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 Post subject: Help with strings
PostPosted: Sun May 24, 2015 11:42 pm 
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Joined: Sun May 17, 2015 8:10 pm
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Diane, is it OK to ask you questions about guitar strings?
Could you tell me what strings would match well with all mahogany dreadnought, Martin D-15M?

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 Post subject: Re: Help with strings
PostPosted: Mon May 25, 2015 2:42 am 
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hanksnowy wrote:
Diane, is it OK to ask you questions about guitar strings?
Could you tell me what strings would match well with all mahogany dreadnought, Martin D-15M?

I would love questions.

At the risk of giving you a wishy washy answer, string choices are a very personal choice, and their choice will depend on a lot of things. If I've learned anything as a member of this forum, it's that every piece of wood has its own character and tone. It changes depending on the choice of wood for the bracing, moisture content, idiosyncrasies in the grain, bracing pattern, etc. I can guide you a bit, but in the end, the pairing of strings to an instrument is very personal and subjective. Also, I'm still experimenting with different strings myself. There are a lot of brands that I've not tried yet. Most likely we can narrow down your search.

I hope you understand that, in the end, the best match for your guitar are the strings that you like, not what I like. Strings are uber important, but they won't correct build issues. For example, my OM was a bit on the bright side until I realized that the saddle needed to be flattened better to seat properly in the bridge.

But, I'm willing to give this a shot if you are.

We can start with some generalities. You have a dread, so by nature of the build, dreads usually have a strong bass voice. They also project. Mahogany is known for strong fundamentals and responsiveness. In other words, when you play string 2 (B), you'll hear a very clear, very strong B and you don't have to play the string hard to hear it.

I have a lot of questions.

You said all mahogany, does that include the top? My second question is, what strings have you tried and what have you liked and disliked about them? What would you change about the sound of the strings you've used? Do you strum, or do you play fingerstyle? Do you use a pick? What style of music do you play? Do you have any special considerations, such as a physical problem that makes it harder for you to play?

I'll let you answer these questions, and we'll go from there.


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 Post subject: Re: Help with strings
PostPosted: Mon May 25, 2015 7:40 am 
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Joined: Sun May 17, 2015 8:10 pm
Posts: 26
I know how to determine which strings I like but was hoping to get your opinion from playing or listening to an all mahogany guitar.
Yes, all mahogany references a guitar built with mahogany back and sides, including mahogany top.

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 Post subject: Re: Help with strings
PostPosted: Mon May 25, 2015 12:08 pm 
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Joined: Sun Mar 09, 2014 8:13 pm
Posts: 1313
hanksnowy wrote:
I know how to determine which strings I like but was hoping to get your opinion from playing or listening to an all mahogany guitar.
Yes, all mahogany references a guitar built with mahogany back and sides, including mahogany top.

I've played a Martin all mahogany dread. My experience was that it was bright, lively, and extraordinarily responsive. It RANG!

My preference is for medium gauge strings on a dread to take advantage of the bass inherent in the design, but with mahogany I really try to bring out the mids as well. I know that GHS advertises their Vintage Bronze strings for toning down a bright guitar and Mahogany isn't overly bright, but they do articulate super nice in the bass and mid ranges. I think they would work really well paired with mahogany. They would be my first choice.

There is the possibility that the GHS may project a bit too much with the mahogany for your liking. In that case I would try Martin SP Lifespan Mediums (SP 7200), or Elixir Phosphor Bronze, medium gauge. Both articulate well, but I think the Martin's are a bit warmer and articulate a bit better. The Elixirs are nice strings, but the nanoweb coating definitely tones down projection.

I'm glad you asked this question about the mahogany. I've just strung my guitar with some Thomastik-Infeld strings that may play well with mahogany. I'll keep this in mind as I'm testing them.


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 Post subject: Re: Help with strings
PostPosted: Mon May 25, 2015 2:40 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2014 7:50 am
Posts: 424
Location: Chadds Ford, PA
Diane,
How long should a set of strings last with moderate level of use? My 000-15SM finished and strung in 10/2014 is showing some signs of degradation. This was my first steel string guitar since 1972 and I don't know what is considered the useful life of steel strings other than when they are obviously dead. Would you have a recommendation for replacements (light tension is what I would lean towards)?
-d.


