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,


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