Elixir Acoustic Guitar Strings: The Basics of String Theory

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Published: 13th November 2009
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Hi, I'm Josh. I'm a local guitarist who's been in the California bar circuit for nearly a decade now. When I'm not playing session guitars for my buddies in the industry, I provide them with quality guitar servicing as a luthier and parts dealer in downtown Los Angeles.


Today I'm here to talk about strings-Elixir strings, to be exact. Have you guys ever heard of this string brand? It's something of an industry secret, and I use it specifically for my instruments.





Why do I use them? Simple: because most new guitarists pay little attention to the strings they use for acoustic and classical guitars. The same goes for intermediate guitarists: when they ask me or one of my buddies to jam with them, you can tell that they're skilled, but lacking in the tech department. Specifically speaking, these guys use low-quality strings that sound dead. Nothing ruins a good jam session more than dead strings that are permanently out of tune and pitch.





That's a secret professional guitarists like to call string theory. These guys spend hours just testing all kinds of strings. Some of these folks actually work with guitar techs just to come up with what they think is the perfect string for their sound. Seeing all this effort go to waste with amateur guitarists breaks my heart-if they don't read about it on the Internet or somewhere else, they wouldn't even consider testing out strings for their quality. For these guys, a string is just a string.





That's something I'd like to address. I'm going to try to gloss over the technical aspects in a way that will help you understand why Elixir changed the way I played my guitar-and why you should be more particular with the strings you choose, too.





Tension


First of all, let's start talking about tension. Not a lot of people put enough emphasis on this factor when they string their guitars, and theoretically, for a beginner, it shouldn't matter. But let's take the example of a little kid who started playing guitar at the age of twelve.





The common thing most parents would do when they have a kid who's learning how to use a guitar is to just buy them any old cheap thing they find on the street. The kid's just learning, right? Who would notice the guitar's quality?





Wrong. These low-quality guitars have steel strings which are very tense for the kid. The child will have difficulty handling the guitar and his learning will be ruined. It is possible that it may lessen the kid's enthusiasm to learn the instrument.





Elixir guitar strings are not the softest like Steve Vai's strings but they are very comfortable for the fingers. When you get too little string tension, you will never have a decent tone because of the slack string. However, too much tension will make it even hard for you to play the guitar. Elixir is just perfect guitar strings.





String Gauge


Aside from the material your strings are made of, the thickness of the string also affects the way you play, and the way you sound.





Most classical and acoustic guitarists go with a standard string gauge of .012 at the thinnest string. That's a given standard, and it usually has a clear, mellow sound that's a little bit tinnish at the end. The thinner you go, the wispier the sound is going to be. It's good for maneuvering through the fret board, though, so ultimately it's your choice. Unless your guitar has a decent soundhole and is made of good wood for reverberations, though, don't go for thinner string gauges.





Thick string gauges, like the Elixir acoustic guitar string's resonator-.016 at the high E-are extremely difficult to handle for amateur guitarists, but the sound, as the name implies, is sweet, rich and milky. If you know how to work around your strings and adjust your picking style to the thickness of the string gauge, the Elixir resonator is perfect, bar none.





Steel and Nylon


Now, since we're talking about acoustic strings here, it's a rather odd twist talking about the differences between steel and nylon strings. But the most basic difference, aside from the fact that nylon and acoustic guitars are two completely different animals, again lies in the sound.





Simply put, if you're after a more aggressive sound that focuses on attitude and power, a steel-stringed guitar is what you need to get for yourself. Take a hint from guitar greats like Eric Clapton and the Allman Brothers: nothing plays the blues better than a decent steel-stringer.





If you have soft fingers, or if you're more interested in a lighter, more classical sound, a nylon classical guitar is what you need. Jazz greats like Chet Atkins and Paco de Lucia, and even the Gyspsy Kings all use nylon-stringed guitars.





Don't take the strings you use for your guitars lightly. If you can spend time looking for decent string brands like the Elixir acoustic guitar strings, do so. Sometimes, adjusting the elements of what you play can greatly affect the way your guitar playing sounds, and to a musician, even the smallest improvement in tone is a big deal.



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