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 Post subject: Re: Help with strings
PostPosted: Mon May 25, 2015 4:54 pm 
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Posts: 1313
Danl8 wrote:
Diane,
How long should a set of strings last with moderate level of use? My 000-15SM finished and strung in 10/2014 is showing some signs of degradation. This was my first steel string guitar since 1972 and I don't know what is considered the useful life of steel strings other than when they are obviously dead. Would you have a recommendation for replacements (light tension is what I would lean towards)?
-d.

This is a good question and one that I really need to address, so thank you!

8 months; WOW! I'm impressed in the fact that they've not broken. Trust me; they're dead and have gone to string heaven. It's just been so gradual that you've not noticed the difference. You will though, when you replace them.

Even with no use, bronze oxidizes, especially if they're uncoated strings; if they're coated, the coating is deteriorating daily. I've had strings go dead within a 2 month period of non-usage and I've had them break within a 1 week period of ~ 1.5 hours per day of usage. As a rule of thumb, I don't leave a set of strings on a guitar for longer than 6 weeks on a stored guitar. Even before I started reviewing strings, I was changing them at a rate of once every 3-4 weeks, with playing ~ 1.5 hours per day. Please note that I play fingerstyle and without a pick; playing style plays a huge role in longevity.

To make your strings last, it helps tremendously to wipe your strings before and after use. I keep a large microfiber cloth in each of my cases, just for the strings. Oxygen is corrosive and skin oil is naturally acidic; both will eat through any coating and will react with bronze immediately.

While we're on the subject of longevity, I should mention that I've read advise on the internet about loosening the strings on guitars while being stored. Bad idea. Guitars are built and adjusted with tension in mind, and constantly upsetting this balance isn't good. In fact, you'll kill the strings faster by loosening them, then tightening them. So unless you need to adjust them to play alternative tuning, don't go there.

Once again, we're in the realm of the subjective, but you're in luck. I built an OM and my search and testing have been on the OM, which is the same size as the 000. What are you looking for with the sound? My personal preference to date is for the Newtone Heritage Series strings. They gave my OM a unique sound. As one member of our forum said, they sound "jangly", but not to the point of sounding ragtime. Their projection blew me away and they articulated the bass, mids, and trebles. I loved playing them. I tested their light gauge, but I could have easily stepped up to the mediums since they're low tension and in fact, I'll be trying the mediums in the near future for review.

If you want warmth across the board, you can't go wrong with GHS Vintage Bronze strings; they're the warmest sounding strings I've ever heard, plus they project and have good articulation. I tried the Elixir HD strings, which were made with our size of guitar in mind. I had really high hopes when I bought them. They're nice sounding, but don't project nearly as much as the GHS or Newtones, and actually didn't seem to project at all.

I like the sound of the Ernie Ball Earthwoods, but they don't last as long as the Newtones or GHS; their articulation is good, but not as good as the Newtones or GHS. To my ears, they out perform Elixir HD and Martin bulk strings. Since they cost about the same as the GHS, I would opt for GHS.

String gauge is a mixed thing for me. I really prefer the sound of medium gauge trebles, with lights for the bass; this combo can be found with light medium strings (Elixir, D'Addario, Martin, and others). But when faced with lights vs. medium strings, I choose lights because I have hand problems; mediums will always project a bit more and have longer sustain.


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 Post subject: Re: Help with strings
PostPosted: Mon May 25, 2015 11:51 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jul 09, 2012 9:49 pm
Posts: 143
I had the same question about string longevity. I am using a GS Mini as a comfortable learning machine, and it sure is that, which I restrung immediately after buying it with Martin Lifespan 6050 Custom Light strings. Two weeks ago I asked my instructor whether I ought to replace the strings, them being in daily use for more than a year, and he said no, not necessary, the year-old ones were working just fine. Instructor is a very experienced working musician who sees a whole bunch of instruments each week and is hyper-critical of his own. I also have a now-seldom-used scratchbuilt dreadnought strung the same, and with roughly the same age strings. That one also still feels and sounds like its strings aren't dead. Perhaps coated strings do in fact live a long time. Hard to do a a/b comparison, though.

