Alternative options for unwound steel strings?

[J.K.]

Member
Messages
477
Hey all. I've been recording a bit and I'm just not liking the tone of the unwound steel strings on my acoustic when it comes to fingersytyle. Even with different mic options or a little lowpass to shave off the twangy brilliance, I'm still finding there's something in the overtones that makes me wonder if there are any options for a more mellow set of unwound strings.

As I understand it, unwound strings are all more or less the same (and most string companies buy the material from one of a few sources), but I know some companies like Thomastik have bronze and tin plated unwound strings. I imagine Elixir's "anti-rust" coating makes a little difference tonally as well. Has anyone had experience with b and e strings manufactured to have a more mellow tonality to them? Or are there companies with their own steel alloys that are sourced uniquely?

Cheers!
 

guitararmy

Member
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2,710
DR makes colored strings that I've tried before, and I'm pretty sure the unwound strings are coated like the wound ones. I would imagine that they would be less bright sounding...
 

Tony Done

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6,426
Martin make titanium core strings, but I've never tried them. You might have to resort to more EQing after recording.
 

[J.K.]

Member
Messages
477
Martin make titanium core strings, but I've never tried them. You might have to resort to more EQing after recording.
I looked at those, but the plain strings are still just regular steel (albeit "cryogenically treated," which I doubt tames them much, if at all).
 

mischultz

Member
Messages
1,086
You might try the D’addario NYXL singles as included with their nickel bronze set. It’s subtle, but I find that string a little fuller than the typical unwound. You’ll have to hunt a bit for individual strings, but they’re out there. Bought mine at strings and beyond.
 

Barnzy

Silver Supporting Member
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3,450
Man I've tried alot of string brands. I can hear significant differences in the wound strings and it sounds like you also do too. I have never heard a significant difference in the unwound ones though, beyond moving to a lighter guage. I wanted to tame a bit of the "jangle" on my 12-string so more of the fundamental notes (the lower octave strings) could shine through and could never do it. Can't offer any suggestions but I am interested in this too....
 

Bluedano1

Member
Messages
7,046
This is something I've heard electric bass players ( say P- bass) do to make their electrics sound more like uprights- deadening strings a bit ( attenuate sustain) by putting felt or foam rubber between strings and bridge saddles
OP could try putting some kind of very thin flat material between plain strings and saddle - thin plastic ( like a ' baggie' ) or even paper?
Just thinking....
 

Seorie

Member
Messages
431
JK - un wound strings are ALL steel with either tin or nickel (or Thomastik have bronze as u said). the 'plating' is microns thin and to prevent the steel corrosion and because it's so thin it has NO effect on the tone.
BTW DR don't coat their plain strings.
As the guys are pointing out above and as I suggested - whatever u'r hearing - that u don't like is coming from the guitar - what guitar is it ?.
If I had this problem with a guitar I just had to keep I'd split the saddle and replace the e & b section with a softer material.
just some thoughts
happy pickin
 
M

Member 995

Have you tried different gauges? Moving from .012 to .013 and .016 to .017 will fatten things up.

And don’t neglect the picking hand. Pick material, thickness, and shape or nail length/smoothness can dramatically alter the timbre.
 

Bluedano1

Member
Messages
7,046
Have you tried different gauges? Moving from .012 to .013 and .016 to .017 will fatten things up.

And don’t neglect the picking hand. Pick material, thickness, and shape or nail length/smoothness can dramatically alter the timbre.
Agree!
The pick choice ( material and thickness) really shapes the EQ of the guitar strings - plus it's really in terms of 2 tones ( IMO) :
The actual percussive 'tone' of the pick on the string ( I call it " thwack" Ha!)
The sound of the note produced, (attack, thickness, decay)
 

zombywoof

Member
Messages
4,528
Do what I do. I leave the suckers on until they get to the point they will not longer intonate only changing the wound strings.

Me, I would be looking at different saddle materials depending on what you want. Problem is it will, of course, nuance the sound of all the strings.
 

[J.K.]

Member
Messages
477
It's a Martin 00-15M and I play with my fingers (no nails), so it's not like I'm having to deal with the overtone madness of a Taylor with a plastic pick. I'm going to try some thicker unwound strings... maybe the NYXL strings. I know it's degrees of subtlety, but it's something I've wondered for a while.

I'm not a big mic person, but I've been using an AKG P170 because it seems to have a less peaky high end than some of my other mics, along with a CAD M179 to mix in the room (which really isn't the best room, but I work with what I've got), and I've been finding the mix to be pretty good with a couple peak notch filters to take out some spikes (and run through a fairly colored limiter I programmed), but you know how it is... every guitarist prefers to refine at the source rather than in post.
 

Jeff Scott

Member
Messages
1,739
...I wanted to tame a bit of the "jangle" on my 12-string so more of the fundamental notes (the lower octave strings) could shine through and could never do it...
Try a Yamamoto MS-12, they are nice, full sounding 12 string guitars.
...I've been using an AKG P170 because it seems to have a less peaky high end than some of my other mics...
An older Neumann KM84 (not the more modern KM184) is great for acoustic guitar, no peaky high end on those.
 

[J.K.]

Member
Messages
477
An older Neumann KM84 (not the more modern KM184) is great for acoustic guitar, no peaky high end on those.
Yeah, a guy I used to know had a pair of those and a bunch of other amazing mics in his studio. The price puts them toward the bottom of my "to-purchase" list. (But I'm always accepting donations~)
 




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