as standard so if it hasn't had a truss rod adjustment since it left the factory, either the shop chap was wrong and he had 12s on it, or there's enough difference between Martins and D'Adds to do it... less likely I think.

    There's actually not even that much tension difference between 11s and 12s - 11s are almost more like a hybrid set in that the D and A strings are usually the same gauge as 12s and the low E almost so - it's only the top three strings that are slightly lighter.

    Personally I think a Martin Dreadnought tends to sound better with 12s anyway.

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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  • RolandRoland Frets: 5325
    randella said:

    ... what would you do?
    It’s a new guitar, and you need to try it with different string types and gauges. I’d slacken off the truss rod and play the guitar for a fortnight, knowing that you’re going to try it with 12s at the end of that time.
    Known here as Old Misery Guts or the Big Bad Classified's Sheriff. Also guitarist with  https://www.undercoversband.com/.
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  • Slash'N'burnSlash'N'burn Frets: 136
    What gauge did you use on you Yamaha?  I’ve always used 12’s. Maybe try a bigger gauge and see which you prefer before adjusting the truss rod. 
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  • jellyrolljellyroll Frets: 2786
    edited April 30
    I could be wrong but I was under the impression that Martin dreads ship with mediums (13)? 

    Anyway, it’s all personal preference...just experiment. 

    My Martin dread is my favourite guitar. Enjoy. 
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  • TanninTannin Frets: 370
    Don't touch that truss rod, fix the strings. 

    An HD-28 ships with Martin Lifespan Mediums, phosphor bronze 13-56. They go 13-17-26 35-45-56. D'Addario phosphor bronze 11s run 11-15-22 32-52-52. You've gone from an as-shipped tension of 86.2kg to 68.6kg. That's a triple whammy: down two gauges, and also down from Martin tension (70.3 kg for 11s) to D'Addario tension, which is normally a bit less than that of most other brands for the same nominal gauge. Can you feel a mere 2kg difference? You certainly can. And a 17.6kg difference is huge!

    If the thought of 13s worries you, compromise with a set of 12s. They'll still be a bit light for the guitar, but if you don't play like a banjo-killin' bluegrass boy they'll be fine. Any brand you like, most of them are pretty good.

    And enjoy that HD-28. I came close to buying one just the other week, kind of wish I had. Wonderful guitars!
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  • BingManBingMan Frets: 29
    Like others have said, I’m pretty sure Martin dreads leave the factory wearing .13s

    you can get away with .12s but you’ll get the most out of it with .13s if you can handle them.
    Or you could try some .13s that have a slightly lower tension if Martin mediums are too much on the fingers
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 55379
    Interesting, I thought Martins came with 12s. I'll take your word for it though, I haven't played any new Dreadnoughts.

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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  • randellarandella Frets: 2785
    edited May 1
    Thanks all for the replies - I'm normally quite pig-headed about these things and tend to do whatever I've decided and others' opinions be damned! In this case though I really couldn't make up my mind.

    Think I'm going to play these strings until they're dead and then try a set of D'Adds Phosphor Bronze 12s. I'm fairly sure the guitar didn't have 13s on it - the guy I spoke to had just restrung it as all the guitars had been festering on the wall for the better part of a year during lockdown, so maybe he tweaked it in for 12s? Dunno - it was perfectly set up anyway.

    @drofluf - thanks for the info on the allen key, that solves one mystery! I wondered if it would be some awkward imperial size so good to know. The money I just parted with you'd think C.F. Martin & Co. would see their way clear to putting one in the case but no matter.

    @Slash'N'burn - I use 11s on the Yamaha. The set that's on there at the moment are Martins (I get given the odd packet) and I've been playing it this morning. They do feel a bit stiffer than the D'Add 11s on the Martin as per what @ICBM said, but I don't think the difference would be enough to affect the neck relief.

    @Tannin - I ain't no banjo killin' bluegrass boy, although I do play with a heavy pick and love the dynamic range you get with a good dread. Another reason to go back up a gauge I guess!

    Anyway I've never sold a guitar yet, and I hope this one will be no exception - so I have a lifetime to enjoy it. If it ends up like dad's D-35 which, believe me, sounds amazing, then I'll be a happy bunny.

    Who am I kidding? I got a D-28. I'm a happy bunny right now
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  • randellarandella Frets: 2785
    Quick update - this guitar is a time sink. It's official. I picked it up after the post above, just for a five-minute noodle, and an hour passed - this keeps happening. 
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  • LewyLewy Frets: 1891
    If you asked the guy in the shop what he used and he answered 11s then he’s not wrong - I’m sure that’s what he uses - but that means he’s made a playability vs projection choice which may be right for his style and his guitar but May not  be for yours. 

