Other Guitars

Acoustic strings

1

As I posted in another thread,I havent owned an acoustic in close to 30 yrs.I recently bought a D'Angelico EXCEL 63,its an archtop with a round hole as opposed to the f holes.I have been using D'Addario Nickel Bronze strings med gauge "12's".I am looking for opinions on strings that might give a some what warmer,mellower tone.I love the guitar as it is,just want to experiment with some different strings that might give a bit more warmth.

2

Many people sing the praises of Martin Monel String’s on acoustic arch tops...some don’t. Link

More string talk. Link

3

I had the same problem with an Epiphone arch top and tried all kinds of strings. The Martin Monel strings are nice but they need to settle down and mellow (ie oxidise). I tried TI flats and they worked well, too but I preferred having a bit more sustain, so I went back to roundwounds. At the moment I’m using Argentine ‘Gypsy’ guitar strings and I have to say that these are probably my favourites so far. They’re thin (.11) for an acoustic archtop but they really make it sound a lot sweeter. I guess I like archtops but prefer the flattop sound and the gypsy jazz strings really bring out the best of both worlds. I could imagine that a light gauge (.11) set of the Monel strings or pure nickel strings may have a similar effect if the Argentines are diffficult to get a hold of.

4

I dig the Savarez Argentines too - but have only used them on my Selmer copy. I have had good luck with Galli gypsy and D'Addario silk and steel strings as well on my L7. Crispy and loud. I'll have to try the Monels.

5

When I got my '41 Synchro, I re-fretted it and put on a set of D'Addario medium bronze. The sound was too bright and being round wounds, were very scratchy, playing fingerstyle. Tough on left hand callouses and right hand nails! I changed them out eventually and put on what I have on all my other acoustics: D'Addario Flattops, 13's. The difference was dramatic! The phosphor bronze give a lovely tone, halfway between an archtop and a flat top, which you mention is what you're looking for. And as is their hallmark, they're much quieter but with the same sparkle as round wounds.

Archtop.com deals with more archtops than probably any other dealer. They restore archtops and refurbish ones they take in on commission, and unless directed otherwise by a buyer, they string every guitar with medium gauge phosphor bronze. Bronze are generally regarded as too bright but most importantly, archtops need the tension of at least 12's to move the top to give the volume these guitars are capable of. Works very well for me.

6

I dig the Savarez Argentines too - but have only used them on my Selmer copy. I have had good luck with Galli gypsy and D'Addario silk and steel strings as well on my L7. Crispy and loud. I'll have to try the Monels.

– spike

Yes, those are the ones I mean, thank you for the correction and additional information.

7

Dave, I agree that if you want volume and cut through the brass, the heavier strings are a must and .12s are probably too light. But when you’re playing the guitar by yourself or want to accompany yourself singing, the lighter strings produce a more complementary sound. I know that’s not what the archtop was designed to do but the lighter strings make it more useable in a different setting.

8

Anyone use silk and steel on a D28? I'm looking for a more rounded/warmer sound.

9

Not a Martin, but I use them on a '56 SJN I have because it's got an old DeArmond pickup that doesn't work so hot with bronze - work just fine for me.

10

I changed them out eventually and put on what I have on all my other acoustics: D'Addario Flattops, 13's. -- Windsordave

Did you mean to say "Flattops" or "flatwounds?"

11

Anyone use silk and steel on a D28? I'm looking for a more rounded/warmer sound.

– Scorpio

No, but the Martin Monel strings had that effect on my D28. It’s important to repeat that the Monel strings sound super trebly/clanky when they’re new but after a week or two, they sound perfect and then last a loooong time.

12

I changed them out eventually and put on what I have on all my other acoustics: D'Addario Flattops, 13's. -- Windsordave

Did you mean to say "Flattops" or "flatwounds?"

– Ric12string

No, I believe that flat tops are roundwounds that are then ground. Apparently they retain the vibrancy of roundwounds without the finger noise when you move up and down the neck. I haven’t tried them, though.

13

I have had the exact same experience as WindsorDave.

The D'Addario Flattops worked for me. Despite the confusing name, Flattops are actually a "ground-wound" string instead of a true flatwound. So they start life as a roundwound, but are ground flat. The result is tone and volume closer to Roundwound, but with a tactile sensation similar to flatwound.

14

Not a Martin, but I use them on a '56 SJN I have because it's got an old DeArmond pickup that doesn't work so hot with bronze - work just fine for me.

– spike

Interesting, thanks. They might make my Woody soundhole pickup sound better.

15

I changed them out eventually and put on what I have on all my other acoustics: D'Addario Flattops, 13's. -- Windsordave

Did you mean to say "Flattops" or "flatwounds?"

– Ric12string

I meant to say Flat Tops, Bob - sorry for the spelling error - as that's the name D'Addario gives this line of strings. They come in the normal gauge range of sizes. I use the Extra Lights, 10-47 on my flat top acoustics and the Mediums, 13-56 on my Syncro.

My acoustics are amplified so I don't need a heavier gauge for volume.

They give a beautiful, balanced tone with the same clarity as round wounds and last a long time. No coating to wear through. You can hear the lack of noise and sure feel the difference.

BTW, I know the term flatwounds is the most commonly used term but ribbon wound would be more accurate. Ground round, the original term for this style string is also the most accurate description. I never used the original style ground wounds or even who made them but they're brought up around here occasionally and never in glowing terms. Can someone who used the original versions shed some light on why they weren't liked? If you haven't tried D'Addario's, I'd recommend trying a set.

16

Oh no. WindsorDave Semantic Academy Alert.

I think “flatwound” and “ribbon-wound” are equally descriptive of the manufacturing process, whereby something flat is wound around the core. I don’t know that “ribbon-wound” has ever been commercially used, though I have a vague memory of the term “tape-wound,” at least for bass strings, from the ‘80s.

