What guitar strings are good to get the Malcolm Young tone on my SG?

I know that Malcolm uses Gibson Heavy Guage Strings, but i couldn’t find any at my local guitar center. I tried Ernie Ball Beefy Slinky’s and those sounded bad and the action was really high. What are good heavy guage guitar strings that have low action and a really good low AC/DC Malcolm Young tone?

Chosen Answer:

Hello there,

I think you have been given some inaccurate advise. A high action has nothing to do with intonation. Intonation is when the guitar plays in tune all the way down the fretboard. A guitar can be perfectly intonated with a low action or a high action. Any comments about high action causing poor intonation is a sign the speaker does not know what he is talking about.

Changing your strings will not necessarily get you the tone of Malcolm Young. You can put the very same strings on your guitar as he plays, and you may sound nothing like his tone. His sound comes from the quality of his instrument, his gear set up and his playing style. Unless you have the same gear (amps, speakers, effects), you will not come very close to his sound. I say that so you do not expect changing your strings to give you his sound.

Also, changing your strings should have minor impact on your action. If you change from thicker strings to thinner strings the action will seem higher than it was. So, you may have to do a set up to adjust the action to suit your taste. On the other hand, if you change from thin strings to thicker strings, the action may be too low. You may have to change the set up to get the action adjusted properly.

By the way, Ernie Ball strings are not bad strings.

Later,
by: Norm Jones
on: 25th February 10

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9 Responses to What guitar strings are good to get the Malcolm Young tone on my SG?

  1. Reilly says:

    First off, lower action is achieved by adjusting the bridge, not by changing the strings.

    I don’t know about other strings, but I do know that Ernie Balls take a little while to settle in and sound natural. Keep playing them for a little while and see how they turn out. If it still doesn’t do it for you, you can order those Gibson strings online, or just experiment with a bunch of different brands. One of the greatest things about guitar is that you can really customize it to be your own. Experimentation is part of the process.

  2. Stan says:

    There are no magical set of guitar strings that will give you Malcolm Youngs tone.

    That tone comes from your heart, soul, years of practice, and your fingers.

    Forget the heavy guage set of strings and go for a D’Addario 10-46 guage.

    I use 9-42’s myself but I do a lot of string bending.

  3. John says:

    Joz,

    You might have had the right strings, but with the action too high ANY strings will sound like crap since you have to push down so far the intonation goes completely off.

    Get those thick strings again, and pay just $30 to Guitar Center to setup your guitar for those strings. I bet you get an instant WOW when you get it back.

    You really do need the thick strings for the good tone – theres also a lot of their tone in the guitar and the pickups and the amp though.

    Good Luck,
    John

  4. Norm Jones says:

    Hello there,

    I think you have been given some inaccurate advise. A high action has nothing to do with intonation. Intonation is when the guitar plays in tune all the way down the fretboard. A guitar can be perfectly intonated with a low action or a high action. Any comments about high action causing poor intonation is a sign the speaker does not know what he is talking about.

    Changing your strings will not necessarily get you the tone of Malcolm Young. You can put the very same strings on your guitar as he plays, and you may sound nothing like his tone. His sound comes from the quality of his instrument, his gear set up and his playing style. Unless you have the same gear (amps, speakers, effects), you will not come very close to his sound. I say that so you do not expect changing your strings to give you his sound.

    Also, changing your strings should have minor impact on your action. If you change from thicker strings to thinner strings the action will seem higher than it was. So, you may have to do a set up to adjust the action to suit your taste. On the other hand, if you change from thin strings to thicker strings, the action may be too low. You may have to change the set up to get the action adjusted properly.

    By the way, Ernie Ball strings are not bad strings.

    Later,

  5. Bonzo says:

    Gibson Heavy Gauge Strings..Try ebay and you will save a fortune, i buy and sell strings with no probs…

  6. Kurt says:

    I’ll start with the obvious here in stating that Malcolm plays a Gretsch guitar, not an SG. A big hollow body guitar like a Gretsch is well suited for big heavy strings. The SG however, is definitely suited for lighter gauge strings, such as 9’s or 10’s.

    They sell a Malcolm Young signature Grestch, but it’s very expensive. You could also look into getting a Grestch duo-jet, very similar guitar. Or even the rarer Grestch rocjet

    That being said, beefy .11 strings are not even enough! Malcolm uses .012 – .056 Gibson strings with a wound G (.025). You can use the ernie ball .12’s, but if they’re not the same as the gibson set, you can always buy the strings individually and make your own set.

    Now, it’s very important that you get your guitar set-up by someone who not only knows what they’re doing, but is very good at it. Setting up a guitar is almost an art form itself. Every time you change the string size, or if you decide to play in a new tuning (like e flat), the tension on the neck, string height, and intonation are all affected, so to avoid possible damage and to get good playing out of the guitar, get it set up.

    As far as Malcolm Young “tone”. You’ll want to play out of a Marshall Plexi, with the distortion as low as possible, very close to clean. .12 gauge strings, volume on the guitar all the way up, tone all the way to treble, bridge pickup only, a nice heavy guitar pic, and the MOST IMPORTANT part of Malcolm’s playing, a strong rhythm hand.

    Listen to AC/DC in stereo and notice the difference between Malcolm (left side) and Angus (right side) on the rhythm. Malcolm will hit a G power chord VERY hard, while Angus seems to lazily strum open G chords.

    Some good song examples of the Young brother’s dynamics:
    It’s a Long Way To The Top
    If You Want Blood
    Stiff Upper Lip
    Stormy May Day

  7. black metal ist kreig says:

    dr strings are the best their is but dont be afraid to try different brands. strings come in different sizes the thinner the strings the thinner the tone.the thicker the strings the thicker the tone.jazz and blues use thin strings alternative rock players like those emo bands use medium gauge strings.and metal bands use heavy gauge strings.so i suggest using heavy guage.

  8. Phoxlegend says:

    ok, i had the same type thing! i got a gibson sg standard and wanted that tone, after about $80 in strings i found some i like, dr 10 gauge strings, nice actions nice tone. also try adjusting your amp, strings arnt the only thing in tone.

  9. Dr Totman says:

    It depends on what tuning you have your guitar set up for. Lower tunings will take heavier gauge strings and higher tuning will take lower gauge strings. Also, you have to adjust your action for the strings. You can’t just buy a set of 11-60 gauge strings and expect to not have to make adjustments.

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