Skip to main content

The search for the right guitar strings . . .

As my good friend Sean Simon says, "You don't know anything about woods for guitars."

Sean is the owner of Grapevine Guitar Works.  And he is right, I really don't know that much as I should about the different woods that guitars can be made with, and how they affect the sound.

However, I do know about guitar strings.

For the record . . . I do not like the feel of coated strings.

I like the idea of the so-called benefit . . . better sound and longer life . . . but I do not like the feel.

I have used Elixir's . . . I had a set on my Taylor Custom.  I've tried them on my Guild jumbo 6 string.

They are OK, but it feels like I have to go wash my hands after I play.

Now, others of you will sing praises of Elixir's . . . that's OK with me.  If Elixir's was all I could get, I would play them, and probably in time like them more than I do.  I don't hate them.  They are a good string.  I just don't like them.

I thought Cleartone strings might be the answer . . . sad to report they are just too stiff.  Yes, the coating is much thinner than Elixir's; yet, it seems to me that it takes more effort to fret the strings.  I am finding that others agree.

OK . . . I want the benefits of coated strings . . . but not the feel of a coated string.

Funny, how things bring you back home.

For years I have used Martin SP phosphor-bronze strings.  There is really only one difference in a phosphor-bronze string and a bronze string . . . the bronze string is going to sound brighter.  That's it.

I personally prefer the fuller and deeper sounds of the phosphor-bronze.  As in all things, sound is a personal preference.  On my Guild jumbo's, I think the phosphor-bronze are louder, and since I have to play acoustically (no amp) in most of the places I play . . . that works to my advantage.

I had been meaning to try the new Martin LifeSpan SP strings.  So I did some research.

The coating on most Elixir acoustic strings is between 8-10 micron's.  The coating on Cleartones is less,  and speculation runs that it is between 4-6 microns.

Now, as far as coatings go . . . I think the Cleartone process is better than Elixer, but I also think the Elixir strings themselves are better than Cleartones!

I know, I am a lost cause . . . but bear with me just another minute.

Martin LifeSpan SP's advertise that the coating on each string is only 1 micron.

Now, it's a Martin SP string, made in Mexico, with the Cleartone coating.  It's not a Cleartone string.  It's my beloved Martin SP Phosphor-Bronze string . . . with 1 micron of Cleartone coating.

Now, it seems to me that "only"1 micron of coating may suggest some benefits:

First - the feel will not be as "slicky" as other coated strings.

Second - less coating may mean more volume.  That's what I want to find out.

So, I picked up two sets, one for the Taylor GS custom and one for the Guild jumbo 6 string, which is in the shop for a new pickup and yearly set up.  I use medium gauge.

The verdict . . . well, it's still out.   I like Martin SP's.  I like the sound, I like the feel . . . and I don't mind changing strings . . . it only takes about 10 minutes.   I thought the LifeSpan strings felt like regular SP's.  And they sounded just like I expected.  I need to play them for a few months.

So, we will see.  The Martin LifeSpan strings were about $5 less than Elixir's and $6 less than Cleartone.  That's a savings of about $30 a year for me.   The sound is what I personally want and what my ear likes.  The string feels like my beloved SP's.   Now we will see over time and lots of playing if there are any other positive benefits.

By the way, I've been paying $5 for regular Martin SP's for quite a while.  

I read a quote from Tommy Emmanuel before starting this blog entry.  He calls coated strings "condom strings" and won't use them.  Monte Montgomery uses regular GHS strings.   I believe John Mayer and Eric Clapton also use uncoated strings as well.

Well, I not Tommy Emmanuel, Monte Montgomery, John Mayer or Eric Clapton.  I'm just a an folk "boom-chucker" acoustic guitar player.   But I know what I like as well.  It's all a matter of sound and feel.  Meaning, it's all about personal preference.

And as I've said . . . . , the jury is still out for me.  More to come.

God's grace, and the joy of piddling around with guitars, still amazes me . . . ><>


Anonymous said…
Monte uses D'Addario EXP Coated strings on his guitars.

Don from D'Addario

Popular posts from this blog

Tuning a baritone uke to G-C-E-A ??

Well I'll be . . . it can be done.
If you didn't know, I use Aquila Nylgut Ukulele strings on my tenor and baritone ukes. Best sounding uke strings out there in my humble opinion.
I love my Kala tenor uke . . . but I've got such big bo-honking fingers, and the frets on a tenor uke are not exactly large . . . I can really only play chords on the first 5 frets.
Then one day a while back, I noticed on the package that Aquila makes a Baritone set tuned to G-C-E-A, just like my tenor. A baritone uke is usually tuned like the bottom 4 strings of a guitar . . . D-G-B-E.
Well, I jumped in and ordered a couple of sets. And . . . they work . . . at least to me. Now, I am not by any means a uke "purist." They are the "tools" I use as instruments when I sing certain songs. Restrung with the new strings, the Kala baritone is about as loud as my tenor . . . but with a little deeper sound. Some may not like it . . . but I do, especially as I work to learn the names of…

Goodbye Tom Petty . . ..

It was confirmed last night that Tom Petty died after being found in his home unresponsive and in full cardiac arrest.  Tom and the Heartbreakers has just finished up their 40th anniversary tour.  Tom was planning to spend more time at home with his new grandchild. 

Everyday is precious.  Live each day as if it is your last.

RIP Tom.  Thank you for the music!

God's grace, and cherished memories of people that made great music, still amaze me . . . ><>

Would you life to share share about your favorite musical instrument?

What is your favorite guitar or other musical instrument?  Please let me know.  I'd like to interview you about your relationship with your favorite instrument.

I am interested in talking with, and getting to know, everyday people who make music.  That's the kind of person I am.  I'm an everyday kind of guy, and I love to sing and play guitar for everyday people. 

Although I have too many guitars, several ukes, a couple of old banjo's, a bunch of harmonicas and several Native American flutes, I am interested in stories about other instruments as well.  I have it in my mind that this blog will probably feature more stories about guitars and singer-songwriters.  However, I am open to stories about people and their love for other instruments.  So, if you play the accordion, piano, pennywhistle, drums . . . or can crack your knuckles in time to music . . . I want to hear your story.

All inquiries from interested, or from the curious as well, can be sent to revrickmang@gm…