Guitar Talk…

… is not the replacement for Tommy and Ray’s Car Talk program (May be a programming idea here — anybody interested?) It’s just the title of this post.

And right now, at 7:45am I am thinking about guitar strings. Classical guitar strings, to be specific. (Though, lately, I find the term classical misleading, but it’s more convenient than ‘nylon compound and silk core bronze strings sets’.) It seems that classical string users pay attention to a great more detail in the feel and sound of their strings than the remainder of the guitar population. Having played steel-string guitars most of my life (yes, another inappropriate term which I won’t go into right now), I usually assess acoustic and electric strings in complete sets, either great, good or bad.

With classical strings it seems you deal in far more detail. The set is split in the middle (nylon / metal) first off, then you note the response / feel / durability of the treble and bass strings separately. It’s not uncommon to use treble strings from one particular set or manufacturer and bass strings from another. I admit to doing this myself. There are differences! First and foremost, bass strings wear faster than the nylons, in some cases they get fret marks in about a week and start to lose the windings in about two weeks. (Due to the nature of the string composition this is not unusual as the core is softer than steel-string sets and lower in tension.) It doesn’t mean the strings are cheaply-made or inferior — in fact, one particular set (LaBella 2001) has the best sounding bass strings for my guitar. The clincher is the treble strings don’t wear out that fast — in fact they may be clear, resilient and tunable for as long as three months (!)

Of course, in true guitar-fanatic mode, I spend hours researching the minute details and accounts of various brands / sets / compounds / tensions on the wonderful Strings By Mail website (htt:// and order a variety of complete and half sets (three treble or three bass strings). Yes, you can mix and combine various strings without having extra unwanted strings lying around the house — they do cost more this way, but there is less waste….okay, and it makes you feel good,as if you’re adventuring along to discover string combinations never before assembled by humans.

Long story to short — I now use D’Addario hard tension Pro Arte basses with D’Addario hard tension Titanium Trebles. The basses last longer than most other brands and they sound resonant and round which works well on my LaPatrie guitar. The trebles are lively with character and, once again, sound and feel great on the LaPatrie. I have used the compound D’Addario strings, including the unusual coffee-colored G string, and noticed no difference in sound or feel. To be honest, the basses seem to wear faster than the ProArte, and they cost more(!).

Yes, there is still more to be obsessive with when it comes to guitars. Of course, with a different guitar this may all change….

Now, in case you know more than you thought you would about classical strings here’s a link for two videos from my 11/16 duo performance with flutist Katherine Barbato:

I am playing the LaPatrie, using mostly a microphone and bring the piezo pickup in via a volume pedal for some body and boost during solos. Bass response was much better in the room than the video mic recorded. There are audio recordings as well, currently being tweaked and reviewed.

Until next time….

All the best,


Matt performs with flutist Katherine Barbato at Dalet Art Gallery.

Matt performing with flutist Katherine Barbato at Dalet Art Gallery

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