Acoustic Guitar Strings

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Bo Deadly

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I have a Little Martin on the couch that I noodle on incessantly. I've always used Elixir Acoustic Phosphor Bronze 10/47. But I've been using the same strings fro so long, I don't remember what the alternative was like so I'm looking to try something new. This guitar has a bit of a parlor guitar sound to it. It's the LXM model which is the laminate top (yes it's literally plastic) which I actually prefer because the wood top can have a bright twang to it.

So what strings would you expect to find on a parlor guitar in a studio?

What strings would someone put on a parlor guitar 50 years ago before they had "nanoweb" coatings and fancying winding machines?

I kinda like doing that 7th chord blues noodling thing so if the sound is a little rustic, that might be ok.
 

Squeaky

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I'm using Martin SP strings (12 - 54) on both my HD28 and D18 GE, but this is not really of much help to you as the D series are totally different types of guitars. I've been happy with Martin Strings.

I used to play a lot of classical guitar and I think that for a parlour-type guitar, which I was predominantly finger picking, I might try some sort of silk-steel string arrangement. You could still strum for a cool sound if your strumming attack was good (balanced). I wouldn't be using a pick though. Savarez and Augustine are a couple of brands that come to mind.

Another thing, how is the guitar set up? What is the action like? If it is a modern sort of hybrid top guitar (don't know much about these) you might be able to use heavier gauge strings? Gauge and string type will probably have more influence on the sound than brand. Fret board width and curvature are also considerations, I'd be less likely to go with silk-steel if it was a narrow fret board. Personal style, hand size and technique are obviously important considerations (no technique is a still a technique).
 

Bo Deadly

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I never really thought about it to that degree.

I prefer finger picking but I also have a tendency to do a half picking / half strumming with my finger tips and unfortunately that strumming with the tips of my fingers seems to trigger a lasting uncomfortable sensitivity between the tip and the nail. So I make a point of using the pick sometimes just to save my finger tips.

The guitar is a 2/3rd size or 0 size which is quite small so I've always thought 10s were appropriate. Especially if I'm going to be doing thinks like bending with my pinky. Maybe I could try 11s.

It sounds like I should look at Martin MA530S or MA170S which are the silk steel 10s. So is silk steel a traditional thing or is that something new?
 

john12ax7

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I would go up a gauge or two, 11 or 12s. What is the scale length?

With acoustics you really need to experiment, some guitars just prefer certain strings. Even then you need to change it up once in a while. Lately been liking the Ernie Ball Earthwood Phosphor Bronze, or go 80/20 for something a little brighter.
 

Squeaky

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Silk - steel provides a softer sound with less bite. It is also easier on your fingers as kind of halfway between classical and steel. I don't believe it is traditional and I believe that old parlour guitars were meant for steel strings (probably traditionally used with a really heavy gauge and a really high action). If you can play a guitar with a heavier gauge and a high action you get a really great sound (for some things - e.g. single (and double string picking), but it is challenging. Also makes the guitar louder - you can hit the strings harder before the guitar maxes out. I suggested the silk - steel as something I would like to try with a parlour guitar - that is if I was mainly finger picking with it. Using silk steel would also make playing easier if your hands and fingers aren't completely "in" all the time. I reiterate that it will be a pretty mellow sound. John12AX7's advice about needing to experiment is pretty apt.
 

midwayfair

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I started putting Silk & Steel on my Larrivee D-05 and I love them. I didn't love them on my parlor.

I've been putting flatwounds (D'Addarrio Chromes) on this:
pretty_guitar.jpg
It's definitely parlor sized, I think the scale might be shorter even than a typical Gibson scale.

Here's a couple songs I used it on if you want to hear flatwounds on an acoustic:

The second one is jazzy, so something you might expect to hear flatwounds in. The first one is folk rock, so probably not something you'd expect them in.
 

mikepoole

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Silk and steel, and if possible let them age well- that'll depend on how quickly your hands' skin chemistry dulls the strings. For a parlor guitar that will give you a pleasant mellow tone as opposed to the bronze...

mp
 

Winston OBoogie

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I also play Martin SP 12-54 strings. The modern coated brands always sound a bit artificial to my ears.

Just had a peek in the case and SP 12-54's are what I settled on for my 000-18 too. I also keep mine tuned down a half step or full step but that's another issue.
 

Bo Deadly

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I would go up a gauge or two, 11 or 12s. What is the scale length?

It's 23". The body is described as "Modified O to 14 fret". They don't sell the exact model I have but I think it's identical to the "LX Black Little Martin" minus the black color.

Strangely the Martin website advertises 13-56 "Lifespan" strings on the page for the LX Black.

I just put 12s on it and it actually sounds pretty good. Maybe I was wr-wr-wrong about thinking a small guitar should use small strings.
 

Winston OBoogie

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I drop a half step too. Little guitars can sound so twangy I've always dropped a half step on my LXM.
Yep, I like the tone more and have more fun when mine's a half step down. I only go a full step from time to time and if it stayed there more often I'd probably feel the need to experiment with different gauge strings.
 

groselicain

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I tried D'Addario Nickel Bronze and kinda like them. (I have a plastic martin DXM and also favor it's toned down twang)
I started using these about a year ago and I'm a big fan. They're about as natural as a set of strings are going to sound out of the pack. That said, they'll also sound far deader than other strings as they comparatively age as a result. This was a bit of an issue on a record I played on in the beginning of the year—something about my perspiration causes corrosion very quickly, so if I don't change strings every two weeks there's zero top-end.

If you're just looking for something that sounds warm with none of the artificial top of coated strings, it's hard to beat these or a decent set of Martins. Considering you said you were just looking for a good set reminiscent of 50 years ago, I'd say you've got plenty of good answers here.
 

Tubetec

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The other thing is as you change string gauge and tension the pull on the neck changes , often the truss rod will need a tweek , it has a lot to do with taste and playing style but the right truss rod setting can make a big difference to playabillity . Its something thats easily do-able by the user but bear in mind a quarter or half turn should get you where you need to be .

I shared a workshop with a luthier for many years and he often got in guitars with sheared truss rods due to over tightening by ham fisted owners , that turns into a big job as the fingerboard needs to be removed to effect a repair . So either be very careful if you decide to do it yourself or get a professional .

The vast majority of players seem to favour Martin Sp strings , coated strings being much more expensive tended only to be used by people who gigged heavily , I tend to agree with Abbey that the coated Elixir type string sounds a bit lifeless .
 
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