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Comment by Edward Sparks on December 1, 2011 at 5:38am

Speaking of strings...this just in from the Gibson website:


Do the Right String: 10 Tips for Choosing Guitar Strings

Ted Drozdowski


To paraphrase the title of an old jazz song, “It ain’t got that ‘zing’ without the right strings.”

Choosing the right strings for your instrument and your style of playing might not seem like the biggest deal. After all, the Delta bluesmen of the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s often bought used strings at dry good stores for a few pennies, or boiled old strings to brighten them up. And the proliferation of brands on the market can be overwhelming to the point of leading a player to assume strings are as generic as picks – which aren’t really generic at all, but that’s another story.

The fact is, the qualities of different strings can have an effect on your guitar’s resonance and tone, on the quality and responsiveness of your attack as a plectrist or finger picker, and impact your speed and other important factors. And think about your budget. Some coated strings list at nearly $20, while a good basic set of electric guitar strings can be scored for $3 to $4 on sale.

So before settling on a particular set of strings, consider 10 tips, five each for electric and acoustic players.


• Fast Fingers: If speed’s the goal, most shred-heads prefer light gauge strings. They’re easy to bend and promote fast playing by offering less resistance to the fretting and picking hands. Since guitar strings are measured in thousandths of an inch, the typical recommended gauge for players planning to burn in standard tuning are .009s, available in every guitar shop.

• Sound Judgment: Consider the sonic characteristics of the various materials used in making electric strings. Stainless steel strings are the least glamorous, but offer plenty of bright bite and sustain. Pure nickel has a warm old-school sound, for vintage tones. And nickel-plated steel is a bit brighter than classic nickel and responds more adroitly to picking attack. Chrome guitar strings are typically the province of jazz players or blues artists who are looking for the kind of warm retro tones chiseled into history by the likes ofCharlie Christian or swinging Gibson ES-250, ES-5 and ES-335 bluesman Aaron “T-Bone” Walker. And then there are coated strings – the most expensive and theoretically the longest lasting. They are, however, not really the best, sonically speaking. Coated strings tend to have less sustain. Also, their Teflon exterior surfaces are slippery, which might take some getting used to for particularly aggressive electric guitar players. And when the coatings wear off, they rust like any other string.

• Wound Up: String windings directly affect tone and playability. Round wound strings have more “zing” – sustain, responsiveness and bite. Flat wound strings have a smoother and more consistent tone regardless of attack, which makes them a favorite of jazz players, like the great Gibson ES-350 legend Barney Kessel. Blues guitar kingpin Jimmie Vaughan also uses flat wounds for his vintage tone. And they offer less resistance than round wound strings, so they can be beneficial for rapid, even toned performance and squeak less.

• Heavy is as Heavy Does: For low hanging alternate tunings like open D or dropped D, consider a heavy string gauge – at least .11s, although Stevie Ray Vaughan, who kept his instrument turned down just a half-step, employed a set gauged .13 to .58. Thicker strings will maintain their tension better when they’re low-tuned, which makes for less fret noise and other undesirable distortion. Many players feel thicker strings make for better slide playing, too, since the strings resist going slack under the pressure of the slide. But that’s really a matter of feel and learning to control a slide more than a string thing.

• Gotta Feel It: Ultimately, what feels right under your fingers and sounds right coming out of your rig should determine your strings. It’s important to try different brands before zeroing in on a favorite. Judge a new set of strings by its brightness, sustain, tone and how easily they permit bending, fretting and picking. When a brand and gauge feel like buttah and sing like Circe, that’s the zone.


• Fade to Bleak: Since there are no pickups, juice or amps involved in acoustic guitar playing in its purest form, string composition – which affects how a string responds to being struck and the retention of tonal qualities – is particularly important for acoustic guitars. Bronze, phosphor bronze and coated strings tends to be the preferred varieties, ascending in price. Bronze strings start out the brightest, but lose their high voices relatively quickly. Phosphor bronze offers a darker tone, but still with a clear, ringing top and the phosphor allows the strings to produce their optimum sound longer. On acoustic guitars, coated strings trade a longer life for less brightness, but good warmth and presence.

• Lighten Up: Typically, heavier strings project more natural sound when struck, but for most live performers it’s practical to have an acoustic guitar with a pick-up for plug-and-play situations. Having a pickup in an acoustic guitar allows for the use of lighter gauge strings. Some acoustic guitars even respond well to slinky electric sets, like .10s, providing electric-guitar-like playability without sacrificing the chime of acoustic tones.

• Them Changes: Since the strings on acoustic guitars play a much more important role in projecting volume and clarity than strings on an amplified electric guitar, considering changing acoustic guitar strings often to keep an instrument sounding its best. Remember to wipe down the strings after playing and check for string damaging fret wear. Both can prematurely end a guitar string’s life.

• Do the Right String: Some instructional guides advise beginning players to try ball-end nylon strings because they are easier on the fingers and are more bendable than metal, but steel string guitars are called “steel string guitars” because that’s what they require. Nylon strings lack the tension needed to keep steel strings guitars at their peak, which means warping, bridge damage and other issues can occur. Likewise, steel strings on a nylon string classical guitar will warp its neck with frightening speed.

• Keep it Clean: This axiom applies to electric guitarists as well. It’s a good rule to wash one’s hands thoroughly before playing. Dirt can become caught in wound metal strings, dulling their sound and promoting corrosion, but nothing corrodes quite like human sweat. Besides, having clean, fresh fingers is never a bad thing, right?