    As others have said, Martin dreads leave the factory with 13-56 on. Forget the numbers and that seeming heavy, you owe it to yourself to put a set of 13s on and see how you like the sound and power. It’s like cranking an amp versus playing through an attenuator!

    Work down from there if you have to, as opposed to working up from 11s which is really light for a D28. 

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  • wrinkleygitwrinkleygit Frets: 155
    Try a set of Newtone Heritage 12-51, works a treat on my 000-28.
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  • stickyfiddlestickyfiddle Frets: 16699
    edited May 12
    I’m not sure if Martin fit 12s or 13s but 11s sound awful on my HD28. I highly recommend their Retro Monel strings - they sound *wonderful*

    I use 12s on mine, but definitely considering 13s as they sound even better
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 55379
    I’m not sure if Martin fit 12s or 13s but 11s sound awful on my HD28. I highly recommend their Retro Monel strings - they sound *wonderful*
    I tried a set (12s) on my Gibson Dove and they sounded awful! Back off again after half an hour. And they were't even brand new, since they'd just come off a friend's guitar for the same reason...

    I've put them on my mahogany-top Vintage now. Hmmm. They're OK I suppose. But they do lack something compared to phosphor bronze, even with a magnetic pickup on it.

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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  • randellarandella Frets: 2785
    edited May 12
    The conclusion to this story - I put 12s back on and all is well

    The punch is back and the rattle is gone. They really aren't that much heavier under the hand either. Re-reading the care booklet that came with the guitar, and I was right (it's been known to happen) - there's no recommendation for a particular gauge, just a warning to not go heavier than 13s.

    Although I did mean to order Phosphor Bronze and, without paying attention, ended up with 85/15. They're a bit harsh, but are starting to mellow now. Still prefer the PBs so will make sure I'm watching what I'm doing next time I pick up a packet.
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  • stickyfiddlestickyfiddle Frets: 16699
    edited May 12
    ICBM said:
    I’m not sure if Martin fit 12s or 13s but 11s sound awful on my HD28. I highly recommend their Retro Monel strings - they sound *wonderful*
    I tried a set (12s) on my Gibson Dove and they sounded awful! Back off again after half an hour. And they were't even brand new, since they'd just come off a friend's guitar for the same reason...

    I've put them on my mahogany-top Vintage now. Hmmm. They're OK I suppose. But they do lack something compared to phosphor bronze, even with a magnetic pickup on it.
    I would suggest if you like PBs then all is already lost. I’ve always been an 80/20 guy pre-Retros

    That said, I would expect models might not work on a Dove compared with a Martin
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  • TanninTannin Frets: 370
    ICBM said:
    I tried a set [of Martin monel strings] on my Gibson Dove and they sounded awful! Back off again after half an hour
    They do sound awful when you first put them on. Monels are notorious for it. You have to put them on and leave them on for a week or 10 days before they start to show what they can do. But if you do that, they then last for an incredibly long time, even compared to coated strings. 
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 55379
    edited May 16
    stickyfiddle said:

    I would suggest if you like PBs then all is already lost. I’ve always been an 80/20 guy pre-Retros
    I do actually understand this, even though in terms of tone (ie EQ) Monels and 80/20 bronze are at the opposite ends and Phosphor somewhere in the middle - the difference is that PB has a slightly 'gritty' characteristic with extra harmonics, almost like very subtle distortion... I can understand why some people won't like that, although it's what I love. I find 80/20s both too bright, but also too 'clean' - Monels just dull, and too smooth.

    Tannin said:

    They do sound awful when you first put them on. Monels are notorious for it. You have to put them on and leave them on for a week or 10 days before they start to show what they can do. But if you do that, they then last for an incredibly long time, even compared to coated strings. 
    These ones had been on a friend’s guitar, so they were not brand new. I don’t know how long they’d been on it but more than a week I think.

    The ones on my Vintage have been on it about a month now - they don’t sound any different from when they were first on.

    I just don’t like them. They sound dull - not the same as old dead strings, and not quite bad enough to take off straight away on this guitar, but I’ll be going back to phosphor bronze when I next change.

    I don’t actually like brand-new bronze strings either, they sound awful for the opposite reason - zingy and brash - but they do at least sound great after they’ve settled down. I will admit to quite often re-using old strings from customer's guitars if they're well broken in but not actually corroded or notched... one of the advantages of being a repairer .

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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