String Tests?

Has anyone out there ever done string shoot outs by having two identical guitars to A/B different string brands, gauges, etc?

Here’s a few shoot outs on youtube, but they both restring their guitars.

Skip to the 19:24 mark on this next video to see what his conclusion is.

I have always used the cheapest guitar strings I can find, which has usually been the 6 string set for 99 cents total each summer at my local guitar store’s annual sale.

I just read an article in Premier Guitar about strings and it makes me wonder if I need to start exploring the world of strings.  But how do you really compare them?  How do you figure out the perfect set?  Does it depend on the guitar, pick ups, song, musical genre, etc?  Is it really just feel?  Is it sound? What do you use?

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2 thoughts on “String Tests?

  1. Can’t say I’ve ever done a systematic test like this, but certainly gone through my fair share of string brands. Tone is important, but I find most (non-coated) string brands sound pretty similar straight out of the box. It’s longevity that really differentiates things for me — how consistent does that tone remain over time? I went from Dean Markley to GHS to finally D’Addario a couple years ago. I find the D’Addarios have a nice brilliant sound straight out of the box, and tend to maintain well over time. But it really comes down to personal preference.

    As for gauge, I used 11’s for a long time through high school and into college (was obsessed with SRV, but couldn’t quite handle 12’s), then realized I was just punishing my fingers for a marginal boost in tone, so finally settled on 10’s. My philosophy is to use the heaviest gauge your fingers can reasonably handle — too heavy, and you’ll just deter yourself from practicing, which defeats the purpose. Some of my favorite guitarists (e.g. Albert Lee, Jim Campilongo, Jimmy Page) use light strings, so gauge is definitely not the be-all-end-all of tone.

    • Thanks for the great comment!

      I hadn’t even thought about longevity! I just assumed my strings sound weak because they are always old. They may sound good when I first put them on, but that doesn’t last long with the cheap strings I’ve been stockpiling. I’ve got enough that I could change them more often, but I don’t because they’ll just get old again. This is starting to sound like when I was a kid and tried to explain to my mom that I didn’t need to clean my room because it was just going to get dirty again. Of course, I wasn’t having to pay for anything back then either. The old strings don’t sound bad, just not as good. And I do like to save money.

      Gauge is an interesting issue too. I use 10’s. I like the way they feel. But I especially like 10’s on a guitar with a vibrato bridge. My strat, my SG, my Teisco, my Epiphone Crestwood, etc. all have 10’s and all have “whammy bars.” They just feel better. They bend better. I can fret notes and chords better. They seem loose, but still stay in tune pretty well (my Wolverine strat knock off stays in tune amazingly well). However, the 10’s on my Warmoth project guitar seem harder to play…because it is a fixed bridge, I guess. Maybe I should put 9’s on my fixed bridge guitars. Or at least try it…when I get around to changing them again!

      And for slide, I like thick strings. However, my acoustics all have 12’s. I recently put a cheap diy piezo pickup and end pin jack in a friend’s acoustic and he had 9’s on it. It just felt weird to me. So much so that I questioned him about it when I returned his guitar…to the point of being a little bit awkward (I apologized the next time I saw him).

      I’m sure tastes and technologies and financial needs will change over time, so string choices will too. At least we can enjoy playing. Even poor strings today are better than most strings (or no strings) of the past.

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