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 ...


Jason said...

(Delete any extras you get of this comment, Blogger lost it's mind and it looks like it may have multi submitted it an unknown number of times.)

Don't feel bad, from starting to remove my strings to complete with tune up it takes me close to an hour. Your's look easier than my pinned steel string, but not that much easier.

Of course I don't usually bother to change them unless they are broken or truly scummy. And considering how little I have been playing my guitar for the last two years I don't need to change them often.

I really need o play more.

Brad said...

Just so happens I changed my strings yesterday too. Have a Applause acoustic, takes about 30 mintues, and that's using a string winder. Time from removing to tuning, that is. I'll be tuning it every session until they stretch out. Martin Silk and Steel, very mellow sounding and easier on the fingers.

J.D. Ray said...

I haven't re-strung my classical in years, and it's in need of it (that and being played, it's a vicious cycle). I'm one of those acid-finger guys, though, that can rust the steel strings on my electric in a few sessions of playing (I don't play it much, either, though). I wish I knew a fix, such as plated strings or something. Titanium, maybe? Any ideas?

Steve Perry said...

There are some products out now that are supposed to help, string wipes and cleaners. You use them after you finish playing.

I haven't used them, but I do wipe each string and the fretboard after every session with an old piece of silk, and that seems to help.