I’ve listened to the recordings a bit… I think the monels might actually be better recorded than I initially thought. I think they might need more EQ than the PBs (particularly a cut centered somewhere 900hz). In addition (which could be a result of my playing), they might need some more compression than the PBs. Again, everything was unprocessed. Also, if I play with a particular guitar for a while, subtle changes (such as how hard I play)seem to occur that make it sound better, I suspect I need to adapt to the different strings as well.
I restrung my guitar last night and have put about 3 hours on the strings, so here’s my initial impression.
The first thing I noticed while tuning up was the lower string tension. At first I thought my tuner was malfunctioning because I didn’t think the low E was tensioned enough to be in tune.
After tuning I was kind of disappointed for the first ten minutes or so because the strings didn’t have that new string shimmer that PB’s give (it was like buying a new car but not getting the new car smell), but after a half hour or so, I started to appreciate the monels more. On my D-18 they didn’t seem as loud as EJ17’s or Lifespans on either the low or high end, but they did seem to balance my guitar better. My sense was that they tempered the highs more than the lows. I tend to strum with a pretty heavy right hand so I found the reduced high end to be advantageous.
I also started playing around with different picks. The Golden Gate mando pick I had been using seemed dull with these strings. The Blue Chip, which is my main pick now, seemed to work about as well as with PB’s, though maybe not quite as bright. The biggest surprise was with tortoise shell. I haven’t been a real big fan of TS mainly because of the click of the pick against PB strings, but these strings seemed to minimize that. My thinnest TS pick (maybe 1mm) gave a strong attack that really seemed to compliment the quick decay from the strings. I’ve been A/B’ing the TS and Blue Chip a bit today and I think I prefer the Blue Chip for strumming and the TS for picking single notes. Now I just need to figure out how to simultaneously hold two picks in my right hand and seamlessly switch between them.
My impression will probably change as I log more hours (and play in different settings), but for now I agree with Mike that they’re an interesting change of pace. I could see myself using them for a while.
Have you guys tried Martin M550’s? Sounds like they might fall between the Monels and EJ17’s. Lot of folks seem to like them (M550) on Mahogany gits. Warmer and a little less volume than PB’s, sound great right out of the box, though. Great feel and playability. I’ve not tried the Monels yet.
A while back I think I played M540s a bit (red package). I think those are the light version of the M550 (mediums). That was back when I was playing 90% or more fingerstyle. I liked the M540s fine, but my most favoritist strings then were the John Pearse PBs. It’s funny, now that I play with a pick 90 something % of the time, I can’t remember why I liked the John Pearse PBs so much. I mean they are fine, but back then I thought they were the bee’s knees. I’ll try a set of the m550s and see how they run.
Overall, I am now pretty lazy. I might slightly prefer the tone of uncoated (like SPs compared to Lifespan SPs). However, an uncoated PB string seems to run through it’s sweet spot in about a day of heavy playing. I can play coated PBs on a guitar and they stay in that sweet spot of good usability for a few weeks. So I get about a couple weeks total life on an uncoated PB versus a month or two from the coated… I just don’t like changing them that often so I usualy l stick with the coated strings. At the extreme end of going through strings, the guitar I plug in gets played only about three times a week (maybe 3-4 hours total). I generally only get 4 weeks on coated before I am ready to change it out, but I tend to play it pretty hard. That’s only 12-16 hours, that just seems sad. My flatpicking practice guitars seem to last many times that (although I don’t keep track of the exact hours, and I rotate them in and out). The TRs are holding up pretty well to start. I have about 6 hours on them.
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but after a half hour or so, I started to appreciate the monels more.
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I think I am (without trying to do so) adjusting my playing to suit them a bit as time goes by. Do you get the same feeling? For instance, they seem well suited to bends and vibrato and I found myself doing more of that.
So far I haven’t found them to affect the embellishments I use, like bends and vibrato, but I think it took a while to adjust my attack while strumming. After a few minutes of playing I started getting more balanced rhythm patterns and the strings sounded more pleasing to my ear.
Speaking of Monels, I just got an email from Strings and Beyond about Martin’s new strings. Check it out.
Word is that the retro strings are the same composition as the TR strings, just different gauges.
I’m with you on the coated/treated verses uncoated, Mike. I like EJ17’s the best, but I don’t like changing strings every week. I use the Lifespans (7200) for longevity. I’ll let them go two months (or more ) between changes.
I’m going to give the monels a shot and I might also try the EJ22 electric nickel strings Kenny Smith uses. That should be interesting.
Nice playing on the string comparison, too. I like that little bit of Angeline the Baker (Angelina Baker?) in there. The Monels initially sounded brighter to me than the PB’s. That may have been the Rosewood verses Mahogany though.
After a second listen, maybe they aren’t as bright as the PB’s. I think they are just brighter than what I was expecting.
Thanks for the nice words on the comparison. I played the TRs in a small picking group. I didn’t have as much horsepower (punch) to play with. They seem better suited to strumming than picking out bass runs and such. I have come to the conclusion that while they are fun for a change of pace, they won’t be my “normal” strings on the D18. I am planning on trying a set of the lights on the OM. The OM gets too much belly with mediums, although now that I say that, these monels seem to have less tension. Either lights or mediums… I bet that would be a nice string for the way I use the OM.
BTW, the strings are lasting pretty nice. I haven’t noticed much change in tone after the initial few hours.
I wonder how Larry is getting along with the monels…
Yeah Larry, how are you getting along with them? I’m thinking about ordering some for myself.
I gave them some heavy usage all last week at Suwannee Springfest and I thought they held up fine. Stayed in tune pretty good and held up to the harsh campground environment (Live Oak pollen was turning everything yellow) just fine. All of the jamming I did was in groups of 5 pickers or fewer, but I never noticed a problem with volume. Haven’t had my guitar out yet today, so I’m not sure if I need to change strings or not.
The set of strings I used last week at camp held up better than I expected. I haven’t felt compelled to change them this week despite playing with a layer of camp grime on my hands all last week. The strings didn’t start out real bright, but don’t seem to lose their tone very easily either.
I am getting some similar results to what Larry has seen. They are still warm and mellow, but they don’t sound dead yet, so I think they last a good long while for non-coated strings. Larry also mentioned they stay in tune well and they do. I still don’t get the kind of cut or volume I get with some brighter strings, but they have a nice comfortable sound.
I’ve made a couple of new observations about the strings.
I played in a big group at my local jam last night (maybe a dozen or so pickers) and for the first time the decreased volume was noticeable. Of course, the argument could be made that with 3 other guitars I didn’t really need to be heard, but it’s disconcerting not being able to hear my own guitar when I’m playing.
I also made a quick demo recording on Friday and found I had to EQ more than usual. The recording seemed muddier than what I normally get with my set up. This surprised me since I like how balanced the strings sound when I play them live.
As a continuing part of my comparison, I think I’ll run through another set of TR’s then switch back to EJ17’s to see how they compare after extended use with the TR’s.
I may try a set because I don’t get out to much and jam I play at home . I also looked at getting a set of the DR’s because they come in colors and I think that is neat . it glows in black light also and the reviews are good on volume and tone, but they are affordable either way the Monels or the colored ones. Still want to own a Taylor but alas I am keeping the Martin I have. Hard to turn loose of a good guitar even for a good guitar.
Welder, I bet the Monels would sound good with your guitar! I could be wrong, but I would think it’s a good match.
Yeah, but the DR’s glow in the dark. Welder with neon strings seems like a perfect match.
Whatever brings someone smiles seems like a good deal to me. Bring on the neon.