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  #1  
Old 01-23-2019, 08:17 PM
nolegsfngrpickn nolegsfngrpickn is offline
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Default Strings "breaking in"? Real?

I came across someone talking about giving a brand of strings a little bit of time, saying he wasn't a fan right after stringing them up, but a week later they totally changed after "breaking in."

I haven't read a really good, scientific-based explanation to the idea of guitars "opening up," but I lean more to the side of believing that. Wood came from a live organism, and the environment you keep your guitar in, and many other factors, totally change its tone.

But strings....? It's just really hard for me to believe that a wound piece of metal somehow goes through a "breaking in" process that totally changes its tone after a little while. Sure, if you strung up your guitar and you didn't stretch out the strings, you might think they sound bad because of tuning issues, but that's another story. Or maybe if it's a set from a different brand you're trying out, your ears are just not acclimated to that particular sound yet.

If breaking in strings for better tone was true, I feel like most artists would want week-old or older sets of strings on their guitars for every live show because they sounded so much better, not a brand new set put on by their techs. Brand new strings sound the best to me, regardless of brand.

I just don't buy it.
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Old 01-23-2019, 08:31 PM
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fazool fazool is offline
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Having an engineering background and doing some metallurgy work, I cannot really find any plausible explanation for this claim either.

And anecdotally, my experience shows me the exact opposite, anyway.
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Old 01-23-2019, 08:45 PM
HeyMikey HeyMikey is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fazool View Post
Having an engineering background and doing some metallurgy work, I cannot really find any plausible explanation for this claim either.

And anecdotally, my experience shows me the exact opposite, anyway.
Stretching from playing, vibration, oxidation, skin oils and other contaminants?

I think the "sound" that strings produce is constantly changing - quite significantly within the first few days, then gradually less over a month or two until further change becomes not so perceptible. Without trying to determine the science behind why they do I just accept what I am hearing.

It then becomes a matter of personal preference as to what sound you like - fresh out of the hermetically sealed mayonnaise jar bright sound of new strings with a lot of overtones, some that that have mellowed a touch, or those that are a bit older and very much less lively.
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Old 01-23-2019, 08:46 PM
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You donít hear a difference with strings that are new vs two weeks old vs four months old? I do. What is better or worse seems to me a matter of opinion, one manís ďcrapĒ may be another manís treasure.
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Old 01-23-2019, 08:52 PM
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chippygreen chippygreen is offline
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Isn't "better" really subjective here? String contribution to tone has to change/deteriorate over time, or we would never change strings absent breakage. I use almost exclusively Elixir PB Nanos, but have tried John Pearse more recently on my Bashkin GC on Wade Hampton's suggestion for Koa tone wood.

In the case of Elixirs on a more recently acquired guitar, my Michaud JR, I felt they were pretty harsh in the treble, but after the strings mellowed with play/time I was happier with the overall tonal balance. Maybe there was a sweet spot in the "decay cycle" that I just felt happier with in terms of what worked for me. I'll probably bear this in mind, or experiment with different strings, the next time.

That said, my experience with Elixirs on other guitars has been I like them most when fresh and feel an itch to change them out when the guitar seems to not be producing the acoustic signature I would like.
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Old 01-23-2019, 08:54 PM
nolegsfngrpickn nolegsfngrpickn is offline
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So basically it's "how much decay in your strings do you like?"
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Old 01-23-2019, 08:55 PM
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I have sensitive hearing and often reach for hearing protection in situations that donít seem to bother others, for example with industrial machinery. I have avoided rock concerts and crowds all my life. High pitched ringing overtones of some new strings is real for me. Iím not surprised if some donít find the same. Lots of people have lost their hearing.
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Old 01-23-2019, 08:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HeyMikey View Post
Stretching from playing, vibration, oxidation, skin oils and other contaminants?

I think the "sound" that strings produce is constantly changing - quite significantly within the first few days, then gradually less over a month or two until further change becomes not so perceptible. Without trying to determine the science behind why they do I just accept what I am hearing.

