The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
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  1. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by whiskey02
    I have changed the plain steel e' and b' a few times.
    On my end, the E and B plains I never change!!! it takes them forever to sound as "flat"/fat as the rest of the set without going to .0140-015 or such...I just don't like "twang"...... Was really shocked when I found out Jim Hall used light strings ! like 010 or something



    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by whiskey02
    I have changed the plain steel e' and b' a few times.
    That's a great observation. And quite a few other forum members have had the same experience, including me. When I buy a set of strings now, I buy 3 e's, 2 b's and one g in addition to the set. Especially if I'm buying an expensive set. So I change the e string every 3 months, the b string every 4 months, the g string every 6 months, the wound strings every 12 months. I change the wound strings to something different, say from stainless steel to pure nickel, just to have some variety in my "guitar life".

    There is another factor to consider when to change strings and that is the issue of fret wear. Do corroded strings accelerate fret wear? Most plain strings are tin plated, some TI's are brass/copper plated, and some (all?) RotoSound's are possibly nickel plated - the package says NP 011, NP 014, NP 018. Tin is a fairly soft metal and easy on the frets. When the tin plating has "corroded off" to the point where you have very hard music wire grade steel digging into the frets do you then have accelerated fret wear? I've noticed in my experience that the frets wear out under the 3 plain strings and essentially never under the 3 wound strings.

    There is also the question that the tin plating can wear away without the corrosion simply by the action of the soft tin making repeated contact, either point contact or sliding contact, against the much harder frets. Again the result is very hard steel digging into the frets. So once the soft tin has worn away is that a good time to change at least the plain strings? And how to know?

    I placed a dental mirror under the 3 plain strings. The tension of the strings holds the mirror in place. Then with a bicycle headlamp in my right hand and a 10X jeweller's loupe in my left hand I examined the wear pattern on the underside of the strings. Unfortunately I don't have the special photographic equipment to do such close-up photography so a verbal description will have to do for now. I saw an oval and very brightly polished and white-ish wear pattern with radial (at right angles to the string - not along the string) scratches in the polished wear pattern. I would guess then that the plating has not worn away because the plain steel would be a darker color and the radial scratches would have to be from the frets since the frets are a much harder metal than the plating. Those scratches also wouldn't have been in the steel because the steel is much harder than the frets.

    So my conclusion then is that the plating actually holds up very well. There is a caveat to this conclusion in that since these are RotoSound's the plating could be nickel which would wear much better than tin. Perhaps some forum members, who know for sure that they have tin plating, and also those who have TI strings with the brass/copper plating, would be willing to repeat my experiment and report their observations.

  4. #28

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    You can make you stings last longer. Wash your hands before playing; clean your strings after playing. If your sweat corrodes strings, probably you are not eating enough fruit and vegetables.

  5. #29

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    Although it’s also protection against corrosion, I think plating is done more for lubricity than hardness. Tin, indium, and a few other relatively soft metals are commonly plated as surface lubricants. I assume gold has a similar effect, but I couldn’t find any info on that use.

    The plating layer is very thin, and it’s held to the base metal by ionic bonds. It doesn’t wear down as easily as a thicker layer would because it’s more difficult to pull the thin layer off the base than it is to wear off the surface of a thicker layer of soft metal. The bonds to the base are stronger than the intermolecular bonds within the plating material.

  6. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by nevershouldhavesoldit
    The plating layer is very thin, and it’s held to the base metal by ionic bonds....The bonds to the base are stronger than the intermolecular bonds within the plating material.
    1. Thank you very much for that information! Then it is corrosion rather than mechanical wear that "wipes out" these plain strings. Would that be correct?

    2. I did some research and found that virtually all of these plain strings are tin plated. I haven't been able to find any string manufacturer who makes his own wire.* They all buy from an outside wire maker. Mapes is one of the major wire suppliers and they use tin plating for what they call "core wire". Although you can special order either 2% or 8% nickel plated plain wire. I have written to RotoSound and asked them whether they use nickel plated or tin plated wire. I will report here when or if they reply. TI makes a brass plated plain string, but also makes a tin plated plain string and adds a capital letter "T" to the product number to indicate that it is tin plated.

    * D'Addario comes close. They buy a thick high strength wire and then draw it down to a thinner wire through a diamond die. They use that "drawn down" wire for their XT series of strings.

