This is most definitely a guitar geek posting
A student recently asked why I have only two nylon strings on my LaPatrie classical guitar rather than the 3 nylon/ 3 metal setup common to most classical-style guitars. I explained that the flatwound metal G string affords better intonation on my guitar (which was explained to me by my repair-person Jack Romano and proved to be coorrect). Of course, in true guitar-geek fashion, I then explained that I also replace the remaining two nylon strings with ‘carbon’ trebles. By the time I revealed that last fact, she was deep in thought, examining her own classical guitar.
“Where can I tell my mother to get those strings?” she asked.
Of course, I then needed to explain how she didn’t really need to string her guitar in the same manner as I did because…….”Well….. your guitar doesn’t need to use these strings… it sounds really great as it is (despite the fact that it’s a $200 student model and mine isn’t)….. and…… the G string alone costs $8!”
Of course, she listened and considered my explanation, finally nodding in agreement and continuing with her lesson. I later considered that exchange and also considered my obsession with trying different strings in different combinations. Had I fallen into the Baskin-Robbins syndrome, having too many ‘flavors’ when it came to string options and wanting to try them all?
Well…… of course, I never swapped out strings with my steel-string acoustic – it was a whole set and nothing less. But classical guitars have options….
Okay – here’s the way things unfolded:
I acquired the LaPatrie classical more than 5 years ago as an interim instrument until the factory made more Multiacs. I needed it for a duo project with flutist Katherine Barbato. As it turns out, I never ordered the multiac and have adopted the LaPatrie as my primary solo guitar. When I first received it I wanted more treble punch than the standard sylon strings offered. I tried ‘titanium’ trebles (not actually metal, but composite of materials). They were more pronounced in volume and brighter in tone and worked great until one day I recorded with my TASCAM DR-1 and heard the brash twang (well, not exactly twanging-ly brash, but it seemed that way at the time). I switched back to standard nylons – the guitar was balanced and even (Lulo Reinhardt thought so, too) but I felt they still lacked something.
Carbon trebles came into my life and for about three years were perfect. (By the way, many classical strings are sold in separate treble and bass sets so it makes the obsessive selection much easier.) They suited my needs quite well until one day…………..
While reviewing tracks for my upcoming release Balance I kept hearing a thinness in the treble strings. From frets 7 through 11 the E string plinked and the B string did something similar (but slightly less). Jack recommended humidifying the guitar even though the weather had begun to warm. It worked… up to a point. Even though the resonance was back I still noticed thinness in those trebles. Then I did something daring….
I put standard nylon B and E strings on.
They sound and feel perfect! Warm and resonant, these were the strings that I had abandoned years ago.
Okay the question is: Did the guitar actually mature and change during the past five+ years and my swapping-out string types provided the best balance for a period of time? OR am I still a guitar geek and just delighted in being different and overly-detailed about my string selection?
I definitely pick the first option……. there was a difference and I have George Lowden on my side: “Matt, the guitars definitely open up as you play them. The tone changes as the sound goes through the wood.”
While I am pleased with the simplicity of ordering complete sets without the added cost of specialty trebles, I will stick with the flatwound metal G string. It does intonate better….. really…..