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Are We Changing Our Dobro Strings Too Often?

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Nov 14, 2019 - 11:27:56 AM
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464 posts since 8/29/2013

Over the years on this forum I've read where the need to change dobro strings waffled all over the place.

From Oswald saying, "I only change strings when one breaks" to another who says, "I have to change strings every eight hours of play",

Which one is closer to the truth? Probably both. Seems to me the answer lies somewhere in the realm of "in the mind and ear of the beholder".

In my case I'm afraid I'm closer to Oswald's string changing rational and here's why.

First, I can't for the life of me believe any string manufacturer would design and make strings that would only last for only eight hours no matter how hard they were played.

Second, for me it takes about eight hours of playing time for my strings to be properly "seasoned", that they are correctly stretched and seated in the bridge and nut slots and will hold their tune.

Third. I get the impression that the frequent string changers sometimes do it because they want to impress other players with the length, strength, frequency and dexterity of their play for their need to change strings so often.

Fourth, I realize that the hearing ability of each person is not the same. Some can hear like a bat, others to varying lesser degrees. All are factors that come into play that may help spark the thought that a string change is necessary or unnecessary.

But again, I do not fall into this frequent string changing category.

If this idea of early string decadence was so true then why wouldn't pedal steel players be compelled to change their strings as often in the light of more stress being put on their strings due to the pull, push and lower to achieve tone changes?

Can you imagine a pedal steel player changing out twenty strings on his D-10 after only eight hours of play or a mando player changing eight strings that often? They'd never get anything else done.

But I feel certain one thing is clear here, string manufacturers don't want to discourage this perception. Why would they when they're already laughing all the way to the bank.

Another pet peeve is changing out dobro cones due to vibration stress. To my knowledge, Oswald never changed out the lug cone in over 50 years of playing Herman, his model 27 roundneck, and it sounds as good today as it did in yesteryear.

But that's a subject for another topic here on the forum.

Edited by - DBChimer on 11/14/2019 11:33:42

Nov 14, 2019 - 11:32:03 AM

docslyd

USA

174 posts since 11/27/2014

...depends upon the vintage/modern/lively/subdued sound that you're after. I like my old car even though the carb runs rich and stinks to high heaven. That vintage vibe is what I prefer.....(in that case).

Nov 14, 2019 - 1:32:27 PM
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daver

USA

564 posts since 9/2/2008

Fact:  strings get dirty, oxidize and wear out just from playing. They're made out of metal, which deforms, fatigues, and wears out with use. I've seen my 3rd G string under a microscope and it truly gets deformed after being hit continuously with a hard pick. I've also seen that tiny fibers from the cleaning cloth, along with all manner of finger gook, remain in the string windings even after cleaning.  There are some players who, based on body chemistry ("acid sweat") will kill a set of strings in 5 minutes.  Strings will have one "sound" when new, and a sound that progresses over time to lose brightness, volume, and even accuracy. At least we don't get fret dents in the bottom of strings like guitar players do. Oh wait, we get bar dents in the low position after hammers and pulloffs...

IMO, electric instruments have a little more tolerance to string aging, as there is typically not much out of a guitar speaker above 6 or 8 kHz, and the resonant peak is about 1 to 2 kHz depending on the pickup.  Most of the "zing" of new strings is above that, and there's more electronics to compensate.  Even Jerry Douglas said, after going all Aura all the time, he doesn't change strings as often.

Though it's fully documented that there was a collusion to make incandescent light bulbs wear out prematurely to increase replacement sales, I don't think that's what's going on with the string industry (I could be wrong).  Rather, I see the string industry evolving into making strings more long lasting.  I do hope they keep laughing all the way to the bank.  If strings are a profitable commodity, they will keep being made, and I won't have to try to make my own!

So, what do you want your sound to be?  Fresh, bright, mellow, rounded, flat, vintage, etc.?

I have a friend who is an awesome flatpicker. I tried his guitar and the strings were deader than doornails. I suggested he change the strings; he said it records better this way.

My first acoustic guitar was an Ovation, it sounded really good to me with fresh phosphor bronze strings, and nothing else. I got to used to changing strings every week. Then I went to college and no longer had string funds. That was a time of adjustment...

Right now, I lean more Oswald in my string changing, for no other reason than I've gotten lazy.  When I do a gig and I don't find the reso picking up in the mic like I remember, I change them.  That's just me.  YMMV as always.

