Albert King had one of the most unique string setups of any blues guitarists. The way he strung his guitar changed and defined his sound.
How did Albert King string his guitar? Albert King strung his guitar by flipping a right handed guitar to compensate for his left handed playing. The result of this was the high E being where the low E traditionally is. The high strings were at the top of the fretboard and the low strings were at the bottom.
Continue reading to learn more about Albert King’s unique string setup, what strings he used, and how it effected his sound.
How Did Albert King String His Guitar?
Albert King strung his guitar by flipping a right handed guitar and keeping the strings as is while playing lefty. The guitar was then inverted with the high E at the top where the low E typically resides.
Albert King was a left handed guitarist. At the time when Albert was learning guitar, left handed guitars were almost non existent, certainly none in production. To compensate, Albert flipped his right handed guitar and played with the thin strings on top. The high E being where the low E traditionally is. The B string being where the A string traditionally is, and so on. It truly provides for an interesting take on the electric guitar. This is because now you are bending the high strings down as opposed to up.
Find Out How Jimi Hendrix Strung His Guitar Here
Because of the way his guitar was strung, he used gravity to his advantage. High strings were easier to bend as they were bent down. If you have ever listened to Albert King, then you know he loved his high bends. Furthermore, grabbing and bending two high strings at once is theoretically easier with this stringing method. Albert learned guitar by ear and was not able to fret the same chord positions as a guitarist with a traditional guitar setup. To compensate, Albert was known to create his own chords in order to reach his desired outcome.
Did Albert King Play Guitar Upside Down?
Yes, Albert King played guitar upside down. All of the guitars at that time built for right handed players, forcing Albert to play the guitar upside down or re-string it. He chose to play upside down and not re-string.
Many argue that Hendrix did the same. This is because Hendrix’s headstock is flipped. Although Hendrix did not play the guitar upside down like Albert King. Instead, Jimi flipped the guitar and re-strung it. This makes Albert King one of the few blues guitarists to truly play his guitar upside down.
Overtime, Albert became more successful and had access to traditional left handed guitars. Although, he chose to stick to his upside down guitar as that is what he was used to.
Pro’s and Con’s of Playing Guitar Upside Down – Like Albert King
Playing with the strings inverted / guitar upside down does effect the tone. Let’s walk though the pro’s and con’s of playing an upside down guitar. (Playing a right handed guitar flipped and lefty).
|Giving power chords a fourth note is much easier||Cable placement – cable jack is in the way of your strumming arm for most guitars|
|Bending the high E and B strings is easier and more powerful||Tone and volume knobs accidentally moved while playing|
|Chord voicing – more chromatic and consistent||Power chords are more difficult to fret|
|Gives you a unique style||High E and B strings are less accessible|
|Guitar lessons and YouTube lessons are difficult to come across for this play style|
To expand upon the above, playing inverted strings / upside down guitar can also produce a different tone via the pickups. This is mostly the case for single-coil pickups where different magnets are raised for different strings to capture the intended sound.
What Gauge Strings Did Albert King Use?
Albert King’s string gauges for the majority of his career were .009-.050 gauge strings. The high strings, especially E and B are lighter than standard strings. Combine the lighter gauges with Alberts tuned down approach and inverted strings and you have a highly bendable string setup.
Reference the below chart to learn what the gauge on each string was.
As for the model and brand of the strings, this is highly sought after. Although, you can get close to the string gauges about with Ernie Balls Turbo Slinky. That being said, the only string that has a noticeable difference is the G. It would be worth selecting your own strings through GHS. The GHS Nickel Rockers are a great choice to build your string setup. Stevie used these strings so they are guaranteed to perform well.
How Does Albert King Tune His Guitar?
According to Dan Erlewine, luthier who built King’s Flying V, Albert tuned all of his strings down a whole step. He then tuned his low E and A strings down a further whole step. His guitar was tuned to C-F-C-F-A-D. This tuning method helped his string bending to become easier.
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