Adrian Belew and fresh strings

Esquire Jones

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So, the other day I was changing the strings on my Les Paul. They were months old and were sounding pretty stale.

It reminded me of the one time back in 1995/96 that I spoke with Adrian Belew in a recording studio in Boston.

He was preparing for his session and I had a few minutes to chat with him while he was changing strings on his strat.

I joked that he should have a roadie or a tech doing that for him. He was super nice and very gracious. He told me that changing strings is one of the easiest ways to ensure your tone is consistent and strong. (Paraphrasing)

He said “It only takes five minutes and it’s a great way to focus and think about the session at hand”.

He brought a refrigerator sized rack with him and played into a tiny Marshall combo amp.

Just one of those moments in time that I’ll never forget. A very nice experience.
 

Record83

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I got to see Adrian Belew in October '19 at the Arcada in St. Charles, IL. It was the last concert I saw before everything shut down next March. Of course, he was amazing and very entertaining on stage. Played everything across his entire career. Other musician friends of mine who had the pleasure of meeting him said much of the same as you; very nice, eager to talk.

Just as a comparison, I thought I would share: I played for many years in a blues band with some close friends of mine. The lead guitarist, my buddy "Mumby" is a phenomenal blues player (he should be well-known, that's how good he is). Much of the time we both played Strats and sometimes even the same SRV signature model (although we both changed pickguards so we didn't look like the Four Freshmen or something like that...)

Even though I like "fresh" strings, I could go weeks, months, many many gigs without changing strings. Tuning problems or breaking one would prompt me to change. However, Mumby would have to change every gig, once or twice a week. His strings would be black after 3 hours of playing. I could have polished his guitar neck and put clean strings on there and after a gig it looked and felt like the neck was stuck in dirt! Of course, his hands weren't dirty, it's just something with the pH balance in the skin I guess.

But of course, above the point of having "fresh" strings, there is an element to the practice that gets the player in tune with the instrument and what it needs and how you will play. Most big-name guitarist don't even TUNE their guitars anymore, let alone change the strings.
 

Boreas

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Love AB!

I neither gig nor change strings often. I have always been curious - if you like to install new strings just prior to a performance, what is the risk of a defective string showing up in the first set? I wouldn't say it is often, but I have come across defective unwound strings right out of the pack. Usually wraps unwinding or breaks just above the windings.
 

Powdog

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Last time I saw Adrian he came on stage and did a long set with his band. For the encore he re-emerged with Tony Levin and did an extended King Crimson set. The whole time he had a giant smile, really was enjoying the show. One of my favorite live experiences.
 

grandstick

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I've seen Adrian a couple of times. The first time was the first gig on his 2014 tour. We were standing just 3 feet, or so from him - I've performed on that stage a few times, it is only a couple of feet off the floor - he was literally sweating on us. If you've ever seen any live video of him, he sweats profusely.

He was still working out some kinks with his computer-based rig (software settings, etc.), but it was an insane gig.

Ever since I first heard him on the 3 King Crimson albums (Discipline, Beat, TOAPP), he has been the biggest influence on my approach to guitars and gear - "what happens when crank that knob like THIS???"

Here he is, after signing my son's Strat.

IMG_5455.JPG
 

Telekarster

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Love AB!

I neither gig nor change strings often. I have always been curious - if you like to install new strings just prior to a performance, what is the risk of a defective string showing up in the first set? I wouldn't say it is often, but I have come across defective unwound strings right out of the pack. Usually wraps unwinding or breaks just above the windings.

I don't gig too much anymore but when I did, I always changed strings beforehand unless there was some reason why I couldn't. Certainly no more than 2 gig's on a set, which I could probably count on 1 hand how many times that ever happened. I've only ever played D'Addario's on electrics, 9's and/or 10's, and I've never come across a set that was defective or didn't perform as it should. Not to say it can't happen, but I'd have to say it's pretty rare.
 

eclecticsynergy

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I sweat a lot when I perform and it's very corrosive, eats through strings and plating. Can only get three hours stage time on a set, and that's wiping them down with Fast-Fret right after being played. Time was, I had a stage tech who'd take care of that as soon as I set one guitar down and picked up another. He'd tune them too.

No longer have that luxury and I have to keep track of the flight hours because they're guaranteed to start breaking - usually a plain string, occasionally a D or low E. I can sometimes get five or six hours at rehearsals or in the studio, if I'm not sweating much.

I always put a fresh set on before a recording session. Been doing that for decades.
 

Telekarster

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I sweat a lot when I perform and it's very corrosive, eats through strings and plating. Can only get three hours stage time on a set, and that's wiping them down with Fast-Fret right after being played. Time was, I had a stage tech who'd take care of that as soon as I set one guitar down and picked up another. He'd tune them too.

No longer have that luxury and I have to keep track of the flight hours because they're guaranteed to start breaking - usually a plain string, occasionally a D or low E. I can sometimes get five or six hours at rehearsals or in the studio, if I'm not sweating much.

I always put a fresh set on before a recording session. Been doing that for decades.

Yep! My Dad had corrosive sweat as well, and likewise a rockin' guitar player I know who plays Les Paul's. My Dad could never wear a cheap watch because the plating would literally peel right off inside of a couple weeks, down to the base metal, and then that metal would pit and corrode like battery acid was on it and fall apart. Stainless steel watches, full SS band too, was all he could wear. Leather would fall apart almost overnight. As for my guitar buddy, he has to replace his tune-o-matic bridge every year or so. They literally just fall apart in the same way my Dad's watches did. No need to mention strings LOL! ;) I completely understand your situation.
 




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