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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
reggie miles Guitar Strings: Elixir rant - THEY STINK! (139* d) RE: Guitar Strings: Elixir rant - THEY STINK! 31 Mar 11


At present, the high E string is regularly tuned four semi tones, or four frets, high of the E note that it is supposed to be, to Ab. My open tuning that I use is an open E form that's pushed up to open Ab. (Ab-Db-Ab-C-Db-Ab) I've been exploring this tuning for over 30 years. So, altering my tuning form is not something that I'd like to consider. I just want to alter the key that I'm offering it in.

What I'd like to do is to push that Ab tuning up just one more semi tone, or fret, to open A. (A-D-A-C#-D-A) That would mean the high E string would be tuned five semi tones, or frets, high from where it is meant to be tuned, to A.

Everything seems to work alright in Ab. The problem arises when I try to push the high E string up to A.

The string gauges that I use in Ab are generally as follows. (54/42/30/22p/15/11) It's a standard set of electric strings from Ernie Ball, (Beefy Slinky). The electric set offers me a little brighter sound than the average acoustic strings on my resophonic guitar.

The action is set low, not high, as on most square neck guitars. This makes it possible to also finger chord shapes in the first position, (nearest to the nut).

The guitar that I use is one of my own homemade resophonic guitars. It has a twelve fret square neck, (twelve frets to the body). I regularly travel to the twelfth fret with my slide.

If I used a capo on the first fret, I'd have to reach over the body to grab the 13th fret for that slide move. It becomes a bit awkward, because my guitar doesn't have a cutaway to reach that fret easily. That awkward move then negatively impacts the approach that I use to play a lot of my bottleneck slide arrangements.

I suppose that I could just alter my playing approach and that I might eventually get used to that 13th fret reach but there's another reason why I don't use a capo. The reason why a capo won't work, in this instance, is that no one makes a capo for a square neck guitar that has the action set low and that has such high tension on the strings.

Most every capo is meant for a round neck guitar with low string tension. Those capos that are meant for a square neck guitars are only made for those who play with the action set high. My particular exploration of playing bottleneck slide with a square neck guitar that has the action set low makes my efforts rather unconventional. My interest in pushing the limits of string tension to very near the breaking point makes me a pioneer in that area of acoustic exploration, or perhaps a rebel. In a world of sameness, I've always aspired to be something different.

Do you see what I'm facing here? It's the entire streamlining of the industry. It's musical gentrification. It leaves little room for innovation, unless the innovator is also an inventor.

I guess, that since I did make a whole guitar, maybe making a custom capo wouldn't be any huge deal... maybe. I might even be able to make another guitar, one with a cutaway, so that I could more easily reach that 13th fret and beyond. I simply thought that it might be easier to just find a string maker that was creating what I needed.

I find it easier to start with the most simple and direct approach to meet one's needs first. Then, if that doesn't work, one can always move on to more elaborate designs and concepts to a particular end.

I understand why those making capos are only making the type and style that they are creating. Like those who make strings and guitars, the majority of makers, of most musical things, aren't interested in catering to the needs of the few but rather fulfilling the needs of the vast majority of players. Their largest profit margin lies with serving players who are happy to never think outside the box in terms of their playing approach.

It's a challenge to find those, in the industry, that are truly interested in innovation, for innovation's sake. Profit is what drives most research and development. So, if a company feels as though they can create something that will secure huge profits, that's where they will invest their energy and money. Business is all about making a profit.

If a business has a product that's not selling well, instead of making their product better, most will spend gobs of cash on researching and developing new ways of advertising their product. That's probably why I continue to see the never ending alterations of musical instrument string packaging and advertising as opposed to new string design and development.

I'm probably not going to find any string maker that is pushing the envelop of technology in this direction. Developing a string made from an alloy that is resistant to breaking under high tension is not of interest to string makers. Developing a string that is less likely to break would mean that they'd sell fewer strings. Selling fewer strings is bad for profitability/business. They aren't going to invest in technology that negatively impacts their profit margins.

Maybe I'm asking the wrong question. Perhaps, I should be asking if there are any Catters whose area of expertise extends to high tension steel alloy wire that can be used for creating a string that would be far less prone to breakage while under extreme tension loads? Surely, there are other applications for such a product, beyond my limited interest. Any suggestions about where I could look to discover such a product already being produced, marketed and used in industries other than music?

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