Guitar repair – 13s or 11s? Which one should I use?

That was the point of conversation with a return customer.

I will try my best to explain to you my answer that I gave him – as to all those who ask me. And in case it didn’t strike you, we are talking about string gauges.


13s (.013″ – .052/.054/.056″)

These are BIG strings (but in the industry they are referred to as ‘Medium’ strings!) and naturally they give a bigger bang for their buck.

However, they are a bigger strain all round – on the joints of the guitar, as well as on your fingers, on the bridge, the top…

These are essentially to be played by people who play rhythm, and do so on Dreadnought and Jumbo models. Those are the only two models that I would suggest for this gauge of string because those two models are built to take that kind of strain. The response you get then from these models, when 13s are put on them, is extra volume and sustain.

One thing I can tell you from personal experience is that once you get used to playing 13s, it will be very difficult to switch to a lighter gauge string. As far as the thickness of strings is concerned and whether they are a problem to play, no! Except for the ‘B’ string – the single thickest steel string on your guitar – I doubt you will even feel that you’re playing 13-gauge strings.

A dreadnought guitar body
A dreadnought usually has a body depth between 3.75″ and 4.75″.

Irrespective of what shopkeepers lead you to believe, these are what Jumbo models of guitars look like. But even on Dreadnought and Jumbo guitars, one should not put on 13s if the instrument is developing a belly, if the neck angle is changing, or if you have a problem with the joints of your fingers. Also desist from using 13s on Dreadnought and Jumbo guitar models of manufacturers you’ve never heard of.

NEVER…EVER…put 13s on any other model of guitar!


11s (.011″ – .047/.049/.050″)

These are the happy medium of string gauges. They do not sound tinny but sound equally good whether you play lead or rhythm. Perfect for the hybrid player.

What’s more, the strain on the instrument and your fingers is not the same as the 13s would exert.

And after all is said and done, there’s personal choice and preference. Nothing beats that!

Amit Newton

An experienced guitar tech with over 10 years of experience working on acoustic Gibsons and Martins in the Gulf region. There is nothing that cannot be repaired; the only consideration is the price at which it comes. And yet, if there is sentiment attached, no price is too high! WhatsApp/Call me: 7080475556 email me:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *