Change Your Strings

With hundreds or thousands of dollars invested in gear, you would think we would care a little more about the part of our tone that is actually providing the true sonic, acoustic vibrations that are actually moving the air physically. (And by ‘we’, I basically mean ‘me’. hehe) A three thousand dollar Divided by 13 amp is great. A pedalboard that can suck more power than the venue sound system is fantastic. A John Suhr guitar built from 200-year-old wood grown by a Chinese emperor with inlays from a secret South African diamond mine, is awesome as well. And all these things are way more interesting to mention when someone asks us the secret to our ‘life-changing’ tone. (Well, at least that’s how it happens in my head. I seriously do dream about people coming up and saying my one, incredibly toneful note changed their life. It…uh…hasn’t happened yet.)

But the two most real, acoustic, sonic parts of our rigs are our picks and strings. And nevertheless, I played somewhere last night before which, I made sure my amp was set properly, that my guitar was shined up properly, that all my pedals weren’t sucking any tone, that all the switches worked; but I chose (once again) to save time by not changing my strings this week. And once again, it was extremely noticeable in my final tone. The strings give the guitar tone its life, its reality, its movement of air. All the color, shimmer, sparkle, and vitality come first from the strings.

And I feel like I’ve learned this lesson 8 billion times before, and every time I promise myself I’ll change them every week…every other week at the very most. And then I always go and spend a half hour on gearpage looking for new pedals to buy, instead of changing my strings. But see…people can see a brand new, gorgeous, golden Hartman Germanium Fuzz on my board…they can’t see if my strings are new. I mean, seriously. How are people supposed to see my tone if I don’t have any new pedals?

BENanchorman-764887-1.jpg picture by rypdal95
(Nope. This doesn’t tie in to changing your guitar strings. Not even a little.)

Splendid.
Karl.

12 thoughts on “Change Your Strings

  1. Don’t get me started about how some guitar stores (chain stores) don’t put new strings on their guitars.

    You need to go the route of oil change companies. Place a sticker on the back of your guitar. “Next string change in three months or 3,000 strums. :)

  2. @chris – that sticker thing is an awesome idea. but why not add it to the new electronically-equipped guitars to automatically count the number of strums ;)

    @karl – i don’t like the sound of a new string so i try schedule my changes in between the time when i’m not scheduled with the team or often-times i would just use another guitar. meanwhile, i will beat the crap out of the strings by bending it & pulling it away from the fretboard. i feel sorry for my guitar but i gotta do what i gotta do ;)

    very good post as a reminder to us all how important strings are!

  3. Heh.. I actually am looking for new pickups for my LP. I’ve had the stock for years, and though I enjoy the neck, I have never LOVED the bridge. Not in the slightest. So last Sunday I was playing a warm jazz lick through my favorite compressor and it still sounded… lacking. I thought “man, my neck pickup stinks too?”

    When i got home and reassembled my rig and played again, it still sounded off, even my fav ODs were bad. I was confused as I have never had a problem getting MY sound out of my rig.

    Then I looked in my cabinet that houses the “unused gear” of the moment. There sat 3 boxes of strings. I haven’t replaced in 6 weeks. (time flies when you have 3 weeks worth of midterms!)

    So guess what? My bridge still stinks, but my fav warm jazz sound is back in the neck position. Whew!

    So what strings does everyone use?
    Electric: green slinky, cuz Clapton and Keaggy use them- no other reason, and my favorite: D’addario 10s
    Acoustic: heh, Elixers light or D’addario light, both in Phosphorus bronze (not as “bright” sounding as only bronze)

  4. Elixers nanowebs on Acoustic – I like em bright! Electric I’ve been using elixers too. I have a feeling there are better strings out there but my friend works at schmitt music and one of his co-workers loves taking care of guitars so I bring my guitars in, get strings for 60% off and the other guy changes string/polishes the guitars and I pick them up later. Haha, I’ve got to be the luckiest guy! I’ve gotten spoiled now with nanoweb and non-coated strings feel like sand paper. I realize I’m being a sissy.

  5. heh, I think Mike and I are the only ones who actually like the Elixers. I always feel guilty of cheating with them….
    “everytime you buy elixers, a puppy dies”

  6. Chris–haha! Great idea…I actually mark it on my calendar. :)

    Rhoy–ya, I’ve heard of people doing the same thing…making sure their strings are a bit broken in before they play out. Good pointers!

    Larry–yep…that’s exactly what I do. Think everything else in my rig is to blame before I realize I forgot to change strings this week.

    Mike–I love the feel of Elixirs…just not so much their sound in my rig. Of course, this was a few years and like 10 guitars ago, so I should give ‘em another try. Maybe I’ll love them now! Are you getting good tonal results with them?

    Blogsology–La Policia!! (I’m glad I’m not the only one who could recognize Anchorman from any random picture) ;)

    Larry–haha. Oh, and I’m using Ernie Balls. They sound consistent and transparent to me.

  7. Chris–for acoustic, I use Martin DR’s. They don’t feel exceptional, but I love their sound. Others tend to like Elixirs or D’Addarios. :)

    Jams–hehe Thanks for showing me how to do the upside down exclamation point thing! Love you!

    Rhoy–totally, bro. Those are exactly what I use.

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