    Cheers - Avery Roberts

  7. #31

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    Quote Originally Posted by Avery Roberts
    1. Thank you very much for that information! Then it is corrosion rather than mechanical wear that "wipes out" these plain strings. Would that be correct?
    I don’t know how to answer that. It depends on what you mean by “wipes out”. Not all oxidation is bad - it’s largely dependent on the specific metal(s). Some is protective and some is destructive. Some oxides have more mass than others, and I’m sure there are differences in mechanical properties that could affect tone and playability (eg smoothness of feel).

    Plain strings suffer from many failings. They oxidize. They become brittle from continued flexion, through a process called work hardening. This is why a coat hanger breaks if you bend it back and forth at the same point. And if the string is bent over a hard, relatively sharp edge like the back of a TOM bridge, the baseplate of a body-through bridge/TP, a sharp rim on a tuning peg hole, a rough spot or a burr, the microflexion at that point of contact becomes a stress riser in the string that probably affects tone and intonation before its inevitable breakage at that spot. Cheap or poorly chosen / designed / finished / installed hardware is a common cause of broken strings.

    If you mean lose its tone, I don’t think anyone knows for sure what causes this. Remember that a string on a guitar is basically the spring in an oscillating system. Oxidation can alter the characteristics of a spring, as can any change in its shape. Strings are inelastic in many ways, so they deform from tension, vibration, plucking etc. Both tone and intonation depend on uniformity of the thickness of a string throughout its length. Because the metal is not perfectly and consistently dense, constant pulling and vibration elongate it and cause irregularities in cross sectional shape and diameter. Even progressive microscopic variation in diameter and deviation from perfect roundness probably affect tone, longevity, and integrity of plain strings much more than wound ones.

  8. #32
    Quote Originally Posted by nevershouldhavesoldit
    I don’t know how to answer that.
    You answered the question beautifully. The two big issues with strings are breakage and loss of tone. Thank you very much for sharing your what appears to be rather extensive and in-depth knowledge.

    So the answer to the original poster's question is then somewhat unspecific. There is no set schedule that can be predicted. You have to change them when they no longer do the job, and "when they no longer do the job" is basically defined by the user's tolerance and judgement.

    Cheers and again thank you for your reply - Avery Roberts

  9. #33
    Since it is corrosion that is the number one destroyer of strings, I thought I would look up some "corrosion indices" for the various metals that we like to have in our strings. From the corrosion doctors website: Galvanic series

    This is an anodic index of corrosion resistance relative to gold. The lower the number the less corrosive.

    gold 0.00
    monel 0.30
    nickel 0.30
    brass 0.40
    stainless steel 0.50
    tin 0.65
    carbon steel 0.85

    I couldn't find a number for stainless steel because there are so many varieties and I couldn't find which grades are used by string makers. So the 18% chromium corrosion resistant steel (aka stainless steel) listed may or may not be typical.

    Brass plated core wire is more corrosion resistant than the usual tin plated core wire. Core wire is also used for the plain strings. Monel and nickel are at the top of the chart for corrosion resistance. Carbon steel is at the bottom so once the tin or brass plating is corroded away your strings will corrode very rapidly and become "fret eaters". Corroded steel is very much like a file.

    Thomastik-Infeld uses both brass plated core wire and nickel wrap wire for their jazz strings so that may explain why some users report good longevity from those strings.

    Cheers and hope this helps - Avery Roberts
    Last edited by Avery Roberts; 05-31-2022 at 10:24 AM.

  10. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christian Miller
    You can leave TI flats on for years if you look after them
    I posted before that when I got a set of TI Jazz a few years ago they got some surface tarnish very quickly. I cleaned them with alcohol, and they have remained tarnish free for a couple of years.

    I could change them out I guess, but why? I am not looking for a bright sound. They are warm and mellow and stay in tune.

  11. #35

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    The longer they stay on, the greater the thunk

  12. #36

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    OP, if you like a lively sound but still want to play flatwounds, you should try La Bellas next time
    However, don't be afraid of trying round wound strings.

    Like others have said, flats really do last longer. A big problem for your bronze strings is that sweat and grime get stuck in the ridges of the wound strings. I can only assume that the sweat being stuck between alloys like that accelerates the deterioration of the string. Some manufacturers attempt to remedy this by various variations of the same principle, coating the string with a thin film. If you want a really lively roundwound string, try out the brand new D'Addario XS strings.

    If you like the dullness (or as we say here, "thunk") of a flatwound, give all the major brands a try. I thought the differences the flatwound strings supposedly would have were greatly exaggerated, but I was wrong.