5

Well I know this question sounds stupid, or at least extremely unusual. All the advertisements related to guitar strings talk about how to slow down guitar string aging and hoe hot to prevent the loss of brightness of the new strings. Coating is about to prevent aging (oxidation) and some manufacturers vacuum or oxigen free sealed packaging are all about this.

However here is the thing: For me, the bright, and very "steely" sound of the new strings do not sound so good. Actually more than 1 year old Thomastik GB flatwound now sounds awesome. In the other hand on my other guitar I've just changed to a new string set (to the very same Thomastik) , and its bright new, and steel like sounds are very disturbing for me.

Is there any way not to wait months to get the sound I like?

  • Possibly you should shop around for better strings. It may be the string combination on your guitar. If your guitar is very bright naturally then adding bright strings might make it brighter. Anything done to the string will effect the timbre on some level. Usually the stiffer the string the brighter it will be. The more things added will dampen the higher frequencies. I would not self-age strings using any type of "grease" because these affect overall intonation. You need something that will be consistent. Shopping around for strings is probably your best bet. – user2691 Nov 4 '16 at 4:41
  • 2
    You could boil or better, make a tensioner (a 2x4 with two clamps or bolts on each end) that you can "string" and apply proper tension to the strings that will allow them to "wear" without using them(could be kept in a moist free environment). – user2691 Nov 4 '16 at 4:43
7

The loss of brightness in old strings is due to increasing damping of high frequency vibrational modes. Any substance with visco-elastic behavior will cause this effect when applied to the strings.

For example, you could use grease taken from your own skin (which is what ultimately happens to strings anyway). The sides of the nose are a good place to harvest some grease.

  • It sounds reasonable, but not according the manufacturers opinion which is it caused by the oxidation. This is why the coated string (preventing oxidation) invented, also gas or vacuum packing. Cleaning old strings with appropriate solvent and tools, never restores the steely sound of a new string, the change is noticable, but minor. However I agree on oxidation should not be the main factor, I accidentally opened an extra pack of Thomastik one year ago, this is which I put on the new guitar now: It has brand new steely sound. Should be the same sound as on my old guitar if that is about oxi – g.pickardou Oct 31 '16 at 9:33
  • revised my opinion. I did some research, and it seems that the general recommendation is play with dirty oiled hand only different by auto engine repair-> then play, or eat pizza -> then play. – g.pickardou Oct 31 '16 at 9:46
  • 1
    I have no success with proving the "visco elastic dirt" damping theory. I deep cleaned my old Thomastic flatwounds with no sound change. I released the strings and used alcohol wrapping around the alcohol soaked cloth and moving the cloth up and down on the total length of the strings.. Theese are flatwound strings so supposedly not so much place left to the grease to left. By touching the strings they feel drastically cleaner, but they sound almost exactly the damped aged way as before. (not forgetting the original goal was make new strings to sound aged, but this was also an experiment) – g.pickardou Nov 3 '16 at 15:06
  • It's the regions between the core and winding where grease makes the biggest difference. Grease on the surface experiences little strain during string vibration, and therefore provides little damping. – user2790167 Nov 4 '16 at 7:41
  • Well, it can be true. However this case greasing outside still will have no or little effect for similar reason. It will take time the dirt to achieve the core... – g.pickardou Nov 4 '16 at 8:00
5

Another change that strings undergo is flattening at the frets. It might help to store the strings on a guitar neck with many capos forcing contact at the frets.

Some of the higher-pitched shimmer of the new strings may be due to a length-wise springy motion in the wrapping. Once flattened at the frets, the wrapping is also cinched at those spots.

  • This sounds interesting. Especially the side effect what you describe. – g.pickardou Nov 4 '16 at 7:48
3

After spending ten days to prove or confute theories I have only partial results, so here are my conclusions:

Theory #1: Oxidation

Confuted (imho). These confuting experiences was included in my original question but for have it in an organized answer I list here:

I had a one and half year old, accidentally opened (originally vacuum packed) D'Addario Chromes (flatwound), and I stringed my guitar with them ten days ago. The strings sounded the most typical new string like. (still no significant changes after ten days). So its not the oxidation, because the opened and same age strings were oxidated almost identically, but sounded way different.

