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  #1  
Old 01-12-2019, 01:20 PM
Martie Martie is offline
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Default Which came first: the strings, or the guitar?

Ok, it's probably a silly question, but I've often heard it said that strings should be neutral but, to be honest, I see it as a two way thing, as in it's the strings job to drive the guitar and, conversely, it's the guitars job to 'accommodate' and amplify the strings. For example (possibly a bad one, given the context!), I use Thomastik Infeld Jazz Swing flatwound 11s on my Fender Jazzmaster and, as far as I'm concerned, I love those strings and they are absolutely central to the sound/feel I want. As such, it's the guitars 'job' to enable me to make and amplify music with those strings. Obviously, I can manipulate the sound with various techniques, effects, EQ etc., and the pick-ups, materials, shape of the guitar add their own flavours, as well as contribute to playability and aesthetics etc. (I LOVE Jazzmasters!).

But it's just got to be the right strings for me as they are a fundamental part of the final voice of the instrument (ultimately, the 'performance'), which is then complimented by both the voice of the guitar and the player (and we could ask 'which came first, music or the musician, a question which is beautifully explored in the book 'Nada Brahma: the World is Sound' by Joachim Ernst Berendt). So it's like there all these crucial factors: strings; guitar; player; environment/context etc., and to overlook any of them is to miss the bigger picture...? Anways, I'm getting carried away now, but worth a thought.
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Old 01-12-2019, 01:30 PM
Jaden Jaden is offline
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Yes, strings are a huge issue and should be. Everyone has their own personal preference. For example, the best strings for feel I’ve tried were John Pearse but they didn’t last too long. D’Addario is a major manufacturer and I stick to them, specifically uncoated 80/20s. Nothing fancy for me because they are reliable and have a clear, neutral tone. If a guitar doesn’t sound good with them, I’ll sell the guitar because those strings are the litmus test.
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Old 01-12-2019, 01:43 PM
Martie Martie is offline
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Originally Posted by Jaden View Post
D’Addario is a major manufacturer and I stick to them, specifically uncoated 80/20s. Nothing fancy for me because they are reliable and have a clear, neutral tone. If a guitar doesn’t sound good with them, I’ll sell the guitar because those strings are the litmus test.
That's very interesting indeed, and I feel similar about the Thomastiks on my electric (although electric guitars are a very different animal etc.) I can imagine there's plenty who would say that the strings should be matched to the guitar (or be 'neutral'), rather than the other way round - or whatever variations people prefer - it's just really interesting to hear that particular perspective.
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Old 01-12-2019, 01:53 PM
Jaden Jaden is offline
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That's very interesting indeed, and I feel similar about the Thomastiks on my electric (although electric guitars are a very different animal etc.) I can imagine there's plenty who would say that the strings should be matched to the guitar (or be 'neutral'), rather than the other way round - or whatever variations people prefer - it's just really interesting to hear that particular perspective.
Thanks. As a member here on this forum I like to read as wide as possible perspective on personal preferences. Have never been too interested in towing the line on the one hand or trying to convince anyone else on the other.
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Old 01-12-2019, 02:13 PM
Martie Martie is offline
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Thanks. As a member here on this forum I like to read as wide as possible perspective on personal preferences. Have never been too interested in towing the line on the one hand or trying to convince anyone else on the other.
Also, I meant to ask, why 80/20s in particular? Again, I know most would say that the guitar/wood combination dictates string choice, but I can really relate to this approach and am genuinely interested.
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Old 01-12-2019, 02:14 PM
ManyMartinMan ManyMartinMan is offline
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The tree....
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Old 01-12-2019, 02:22 PM
Jaden Jaden is offline
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Also, I meant to ask, why 80/20s in particular? Again, I know most would say that the guitar/wood combination dictates string choice, but I can really relate to this approach and am genuinely interested.
I think the history of steel string composition is a complex one throughout the past century but just as a general trend, phosphor bronze was introduced in 1974 and it adds a lot of extra colour to a guitar’s tone. I also am a collector of lps and such from the period before 1974 and appreciate the clarity of many of those earlier recordings. Generally speaking I think a rosewood backed guitar is difficult to record and I group PBs together with that for fingerstyle playing: too many sometimes colluding overtones.
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Old 01-12-2019, 02:32 PM
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The tree....
And from small acorns etc...(but where did the acorn come from?!).
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Old 01-12-2019, 02:39 PM
ManyMartinMan ManyMartinMan is offline
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Cleveland by way of Sacramento.
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Old 01-12-2019, 02:54 PM
Martie Martie is offline
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Originally Posted by Jaden View Post
I think the history of steel string composition is a complex one throughout the past century but just as a general trend, phosphor bronze was introduced in 1974 and it adds a lot of extra colour to a guitar’s tone. I also am a collector of lps and such from the period before 1974 and appreciate the clarity of many of those earlier recordings. Generally speaking I think a rosewood backed guitar is difficult to record and I group PBs together with that for fingerstyle playing: too many sometimes colluding overtones.
I'm sure I read that PB (whatever it is that makes them different from 80/20s) were introduced primarily to increase the longevity of strings (almost like a precursor of coated!), but not sure if that's accurate?

