Acoustic archtop strings

Freeman Keller

Poster Extraordinaire
Joined
Aug 22, 2018
Posts
9,065
Age
77
Location
Washington
The title says it, what are you using on your carved topped acoustic archtop - composition, gauge, coatings, round or flat wound? Also what genre(s) of music are you playing? I don't care about electrics or flat tops - I've got that worked out.
 

bottlenecker

Poster Extraordinaire
Joined
Dec 6, 2015
Posts
5,724
Location
Wisconsin
This may not be too helpful, but when I still had a funtioning acoustic archtop I just put any bronze roundwound .013 "acoustic guitar strings" on them. My current one (30s slingerland) sounded great to me always, but I think when I can afford to get it repaired, and/or buy another one, I'm interested in trying monel round core. The only thing I really know is that flats don't work for me.
I mostly used archtops for playing a kind of hybrid of old time fiddle songs and country jazz, with a tone in the general neighborhood of david rawlings. I need the low strings to bite.
 

zombywoof

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Mar 4, 2006
Posts
4,166
Location
These Days NE Ohio
The only carved top archtop I own since I sold my 1953 Epiphone Triumph Regent about 3 years ago is a 1920 Gibson L3. As we are talking about a guitar with a birch body, lower bout of 13.5", body depth of 3 3/8", a 3 1/2" round soundhole, and wacky pin celluloid tailpiece I am going to take a wild guess and say what I string with may not be all that applicable. While the L3 will handle 13 gauge strings, I cannot say the same for my geezer hands. So, for a long time my favorite strings have been Newtone double wrap PB round core 12-54 gauge. But that goes for all my guitars. With the archtops though, particularly the Epi when I owned it, I tend to goose the high E and B up a step. As to what I play, I love the lo-fi sound of the Gibson and find it as good as it gets for playing blues, rags and when the occasion arises backing up some Texas fiddle tunes.

As availability of the Newtones though has gotten sketchy and prices have really shot up though I would also be interested in hearing what others are going with. I constantly tell myself I should give something like the rather pricey Thomastik-Infeld JS122s or more reasonably priced D'Addario Chrome 12s a try.
 
Last edited:

chezdeluxe

Doctor of Teleocity
Joined
Dec 29, 2007
Posts
10,277
Age
72
Location
Brisbane Australia
On my two acoustic archtops,17 and 18 inch with 25.5 inch scales, I use D’Addario 11-52 phosphor bronze (coated).

No need to go any heavier with those two guitars made by Australian luthiers Garry Albrecht and Gary Rizzolo respectively.
 

howardlo

Tele-Afflicted
Joined
Feb 16, 2011
Posts
1,689
Location
Hobart, IN
I liked the Martin Retro (Monels) on a 1959 Guild archtop I had. Gave it to a longtime friend and neighbor a while back. He loves Guilds. Love those strings on my both my all mahogany guitars and on a few other of my acoustics.
 

RomanS

Poster Extraordinaire
Joined
Jun 21, 2006
Posts
7,434
Location
Vienna, Austria
Got a Loar LH300, I play classic country, folk, singer-songwriter stuff on it, some flatpicking, some Travis picking, some Carter style, not a lot of chord strumming...
My favorite strings are Martin Monels (if you try those, give them a few hours before judging them, they don't sound good fresh out of the bag, but once broken in, will last for a long time). I use 13s, you'll be fine with 12s, too; anything lighter won't make the top move enough on an acoustic archtop.
 

brookdalebill

Tele Axpert
Ad Free Member
Joined
Nov 15, 2009
Posts
117,199
Age
65
Location
Austin, Tx
Medium pgosphor bronze.
I like em’ for all steel string acoustic guitars.
They sound great on acoustic arch tops, too.
 

telepraise

Tele-Afflicted
Joined
Feb 27, 2017
Posts
1,925
Age
66
Location
Tampa Bay
Hi Freeman,

On my L-5ish build, I started with Martin Retro monels medium gauge. The are very loud and and last a long time. The texture is a little rough and there's a lot of squeak in them. I also tried Thomastic Infield jazz swing smoothwounds, the equivalent of mediums. They were quieter and more muted, classic jazz tone. If I was playing electrically I would have stuck with them (I haven't even put pickguard and pickup on the guitar yet) They are reputed to last a year. I'm currently using D'Addario Nickel Bronze, medium gauge and they are quite nice too.