The common “flatwound” designation is understood by all, I think, and there’s no reason for the Canadian English Language Practices and Usage Academy to enforce a change to a less familiar term. Humidex bedamned!

“Groundwound” is in fact descriptive of one step of the manufacturing process of the strings so-named - but It has to be explained to be understood, so it’s not as immediately transparent as “flat-top,” which at least tells me the top of the string will be flat to the touch. Other than the opportunity for confusion of “flat-top” with “flatwound,” I don’t think “groundwound” is inherently a better term. I suspect it was chosen partly for its mellifluous internal rhyme - as “flat-top” was chosen partly for its existing cultural currency, from haircuts to hotrods to “here come ol’ Flattop” (which combines haircuts and cars).

The other term I now barely remember was used for strings with a half-round wrap wire...was “half-round.” (And my difficulty in remembering the literal term illustrates the value in retention of cleverer terms like those above.)

I don’t recall who made them; the package was white with a lot of medium blue type and graphics. I despised them. They may actually have sounded a little brighter than flatwound (not much), but they felt awful - much like badly corroded old musty strings that leave that metallic smell on your fingers when you come away. Even with some of the same grody tackiness. Come to think of it, they sounded that way too. AND to make them the worst of all possible worlds, they were as stiff as flatwounds. Worse, actually, because even with their burnished surface, they ground on the strings as you bent them. Their tactile properties were ALL wrong. Never again, I promised myself.

MAYbe I’ll try these flattops. I generally trust D’Addario. Maybe they’ll come groovin’ up slowly.

17

Yeah,Proteus,I remember the "half wounds",think it was from the late 70's early 80's.I believe they were Ernie Balls.Never tried them,had no interest in anything but the "7's" .007 high E string,Super Slinky's they were called.Nowadays even 10's are too skinny for my tastes.

18

Well thanks for the explanations guys. I myself never saw any brand of flatwound strings that were actually used the name Ribbon-wounds but I did hear them referred to that way by some players and in some stores decades ago.

Question for you Tim. Regular round wound strings have a core which is wrapped with another string and the process is complete, right? Now to make a flatwound string, is it not a 3 step process? A central core wrapped with another string, same as round wounds but not as heavy a gauge, and then a thin piece of ribbon wrapped around that to make a smooth surface?

As for comparing the old version of ground wounds you found so severely distasteful and those put out for the past 25 years by D'Addario, the difference is obviously day and night, but has to be due to the manufacturing process. I say this, not having played the 'nasty' ones, because today's are wonderful and have no downside whatsoever. Try a guitar with them. Form a C chord at the first position and then slide your hand up the neck. You won't hear that loud, irritating scratchiness of rounds and you'll notice the ease of moving your left hand as these don't have the drag factor of regular rounds. Strum a chord on two identical guitars with a set of strings of the same gauge side by side and I defy you to tell which guitar has which set of strings.

Being called Flat Tops is a no-brainer.....they were developed to be put on acoustic flat top guitars. Fabulous on acoustic archtops as well.

19

"I have a vague memory of the term “tape-wound,” at least for bass strings, from the ‘80s."

well, those are literally wrapped in nylon tape approximately 1 to 2 mm across. they still exist, and i'll use them if i ever get a Beatle bass.

20

That name rings a bell too Mac, thanks!

21

huge, deep, dark bass tone. would be perfect for dub or other forms of reggae.

22

I’ve got D’Addario Flat Tips arriving today and I’m quite excited! Should I try them on Southern Jumbonor a D28 first? They could both do with a new set...

Edit: I meant ‘ Southern Jumbo or’ but I like ‘Jumbonor’ so I’m not correcting it.

23

I like ‘Jumbonor’

I like it too, but I’m not touchin’ it!


The halfwound-groundwound-flattops I tried weren’t from the 80s. Twas a mere few years ago. Since 2003, anyway, as that’s when I got the guitar I inflicted them on. I’m willing to try again, though string squeak when moving doesn’t bother me. I can minimize it with what passes for technique if it gets excessive, but I can tolerate some artifacts. They’re like sawdust when making things - or, more accurately, visible brush strokes in a painting. Evidence of human work.

I don’t know about flatwound production, though I know I’ve seen them unraveled. I’d think I’d have been curious enough to note if there were three layers, but I can be oblivious too. My instinct is that there’s just two. Easy enough to check. One of us should do that.

24

Some folks don't mind the noise of round wounds, in particular those playing Merle's style as noise is, in a way, part of his 'sound'. Where I notice a big difference with these strings is when I drop into a music store and play a few acoustics. The feel though is immediately noticeable to me and my left hand feels mired down I guess you could say - slow - in trying to slide my fingers along the strings. And there also is, for me, a rapid wearing effect on my right hand nails! That happened when I had the bronze round wounds on my Synchro when I got it! I always had to touch up my nails with a fine emery board but I rarely have to since the switchover. Between the electrics with the Half Rounds and the acoustics with the Flat Tops, I have no issues with either type with my nails.

I've never tried the coated strings but obviously a lot of players must like them as they seem popular enough. In my case they just couldn't give me something I still need the strings to do for me. Comparing the two styles of strings, they both have the same goal so they're really just variations on a theme, the theme being [mostly] less string raspiness or noise.

Edit: I corrected the poor spelling mistakes.....it was late.

25

I don't think there are any good acoustic strings anymore. They're now all designed to make the Piezo pickup under the bridge sound better, and since those have such an odd tone, electric acoustic and acoustic acoustic don't share common requirements. Take your time machine back to the 60's or early 70's and bring back some Darco New Yorker Light guage. ( light meant .012's) Get me some Pledge Spray Wax while you're back there.


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