Nov 14, 2019 - 1:59:32 PM

2BUCKS

USA

135 posts since 4/27/2015

I like you DB, but I'm only giving you 4 stars on this rant because you only came up with 4 bullet points. Ive heard you do better. But if you'll allow me to Chimewinkin; I usually change strings when I hear a tonal change in the strings.  Usually the 3rd or 4th string loses some of its brightness after a couple/few months so I'll change the set and clean the guitar real good while I'm at it. It makes me feel good to treat my instruments with respect and make them sound as good as possible. The time varies between string changes but I'm not sure exactly why. I guess I'd say I have a firm attack but wouldn't say it was aggressive compared to other pickers I've played with. Oh, and I never changed strings or played to try to impress anyone. I'm usually either practicing alone or trying to play up to the level of the people I'm playing with. Keep the rants coming brother. Take care.

Nov 14, 2019 - 5:50:27 PM

464 posts since 8/29/2013

I like you too Steve. I like your logic as well as your heady responses on topics and posts that tickle your fancy.  Please keep them coming.

This topic from me is not as much a rant...its more like an "I've just gotta' get this finally off my chest" kinda' thing.

Edited by - DBChimer on 11/14/2019 17:55:47

Nov 14, 2019 - 6:29:03 PM

464 posts since 8/29/2013

BTW Steve...great last name for living in Colorado this time of year. Always enjoyed skiing during Colorado "winters" when I lived in Chicago.

Hope you have a great ski season this year yes











a

Nov 15, 2019 - 8:11:57 AM

thebowl

USA

17 posts since 5/31/2016

I am pretty certain that different folks have different body chemistry that dramatically affects the corrosion of metal guitar strings. Not to disagree that preference plays a large role, only to make the point that there are apples and oranges involved.

Nov 15, 2019 - 8:49:34 AM

464 posts since 8/29/2013

I think this body perspiration thing related to prematurely decaying string sound and response might be a bit overstated.

My reason? Simple. If you diligently take the time to wipe down your strings after each play session, you lessen the chances of  premature string decay by neutralizing any deposited perspiration or body oil.

I use a quality micro-fiber cloth to do this and it works just fine. The cloth works just as well  clean ing the coverplate, tailpiece and fits easily under the strings to clean dust from the fretboard, headstock and coverplate under the strings.

Sometimes a warm, moist terry wash cloth helps remove more stubborn spots before using a dry micro-fiber cloth to finish the job.

I'm not a big fan of using any chemical based cleaners on any of my guitars.  For me, simpler is much better.

Edited by - DBChimer on 11/15/2019 09:03:09

Nov 15, 2019 - 12:46:01 PM

124 posts since 7/9/2010

Hello,

The time to change is when retuning strings is too frequent. Or when the bridge inserts need to be changed out. Wood deteriorates over time.

Nov 15, 2019 - 5:27:34 PM

Andy B

USA

126 posts since 11/4/2008

I find that the third string G goes dead first, often while the other strings still have plenty of tone. By dead I mean it loses all resonance and starts to thud when I pick it. This lack of resonance is sometimes accompanied by a high pitched buzz as the G string winding begins to unravel. If I am playing a gig with fresh strings the G will often be dead after 1-2 sets. I pick pretty hard and I have not found a phosphor bronze round wound third string G, plain or coated, that holds up very well.

Edited by - Andy B on 11/15/2019 17:29:30

Nov 15, 2019 - 7:33:01 PM

464 posts since 8/29/2013

For some reason I have yet to fathom, I feel like a failure.

Failure in the sense that I've never experienced having my third string in open G tuning to be the first on my dobro to go south. Somehow, I've never become a member of the "third string decay club".

I get pretty good volume out of my dobro and pick it fairly hard but not to the excess that some have stated here. All my dobro strings seem to age at the same pace top to bottom.

Can I put my finger on the reason why? Not really. Doesn't seem to matter what brands I use either. Over the years I've tried pretty much every brand from Just Strings to Black Diamonds, all last about the same.

Sometimes I get the impression that I'm either just plain lucky or I've got Oswalds' ghost
perched on my shoulder.

Nov 15, 2019 - 10:52:12 PM

259 posts since 8/24/2013

When they sound bad to the players ears he might want to change them. The plain ones get changed the most in my world. When I was working, the strings needed changing more often. I’ve seen the time when after one show the plain strings looked rusty.

