“…I try to approach things, given my limitations and strengths, from a more melodic standpoint and just work on it until it sounds … nice. I don’t really have any plan in hand that helps me to deal with this. I try not to be too tied down by rules and regulations.” That’s what David Gilmour had to say in a 1988 interview with Guitar World. While he might have been referring to rules and regulations of technique or theory, David Gilmour took the same approach to his guitar strings, opting for a custom set of strings that suited his unique style, rather than the standard gauges you can buy off the rack at a guitar store.
Today we’re diving in to Gilmour’s custom string gauges to talk about why we think they’re awesome, and why you should think about your strings the same way David Gilmour (we assume) does.
I’m not sure exactly why, but lately it has seemed like I’ve had more people writing in asking about David Gilmour’s guitar string gauges. We get people writing in all the time asking about different guitarists’ custom string gauges—be it Tony Iommi, Zakk Wylde, Jimi Hendrix—all those sorts of famous cats that have some interesting guitar strings. There’s not usually quite as much volume on the David Gilmour side as those other guys, but I’ve had a few more folks of late. So maybe there’s something in the water, or everyone’s listening to The Wall with all the weird times that we’ve got going on…
In any case, I thought it’d be fun to kind of quickly go over David Gilmour’s custom string gauges and talk about what’s different about them and why we think they’re cool.
Now a couple of disclaimers first—we do not make David Gilmour’s guitar strings. I’ve never met David Gilmour. God, I would love to, but I have not—he has not come knocking yet. But my friends at GHS do make this as a David Gilmour signature set, and you are more than welcome to buy it from them. They make cool strings. I like those guys and they’ve been working with David Gilmour for a long, long time.
So onto the string gauges. Now these are the gauges Gilmour uses for his Strat we’re mostly talking about today—he does have a set for his Les Paul as well that takes the same sort of approach but bumps the gauges up just a smidge to account for the shorter scale length of Gibsons versus Fenders.
David Gilmour’s Custom Guitar String Gauges
Strat: .010 – .012 – .016 – .028 – .038 – .048
Les Paul: .0105 – .013 – .017 – .030 – .040 – .050
So what’s cool about these well, you know, for one they’ve got a really flexible B and G, which I think is kind of cool. The high E is standard, it’s a 10, but then the 12 and the 16 are almost closer to what you’d see in a set of nines than what you’d usually see in a set of tens. So this allows for really easy bends on the B and G, and more stiffness on that high E comparatively. That is an interesting thing because that same concept exists on a lot of popular custom sets from big-name guitarists, a SRV’s set went 13, 15, 19. So basically a 13 on top and then a set of Eleven’s on the B and the G, whereas David Gilmour’s here has a 10 on top and then basically a set of nines on the, the B and the G. I don’t know exactly what that’s all about, but I have seen it in a few different signature sets from big-name players, and I just have to imagine that they like having a lot of flexibility on the B and the G. So I’m guessing they just wanted a ton of flexibility on the plain strings, but wanted that high E to not get lost in the mix the way that it can when you’re using a nine or an eight or whatever. And then rounding out things on the bottom end, we have a 28, 38 & 48, so that is classically a standard set of medium wound strings.
So basically in building the set, what I kind of can infer is that he took a light gauge or a .010 gauge set for the high E, took a super light or .009 gauge set for the G and the B and then took an .011 gauge set for the wound strings, which I think is pretty cool. It’s an unconventional set, but it makes a lot of sense. You’ve got a lot of flexibility up top and then some nice fullness on the bottom end so it doesn’t get lost, especially on a Strat that can get a little bit weird and overly snappy which isn’t really his vibe.
So I wanted to walk you through the set because I think it’s kind of a cool way of looking at building a custom set. Basically, you can look at a set of guitar strings and think like, huh, I really liked the way my E sounds on a set of tens, I really liked the way my G and B feel on a set of nines, and I really liked that low-end power that I get on a set of Eleven’s. Then you can mix those gauges and make a custom set that works just right for you in the same way that David Gilmour did.
Now I’m not sure if GHS designed this for him or if this is what his tech put together or what, I don’t really know the backstory there, but I do think it’s a cool set and more than anything kind of a cool jumping-off point for you to build your custom set yourself.
As always if you have any questions about finding the perfect custom set of Stringjoys for you, hit us up anyime at [email protected] and we’ll be glad to give you the VIP treatment, even if you’re not David Gilmour.