Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Strings - Lifespan Q

How much life are you guys seeing out of a set of strings. I’m sure playing frequency and duration (per session) is a factor, but I’m simply blown away with the Elixir brand. I put a set of lights on my D-28 that lasted a few weeks. That was an all-time record (when I’m playing quite a bit). In my earlier days (and with “lesser” strings), I’ve been known to play through a set in 2-3 days.

I switched to mediums on the dreadnought, and I last put strings on her the first week of February. That’s not a typo. I average playing a couple hours a day…and they’re just now getting to where the tone is being sacrificed. They still hold tune, remarkably. I was going to wait until I broke a string to change 'em out…but, I’m wondering when that’ll be??

I WISH my 000 (28H) was rated for the mediums (it has scalloped bracing, and I’m afraid to chance it). I have a hard time practicing picking on it with light strings. I think I will try some med-lights on it next, and just watch it.

I’m paying $14 for a set of nanoweb Elixirs. But, the tone and longevity makes it worth every penny. I think I’m gonna wait it out a little longer on this set and just see.

I now use coated strings almost all the time now due to the longevity. My current favorites are Martin Lifespans, both the phosphor bronze and 80/20s. I typically rotate playing on different guitars, so strings last much longer than when I played on just one in particular. I used to go through a coated set in about a month and uncoated in a week or two, typically changing based on flabby tone as opposed to intonation issues. Now, it’s kind of hard to say.
You mentioned putting mediums on a scalloped 000. I have an OM-18 that is scalloped. I called Martin to verify, and they said mediums were absolutely fine. “Recommended strings” did not mean maximum tension. I put mediums on it and loved it. However, it did have a little more belly than I like to see, so I switched back to lights. I don’t know if it would have caused problems, but I didn’t want to risk it.

I called Martin and they told me “we don’t recommend it” on my particular instrument. He said I could try it and just watch it…but, that doesn’t sound good, to me.

I am gonna try the med-lights, though…and watch it.

I’ve heard of folks with my exact model (scalloped bracing and all) using med’s with no issues. I don’t know enough about guitars to know what to watch, though…lol.

That’s interesting they didn’t recommend it.
I am not an expert, but what I would be watching for is how and how much the top bellies out around the bridge. Some belly is good, it’s supposed to be there. It’s not a scientific thing, but if you want to get a better reference, you can lay a straight edge (like a yard stick) across the top just below the bridge. It should rock a bit, and the gap you see on the edges will change with the load on the strings. This is also a good way to see how humidity is affecting a guitar (as the wood dries, it shrinks, which causes the bridge to sink). Also note that just because it looks “ok” to begin, it doesn’t mean all will be well forever. A guitar settles in through the decades, and it seems an increased load on the strings will accelerate that process.

If you go to the web site for Martin there is a gentelman on there that says this " All martins are made to accept medium strings but some of the models were sent out with light because if the model . `they used to use heavy gauge but went to a max of medium when they started having some issues with splitting and cracking . I just bought a dcpa4 so far I see no stress or apparent stress we are talking about 2 /1000 of an inch difference . 54 on top as opposed to a 56 and a 13 on the bottom as opposed to a 12 it is not that much more pull and the D28 or the 18 should handle both well. I realize that the stress would be accumulative so it would add up to more that 2/1000 total. Any one at the store will tell you to use caution . think the guys name was Doll ? I like the meds because they just feel better but they do tend to build the callouses up a tad much . Either way you will have a good sound .

Thanks Welder,
The guy was probably Dave Doll from Martin. I got much the same information when I talked to a Martin customer service rep. He or she (it was some time ago) said that any modern steel string Martin should be able to handle Mediums. But they did add, some guitars tops will not adjust as ideally to the added tension. I have seen a few small shop guitars built specifically for lights as a max tension, but I wasn’t aware of any Martins built to that spec.

I prefer Martin sp long life strings the ones that have the b and the bottom E string brass colored, the tone is tops and they do not scrape like the elixirs do. I have a martin as you all know but my daughter opted for the big baby Taylor and it has elixir strings and it scrapes so bad I have to find a super smooth pick to play it . I like the Taylor but when it comes time to change the strings it will be Martins that replace them . I have noticed the loudness Of the Martin is increasing with each week or so that goes by, why in a few years I will have to play so light to keep from breaking the windows out of the house ,. LOL yes humor

Interesting, welder. My D-28 is 20yrs old. It’s many times over a better instrument today than it was when I bought it new.

I also think it’s a better instrument with the Elixirs. I’ve never been satisfied with Martin strings…and I’ve tried them all.

I’m simply curious about the “scraping”? What’s scraping (what two surfaces)? And, what kind of pick are you using?

I was never a fan of coated strings but recently started using Martin Lifespan 7200’s after hearing good reviews from other forum members. That was three months ago and they still have some life left in them. This particular guitar stays uncased on the wall and gets played an average of an hour or so a day. The Lifespans have the best tone for my ears and I’ve tried many other strings.

I was using the same pick it is a medium with slick finish and it scrapes on the Elixirs and not on the Martin I don’t know why but it does maybe the way I hold the pick from one to the other but I usually hold it the same but lately I am searching for a better way to hold it because of my hand problems. . As far as strings are concerned it has a lot to do with the ear of the listener as beauty has to eye of the beholder, what ever turns ones truck use it . I am glad you use elixir strings and I may use them on occasion, but I personally prefer the Martins at this time. The elixirs also build callouses faster then the martins do , which may be a good thing. In the end it is what you or I prefer . Play the hound dog out of them are strings !! dat data dat dat dat dat!

Has any one else ask Ben when his store will be up and running I sure would like to throw my business to him as I think he is a great person as well as an accomplished musician . He did say he is working on it and it should be up shortly at least I hope he meant that . I am in need of strings and have waited a bit longer than I normally do but I really want to buy them from Ben. maybe a slight push from more players might get him there . Don’t push to hard he is a busy fellow .

Sorry, but I haven’t heard anything about it.