The Great String Survey

4 Apr


After buying a bunch of different string sets to try out (though I always end up going back to Martin 80/20 Bronzes), I thought it’d be interesting to ask other guitarists what strings they use and why. Here’s what I came up with:

Of the 15 guitarists I asked or researched, 9 use Phosphor Bronze, almost evenly split between D’Addario and Elixir. On the Elixir camp we have Maneli Jamal, Ewan Dobson, Erik Mongrain, Antoine Dufour and Kaki King. The main reason given being that they last longer and sound great. No surprises there!

D’Addario Phosphor Bronze users include Will Ackerman, Preston Reed, Andy McKee and Trevor Gordon Hall (though Trevor also likes Martin SP’s). Sergio Altamura also uses D’Addario, though he favors regular Bronze: ”Usually I don’t use phosphor strings because I don’t like the sound of them , they are too brilliant.

The other D’Addario users are Pino Forastiere, Stefano Barone and Kelly Valleau. Pino and Stefano use nickel-wound electric strings, like Michael Hedges did, because it provides more signal for the Sunrise pickup.

Kelly Valleau uses silk-and-steels because they offer more tonal and dynamic control: “I play a lot of nylon string guitars and sometimes miss the subtleties they provide. Don’t get me wrong, I love steel string guitars with the intonation, power, harmonic overtones etc…you get a really good tone, but sometimes it’s just one tone.”

Finally there’s Jon Gomm and Craig D’Andrea who use Newtone and Black Diamond strings respectively. Part of the reason Jon uses Newtone is because they’re one of the few manufacturers making roundcore strings:

Newtone strings are roundcore. Many guitarists don’t like them because they lack treble. But if you analyse the sound, they have just as much treble, it’s just that they have a LOT more bass and midrange (warmth, in a word) so they seem to lack treble. Newtones are amazing, I can’t use anything else now, and guitars strung with regular hexcores sound like banjos to me!

As far as gauges go, most players use either light or medium gauge, or both depending on the guitar. Ewan Dobson and Stefano Barone prefer thicker top strings. Ewan switches his first and second strings to a .14 and a .17, while Stefano switches his first string to a .15.

On the heavier side, Sergio Altamura uses heavy gauge strings, while Jon Gomm uses .15′s! Though he tunes down a whole step.

And that’s it. In the end, strings are a very personal choice for every player which is also highly dependant on the guitar you use. At the same time, seeing what other players use can give you ideas and motivate us to try new things.

So what strings do you use?


3 Responses to “The Great String Survey”

  1. Robert Haddon April 4, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

    i have always personally come back to Elixir phosphor bronze 13′s. i just find after trying a few other brands that they always seem to have the bright tone i’m looking for consistently, the only downside i have experienced with them is the tin like sound lingers for a while longer than other brands after changing a string or two, but this is a minor fualt in my opinion.

    thanks for the great article, always interesting to hear how other guitarists have their guitars set up.

    thanks Robert

    • Ernesto April 6, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

      Thanks for your comment Robert. I use Elixir’s often, especially when I have a lot of gigs back-to-back. But there’s something about the way they respond when I pick more aggressively that doesn’t convince me 100%, which is why I don’t use them sometimes when I record.

  2. Daniel Duffy December 20, 2012 at 11:20 pm #

    Just started using Wyres on a recommendation from Thomas Leeb- amazing strings- don’t last as quite as long as elixirs but they have a really rich sound. Pierre Bensusan uses them as well :)

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