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Guitar string choices in the 1920s-30s

Will Fly 21 Jan 11 - 03:48 PM
Leadfingers 21 Jan 11 - 08:14 PM
eddie1 22 Jan 11 - 12:01 AM
GUEST,jeff 22 Jan 11 - 12:51 AM
Will Fly 22 Jan 11 - 04:04 AM
tritoneman 22 Jan 11 - 04:20 AM
tritoneman 22 Jan 11 - 04:50 AM
Will Fly 22 Jan 11 - 04:57 AM
tritoneman 22 Jan 11 - 05:24 AM
eddie1 22 Jan 11 - 06:01 AM
GUEST,Ray 22 Jan 11 - 06:03 AM
Will Fly 22 Jan 11 - 06:14 AM
tritoneman 22 Jan 11 - 06:24 AM
tritoneman 22 Jan 11 - 06:42 AM
GUEST,Guest Betsy 22 Jan 11 - 08:23 AM
tritoneman 22 Jan 11 - 09:48 AM
Will Fly 22 Jan 11 - 10:12 AM
tritoneman 22 Jan 11 - 10:18 AM
GUEST 22 Jan 11 - 10:35 AM
Sandy Mc Lean 22 Jan 11 - 10:40 AM
tritoneman 22 Jan 11 - 11:20 AM
GUEST,Russ 22 Jan 11 - 11:36 AM
Louie Roy 22 Jan 11 - 12:42 PM
GUEST,JimP 22 Jan 11 - 03:20 PM
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Subject: Guitar string choices in the 1920s-30s
From: Will Fly
Date: 21 Jan 11 - 03:48 PM

I was chatting over coffee this morning to a guitar playing friend - mid-practice - and we were discussing string gauges on the several instruments he has (Weissenborn, Dobro, dreadnought guitar, mid-jumbo guitar, etc.). The conversation turned on 1920s and 1930s guitars and we fell to wondering: what choices of guitar strings were available to the guitarist in those days? We have a huge choice of makes and styles and gauges today - but what choice did our grandfathers have 80-90 years ago?

We didn't know - anyone have any insights?


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Subject: RE: Guitar string choices in the 1920s-30s
From: Leadfingers
Date: 21 Jan 11 - 08:14 PM

Interesting Question mate ! I will watch this thread !


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Subject: RE: Guitar string choices in the 1920s-30s
From: eddie1
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 12:01 AM

Even more recently, in Edinburgh in the mid-50s at the beginning of the Skiffle era, there was one music shop - Rosenblooms - with a stock of "Black Diamond" Hawaiian guitar strings from pre-war days. That was our choice then until, I think, "Cathedral" strings began to appear.
Gauges? Huh! We had 1sts, 2nds etc. Strings breaking at the bridge end were often re-fixed to the little bronze ring at the end! Strings that went "dead" were often carefully coiled and boiled then put back on the guitar.
From a bit later I remember strings for electric guitars which were coated in black plastic to avoid squeaks - they were rubbish!

Eddie


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Subject: RE: Guitar string choices in the 1920s-30s
From: GUEST,jeff
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 12:51 AM

'googlesearched' 'til' my fangers bled. Turned up nothing except info re CF Martin and Antonio de Torres. Steel string and classical developers, respectively. Nothing on strings beyond lutes being 'double coursed' and Leadbelly using piano wire...probably the truth. He did play that 12 string tuned awfully low.

The only available strings I was aware of when starting were Black Diamond...in fact I have a pack unopened found at a yard sale for 0.50US. Then Martin, Guild Phospher Bronze and finally Elixer Nano-webs. Great strings.

It would seem the 'barn dance' pickers would use Martins while the jazz and orchestra players would use flatwound, maybe? And what about banjo players from that time period? It boggles the mind!

Like LF said, I'll watch this thread as well.


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Subject: RE: Guitar string choices in the 1920s-30s
From: Will Fly
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 04:04 AM

I remember strings for electric guitars which were coated in black plastic to avoid squeaks - they were rubbish!

I remember those in the early '70s - I think they might have been called Black Bison strings. A friend played them on his electric - and they did indeed sound rubbish!

My earliest recollections of guitar strings are quite late as well - I started playing in '64 - and I can vaguely remember Cathedral as the make to use for acoustic guitars. Some electric players used flatwound or tapewound strings. Then more makes appeared on the UK market - Ernie Ball, Rotosound, etc.

I also remember the vogue for taking strings off and boiling them before replacing? Did it actually work? :-)


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Subject: RE: Guitar string choices in the 1920s-30s
From: tritoneman
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 04:20 AM

I started playing in about 1964 too. I seem to remember the choice of strings being Gibson and Martin strings - if you could afford them! Otherwise it was Cathedral, Black Diamond and Rotosound. My particular favourites were Ivor Mairants bronze strings at 17/6d a set! I did use to boil them after they'd been on my guitar for about two weeks and it certainly brightened them up.


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Subject: RE: Guitar string choices in the 1920s-30s
From: tritoneman
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 04:50 AM

I imagine that the choice of strings in the 1920's and 30's was limited. I've often wondered what the guitars were like too. Obviously there were the gems built by Martin in the 30's but what about the cheaper instruments? I wonder what the action and set ups were like even on the expensive guitars. Were players as finnicky as we are today about such things?


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Subject: RE: Guitar string choices in the 1920s-30s
From: Will Fly
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 04:57 AM

A friend of mine owns a 1930s Gibson Kalamazoo - round hole flat-top, small body, V-section neck. A real cheapy in its day probably, but it does have that "old" sound to it.

