Restringing my guitar is something I really look forward to, like going out to dinner – a chance to take my time over something, pay attention to little details, and come away feeling more relaxed.
Thing is, eating out and restringing have something in common – once you've found something you like, it's easy to just stick with it. Why order the lobster when the steak is always great? Why buy different strings when the ones you normally use work fine?
It's important to find the strings that suit your style, but sometimes switching things around can yield unexpected pleasures. I've used regular Ernie Ball slinkys for years but on a whim I recently went for a hybrid set (Hybrid Slinky Nickel Wound Orange pack), which goes from .009 to .046 – i.e. heavier on the lower strings. Turns out they respond to the way I play rhythm even better than the regulars. I could have created my own custom set of course, but I wouldn't have thought about it without trying these. It's like stealing ideas from your favourite restaurant to use at home: you just need a little inspiration first.
Not that heavier means better for everyone. Look at the new Jim Dunlop 'Rev. Willy' sets, built with a little help from ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons. He loves 'em light – try .007 light – and who's going to argue with that particular righteous brother? (Chuck Berry played .008 banjo strings on Johnny B Goode, and that seemed to work OK too.) The dish on the menu that blows your mind doesn't have to be the hottest and heaviest; likewise, you can get the most scorching tones from the subtlest strings.
There are some tasty new additions to the string shelves to think about these days, too: cobalt and titanium models from Ernie Ball, coated strings from Elixir; even DR's fluorescent offerings. What I've realised is that it's good to experiment, so over the next few weeks I'll be trying out some new brands and makes and letting you know how they sound. I'll probably be eating out a bit more too, all these string/food metaphors have made me peckish. Now, who's for trying some molecular gastronomy?
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