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The multivariable calculus or systems analysis (not too technical)

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by JL_LI, Jul 21, 2019.

  1. JL_LI

    JL_LI Friend of Leo's

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    One of the things that happens every so often on TDPRI is that I read a post that has a kernel of wisdom. The poster may have just typed it without giving it much thought but I was able to turn it into a gem. There was a line in a post a little more than a week back about Ernie Ball pure nickel strings being warmer. I've never been completely happy with my Strat. I installed VN pickups to get rid of the 60 cycle hum. There wasn't a loss in tone compared with the CS fat 50's I pulled out, but I still didn't like the bridge pickup. And the B string was still overpoweringly loud when plucked finger style.

    I stopped in GC on my way home from visiting a friend in the hospital. There were no Ernie Ball pure nickel strings to be had but I found 10-46 Dunlop Electric Nickel strings. At $6 I could throw them away if I didn't like them and not really care. So I restrung, replacing the NYXL strings. I tuned the guitar and reset the action. The tension must have been different enough from the stretched out NYXL's to necessitate that. I plugged in and my jaw dropped. I had warmth and clarity. No mud. The B string lost its shrill. I played finger style. I played the bridge pickup with a flat pick and loved it. It didn't sound like my Telecaster or any other guitar but it sounded full and clear with just the right amount of brightness. Ditto the middle pickup. I have 7 pickup combinations. The neck and bridge was beautiful with fingers or a pick. What I didn't anticipate was the sound with all three pickups selected. Played finger style with the volume turned up a drop the sound has an acoustic like quality.

    So now the multivariable part. The strings had more of an affect on tone than pickup height or even swapping out pickups. I can't imagine a maple as opposed to a rosewood neck making this much difference. People swear up and down here that Nirvana will be reached with Bill Lawrence, or SD, Kinman, or some other pickup. Maybe so, but I've never seen as great a change from any other mod on this or any other of my guitars. I've spent the past week tweaking the little things. I already mentioned action. I dropped the bass side of the pickups. I actually reduced the treble on my amp to complement the new sounds. An electric guitar is a dynamic system. Almost every part of it will have some effect on tone. I've been tweaking my Strat for years now, getting closer and closer to what I want but still missing by a wide enough margin not to be able to say I'm there yet. Now I've finally got what I want. I can't say it's what anyone else should have. I use the guitar to accompany myself on vocals. My sound is clean on the cusp of breakup. No dirt. No effects beyond a little reverb from the amp. I'm an engineer. I shouldn't be amazed at this but I am. My ears are telling me I've found something special and what I'm hearing seems to be just a little beyond what calculation might predict.
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2019
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  2. bgmacaw

    bgmacaw Friend of Leo's

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    Quantum entanglement at work.
     
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  3. jhundt

    jhundt Doctor of Teleocity

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    your enthusiasm is inspiring!
     
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  4. LiteAsh

    LiteAsh Tele-Meister

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    Good story! After discover d’addario prosteels 10s my les paul is like completely different (better) guitar in combibation with princeton, not so much with blues junior...strings are important...
     
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  5. Ricky D.

    Ricky D. Doctor of Teleocity

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    I discovered years ago that all-steel strings are just too darn bright and harsh for me. Fender 150 or DR Blues for me, that nickel wrap mellows it right out.
     
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  6. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    I bend strings a lot and always have. When I was 15 or 16 in the late 60s, an older college-type guy told me he had heard my band the previous week or whatever, and that, in his mind, I sounded just like Eric Clapton. When people say things like that, I sometimes hang onto to it and dredge it up when feeling down or unfulfilled as a musician.

    When I returned to playing after a 25-year layoff, the Tele I bought had a couple of worn frets that would sort of saw through the top two strings. Then, when I least suspect it, I'll do a bend in the usual way, but then, "pop!" goes the string. It was obvious that I had a fret problem, which I have since fixed. But my short term solution was GHS cryo strings. The good thing about them was that it reduced the amount of string breakage on bends. But what was super-important, I discovered, was that I didn't have that tiny bit of doubt and fear every time I would bend a string. For a long time, I would practically flinch and squint my eyes, half-anticipating the string to break and hit me in the face. Not pleasant, and I'm sure others here know the feeling.

