Simple, for the beginner, Muti- part discussion on guitar strings, part 1.

>> Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ok, let's talk about guitar strings,  I just felt the need to start things off with some footage of a couple of my personal guitar heroes.  The first guy was Phil Keaggy on guitar with Glass Harp in his younger days, (for those who don't know).  Anyone who really cares about the people out there who play guitar, knows about or should know about this guy.  He is a world class talent in many genres of music and a super nice, humble guy.  The second vid clip is a band I enjoy called The Elms.  Their lead guitarist is Thomas Daugherty.  I'm a big fan of that Marshall+Gibson sound, and Thomas does it very, very well.  Anyway, this will be a multi-part discussion on guitar strings.  The first thing to cover, would be discussing what is available.  I've played Dean Markley, Ernie Ball, GHS, Martin, D'Addario and Elixir.  Those are the company's I can remember anyway:)  I've played all the nickel and phosphor bronze strings and I suppose strings that were cheaper made than that.  One thing I haven't played, which sounds intriguing is stainless steel.  Sweat and oil from your hands are probably the biggest combo that slowly wears out guitar strings.  Stainless sounds intriguing because I know that metal to be a corrosion fighter, and corrosion comes from your hands. Anybody played these?  Most of these company's make acoustic, electric and even bass guitar strings.  I think that is a pretty decent cross-section of string company's that I've played, but I've got to tell you, this doesn't even scratch the surface of what is out there!  I just went to a website that listed 35 different string manufacturers that they carry!  Since there is such a huge variety out there, I find it pointless to focus on a company name and give an opinion based on that.  These company's are constantly innovating to compete with others, so even if I've played them, I haven't really played them all.  My advise is to try different brands, and find something you really like, but find a gauge, (thickness), that suits you, and don't change that!  Some people claim they get better tone out of certain strings.  What's your experience?  They say tone, (subtle differences in sound and sound quality), is different with not only different company brand's, but in the gauge, (thickness), of strings.  My experience has been that I can perceive very subtle differences in tone  from string company to string company of the same gauge, but I see more of this and more overall differences in strings of a different gauge.  That brings us to my final point in this part of string discussion. String gauge, in my opinion is very important.  Changing string gauge will often make it necessary for you to set up your guitar again, to accommodate changes that a different tension creates.  Gauge affects tone and sustain, (how long a string rings out). Thicker strings usually produce a little more sustain.  Gauge affects action, (how much pressure it takes to fret a string).  High action on guitars, is the equivalent of running in thick sand!  It will slow your finger movements.  Gauge also effects how wide your strings vibrate outward from the center at rest, when you play them.  I've noticed thinner strings will vibrate wider than heavier gauge strings.  If you strum a chord hard, they will actually vibrate out of tune in some cases.  There are benefits to going heavier and going thinner.  A guitar will have a lighter action and be easier to play with thinner strings.  Bending is easier because of this too.  I like the lighter strings that are easier to play, but I won't go thinner than the "light" category, which typically, with most brands, means the high E string is .010.  My style on acoustic is heavier chord strumming, so I'll tolerate a little heavier string on my acoustic, because I want the whole chord to stay in tune when strummed hard. This also means I can strum harder, and therefore, get more volume.  To wrap things up, here is what I like.  As I said, I like "light" gauge strings for their ease of playing. I've really enjoyed using D'Addario Nickel Round Wounds.  I love their String Color Code System.  Each string has a color coded end that makes it a little quicker and easier to identify the string for installation.  They look cool on a stop tailpiece too!  That said, probably the best strings for me are the Elixir Polywebs.  Elixer makes strings with a coating that makes them resist the effects of corrosion from you hands.  I talked about this earlier, and I'm the definition of sweaty handed when I play!  These strings are a little more expensive than some others, but they last way longer than any others I've used, so that makes it worth it.  Many stores offer the two for one deal on strings anymore, so that helps too.  I paid basically $11.00 a set with that deal the last time I bought some.  Anybody discovered great strings that everyone should try?  Let me know!  Here's a video on how they make strings.  Coming soon:  Installing and taking care of strings.
I hope this helps someone!  Thanks for reading,


First, a little about me..............

>> Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Well, here it is, my first post on my blog/website.  I really don't know how to do this well, but I'm diving in anyway!  A little about me, relative to guitar stuff:  I can't remember never being interested in music.  I heard my mom's classic country, "Gospel" and 50's rock and roll around the house when I was growing up.  I know quite a few old lyrics from Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, Elvis Presley and Buck Owens because of this.  My sister's Statler Brothers and Oak Ridge Boys albums had the same result.  When I got a little older I discovered Oldies.  I really liked listening to Chuck Berry, Jan and Dean, The Beach Boys, Carl Perkins, etc.  I used to "tape" shows like Solid Gold Saturday Night off the radio.  Some where around High School, I literally decided I was going to learn to play guitar.  This made Chuck, Jan and Dean, The Beach Boys and Carl more valuable then just for listening to.  I've always played along with recorded music.  Playing by ear, and sort of teaching yourself, is pretty rewarding when you can play along with something and sound reasonably ok.  I have to say, not having any proper training is not something I would recommend, but I've managed without it and applied myself to learning most of the proper things eventually.  I had an advantage, I suppose to some degree, because I was taught and played trombone in junior high and high school.  This resulted in at least some basic understanding of music.  Guitar developed through high school.  I was a reasonably successful athlete in cross country and track.  This was definitely the focus of my extra curricular activities.  Cross country was a passion, and I worked hard at it, trying to get the most out of marginal ability.  A friendship came out of Cross country with a guy named Chad.  Chad had a nice guitar and Crate amp, and we got together and he showed me a basic power chord configuration.  I remember playing one of my first chords with his instruction, and his amp on high gain.  I must have had a wild look on my face when I heard that chord, because he was laughing and said something like "you like that sound don't you"!  Needless to say I did, and it inspired me to keep playing and learn the best I could.  Thanks Chad!  I hung out some with another guitar playing friend Tim, around my college days.  He was learning properly and he showed me a lot of blues type things.  Tim was into Clapton and others at the time, and motivated me to listen to other guitar players and pick up some things from them.  He helped me strive to be more technically accurate, because he was becoming just that.  We got together again recently after many years and jammed a little.  He has become one fine guitar player.  Thanks Tim!  From the early 90's until the first part of this decade, I've played more sometimes and less sometimes.  I obviously listened to a lot of music too.  I'd have to say in the past ten years, guitar/music has taken up a much larger part of my time and even bigger interest.  I discovered CCM during this period and forever established a couple of guitar hero's in my life.  Phil Keaggy and Bob Hartman from Petra have been heavy influences to things I try to play.  You'd probably never perceive much of them in anything I play, but that has more to do with my lack of ability then the desire to play like them!  I play consistently every week in my church praise team.  I've been in and out of bands, picked up the bass, and acoustic guitars.  I've learned about the physical structure of guitars, I've learned a lot about tubes and tube amps, effects and many more details I'll hopefully be talking about in the future.  I've also done some considerable live sound engineering thanks to a couple of bands my friend Mike has been involved in.

Ok, I'm winding down on the background info finally!  It's time for my websight disclaimer.  I don't want to pretend to know everything about anything I'm going to talk about.  I've got some experiences and personal opinions that I'm going to share knowing full well that there are going to be people reading this, (I hope), that have other opinions, and more experience to draw from than me.  Hey, I have friends who are more qualified to talk on here than me!  I'm more than ok with that.  In fact, I'm looking forward to comments and further developments of discussions based upon this.  That means I will learn more, and so will the followers of this blog/website.  I'll screen comments, but as long as the comments are stated in a civil manner, (including language), and not comments meant to refute everything I'm trying to say, they are welcome!  I'm also not opposed to admitting I'm wrong if need be.  I'd like to explain some things in simple terms for some people out there who are beginners, or are new to a particular subject.  Maybe I can network with some experts in a particular field and invite them on here to share their knowledge too!  (That may take a while)!  I don't want to let this become like some well known forums where everyone comes in with their comments to try and make themselves look smarter than everyone else!  Let's share knowledge and opinions, not egos.  Another thing I must say is that I am a Christian.  Bluntly, that makes me who I am.  I'm someone with direction and a certain peace, because of salvation through Jesus Christ, even in a messed up world.  I'm not ashamed of it.  Try me!  Even briefly right here on this blog!  I will always welcome personal one on one discussion about "spiritual" matters.  I believe your eternity is way more important than guitar stuff.  That said, I'm not here to preach on this particular blog/website.  I want to stay mainly on topic.  Brief comments are more than welcome here but I may ask you to join me at another address to further our discussion on a topic so important.  Don't hesitate to ask for one moment.  I have, you see, more opinions on this than anything else in my life!  Of course my opinions are based on what He said in His Word!  One more thing.  I am a fledgling maker of pedalboards, (for effects pedals).  This site will hopefully be a place to go for information and purchase of these.  There will be no hard sell focus on sales here, but there will be opportunities for those who are interested.  I'm also hopefully going to be experimenting with 1x12 extension cabinets soon with the hopes of selling those someday too.  Lastly, I'm hoping Allparts guitar parts will be available here too for those who are interested.  Thanks, stay tuned for the first discussion!            


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