All of my comments reflect acoustic playing only. I find mediums on an archtop to feel like light gauge on a flat top. They're just a lot less work. You can do some more research over on the Jazz Guitar Forum, there are some good threads on archtop strings there.
 

Maguchi

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Jun 16, 2019
Posts
2,323
Location
Lalaland
The title says it, what are you using on your carved topped acoustic archtop - composition, gauge, coatings, round or flat wound? Also what genre(s) of music are you playing? I don't care about electrics or flat tops - I've got that worked out.

I play a lot of acoustic archtop, both jazz solo, big band rhythm. etc. I always use regular acoustic strings.
I play a Gibson L4-CES archtop jazzbox both amplified and unamplied. The genre is jazz and jaz-/blues. I found that GHS White Bronze strings in 12-54 or 11-48 works great for both. The White Bronze's got enough metal in the string for the magnetic pickups to sound good through an amp and a nice acoustic tone with enough volume to play unamplified.

GHSwhiteboyStrings.jpg
GbsnL4CESf.jpg


I've also used DR Zebra Acoustic/Electric strings in the past with very good reults. The Zebras are a mix of phosphor/bronze and nickel-plated steel so it works well with both magnetic pickups and acoustically
 
Last edited:

Freeman Keller

Poster Extraordinaire
Joined
Aug 22, 2018
Posts
9,065
Age
77
Location
Washington
This is all good stuff and thank you all very much. I recently built a little archtop and its enough different from my flat top that I'm still trying to find strings that I like. I started with uncoated light gauge PB acoustic strings - they were very noisy (the guitar seems to be really sensitive to string squeak). I put some coated PB on it (same string I run on my flat tops) and that helped with the squeak but the guitar just seems overly bright. I know that is part of the genre and I also know that its brand new and needs a little time to find its voice. I can stay with the strings (Elixers) but have been thinking of trying some flatwounds.

I use flatwounds on my electric jazz guitar and love them, but the composition is designed for an electric guitar and they are darn expensive if they don't work out. Just looking for ideas and you all have been very helpful.
 
Last edited:

chezdeluxe

Doctor of Teleocity
Joined
Dec 29, 2007
Posts
10,277
Age
72
Location
Brisbane Australia
………. I use 13s, you'll be fine with 12s, too; anything lighter won't make the top move enough on an acoustic archtop.
That may well be your experience but to some degree I think it is a generalization that has entered guitar folklore but does not apply to a number of lightly built archtops.

Phosphor bronze 11-52 round wound strings suit my archtops perfectly but I am not trying to belt out four to the bar rhythm with the Count Basie band. I don’t think many archtop owners are doing that in 2022 anyway.

I think that a starting point is to take the string type and gauge that normally suits your playing on an acoustic and find out if they suit your archtop as well. You may find a change to something heavier is not necessary.
 

bottlenecker

Poster Extraordinaire
Joined
Dec 6, 2015
Posts
5,724
Location
Wisconsin
This is all good stuff and thank you all very much. I recently built a little archtop and its enough different from my flat top that I'm still trying to find strings that I like. I started with uncoated light gauge PB acoustic strings - they were very noisy (the guitar seems to be really sensitive to string squeak). I put some coated PB on it (same string I run on my flat tops) and that helped with the squeak but the guitar just seems overly bright. I know that is part of the genre and I also know that its brand new and needs a little time to find its voice. I can stay with the strings (Elixers) but have been thinking of trying some flatwounds.