Nov 18, 2019 - 2:17:07 PM
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938 posts since 1/10/2009

If your goal is to play like and achieve Oswald’s tone then use a nice prewar dobro with nickel strings and never change them. If you lean more towards Jerry Douglas’ tone with AKUS Live At Louisville then play a modern dobro like a Scheerhorn w phosphor bronze strings and change them often. When my strings go dead after 6-10 hrs of hard playing the thuddiness is just awful and a string change is such a relief. DB, if I had to admit you are right that frequent string changes are a hoax I’d probably have to quit playing!

Nov 18, 2019 - 4:16:32 PM

464 posts since 8/29/2013

Maybe the reason I have difficulty in relating to the ultra string changing frequency you and others subscribe to is because I've never experienced my strings going dead in such a short playing time.

As stated previously, I don't baby my dobros when I play them, then again I might not be attacking the strings as hard as some of you do.

I'm gonna' have to stay with my original premise. It's borne from 11 years of personal experience and that makes it difficult for me to think otherwise.

Nov 18, 2019 - 5:03:51 PM

938 posts since 1/10/2009

That's fine DB. I'm sure it saves you some money and time as well. I guess one man's "seasoned" is another's "dead as a doornail".

Nov 19, 2019 - 11:05:50 AM

1091 posts since 1/14/2011

My Beard E model has a fat sound and needs new EJ42 strings every week, or the new Nickel Bronze strings every other week, to project in a jam and feel its best.

My Wechter Scheerhorn has a brighter sound, so it takes about 6 hours of playing time for the harshness to settle down, then I like how they sound for a couple weeks after that. With that guitar, I notice the feel changes before the sound goes bad.

With my 1930's Oahu acoustic parlor-sized squareneck, I prefer newer strings to get as much projection out of it as possible.

Nov 19, 2019 - 12:21:56 PM

464 posts since 8/29/2013

Man alive... the only responses I've gotten to this topic so far are from the quick-string-change aficianados, some others are on the border of agreeing but never really come out and say so.

Isn't there another soul out there that shares my view?

I can't believe every dobro picker on the planet changes their strings every 7 to 10 days!  If there's just ONE other dissenter out there...let me hear from 'ya!  sad

 

Edited by - DBChimer on 11/19/2019 12:32:50

Nov 19, 2019 - 12:31:40 PM

docslyd

USA

174 posts since 11/27/2014

If you're waiting for someone on hear to convince you that you should hear a difference, that you don't hear, or see a value in frequent string changes, that you don't see.....it probably ain't gonna happen....

Edited by - docslyd on 11/19/2019 12:32:07

Nov 19, 2019 - 12:38:42 PM

464 posts since 8/29/2013

True statement Eric...but I still think I'm not in the bottom 10% minority.

Nov 19, 2019 - 12:39:26 PM

938 posts since 1/10/2009

William, I don’t change near as often just playing at home for practice or fun. But gigs and especially loud jamming uses them up much faster. Plus the PB strings are not as durable as the nickel or stainless some folks use. I’m firmly in the Oswald camp of string replacement on my pedal and straight steel guitars. They just keep sounding fine until they break. Partly because they are nickel and steel, mainly because I don’t pick nearly as hard.

Nov 19, 2019 - 1:56:25 PM
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Players Union Member

otbreso

USA

1595 posts since 4/27/2009

I change them when they need it which is often. I'll kill off a set of EJ-42 strings in an hour or two. I don't think it's so much that I am picking hard as it is my poor technique. EXP-42s last a lot longer as do the DR and Dunlop strings. I seem to get surprising mileage out of the Dunlop strings. I can't stand it when they are dull and lifeless

Nov 19, 2019 - 4:39:51 PM

docslyd

USA

174 posts since 11/27/2014

I only change my unwound strings when they get too much cheese residue on them......they're in my cheese slicer...

Nov 21, 2019 - 9:54:55 AM

266 posts since 9/9/2016

When * I * can't hear my own playing in a group setting , I change my strings .

And each time I do , I am struck by how much better it sounds , and wish I'd replaced sooner .

 

  Added - But that's just me . If you're happy with your string regime , then I'm happy for you , and you should stick with what you're doing .

Edited by - Biggfoot44 on 11/21/2019 09:58:10

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