Monday, June 4, 2012

Guitar Stings - Does the brand make a difference?

I'm not really one to to tout the quality of guitar strings. I have always used Ernie Ball "Slinky" strings, but with no real way to compare, I pretty much considered them all the same.  I have a story to tell that's fairly interesting and may change the mind of many guitar players.

A while back I purchased a  Steinberger "Spirit" guitar.  Even though I have MS (and am beginning to experience its generosity), I still feel a strong urge to play.  The "Spirit" is the lower priced version  of their "Synapse" guitar.  The primary difference are the active EMG pickups of the "Symapse" (which I actually prefer  passive pickups.  A snap jack with a consistently installed end would drain an active pickup's battery).  The Synapse also includes a fixed bridge as opposed a tremolo.  I prefer the tremolo any way, so my choice was definately a Spirit.  It has got to be one of the best little guitars I have ever owned.  It's perfect for one with MS.  Lighter and smaller with easy to change "double-ball" strings, always staying in tune.  This article is not about the guitar, but about the strings, so I'll move on.

When I ordered the guitar, I also ordered some strings as I tend to change to a new set of strings with a newly acquired instrument.  Looking around, I decided on GHS "Boomers" double-ball strings.  They were the best price, and GHS strings have always had a good reputation.  I ordered  three sets of these strings and awaited their arrival.  I finally decided to change the strings, but found that the ball end at the bridge wouldn't stay in its saddle upon tuning up.  I finally gave up, and put the factory string back on, and the GHS strings back in the package (this is one of the benefits of double-ball strings).  My thought was, "Maybe these GHS strings will not work" so I ordered a set of Steinberger strings (actually made by La Bella).  I was sure these would work.  Upon their arrival, I immediately dove in to change these finding they had the exact same problem.  A little "white-trash" ingenuity came to the rescue.  Adding some electrical tape to the ball end of the lowest string resolved the problem.  The remaining 5 installed fine.  I tuned up the guitar, and it worked great.

Fast forward about a month.  I decided to try a string change again.   I went ahead and grabbed a set of the GHS strings, with my roll of tape ready if necessary.  I found that holding the string secure in its saddle while tuning it up resolved this issue (something I should have tried the first time).  After all the new strings were on and tuned up, I began to notice how good they sounded.  I thought it must have been because they were new, so this thought was disregarded.  A little while later, I thought to myself, "no, this is more than a new string sound."  These string sets were stored away, but I finally decided to go look and verify that the first set of strings replaced were also GHS "Boomers."  Looking in my guitar storage tote, I expected to find a set of GHS strings and the set of Steinberger strings.  I took all the strings out and found that there were actually two sets of the GHS strings; the Steinnberger strings were gone.

To make an extremely long story short, the set I replaced originally were the Steingberger strings.  All that time, I had thought they were the GHS strings, thinking this improved sound was new strings, or at least some form of Placebo affect.  This was not the case.  For many years, I never thought the brand of strings made a difference.  My own experience proved me wrong.

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