Monday, December 4, 2017

All Strung Out

As a string instrument player, strings are an abiding interest with me. You are always looking for better strings or to assure the continued supply of strings you like. I have probably tried out thirty or more different kinds of strings in my career. One fine maker of classical guitar strings is Hannabach. Here is a little documentary (in German):

But I usually use strings from D'Addario Pro-Arte. They have various types and I have found the new carbon strings to be very good. Here is a little review of them:

That is the latest string technology, but a lot of string players prefer a much older technology: strings made from gut:

If you play a lot, several hours a day, guitar strings will only last a couple of weeks and that is due largely to being mashed on the frets. Pretty soon the wire will wear through on the 4th string and the clarity of pitch will start to decay on the trebles because they are no longer of uniform thickness. After a few years you get expert at changing strings! Here is a pretty good video on the subject.

Yes, I also melt the end of the treble strings to form a little ball so they won't slip, but I do it because the way my bridge is designed it is really necessary:

Unlike the usual bridge, the strings are held only with the knot in the end. He uses a string-winder, which is ok. I don't, because I don't wind as much on as he does--when I put the new string on I pull all the extra through. I never saw the reason to wind all the extra on so I don't use a lot of slack as he does. If you overlap it in the pegbox it won't slip.

D'Addario Pro-Arte are fine modern strings, but sometimes, especially when playing a lot of early music, I like the sound and feel of the older Savarez red card strings with their textured trebles. These almost feel like gut and give quite a different effect. Anyway, here is what my guitar sounds like with Pro-Arte strings. I think this was the older type, not the carbon ones. This is Las Abejas (The Bees) by Agustín Barrios, a nice virtuoso showpiece:


Steven Watson said...

Oh I love strings! Never knew about the ball melting trick, and probably too nervous to do it myself... Have you ever used nylgut strings? I've never used real gut -- they seem to be rather expensive -- but I like nylgut a lot.

I'm just in the process of a hiring a lute (7 course Renaissance) which hopefully I should be able to collect soon. Fascinated to see what the strings are like. What do the paired strings feel like, what's the tension going to be like, will it come with real gut strings etc. Plus you have gut strings tied on as frets -- what will that be like? All terribly exciting

Bryan Townsend said...

When I melt the end of the string I hold it well above the flame! I have used gut strings and they have a very interesting sound, but wear out very quickly. This is the first I have heard of nylgut strings--I will have to try them!

Taking up the lute should be a real adventure! I have been thinking for a while about ordering a historic vihuela.

Steven Watson said...

Well nylgut seem to last longer than the pro-Arte strings for me. I imagine gut strings wear out less if one doesn't use nails

A vihuela would be very interesting, much rarer than the lute. But would be somewhat of a limited repertoire, no?

Bryan Townsend said...

I particularly like the vihuela repertoire, but as the tuning is the same as a Renaissance lute, I see no reason why that repertoire could not also be played on vihuela.