Theory #2: Visco elastic dirt

Confuted in two ways.

a) Reverse confuting: I've tried to clean (I mean deep cleeaan) my old strings. (See details of the process in my comment on user2790167's answer.). No hearable changes at all. Maybe the clean was not "deep" enough, as user2790167 answered: we did not reach the core... Still I would expect some sound changes, but there was not any.

b) I've tried to artificially speed up aging the new strings by dirting them with a chapstick. It is kinda gluey fat so it's a candidate replacing nose grease with the benefit it is available in limitless amount... (nose grease credits goes to user2790167)

I even extra strengthen the strings during the process to dilate the ways to the "core". No changes. I thought it takes some time while the dirty travels to the core so waited five days before concluding the result in this answer: Still no changes.

Theory #3: My own

Note: This is not proven at all. This is only a theory what based on that neither Theory #1 and Theory #2 seems to be not provable. (although both sound reasonable). So... That's a fact, that new strings sound are well noticable changing in the first 1-3 month after applying them. If it is not the oxidation and not the dirt, then what else? The only thing what comes in my mind is the "usage". The steel's attribute must change somehow, my bet is its flexibility. This could be because of the micro dilatation, or some microscopic changes in the matter itself. The steel gets tired and tired.

  • You might have found a gap in the market - 'pre-aged strings', like stonewashed jeans... – ChristopheLynch Nov 10 '16 at 10:25
  • 1
    Yes :-). Only the minor problem remains I can not find out how to age the strings... – g.pickardou Nov 11 '16 at 7:34
  • Just found this blog which explains metal fatigue in strings quite nicely Similar to AbstractDissonance's comment above, you could build a device similar to this one – ChristopheLynch Nov 11 '16 at 12:21
  • @ChristopheLynch I read the article, it is about string breaking and not string sound change. It also seems to have a light smell of Graph Tecy's "String Saver saddle" advertisement... Actually in the last 30 years I had only one string broken, a Thomastik GB E (0.012) and it was a new one, done a few days after I stringed it :-( – g.pickardou Nov 12 '16 at 12:36
  • 1
    @g. Ah I hadn't seen that the article was promotional material, but I think some points are valid: strings are deformed and relax when you pluck them, and over time, the stresses imparted to the string will lead to fatigue. It could be this fatigue that causes the change in tone. I'm assuming that if you put the string on a device that vibrates the string sufficiently, you will simulate the effects of playing, and hopefully 'age' the string. – ChristopheLynch Nov 12 '16 at 14:42
2

I read an article a few years ago by Eric Clapton's guitar tech that stated He was only allowed to change a string when it broke. Doing strings this way minimized the brightness effect that happens when a complete set of strings is changed on a regular basis. For someone who plays on a regular basis, I find it doesn't take very long for my strings to lose most of that brightness, and I can time my string changes to coincide with rehearsals and have a mellower sound by the time I step up for performance. That's the way I do it.

1

I have heard that boiling guitar strings may "stabilize" them, reducing some of the "new string" character that typically ages out. This may help you acheive the sound that you are seeking. I have never tried this myself. YMMV.

  • This is exactly the opposite effect I would like to achieve it it works at all. But probably it is not working, see: get-tuned.com/boiling-guitar-strings.php. (Note, and read the comments, the author is intended the article as a joke.) – g.pickardou Nov 4 '16 at 7:57
  • I meant: "...if it works at all..." – g.pickardou Nov 4 '16 at 8:09
0

It might be best to shop around and try different brands of string, some of which might sound 'mellower' out of the packet. The metal used to wind the strings is ultimately very important for the tone produced - nickel-wound strings sound mellower than steel-wound strings.

  • Good advice in general. But OP has TI George Benson flatwounds! AFAIK there is no mellower string. – luser droog Nov 4 '16 at 1:54
  • 1
    Well, I did my homework some years ago, and concluded that 014-055 flatwound Thomastik GB is probably the most jazzy mellow. – g.pickardou Nov 4 '16 at 7:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.