My luther friend Ian owns an early (1910s) Martin guitar and equally early Gibson mandolin. We once played them as a duo at the Royal Oak Folk Club in Lewes - and I have to say that it's almost as though instruments of that age play you! They have a distinct sound and timbre from that period, and this limitation - if it is one as such - almost forces the modern player into choosing a repertoire that suits the instruments. We did Jimmie Rodgers' "Waiting For A Train" and I can tell you that this pair added a whiff of authenticity to the performance.

But - to return to topic - I wonder what Jimmie Rodgers strung his instruments with...


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Subject: RE: Guitar string choices in the 1920s-30s
From: tritoneman
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 05:24 AM

Your experience of playing those old Gibsons sounds fascinating. I would have loved to have heard your Waiting for a Train played on them! A friend of mine had a 1916 Gibson F4 (I think) mandolin for a while. It did seem to almost play itself.

As for what Jimmie Rogers strung his guitars with...well, I wonder if Martin made their own strings at that time?


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Subject: RE: Guitar string choices in the 1920s-30s
From: eddie1
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 06:01 AM

I think the black plastic covered strings I used were Rotosound.
I seem to remember back in the 50s Archie Fisher trying to get back to sometime and stringing a guitar with different thicknesses of fishing line! Don't think he played them for long though.

Eddie


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Subject: RE: Guitar string choices in the 1920s-30s
From: GUEST,Ray
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 06:03 AM

I've always wondered how vintage instruments actually sounded with the strings of the day. As people have said, back in the 60s and early 70s what you could get (at least in the UK) was limited and, from memory, pretty awful. The main revelation came around 1974 when DAddario came on the scene and since this time others have followed.

I hate to admit it but I bought a second hand Santa Cruz about 12 months ago. It came with a set of nanowebs on it. Its been well played since I've had it but the original strings still sound fine.


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Subject: RE: Guitar string choices in the 1920s-30s
From: Will Fly
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 06:14 AM

Nanowebs are excellent - the coating tends to fray around the soundhole if you use heavy pick work, but they certainly last a long time. I've recently been using Elixir Phosphor Bronze and they give a good sound. I like a bit of "clang" to my strings though - other guitarists may prefer a mellower sound. And a lot depends on the tonal qualities of the instrument as well.


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Subject: RE: Guitar string choices in the 1920s-30s
From: tritoneman
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 06:24 AM

I use nanowebs too. They still sound and, just as importantly to me, feel good after weeks of regular playing.


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Subject: RE: Guitar string choices in the 1920s-30s
From: tritoneman
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 06:42 AM

Coming back to the main theme of this thread, there must have been specialist steel string makers during the 1920'and 30's, and earlier. The Italian mandolins of the 18th and 19th centuries were steel strung - I assume. I wonder if people like Blind Willie McTell and later, Leadbelly could easily obtain 12-string sets or did they make them up from 6 string sets?


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Subject: RE: Guitar string choices in the 1920s-30s
From: GUEST,Guest Betsy
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 08:23 AM

inthe late 60's I used a string - Labella - both nylon, and, when I changed to a Yamaha FG 180, bronze wire wound strings. They drifted out of my life when I could no longer find them to buy , but I always really liked them.
I definitely won't buy Martin strings,even though I play a Martin, for some reason they go "dead" after very short time.


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Subject: RE: Guitar string choices in the 1920s-30s
From: tritoneman
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 09:48 AM

Here's a link to a catalogue from 1935/6 with string adverts. It shows four manufacturers:
La Tosca, Bell, Gretsch Eagle and Black Diamond. I couldn't see any indication of a choice of guages. http://www.flickr.com/photos/eric_ernest/sets/72157623607391189/detail/


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Subject: RE: Guitar string choices in the 1920s-30s
From: Will Fly
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 10:12 AM

Great link, tritoneman - the pics are too small to indicate any possible gauges, but they're still very interesting.


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Subject: RE: Guitar string choices in the 1920s-30s
From: tritoneman
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 10:18 AM

Thanks Will. I expanded them but, of course, they became blurred but I could read bits and pieces. The blurb on the Gretsch Eagle strings claims that they are a 'heavier guage'.


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Subject: RE: Guitar string choices in the 1920s-30s
From: GUEST
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 10:35 AM

In the 40's, there were Black Diamond (for steel-strung guitars) and LaBella (for nylon). Something called silk and steel was beginning to pop up. Gauges? We din't need no steenking gauges!


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Subject: RE: Guitar string choices in the 1920s-30s
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 10:40 AM

catalogue


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Subject: RE: Guitar string choices in the 1920s-30s
From: tritoneman
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 11:20 AM

"In the 40's...........We din't need no gauges" I suspected that might be the case. Perhaps guitarists started getting fussy in the 1960's. Today we're totally spoilt for choice!


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Subject: RE: Guitar string choices in the 1920s-30s
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 11:36 AM

Some of the old WV banjo players talk of using the wire from screen doors on their first instruments.
If they could afford it, they bought Black Diamond strings.

Russ (Permanent GUEST and banjo player)


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Subject: RE: Guitar string choices in the 1920s-30s
From: Louie Roy
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 12:42 PM

As I remember the Black Diamond were the strings that was carried in the little town in Idaho where I lived and there were a lot of gut strings being used and the first guitar that I had was a 1930 Monkey Ward with a picture of Gene Autry on it and I believe dad paid a dollar fifty for it and when I went inthe service in 1942 someone stole it


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Subject: RE: Guitar string choices in the 1920s-30s
From: GUEST,JimP
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 03:20 PM

I read this thread earlier this morning, and then ran out to do some errands, which included taking my old (circa 1973) trumpet down to the music store for servicing. There behind the counter: Black Diamond strings, in a box looking just like the illustration in the link above. Funny how Mudcat makes you notice things like that.


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