I once heard Taylors Andy Powell describe PB as the 'benchmark' sound for acoustics, but I really don't know enough about it as I've played mainly electric for the past 35 years, and even though I'm not new to acoustic, only really started paying attention to acoustic strings relatively recently (and have yet to find a string I really love, as I have on electric).

My guitar is spruce and rosewood and I've just ordered some Newtone Heritage 13s, as I'm really curious about balanced tension strings. Unfortunately, they only do them in PB, and I'd like to try them in 80/20, but worth a try. If I like the even tension but not the PB, I'll get in touch with them to help me put together a balanced set of 80/20s.
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Old 01-12-2019, 04:18 PM
Jaden Jaden is offline
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Originally Posted by Martie View Post
I'm sure I read that PB (whatever it is that makes them different from 80/20s) were introduced primarily to increase the longevity of strings (almost like a precursor of coated!), but not sure if that's accurate?

I once heard Taylors Andy Powell describe PB as the 'benchmark' sound for acoustics, but I really don't know enough about it as I've played mainly electric for the past 35 years, and even though I'm not new to acoustic, only really started paying attention to acoustic strings relatively recently (and have yet to find a string I really love, as I have on electric).

My guitar is spruce and rosewood and I've just ordered some Newtone Heritage 13s, as I'm really curious about balanced tension strings. Unfortunately, they only do them in PB, and I'd like to try them in 80/20, but worth a try. If I like the even tension but not the PB, I'll get in touch with them to help me put together a balanced set of 80/20s.
All I can say is good luck and don’t expect any miraculous tone from 80/20s except to say they’re like a clear window into the sound of your acoustic guitar.
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Old 01-12-2019, 05:07 PM
Martie Martie is offline
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All I can say is good luck and don’t expect any miraculous tone from 80/20s except to say they’re like a clear window into the sound of your acoustic guitar.
Thanks, the more I think about it, the more poignant I find that description...
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Old 01-12-2019, 11:14 PM
Jaden Jaden is offline
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I just extracted my 000-18 from storage loaded with regular old fashion bronze wound strings, and the guitar is ringing with overtones at a light touch: satisfaction
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Old 01-13-2019, 06:09 AM
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I just extracted my 000-18 from storage loaded with regular old fashion bronze wound strings, and the guitar is ringing with overtones at a light touch: satisfaction
It's occurred to me that I may actually prefer PB strings. This is because I play more folk-influenced fingerstyle type stuff that has more 'space' etc. than some styles. My guitar is spruce top with rosewood back/sides, which I like because I find that I get subtle lushness (and bass) from the rosewood, and articulation from the spruce (I used to have a cedar/rosewood, but found it too 'dark'). My guitar also has built in reverb (Yamaha LS-TA) which, when used tastefully is a beautiful addition, which also adds to the lushness I prefer.

I am going to try some 80/20s at some point, but I'm hoping the Newtone Heritage PB 13s and that guitar might be just the thing for me - balanced lushness with just enough articulation (especially with the 13 and 17 plain strings). Probably way over the top for some, but right up my street...
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Old 01-13-2019, 07:13 AM
cyclistbrian cyclistbrian is offline
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I like these Thesues like discussions. I've recently put 80/20 lights on my 000-15m. In the year I've had it the action has crept slightly higher. I've played the heck out of it so it's changed a bit from use as well. It has a not insignificant ding and the neck is glossed from playing it. It is sounding absolutely awesome right now. I'm reluctant to get a setup. Lower action might take away some of the tonal magic.

So i's not the same guitar as when I bought it new case candy still attached. Couldnt even tell you what strings it had. Whatever Martin puts on them. Embarrassing confession but true. I can tell you this guitar had me at the first E chord. I cant imagine approching the purchase of a guitar from the aspect of strings first although in theory its completely valid. But even if I had, the guitar itself has changed enough that the initial assessment might be invalid. So as a practical matter, we play the guitar. Strings are a part of the whole. Lots of other things matter. As a regular performer I can state with 100% confidence, the nuances we fret over are lost on the audience. They do not matter. I get to perform to listening audiences on occassion, not just wallpaper gigs. I would go so far as to say looks are almost more important. We hear a lot with our eyes. The magnificent Pierre Bensusan would sound great on Merle Travis's Bigbsy necked Martin but something would look off.

I think chasing tone with an acoustic is a hard game. You either hear the sound you're going for in that instrument or you don't. Everything else is a game of inches. I want a dry old timey sound. Someone else wants lush overtones. With electrics you can throw technology at them and manipulate result. My only requirement for electric strings is a wound third and a slightly heavy guage. But thats for feel, not tone.
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