Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Martin Monel Strings . . . so far so good!

Here is an initial update about a long overdue guitar string experiment.   

First . . . I have always preferred phosphor-bronze strings over bronze strings.   Guess it's because I am mainly a Martin guy, and I like to hear defined, and loud, bass notes.  I don't like "tinny" or very bright sounding strings either.

However, my complaint for some time about phosphor-bronze strings is that all my guitars on which I use these type strings (mediums on all my guitars except my DC-16 and my Guild 12-string) all end up sounding pretty much the same, except for volume/projection.  There is a difference, but really not much.

The same "stringy sound", from modern style strings . . . and to my ear, the strings are getting brighter every time I change them. I'm told younger players like this type of string sound. I'm old, so I don't!  

I don't want bright sounding strings!   I want the older Martin sound from Neil Young's "Old Man," and the early bluegrass years of Tony Rice.  I guess I am saying I like a deeper sounding guitar.  Perhaps this is why I lean toward larger bodied guitars, that and the fact I am 6'6".

Just after Christmas last year, while perusing videos on YouTube, I came across an interview with, who else, Tony Rice.  He was alking about the old strings made of Monel steel from the 60's 70's and how much he missed them, how he thought his famous Martin didn't sound like it used to. That got my attention.  

He shared that he had worked with Martin to develope a new series of strings fearturing Monel.  The light guage sets are listed as "Retro" model strings in the Martin catalog and on the website. Laurence Juber has a signature set of mixed lights and mediums, and Tony has a signaure set of mediums.  

I ordered 4 sets of the Tony Rice strings this past Spring, but in preparing to move to a new church, I never took the time to put them on.  Afer arriving here in Crowley, TX, I took the time one afternoon to put a set on my D-18.  Initially, I wasn't pleased.  They were OK, but I felt let down.  They sounded dull, like doing a 180 from how PB's sounded.  Reviews on the internet suggested to give the strings a week to set in.

I gave them two weeks . . . and in a word . . . MERCY!

Or maybe . . . "HELLO!"

Or maybe . . . "HALLELUJAH"?

Goodness, is this how my D-18e Retro model was designed to sound?   I love the sound. I would describe the sound as crisp, loud, and  . . . woody.  The sound to me is . . . Well maybe "vintage" is the best word.  These strings sound like those silver strings we bought in the individual red paper wrappers at the local department stores or at Sears when we were kids.   Tony said that when he played his Martin after putting on the Monels, he said "Welcome back old friend!"  

And yes, these are silver strings . . . or silver grey.  Sort of odd not having on bronze or copper colored strings.  Good thing that color doesn't make a damned bit of difference when playing.   I plan to put them on my J-40 next, and a set of lights on my DC-16, and will share my report later.  I may eventually put them on my Guild Jumbo after that.   My Taylor GS, I'm not so sure.  We will see.

If you would like to possibly hear what your guitiar may really sound like, then getting a set of Martin Monel's is a cheap experiement.   Sound is subjective.  If you are after a more vintage acoustic sound, you may well be pleased with the result.  And you may not, but variety is the spice of life. The rubber finally meets the road when the people we sing/play for say they like the sound of the guitar as well.  I think the folks at the nursing homes will like that these Monel strings, because to me they just don't squeak as much. They sound good.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

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