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 Post subject: Re: Help with strings
PostPosted: Tue May 26, 2015 3:11 am 
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Strings go through phases. At first they're snappy and bright. As they settle in, many warm up a bit. In the end, strings like people get tired. Each person has their preferences for what they like to hear. Nobody likes to waste strings.

As I was playing today I paid attention to time. An hour had passed before I realized it. I like to break up my practice into at least 2, and many times 3 sessions. Although I try to play daily, when I'm building, I occasionally miss a day, like I did a couple of days ago, when I did the inlay on the fretboard for my new build. I can confidently say that I play, at a minimum, 15 hours per week, with an average of about 20 hours per week. In a 4 week period, my strings will have at least 60, and as many as 80 hours of use on them. I have several songs that I play daily, 2 of them in drop D, and occasionally I play with a capo. I don't play with a pick and I'm careful to clean my hands and strings. I'm pretty easy on my strings.

I'm wary of old strings. A few years ago, a string caught me in the face when it broke. If I see a lot of discoloration along with a deterioration of the coating with tuning problems, I change my strings. It's a matter of safety.

I can say, unequivocally, that the most I can get out of a set of strings is around 120 hours of play, but most don't last that long. The first sign of string failure on my guitars, is usually on string 2 (B). When I have a problem getting and maintaining the tune on string 2, I know they're starting to fail and I change them. I don't wait for them to go dead and I prefer to replace all of them at the same time.

I know my guitars and their potential. What sounds good to someone else, may be substantially less than the instrument is capable of producing. A good set of strings will slowly creep into old age at such a slow pace that you may not realize how much has been lost. Unless there is an obvious mechanical failure, strings that are below par could be judged as still useful.

Lord knows that there are no rules, and there will always be an exception. I don't want anyone to waste strings. But if you have a set on your guitar that has over 120 hours of play, or you can see the coating peeling and oxidation, I would urge you to change your strings. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the results.


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 Post subject: Re: Help with strings
PostPosted: Tue May 26, 2015 10:14 am 
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Joined: Sun Mar 09, 2014 8:13 pm
Posts: 1313
I need everyone to know I've been referring to steel strings, not nylon. Nylon strings last a very long time and in fact, I can only think of one time that I've had a nylon string break. Also, I've never owned an electric guitar, so I don't know how long strings last on an electric guitar.

When it comes to acoustic steel strings, I would change the strings:

1. If there is any rust at all
2. If they show a lot of oxidation, whether black or green
3. If the strings are coated and the coating is flaking or peeling off
4. If the strings are coated and you see excessive discoloration
5. If one or more strings are not staying within acceptable tuning
6. You aren't satisfied with the sound

Acceptable tuning is whatever is acceptable to you. I have perfect pitch; if my guitars are not tuned on the money, it drives me insane. My personal definition of acceptable tuning is that, when using an electronic tuner, each string will show a good strong "lock" (for lack of a better word), at the tuning that I'm trying to obtain. In other words, when I tune string #2 to "B", after strumming, it quickly obtains "B", and stays on "B" until it fades. When I see a string that quickly goes flat, I know it's getting ready to break and I get it off the guitar.


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 Post subject: Re: Help with strings
PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2015 7:05 pm 
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Joined: Wed Nov 02, 2011 9:13 pm
Posts: 162
Diane Kauffmds wrote:
I need everyone to know I've been referring to steel strings, not nylon. Nylon strings last a very long time and in fact, I can only think of one time that I've had a nylon string break.


I can add something here, based on about twenty years of playing nylon-strung harps. Nylon strings do last a long time, but they experience the same "going dead" characteristic of steel strings ... they no longer have the same elastic properties. They begin to stretch asymmetrically, some sections stretching more than others. On a harp, this exhibits itself by sections of the string not vibrating with the usual overtones. On a guitar, it shows up when you fret a string and the note isn't in pitch, even when it's in pitch when the string is open (this of course assumes that with a new string, the guitar would be in pitch anywhere on the fingerboard). In either case, its a sign that the string is approaching the end of its useful life. I don't know if such asymmetrical stretching is characteristic of metal strings, but it wouldn't surprise me.

I've heard that, as a general rule, harp strings should be changed yearly or after a hundred hours of playing, whichever comes first. Professionals change their strings a lot more often than that, after about fifteen or twenty hours of playing.


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