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This article was originally published in issue #20
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With more 8-string guitars becoming available on the market, so the demand for strings has grown. One of the main troubles I personally find as an 8-string guitarist is finding sets of strings that are well balanced. Rotosound’s nickel wound 8-string 'Roto Yellows' set features a robust 74 for the low string which is usually tuned to F#, following through to a 10 for the high E string. This set is ideal for shorter scale 8 strings between 25’5 and 26’5 inch (such as the LTD H308 and the Schecter C8) which normally need a bit more tension in the low end.
In our video I used my own Ibanez RG2228A, which has a scale length of 27’, which makes these strings “feel” more like a set of 11’s at the top due to the tension added by the slightly longer neck.
The strings went on with ease, the only main difference between these strings and a normal set of strings is the addition of the low B and F#. As I'm using the Ibanez RG2228A I have to cut the strings at the ball end so I can feed the string into the fixed edge 8 bridge. For most fixed bridge 8-strings the bridges are made to compensate for the thicker 8th string. Another important thing to mention about the Rotosound set is that the F# string is tapered slightly at the opposite end so you can feed it into the tuning peg and wind the rest of the string through with ease. I remember a time when it was not possible to thread a 74 though a standard tuning peg without having to modify the peg slightly with a drill (not recommended!) so the I feel the tapered F# string is very useful on lots of levels!
Before recording our video I had the Rotosound 8-string set on for just under a week, I had played long hours every day and done lots of sweaty rehearsals. During this time they wore in quickly and held their tuning well through the hot weather and constant playing. I am personally used to using a slightly lighter gauge on my 27 inch scale length Ibanez due to the extra tension created by the neck. The gauges featured in the Rotosound set are a little heavier than I'm personally used to and I was a bit unsure how the heavy gauge low end strings would balance with the slightly lighter top end. However, after sitting down with the strings in the first hour after putting them on, I quickly felt comfortable and the gauges made perfect sense physically. Tension between each string felt even, playing power chords on the F# and B strings felt resonant and even under the finger tips.
I also found that the intonation of the higher strings remained very consistent and while the lower end is usually where most 8 string guitars get intonation issues due to the length and low tuning of the string, with a 74 and 64 gauge for the lower pitch strings, intonation was easy to adjust without too much fine tuning.
I feel string gauge is totally down to taste and the style you’re playing, however as an 8-string guitarist with recording and live experience, my opinion is that it helps to have a heavier gauge string in the low end, to assist tuning, resonance and note definition. It also helps to have that quick snap back response from the string, especially if you’re hitting hard, lighter strings in the low end, which can make a “BOW” sound that results in the note becoming slightly sharp. Heavier gauges keep the “BOW” tone without the intonation issues. Quick snap back also helps with muting, especially with today’s progressive metal styles that require a lot of stop start style riffs, it helps to be able to stop strings ringing out when desired in order to create a tight sound.
Having tried these at length, I highly recommend the Rotosound set to any 8-string guitarist who uses a shorter scale length instrument and wants a good response from the low end. Or, come to that, to any extended range guitarists looking for more finger resistance and resonance on longer scale length instruments. The tension balance between strings feels just right, the addition of the tapered F# is a huge plus, and they stay bright under pressure! They're well priced too and so thoroughly recommended!
Editor's Note: And 8-string fans can find out for yourselves how good these Rotosound strings are as we have six sets up for grabs in this issue's amazing free entry competition.