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OK - What Are The Best Guitar Strings For Fingerpicking the Blues Like Jim Bruce?

Subject: Re: Jim Bruce Update - Trufire
Date: Wed, 30 May 2012 18:43:32 +0100
To: twobluesmen@hotmail.fr

Hey Jim,

Hope everything's going good. I seem to remember an email from your mailing list that asked if anyone had any specific questions. I understand this was a while ago but thought i'd send them your way anyhow in case you thought there was any substance to them. 

Firstly, and I would be surprised if you hadn't had this question already. I may have missed you mentioning them in your free online lessons. If so sorry about that. 

What guitar strings do you use ? (I can hear the groan from here.) 

Mostly Martin SP Light Gauge

I seem to remember this being asked to legendary bass player Bernard Edwards of Chic, who then turned to his manager and said "What strings came with this bass ?" Probably in jest, but I like the romantic idea of him being actually serious. However I digress...

I use Light Elixer strings and have got on well with everything about them for years except the price...

Martin SP guitar Strings - Great for playing the Blues I buy a pack of the Martins for around $11, but when I was playing more live I bought strings in bulk from stringthis.com - worked out about $5 a set for phospor bronze lights - best guitar strings for fingerpicking the blues IMO.

Recently however I have been using fingerpicks a lot more in an attempt to play without amplification. I throttle the strings mainly for volume. This ends up with my wound G string losing ALL it's tone. The texture of the string gets completely morphed from the rough texture out of the packet to feeling like a really smooth flat-wound string.  Eventually breaking through the wound metal and leaving the nickel string showing underneath.

This could happen in less than 10 hours. Am I playing too hard ?

What are the best guitar strings for playing the blues?

I used to play guitar with finger picks 100% of the time, and a metal pick on my forefinger. I was playing blues guitar in in the street as well. Even so, I only changed them every week or so - maybe Martin's would be more resistant for you? It's true that the g goes dull after a week or so, even with bare fingers - I suppose it is a function of playing strength.

Have you ever encountered this ? I Am going to try using a really thick unwound string like the top E and B string.  
Going to be an interesting experiment. 

Do you find that heavier guitar strings suit some styles of the blues better than others ?


Also do you know of any accounts of how the old blues guitar players dealt with strings. Such a shops ,manufacturers and price. I understand that these are fairly mundane questions but once you strive to know about the history and the way these people lived the mundane becomes actually quite exciting to me.


Best guitar strings for blues fingerpickinThis is a good question. I tried to find out exactly what gauges and style of guitar string these guys used, but never manage to found out. I did flirt with medium strings for a while, but they are hell to bend over and make both my hands sore. Mediums are good for bottleneck guitar - Grossman uses mediums for everything now.

I occasionally will get heavier guitar strings if I am curious to see how it may or may not limit my playing. However this brings me on to my next question. After using heavier guitar strings one time for a long practice session of fairly demanding material I noticed some really niggly annoying pain along my fingers. 
Do you ever feel niggly pains in your fingers ?
(The dreaded RSI, My head says don't be a hypochondriac I haven't worked anything like the manual labour that some of the blues men endured.)

Sounds like tendons. If it didn't stop after a few days of playing (which it would if it was muscle ache), I'd take a serious look at your playing style, maybe using lighter guitar strings with a lighter touch.

I don't mean on the finger tips but along the lengths. It became difficult for a couple of days to hold a barre form with my first finger. Now the problem has thankfully disappeared. I just wondered if you had ever encountered any similar problems in practice or performance. Or if you had any particular routines trying to keep you on form. 

It seems stupid when so many of the worlds best guitar players probably have at some point practiced/performed for over 7 or 8 hours a day.

I know Emmanuel plays guitar for hours and hours. Others, like Knoppfler, don't practice much. I get tired of practicing the same old stuff, and sometimes I don't touch the guitar for a day. Mostly, I play an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening.

Aria Guitar with Light Gauge Strings
Thanks for your time Jim. I really can't describe enough what your lessons and knowledge has done for me. I am extremely grateful for the acoustic blues guitar lessons and don't want to imagine what kind of player I would be having not come across them.
It was just the right time for me to start learning blues guitar music when I did find them. Secondly, the blues players you mention have also been a great inspiration and I must have learnt and heard so much about the blues and ragtime players from and things you have mentioned.

That's very gratifying for me - keep going and it'll happen. If you fingers hurt, or you feel frustrated with progress, just stop for a day or two - it can work wonders! It's only guitar playing, after all - it should be fun.

Hope I've helped - Cheers,  Jim

Thanks so much. 

Colin
            

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