An Experiment

Just humour me. The next time you’re going to buy a pedal, or an amp, or a guitar, go buy a new set of strings and some new picks first. Ninety-five percent of the time, this makes more of a difference than new gear. And in the words of Tony Wonder, whoa whoa whoa, wait. Am I actually advising not to buy new gear? Oh no. Not at all. Definitely buy new gear. But once you get the new strings on, and it makes more of a difference than a new amp, guitar, or clean boost pedal, then you get to spend the money on another delay. That’s right…no need to fear. This blog still does, and always will, endorse the acquisition and subsequent caressing (for some of us) of new gear. And it wouldn’t have to be a delay either. A nice seek filter, or a new Dwarfcraft pedal. (They were at NAMM. Crazy awesome pedals. Remind me of ZVex, when ZVex was still unknown, and hence…way cooler. 😉 My review of said tradeshow is coming soon…it’s just taking a while to upload all the videos to youtube. Including the one of Tony Levin singing…yes, he sings…sort of…about soup and/or super colliders. It was oddly awesome.) Or a delay. Ya, those are good, too.

But seriously. Every time I change my strings (and this should be a once a week occurrence at least if you play often), I am floored by the difference. In tone, and in feel. And subsequently, in my playing. And then I go sell the three guitars I bought because I was unhappy with my tone because I didn’t change the strings.

All things to make you happier with your tone. Oh, and Avatar will make you happier with your tone if you go see it, because everything seems better in comparison to that movie. Actually, I’ve yet to see it…so I have no basis on which to judge it. Except that the previews sucked, and the plot seems to have perhaps not so subtly ripped off Pocahantas. Which ripped off Dances with Wolves. Which ripped off Pocahantas. Like, the actual one that happened in life.

(hehe I just found out Giovanni Ribisi is in Avatar. He is…um…not one of my favorite actors. Don’t tell me, but I’m guessing he cries in this movie and you can’t understand what he’s saying. Boiler Room, anyone? Sorry. I hadn’t made fun of a movie in a while, and I was just dying to get something out! Oh! And he looks like Bill Paxton in this picture. If Bill Paxton was French and aging backwards. I appreciate the effort, Killers, but this Freddie-Mercury-throwback-stache deal has got to go. Okay, I’m done now. Giovanni, you make more money than I do, and you were on Friends, so I’m sure you couldn’t care less that I’m writing this…if by some magical twist of fate you even see this. But if you do, I apologize, take it all back, and can you get me an acting job with James Cameron? BBFF, bro. That’s butch best friends forever. Ya. Hmm…that doesn’t sound right. Wow, it must be late. Ya, there we go. I’ll blame it on that.)

But…uh…seriously, change your strings. Is that what we were talking about? Oh, I can’t remember. But do it anyway! It’s never a bad thing. Picks and strings…the first lines in your tone after your mind and hands…the two things that are actually making acoustic sounds in space…making sure those are in pristine condition makes all the difference in the world.


0 thoughts on “An Experiment

  1. Wouldn’t make too much fun of Avatar just yet… it really is the best movie visually I have ever seen. It’s the kind of movie that you are going to want to go to theaters and see, even if you don’t like it you’ll be able to brag to people that you saw it in 3-D when it first came out, because I am sure that it will be a film for the history books (even if its only due to the massive amounts of money it’s making).

    Make it a date with your wife, 3-D movies are always fun. Come on, it has good music … :-)

  2. Good advice Karl! I must admit I do neglect to change my string every now and then just because it’s a pain to change strings on a guitar with a bigsby style tremolo.

  3. lots of wisdom behind changing strings often but once a week seems a bit much even if you play a lot, no? i guess if you are a rock star and getting paid millions of money … hehe. but i agree, new set of strings makes a real difference. i wonder if anybody will make a pedal to simulate new strings?

    btw, i actually enjoyed Avatar if only for the visual effects. don’t believe everything you read on the internet 😀

  4. What strings would you recommend for an acoustic-electric? I’ve been using these on both my Ibanez Acoustic-Electric and Carvin AE185 hybrid: Martin MSP4050 SP Phosphor Bronze Custom Light 11-52

    I usually change every two months since I have been leading worship every other week ( which means an hour of playing at rehearsal and 30 minutes during service) At home I usually practice on another guitar just to save batteries and strings.

    On the store credit at Musicians Friend, I’m leaning towards a laptop backpack. Maybe one of their MI Audio OD pedals. Rather have the pedal, but know I’d use the backpack. Or picks? :-)

  5. I really agree with the fresh strings idea. Although I don’t quite have the funds to do the once a week thing. (Well, I probably do, I’m just not there yet) Buying them from makes it a little easier to handle since they’re much cheaper than brand name strings.

    Just an idea for the cheapsters out there.


  6. I don’t like to sell guitars. But I was thinking about selling three lower end guitars last week to buy parts for a new one I’m building from Warmoth parts. I polished and restrung them to make them more appealing. Now I don’t want to sell them! I did buy them for a reason.
    As for Avatar, how can you NOT go see it!?! It’s got tall sexy smurfs in it! And futuristic guns! Exotic cultures! It just won the Golden Globe for best drama… as in dramatically huge profits… the true test of a great drama.

