Friday, 17 June 2011

Incredible string fan

I remember when my Mum came into the kitchen and I had a pot filled with boiling water and I was cooking guitar strings. She turned to me with a pained expression and said "are you making soup?"Obviously being a student I was skint and a friend had told me to boil the strings to get the grime and sweat and rust out of the strings and they would sound like new. Anyway, after I dried the strings on the washing line and carefully strung them back onto my Tokai Telecaster, they sounded like a cat being tortured by a crowd of hard nut sparrows.

Just to explain, in the days before Amazon (say pre 2004) you had to go into town and have a difficult encounter with one of the lads that worked in McCormack's or Sound Control music shop or whatever the equivalent is in your part of the world. It would go like this:
"I'll have a set of 10s please"
"10s?"says the assistant with a pained expression.
"Yes I do a lot of gigs"
"Bit heavy. How can you play a guitar with 10's?"
"I get by"
"You'd be bettter with 9's"
I'd look at the rows and rows of Jackson metal guitars racked up behind him and count to 5 trying to control myself.
"Okay. 9s then"
"No you'd be better with 8's". I could see him smirking at the guy playing with the crappy pub band mixing desk.
"Okay 8s then"
"We've not got 8s. We've got 10s"
"Okay I'll take them"
"Sorry, we dont have them. My mistake.They're only for 12 string acoustics"
"I'll take 9s"
I'm thinking I'll take anything. F**king banjo strings just to get out of there.
"Rotosounds? They went out with the Ark. Sure you want them?"
"That's exactly why I want them"
"OOOOOooo!". The guy playing with the mixer gives him a high five.
Then the guy spends 6 minutes trying to operate a huge calculator with a cracked screen. He then moves on to the till. He calls the mixerman over for help. After 2 minutes they phone the manager.In your mind you are dreaming of the invention of Amazon and the "one click to order button".

Maybe the most important thing about recording guitars is not the age and serial number of the guitar but whether you have a new set of strings and the guitar is set up properly. Some bands take the new strings thing to extreme levels. I remember seeing a film of Metallica playing at Milton Keynes and under Mr Hetfield was a little hatch with a roadie down there restringing guitars, tuning them and sending them up on stage to be shredded. The guitars were then sent back down to be restrung, probably with burn marks from the fingerwork.. It was like sailors loading missiles beneath deck on an aircraft carrier.

Maybe I'm misleading anyone who plays an acoustic guitar or a bass. With a bass you want the strings to be covered in mud, slime, salt, make up, grass, horse manure, yoghurt and to have been left on the bass for at least 9 years. I've heard basses where the bass player has said "I havent had these strings changed since the Elephant Man played this back in 1896" and it sounds amazing. Similarly an acoustic guitar needs the strings to have moved and stretched and that can take from 2 days up to 2 weeks. If you pass by a studio you may see an acoustic guitar player furiously scrubbing away and retuning (over and over and over) like these tests they do on new cars to simulate driving 200000 miles in 2 weeks. It'll still sound like a zither whether he does this or not.

No comments:

Post a Comment