Saturday, March 01, 2008
Spring String Change
Say that title three times fast ...
Changed the strings on one of my guitars last night. This is a process that a good guitarist can do in about ten minutes. Takes me half an hour ...
I generally do this every four or five months. Philosophies differ on string-changing. There are guitarists who never change a string unless it breaks. Others will play with the same strings for years, wiping them carefully after each use so they don't get grody. Even so, they eventually do gummy-up. Oil from the fingertips, dust, perspiration. The metal ones -- bottom three -- tarnish where they are pressed against the frets. The top three stretch out and eventually go flat after a few minutes.
Average woodshedders like me can get by with two or three times a year, unless they have toxic fingers -- some players can rust steel strings after a few sessions, something in their body chemistry.
Some professional classical players will change strings every time they do a show.
I use Nylgut, which are classical strings designed to replicate the sound of gut. This tends to be a bit more woody and mellow than standard nylon strings. (You can still get real gut strings, but they cost five times as much as nylon and last half as long. Not cat-gut, by the way, even though it is called that, but sheep-gut.) The Nylgut Alabastros are the middle-of-the-line versions. You can also get basses that are pure silver instead of just plated, but I'm not that good that I need those.
My chore is made somewhat easier, because this guitar, a cedar-top/walnut back, made by Jason Pickard has a 12-hole, Gilbert-style tie-block, which looks like the one in the pictures, sans the experimental G-string pin. Easier to use.
It takes a few days for the new strings to stretch out and stay in tune, without you having to constantly fiddle with the tuning machines, but the guitar immediately sounds cleaner and brighter, more resonant.
Probably it's time for you to change yours; no point in putting it off, it's spring ...