    It turned out that the cryo strings never, ever broke. Not when bending, not when playing Pinball Wizard, nothing, never. I am using different guitars now, and the frets are in good shape. But still, when I bend up a whole step on the first string, I squint my eyes in anticipation of breakage. This is a very bad frame of mind to be in as a musician. To play at your highest level, you need to have supreme confidence that what you play will come off without a problem. If I have a hint that something might happen with a bend, then I'll factor that into my musical decision-making process when I improvise. Of all the reasons behind a musical decision, fear of getting slapped with a broken string is just about as lame as it gets.

    Hence, I am sticking with the cryos. I suppose they sound OK, but I am more concerned with touch and articulation than whatever tone quality a given type of string will have. Except in extreme cases, I feel that I can adjust and accommodate on the fly as I play to whatever kind of strings happen to be on the guitar. In other words, it is not the sound quality of a string that is important to me (as I can get what I need through touch and amp settings, etc.), what is critical is dependability and consistency so that my technique can be focused on musicality rather than facial defense.
     
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  7. jhundt

    jhundt Doctor of Teleocity

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    a few years ago I found that my local grocery store (LIDL) was doing a special on electric guitar strings. 5 sets for 5 Euros (that's like 5 dollars). I bought 10 sets, and I am still using them a few years later. They are strings, they work well, and they sound good. Of course I can't play as good as you guys, and my old trash guitars and amps will never stack up with all your fine gear. But I will stand by my no-name grocery-chain guitar strings!
     
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  8. DHart

    DHart Poster Extraordinaire Gold Supporter

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    JL_LI.... very interesting post. Trying different string brands is something I've given little effort to. Though I'm sure you know, I tweak everything else that I can to achieve that "special tone" I'm looking for with each guitar.

    For the most part, I have played D'Addarios for decades. Your post tells me I might enjoy trying something different in the way of strings! Thank you.
     
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  9. Rusty Shackelford

    Rusty Shackelford TDPRI Member

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    Been using pure nickel for years, you get that warm jazz tone and as an added plus they wear frets less (nickel is about half as hard as steel). I have been using the Kendrick 11-50 sets
     
  10. JL_LI

    JL_LI Friend of Leo's

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    DHart, thank you for your post. My initial reaction was to go out and get Dunlop Electric Nickel strings for all my electrics but then my analytical brain kicked in. I tried these strings in the hope that they would help with a specific problem on a specific guitar. I don't want to change my Telecaster. I like it just fine the way it is. Warm strings will make my already too warm Gretsch (with the mud switch) even warmer. Probably not a good idea. They may help my SG along, or at least alleviate my occasional boredom with its sound. I learned as an engineer not to overanalyze things. Said another way, don't try to fix what's not broke. (I know, grammar, but this is a conversational style post). You can't make something perfect. Too many variables for that. But you can improve performance if you carefully take things one step at a time, analyze your result, change your expectations if necessary, and make another pass at solving the problem. This is very similar to the iterative process used to solve matrix algebra problems (without the endless calculations.) I'm getting too technical and I said I wouldn't. I hope you find the strings that get you closer to your "special tone" for at least one of your guitars. :)
     
  11. rangercaster

    rangercaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    Strings can make huge difference ... Even exact same set new vs. old ... There are so many variables on a guitar that finding the ultimate is almost futile ... Action ... Pickup output, composition, height... Tone pots
     
  12. DHart

    DHart Poster Extraordinaire Gold Supporter

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    Generally, I seek more brightness from my guitars. But I do have a couple Teles, which might benefit from some slightly "warmer" strings. I'll keep Dunlop Electric Nickels in mind for that! Thanks again.
     
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