It then becomes a matter of personal preference as to what sound you like - fresh out of the hermetically sealed mayonnaise jar bright sound of new strings with a lot of overtones, some that that have mellowed a touch, or those that are a bit older and very much less lively.
You said it better than I did - our posts crossed!
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Old 01-23-2019, 09:02 PM
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chippygreen chippygreen is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nolegsfngrpickn View Post
So basically it's "how much decay in your strings do you like?"
Or, more wordily, "since we GAS to own many guitars because they, presumably, produce different tonal variations, based on differences in dimensions, bracing, tonewood, scale length, builder, frets to body, etc...is it a fair or unfair assumption that strings do not have variability, over their reasonable shelf life, in producing not the 'best' sound, but the 'desired' one - the one difference being you can't "snapshot" a string in time and hold that variable static?"
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Old 01-23-2019, 09:07 PM
mr. beaumont mr. beaumont is offline
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If new strings don't sound different than old strings or even strings with maybe 10-15 hours of play to you, I'd ask "do you actually play the guitar?"
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Old 01-23-2019, 09:07 PM
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steelvibe steelvibe is offline
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Nope, I hear it. It is less true on strings like Elixir, D'addario NB, and Retros (except that Retros take a bit longer to my ear to "settle"). All the above last so long it is hard to drastically hear the life cycles- is that even an accurate descriptor?

On non-coated and non-nickel/monel varieties I can hear a quicker decay on the new side and a quicker drop off a cliff on the old side. YMMV
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Old 01-23-2019, 09:21 PM
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A couple things, from my perspective:

I play ultra soft with fleshy fingertips only on extra light strings. So the strings don't suffer as much surface change as being attacked by a hard plastic pick.

I use coated strings exclusively so finger oils and corrosion are greatly reduced/eliminated.

Strings do not (can not) plastically stretch so that's never a factor.

The vibration could certainly create fatigue and work hardening but it will take a long, long time.


Under those playing conditions, my strings live a life more like a piano string where it is softly tapped and the strings get tuned a couple times a year and changed every couple decades. Not that extreme of course, but you might get the idea.

Pete Townshend probably wears out strings in a set.

I do agree they age over time. I think it's mostly damping and muting coming from surface changes over time. In my circumstances (light touch to the strings and coated from contaminants) they only change very slowly over long periods of time.
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Old 01-23-2019, 09:30 PM
Glennwillow Glennwillow is offline
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In my opinion strings do not "break in." They do lose a certain amount of treble or brilliance as they are played. They also lose treble or brilliance with time due to oxidation. A combination of both will certainly result in dulled strings. Or, new strings played for 20 hours over the next week will also lose some noticeable treble.

I think that when people talk about strings "breaking in," they are actually talking about the strings losing treble response. At some point as the strings lose treble response, many people start to like the sound of the strings better. There are a lot of people who don't really like the sound of brand new strings.

I am one of those people who do like new strings. For me, after they are on for a few days, maybe a week, they start to go downhill in terms of frequency response. Maybe I like new strings because I am 70 years old and my ears like the treble response of new strings.

That is my theory, at any rate. Maybe I am full of beans.

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Old 01-23-2019, 09:35 PM
Allentown Allentown is offline
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Real. The difference between fresh out of the box and 15-20 hours of play is undeniable to my ears
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Old 01-23-2019, 09:57 PM
3notes 3notes is offline
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String tones do change. Period. IMO. They have to. For example, they get dirty after 2 or 3 weeks. I occasionally wipe the strings down but not often. They get played. If the sound of strings never change, why do we change them.?? Because they end up dead. And they didn't go dead over night. They changed along the way. IMO, the tone is constantly changing though it isn't always obvious to our ear, but it is happening. And then, all of a sudden, we notice....Tone is getting weak. Meh, I'll leave 'em on for another week.

I just pulled off some Martin Retro's. I put them on, stretched them, played them and could not believe how unbalanced they were. They were absolutely horrible. I left them on for a week. Meh, they got a little better. I stayed with them. One month mark they were good. Then I started hearing tones I'd never heard before. Amazingly beautiful tones. They had a whine to them. But, they remained unbalanced. The bottom E string wasn't even in the ballpark. But, the high mid-tones were off the charts great.

I left those strings on for 7 months.!!! After 6 weeks nothing changed other than that bottom E string. It just got worse. That beautiful whine remained and I swear I could have left them on for a year.

I've played for roughly 20 years. Never have experienced this, ever. It was strange at best. But oh so good. Go figure.... Those strings took 6 weeks to settle in. I play at least a half hour everyday, an occasional day off.

For many years I played Elixir strings. Very balanced with good life span. I just replaced the Retro's with uncoated D'Addario's. They are sounding well balanced but very quiet in tone. Warm. No volume and at this time, no sustain on the 2 high strings. I'll stick with them for a month, see where it lands.

For the record, I play a Larrivee OM-40 Mahogany back and sides.
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