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The more I think I know about strings


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Scenario: 1979 Dobro (square neck) with strings that have been on it since sometime before 2009.


It was my brother's Dobro and I know for a fact he fiddled around with the tension screw on the cone and didn't know what he was doing, nor did I, who probably handed him the screwdriver. I went to change the strings last week. There were 3 sets in the case, all at least 10 years old and one likely 30 years old. One was a set of GHS semi-flats, no idea why anyone would want them, but there they are. Another was a set of John Pearse nickel 16-58. The 30+ year old ones were D'Addarion J42's, 16-56 phosphor bronze. I figured I'd try the D'Addarios. They were so old, they were in a clear package with individual string envelopes and they had no colored balls.


They were also dead. I don't mean a little dead, I mean thud dead.


I've heard people say that strings have a shelf life and I didn't want to believe them. I'm still skeptical but....


I took them off and pondered my next move. At the same time, I removed the cover plate, spider and cone to clean them and attempt a setup, maybe not perfect but at least following some of the prescribed steps. At that point I noted the female threads on the cone were slipping and it would never be 'proper' I super glued a tiny brass nut on the back side so I could at least adjust it some. I then put the John Pearse nickels on it. Sounded fine, (what do I know??). I then ordered a new Beard cone.


The Beard cone is supposedly "not 100% aluminum" as most standard replacement cones are. I have no idea. Sounds like voodoo to me but I went ahead and paid the $70 rather than buy one from China.


It came in and there was a marked difference in tone. Maybe a tish more volume, hard to say, but it did seem to have just a more lush tone. I don't regret it and I would do it again.


That was last night. I had put the Pearse strings back on because I was waiting on the mailman. Today I received a new set of D'Addario EJ42's in the mail. I swapped out the 5th and 6th strings....and after just playing for a few seconds, removed them and put the nickels back on.


Open, I could not tell the difference. None. When the bar hit it, the bronze went thud. The nickels rang. Not a tinny piercing ring. A thick, creamy ring that hits like a medicine ball.


Disillusioned? Oh yeah. Shattered everything I thought I knew.


And meanwhile I have nickel bronze on the '64 SJ. They've only been on there a few months but I like the thick (dull?) tone. It goes against everything I've been told about strings, but I'm tempted to put a set of 13-56 nickels on an acoustic and just see what happens. Not making any predictions because traditional knowledge hasn't served me well lately.

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