  7. Just “humour” you? Have you been listening to alot of brit rock/Snow Patrol/Muse lately?

    The string tip is always number 1. Always makes a difference!

  8. I think I need new strings, because my strings made me hit a wrong note in my improvised solo on stage…..with delay on……so it echoed.

  9. Christianpyro–haha Ya, it could be really good. It’s just one of those things that when we first saw the preview, my wife and I turned to each other and kind of laughed like, ‘Ah, the newest gaming nerd movie.’ And we must’ve totally missed that James Cameron did it. And then the last couple weeks, I’ve been absolutely floored by how many people have told me that they have been, well, born anew in its genius. 😉 So maybe I will have to see it, if for nothing else than to coexist with the rest of humanity right now. lol :)

    Anonymous–nice! I wish a I had a Bigsby. What kind of guitar?

    Rhoy–don’t believe everything I read on the internet? Then is Giovanni Ribisi really not in the movie?! That would be awesome! hehehe 😉 The internet does say that Wes Studi is in it, and I do have a standing order to see anything with anyone who was even remotely connected to ‘Heat.’ So…maybe I will see it! lol

    As for strings, maybe a week is a little much. But for me, it just seems to make such a huge difference. Maybe I just hack my guitar hard. lol But I know Stu from Delirious changes them every two gigs or rehearsals, and Edge changes them every gig. Al DiMeola used to change them every studio take! Yikes! Ok, so maybe I just want to pretend I’m famous and need to change them that often. lol 😉

    Randy–those are the exact acoustic strings I use! I love the way they sound. :)

    As for Musician’s Friend, they sell MI pedals?! Oh, man. The MI Audio Blues Boy Deluxe is a fantastic pedal. I owned one for a while, and if you look through some of my OD shootout videos, it might even be in some of them.

    Nate–thanks for the tip! I’ll check that site out! And for me, $5 a week for strings on my acoustic and electric adds up to $10 a week, and then about $500 a year. Less than what most of us would spend on a Pete Cornish pedal! Ok, blast. I was trying to make it sound like it wasn’t much money, but it is. Stupid math.

    Gtr1ab–haha That’s awesome! String changes do the same thing to me too every time I go to sell a guitar.

    And ‘tall sexy smurfs’? haha That cracked me up, bro! Honestly, I just wanted to throw some controversy in the blog, and was waiting for the right time to make fun of a blockbuster that, let’s face it, does kind of seem like the 2010 gaming culture’s version of Pocahantas. All animated, too. 😉 And the night it won the Golden Globe seemed like a great time to throw a little ‘love’ its way. But I’ll probably see it eventually. I guess. 😉

    Larry–I totally agree! And as for ‘humour’, didn’t you know that spelling things Brit is an automatic coolness boost? 😉 hehe Just like saying your mobile is ringing, or taking the lift instead of the elevator. hehe I always laugh when those lyrics are in songs, but you know the artist’s are from Utah or something. :)

    Seth J–oh, that’s the worst! I do that so often. Wait. I mean……wrong notes? I don’t understand what you mean.


  10. Karl,

    what strings do you recommend for electric? I usually buy GHS boomers or DR strings. Whatever happens to be cheaper at the local music store. I haven’t tried any boutique strings. It always seems like there are 10 people who say they are the best thing ever and always at least that many people who say they are the biggest rip-off… Anyway, any advice would be appreciated.


  11. Haha at least you don’t make a face that everyone noticed. Yikes!
    But on the plus side, “Canons” by Phil Wickham sounds WAY better with delay.

  12. Ryan–I’m still stuck on Ernie Ball’s. A lot of people say they’re terrible, but for me they just have a nice smooth, acoustic tone. No unnecessary trying to do too much, but not dead either. I did try some boutique strings, the Snake Oil Brand to be exact. And I took them off the same night. Sounded very dark and lifeless. In my humble opinion. :)

    Seth J–Cannons exists without delay for some people? 😉 hehe

  13. Thanks for the info. About picks, do you still use Herdim picks? Do you find they make much difference? If so, what is the best place to get those? I’m assuming an online retailer…


  14. I’m loving that you’re a fan of Dwarfcraft. That dude is actually from my hometown. His pedals are absolutely nuts, just like he is. I need to find a use for The Great Destroyer in a worship setting! :-) hehe

  15. Just got back from being forced to watch Avatar by my wife and daughter. Eh, special effects are great, not great enough to make a movie though. If you laughed after seeing the preview, skipped it; there are many better ways to spend 2.5 hours.

    New strings are great; I believe this topic has come up before. Gibson electric strings are great but expensive. Electro Harmonix are great and not expensive. I have used Ernie Ball slinky’s for years but recently I could not multiple sets to stay on for more that a few hours of playing. I ditched them and found better strings (at least for the time being).

    Anybody have any neat ideas for what to do with old picks? I have been trying to figure out what to do with Dunlop Tortex’s when I have worn them down to circles. Feel bad throwing them away.

