Steel and Strings

by Paul Franklin

I’d like to share my thoughts about steel guitars and string changing. I’ve found over the years that If you play your guitar (It doesn’t matter what brand) 1 hour a day you should change your strings between 10 to 14 days. If you play more often than that you should change every week. If you didn’t play a note on your guitar for three weeks you’d still need to change them. Just tuning to 440 and doing nothing stretches the life and flexibility out of the strings after a few weeks.

Professional Guitarists all over the world will agree that the most they can hope for is a weeks worth of use, out of a set of strings, because of the bends they make. This pales in comparison to the bending and constant stretching that pedal steels do. If you are breaking strings or having tuning problems, chances are you’re not changing often enough.

I know that it is expensive so if you can’t afford to change as often as you need, try changing the plain gauges each week & the wound strings every two weeks. Changing strings compares to changing the oil in your car. You wouldn’t go 15000 miles per change and expect your engine to sound and perform right. Steel guitars are machines as well as a music producing source.

I know all the cliche’s, “you don’t like the sound of new strings” or “I don’t change them until they break”! Modern manufactured steels have become state of the art. Strings are still being made the way they were 40 yrs. ago. They can’t take the constant stretching from the pedals over a long period, and still keep their sustain and tuning. When I lived in Detroit I kept strings on forever until they either broke or started to have that awful zinging sound. I’ve been there…done that.

In the studio I change every 3 to 7 days. Guitarists change generally every day. Acoustic guitarists change for every 3 hr session. Sometimes they get a good set that lasts all day. That’s how important strings are to the tuning and tonality of the instruments you hear on records.

It’s important to have a well tuned instrument. I’ve seen all the posts about “How we should tune” but nothing about the strings that we are trying to tune.

Here are the gauges I recommend for the E9th:

G#----011 or 012
B-----018 or 017
G#----020 or 021 plain (I don't know of anyone in Nashville using a wound
          string here.  If there is he would be the exception to the rule!)
F#----024 or 026 Wound
B-----036 or 038

Any combination of these gauges have all been tried by the pro’s and proven to be equally balanced for the best tone possible.

-Paul Franklin

Copyright ©1996 by Paul Franklin

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