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Every issue of Guitar Techniques brims with a wealth of lessons filled with technique tips and theory advice for all levels. What we don’t cover much is something that should be highlighted as it affects every player, regardless of ability or stylistic persuasion: action (string to fretboard distance) and string gauge. They are bound together by the fact they will make your playing easier if you’re on the right tracks or much harder if not. They’re both topics that are bigger than my dialogue here allows but it is something you 100% need to address at some point (or indeed at some points) on your road of development.
Let me provide an example: I had a student many years ago that was in awe of Yngwie Malmsteen, not least due to his ability to perform big string bends from the first string’s 21st fret up to a virtual 24th. My student liked a set of 0.012s with a very low action and couldn’t get close to those string bends. I suggested he get closer to the mighty
Eb Yng’s setup: tuning (= reduced string tension than in E tuning), super light string gauge (top E string is .008 = reduced string tension), a medium high action (= great for finger purchase to hike a string bend up), and a scalloped fretboard (= even more room to grab a string). Other than the scalloped fretboard option (a scalloped fretboard can prove intonation havoc if one’s fretting hand touch is too heavy), my student saw the potential in this setup and after several months of cat wailing, his bends and vibrato were sounding pretty impressive (he’s now on .009 gauge for a little more string ‘fight’). It just goes to show that a well set up guitar can ultimately mean what you thought was hard to play can end up being much more approachable when the guitar works well for you (and vice versa if poorly setup). We’re all individuals and preferences vary greatly, but don’t get down-hearted if your playing is struggling; consider getting your guitar sorted and then reap the playing rewards. Enjoy the issue!