  16. Ryan–ya, I do. And they make a very large difference for me. And not just the indented side…just the nylon material sounds a lot better to my ears than plastics. And ya, I get them from Prussia Valley Dulcimers in Virginia. A google search should bring up their site. :)

    Seth J–lol That was awesome.

    Zach–haha Totally! We talked with the guys for a bit, and they were like, ‘Ya, so we were playing this gig, and we needed more fuzz, so we thought, what if we starve the battery power? Can we throw this piece of tin foil into the circuit? What if we put a joystick in the middle?’ Totally rad and crazy guys! Do you know them? And I don’t know who the second guy was.

    Sal–right on! Same for me! :)

    Jonathan–ya, I think it did last year or so. I’ll have to try EH strings. Thanks!

    As for old picks, I don’t know. Some people make necklaces out of them, but it’s hard to wear those if you’re not a 17-year-old indie girl.

    And glad someone agrees with me on Avatar. 😉

  17. Karl, have you heard anything about Oficialy Licensed Circuits? They have a full line of amp-based pedals that don’t use digital modeling (GROSS), and I wanted to know if they’re anything close to the original. They have a matchless “amp-in-a-box”, so I figured you’d be the guy to ask.

  18. Sam–right on!! What mods? (Sorry bro, I’m such a gearhead! haha)

    Seth J–I remember hearing something about them a while back, but I don’t remember what is was. haha Although to be completely honest, I’m a bit skeptical of anything that claims to take a 24×12 point to point wired circuit and fit it into a 5×5 box and then says it sounds exactly the same. In my experience with these things, you can get a better sound by selling all your od’s, buying a decent amp, and then pushing that amp with a $40 used Boss Blues Driver. Just my humble opinion! :)

    Kyle–yes, I tried those a couple years ago. They were really, really good and I would have started using them indefinitely had I not just started using the Herdim’s the week before. :) hehe They were part of a little mini pick shootout I did.

    • Mods on my guitar include new electronics, (pots wires etc) active pickups which sound really good for active pickups but are still active so I want to switch them out, the aforementioned bigsby style tremolo and the parts that hold the strings in place on the LP style bridge (mental blank on my part here) have been replaced with carbon to increase sustain and reduce the wearing of the strings.

      All of the mods were done before I bought the guitar by the previous owner. He spent about $1,500 on parts and labour alone plus another $1,200 on the guitar itself. I bought it off him for $750. Mind you this all happened in Aussie land where everything is more expensive because we have the best beaches.

  19. Seth J–no worries! And as always, I could definitely be wrong. 😉

    Randy–interesting, it’s in a bigger case now. I didn’t know there was a version 2. Hopefully it’s the same sound, because version 1 was really great!

  20. I think I’m going to take a chance on the OLC Pedals. While they may not be dead on imitations, or even remotely close for that matter, they still make great stand-alone distortion/overdrive pedals. Wish me luck!

  21. last year I bought a bunch of picks from Brossard Picks. I bought the variety pack to get a feel of what the different ones sounded like and settled on a nice rosewood pick. I bought a few more. I love ’em! Something feels right about holding a chunk of wood to play guitar with.
    I also change my strings at least every other week. Nothing sounds better than a freshly stretched set of new strings. I like D’Adario 10’s on the strat and DR’s on the Virage.
    Oh, and my wife and I saw Avatar and we both enjoyed it. Sure, you can pick holes in the plot or whatever, but at the end of it all it’s just a fun ride so sit back and enjoy.

  22. Sam–awesome! Sounds great. And your comment about the beaches was hilarious. :)

    Seth J–cool. Let me know how they are!

    Mark Colvin–right on! I still have a stone pick that I bought a few years ago. It works awesome for certain applications, and you’re right…it feels good to hold real materials in your hand to play guitar. haha And ok, ok…I might enjoy Avatar. 😉

  23. I TOTALLY forgot to clarify, I’m sorry.
    I’m not outright going against your advice, it’s just that I play an Epiphone Casino through a Fender Hotrod Deville, so anything past 5 on the volume causes near constant feedback. I rely more on the distortion provided by the pedals, since it doesn’t cause feedback as much.
    My bad.

  24. Oh, no worries! No offense taken. I totally understand. :) Just because my advice is right, doesn’t mean you have to take it.

    hehe Totally kidding, bro!! I get what you mean by relying on the pedals. :)

  25. So by some horrible twist of fate, I happened upon the George Lopez show, and your favorite actor was on, and he can play. Pretty well if you ask me.

  26. Giovanni Ribisi plays? Guitar? Score! There’s like this whole culture of terrible actors who can play guitar. Ribisi, Steven Seagal, Hasselhoff… lol

  27. I was thinking more of Public Enemies, The Other Sister, Boiler Room. Oh, Boiler Room. hehe And Saving Private Ryan was just so good that neither he nor Vin Diesel could mess it up. 😉 I will admit that Giovanni was pretty funny in Friends, and I’ve yet to see Sky Captain. But there are some people who just adore his acting. So…what do I know? hehe :)

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