I use flatwounds on my electric jazz guitar and love them, but the composition is designed for an electric guitar and they are darn expensive if they don't work out. Just looking for ideas and you all have been very helpful.

You probably already know this, but be sure to listen to someone else play it, and/or record it. Archtops seem to have a larger disparity in the sound they project out and the sound that bleeds up to the player. Not that I wouldn't still try to tailor it to myself as the player, to some extent. Just keep an ear on what's beaming out to the audience.
 

toomuchfun

Tele-Afflicted
Joined
Feb 9, 2014
Posts
1,423
Location
PA, US
I find with a good archtop the strings feel lighter than the gauge that it's strung with. Not sure if the trapeze tailpiece contributes to that but that's the sensation I get.

Another interesting thing with archtops is if you are playing in a sitting position, and you lean your head a little forward of the top you can sometimes hear a phase condition of the sound coming out of both F holes.

On my '49 Epi Emperor I get good results with D'Addario EJ17's. I've also tried Gibson masterbuilt premium 13's, they're pb's too. I like the sound of those with maple bodies. On my '40 Martin R-18 and '62 Gibson L-50 pb's work well as do nickel strings sound good with the mahogany bodies.

I'm just looking for something that can give a good "percussive" rhythm along with a nice lead tone.
 

uriah1

Telefied
Gold Supporter
Joined
Feb 12, 2011
Posts
27,021
Location
Around
I switched to Nickel-bronze for all my acoustics. Softer and more natural sounding.
Tad too dark for some folks.
 

mgreene

Tele-Afflicted
Joined
Jan 27, 2010
Posts
1,050
Location
south carolina
Hey, everybody. These are good replies. I recently took my archtop out and have been testing strings for both electric and acoustic sound.

I tried Martin Monel 11's on it and they sounded super authentic to the Freddy Green sound, but I was having truss rod troubles and removed them because the tension was bowing the neck (I think the truss rod was sticky from being in the case for several years but now is fixed, I hope).

Right now I have Thomastic flatwound 11's and while I like them, I dont love them. (At my age big strings are starting to hurt my fingers.)

I do love the way nickel round wounds sound on my solid bodies, even for jazzier things w/ the tone rolled off, so I ordered some GHS rollerwound (flattened) nickel strings I am going to try. (I liked the sound of the solid body into my Gibson GA50T even better than the archtop.) I will also try the heavy bottom light top thing with a 10-46 set with heaver strings on the E and B.

I also have ordered a set of Dogal light flatwounds that are supposedly very good too.
 

davang55

NEW MEMBER!
Joined
Mar 24, 2019
Posts
2
Age
67
Location
TEXAS
The title says it, what are you using on your carved topped acoustic archtop - composition, gauge, coatings, round or flat wound? Also what genre(s) of music are you playing? I don't care about electrics or flat tops - I've got that worked out.

For straight acoustic work I think Bronze RW is generally recommended but if I had a TRUE acoustic only I would use MARTIN MONEL.
 

DBDM

TDPRI Member
Joined
Jul 1, 2020
Posts
17
Age
51
Location
Nashville Tennessee United States
On my Gibson Super 4000 I currently have Elixir 12s. Although my Super 4000 has a pickup, I play it as an acoustic and it really is an acoustic, with a floating pickup. I HAVE plugged it in but almost never do. I recently strung my Gretsch 6120 with Flatwounds and really like them (at the advice of George Gruhn). Likely I will restring my archtop with Flatwounds someday soon (I bought a 3 pack) but for now I am happy (thrilled in fact) with the Elixirs. Interesting fact is that it has not gone out of tune since I strung it with the Elixirs. I have tuned it literally zero times. I cannot explain that phenomonon. I strung it, tuned it up and it just stays in tune. Apparently the setup is good and guitar itself is very happy and I dont want to screw that up till I have to do so!

Edit--Flatwounds are D'Addario- XL Chromes (which again I have not used on the archtop, yet)
 




New Posts

Top