Comment by Edward Sparks on November 29, 2011 at 7:15am

Hey Jim,

Here's an online tuner:


Online metronome:


Looks like you are set!  Edward





Comment by TheValleyGirl on November 29, 2011 at 6:19am

So, another good reason to have a smart phone!  The Guitar Box app is excellent for timing and tuning.  There are many free apps to choose from and I love my iPhone.  If you don't care about having a smart phone and to avoid monthly fees, get one with wi-fi for next to nothing on e-bay.  Or just do it the old-fashioned way and google it :)


I also need a new single string for my Hummingbird 12 and don't need to replace them all so thanks for all the advice group!

Comment by Edward Sparks on November 29, 2011 at 5:48am

Hey Jim,

You can purchase strings on line cheap, even singles at

I have a Guild jumbo body guitar that I keep tuned down a whole step for when I need it for songs like McCartney's "Yesterday" as well as some other Beatles and Neil Young tunes. Because I couldn't find a set gauged for tuning down that didn't buzz and rattle against the frets, I experimented with singles from this website until I got just the right took a little while and I bought a few strings that I ended up removing and tossing (recycled them) right away, but in the end it was worth it.  I guess this time your problem was "user error", but if you have tendency to break certain strings often, you can have backups handy! So, check them is the direct link:

Hope this helps!  Edward 

Comment by Denny Baer on November 29, 2011 at 2:48am


Your local store may sell individual strings depending on the brand.

Most online stores are running sales. Here is Musician's Friend:

Maybe your local store will match or beat the price.

Comment by Jim McHie on November 28, 2011 at 11:14pm

Super-newb moment yesterday as I broke a string whilst re-stringing because I got the order mixed up.  So now I have 5 shiny new strings and one slightly-tarnished D string.  Also a couple of weeks ago my metronome-tuner broke down, hopefully I'll be able to pick something similar up after Christmas on the cheap.

Comment by Rosemary j. Lambin on November 28, 2011 at 9:53pm

I'm glad your story had a happy ending! What became of the thief? Maybe they should post his mugshot at Guitar Center.

Comment by Edward Sparks on November 23, 2011 at 5:32am

You're now go record your serial numbers and take pictures of your guitars!  Edward

Here is a pic of the 12 string and Hofner I got back from the "Guitar Gallery" on my website:

Comment by Mark on November 23, 2011 at 3:43am

Wow Ed..


That really is a great story!


Thank you for sharing it with us.

Comment by Edward Sparks on November 22, 2011 at 5:12am

My personal theft story!


 I don't have any pre-war instruments or any worth tens of thousands to another collector or player, but I am so grateful to have what I have and for many reasons, some of the based on monetary value, some on heartfelt sentimental connections, and some just "because."  I currently own about 30 instruments most of which are acoustic guitars, and each one of them has a meaning to me.  Five of those 30 were willed to me when one of my best friends passed away back in 1993, and so, as you can imagine, they hold great sentimental value. I too have had two instruments stolen, a 1980 Guild JF212XL (not available to be replaced at the time of the theft) and a Hofner Beatle bass given to me as a present from my wife. I miraculously (as the police put it) got them both back when the fool stayed local and tried to sell them to the local Guitar Center, where they know me well enough to think I have stock!  I couldn't believe the feeling of violation when they were not where I left them in a "safe storage spot" after a gig.  I sweated out 6 long weeks before I got a call from the police (about ten minutes before as we were about to hit the first chord in a benefit for people with disabilities) and they had the guy at the local Guitar Center with both of them!  During those 6 weeks I tried to replace the 12 string first and realized that since I bought it new in 1980, that model had been discontinued and I had only two models to choose from that were still American made by Guild at the time. Each of those had lots of inlay and were beautiful, but not nearly as much as my plainly appointed Guild, and to add insult to injury, my best cash price for the replacement was going to be $2400…a lot more than the $800 I paid for the original!  But, I had no other 12 string at the time except for a Martin D-28-12 that needed a neck reset and wouldn’t be able to be tuned to pitch…so, I had my local guitar shop order me both models and planned to choose one when they came in.  In the meantime, I got the call mine were recovered.  However, like I said, we were far away and just about to play for this benefit and the policeman was saying on the phone that if I didn’t get down there and identify them in the next 15 minutes, they would both become evidence in the case and I wouldn’t get them back until he went to trial, which could be over 6 months!!! I knew that wasn’t going to happen, so I asked if my agent could come and ID them and they said yes, but it had to be quick!  So, I called my wife, who also happens to be my agent, and she booked it on over and got them!  The police told her that I must have some kind of good luck because this recovery thing almost NEVER happens!  The manager, upon seeing the Hofner bass and not thinking that it was a good match of an instrument for the young man offering it up, said he checked my flyer, realized it was mine and came back to the counter…he told the guy to give him a few minutes to look up this bass so he knew what to offer him for it and then, almost as an afterthought, told the guy that since he wanted cash it was company policy to have an ID…they thief then handed him his driver’s license with all of his information and he went to his office and called the police!   So, I got them both back and even though I was careful before, I am really careful now.  I offered the Guitar Center manager, who was the one who recognized my instruments and cleverly detained the guy until the police came, a reward, but he said he couldn’t take it and that they would donate it to charity…Anyway, that’s my story with a happy ending about theft… Thanks, Edward

Me with Guitar Center manager and Hero, Matt Bower




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