When I conduct my weekly Gibson “chat”, and get questions in general from students and fans, there never can be enough folks who ask me about what strings, string gauges and types of strings I recommend for various applications. The truth is, that even though I have many guitars, I try to maintain a real consistency in the strings and gauges of strings I use.
Part of this may simply be laziness, but most of all, if you think about it, the size and kind of string you use is everything, and is how your guitar(s) are always coming in closest contact with you, and your emotions. If we vary the thicknesses (gauges) of our strings too often, we affect how the tips of our fingers adjust to guitar playing, and our all-important callouses are getting sent mixed messages! It’s almost as if our fingertips, which really must adjust to what we are playing, will be confused, and physically challenged!
There are exceptions, of course, and when I play slide, I ideally like to use a slightly thicker string than what I usually use, but that can affect the neck or the guitar’s top adversely, and quite frankly, makes me a little fearful to raise the guitar to a higher tuning, such as open E for example!
If you like to bend, as I do, I’d certainly recommend using “lights”, or .010 to .046 strings on an electric guitar. Most players start on .009s, but they soon discover that those are too light for other applications such as rhythm guitar parts, and also slide guitar. If you step up to .010s, or “tens” as they’re called, you’ll find that they will be very applicable to almost any situation you can imagine.
When it comes to acoustic guitar, I basically apply the same principal. Most folks have guitars strung with medium gauge strings, which I admit are great for straight rhythm playing, but as soon as they try to play lead or even bend the little that they can on an acoustic, it becomes far too difficult! Stepping down in gauge one degree will put a lot less stress on the top of your acoustic and its neck, and would also be more adaptable to slide guitar, and its various tunings.
So, I certainly hope this helps you in deciding on strings. In the end, it’s really your choice, but believe me, my choices have been well-honed, and have really been put “through the paces.” I’ve learned the hard way that the “easy” way, and most convenient way is the method you should use to choose the right strings for you! Good luck in your string adventures! Remember, they must speak for you!