Tips and Tricks from GEAR 411

This month I’m introducing a new type of article: Tips & Tricks

These articles will be half gear review and half educational information. This idea came to me because I was doing some research on part III of on going articles about why you like certain necks better than others.

I contacted D’Addario to get information about how strings are made and why certain alloys are better than others etc… They were very helpful and glad to help get this information out there.

D’Addario also has a division called Planet Waves and Planet Waves offers a bunch of really cool products that I would like to tell you about.

Most musician’s (Myself included) tend to find things we like, add them as part of our musical formula and stick to them like Grim Death.

I rarely try different strings why? I have played many types over the years, and some are ok and some are not, but I always fall back to my comfort zone.

I think most of us are like that, so when manufacturers send me strings I try them out and I try to be as fair as I can and I keep in mind that there is a guitar player out there that are going to love these.

I’m a D’Addario guy from way back, that’s what I prefer, and when D’Addario sent me some strings I was stoked.

They sent me three types of strings that I have never tried before, the pure Nickel, the Pro Steels, and the coated Phosphor bronze EXP.

D’Addario has this chart thing they do on the packaging that tells you how bright the strings are with a description on the strings.

I think it’s also note worthy to mention that all the packaging is Environmentally Friendly. Cool!!!!!!
I read that the ProSteels were very bright so I thought I’d try them on my Les Paul. Humbuckers tend to be dark so I thought this would brighten up the guitar a little.

It did, but not in the way I thought it would. Most of us (Guitarists) think that bright might mean that the string will sound thinner. This is not the case at all with the ProSteels.

They are punchier and clearer. They don’t distort in the same way a nickel coated string does. When playing open chords, you can hear every note ring out; they accent the upper mids a bit more.

They also feel like an old string right out of the box, no breaking them in here, tune and play.

The next set I tried was the pure Nickel, the description said that this was a darker string than I was used to, so I put them on a guitar that has P-90s. I thought this could give me that real old vintage tone I need out of that guitar.

I was blown away. WOW!!!!!!

I may have found my new favorite string. Pure Nickel was the thing back in the 50’s and early 60’s why did we stray??????? If you are like me and love those old guitar tones that you just don’t hear anymore, this string could be your missing link.

The pure nickels aren’t as bright as the nickel coated I’ve used for years, but they have a tone quality to them that you can’t replace. I strung up my strat with the pure nickels and fell in love with my strat all over again.

The bass response is way more pronounced and the softer feel of the strings will give you the warm and fuzzys all over.

Because these strings aren’t as bright means that they don’t compress nearly as fast and gives you a feel that your guitar sounds bigger, more 3D.

Next I strung up my Washburn Acoustic with the phosphor strings. I had D’Addario’s on it before, but they weren’t the coated ones.

I’m not a fan of coated strings; I tried another manufacturer’s coated brand and thought they were horrible.

What’s the point of having a string last longer when they feel and sound like Dog (You know what)!!!!

But I’ve like everything else so far, so what did I have to lose. Again D’Addario proves that they are 100% experts at what they do. The strings felt like they should, they sound beautiful and I’ll let you know how long they last me.
I wouldn’t have noticed that they were coated if I didn’t read it on the box.

Let’s move on to the Planet Waves stuff, as some of you might know that I am a huge fan of finger exercises. I was the co-designer of the Fingerweights product back in the 90’s, so taking care of your hands is a big deal to me.

Planet Waves has a cool product called the Varigrip, a spring load hand held devise that you can carry with you and exercise your fingers. This is especially important to a beginner that wants to improve their playing faster. Yes, this product does work especially if you’re at school or work and don’t have access to your guitar or bass during the day.

My new favorite product is the ChordMaster. This is a must have for every guitarist, no matter what your skill level is. This is a little chord computer, no bigger than a cell phone, that can give you over 7000 chords anywhere on the neck.

It has a little fretboard on it, and all you do is type in what kind of chord you want to play? And then scroll down to see where you want to play it on the neck. It gives you all the positions, inversions, and it even tells you what fingers to use to play it with.

They could have stopped there, but they added a chromatic tuner, a metronome and a kickstand. It even came with batteries. All of this for under $65.00 bucks retail. I’m serious this thing is cool!!!!!!!

I have many years of theory and I was music major in collage and you can’t remember all the chords all the time. I’ve been writing new songs and this thing is cool to be able to call up a chord and find a new way to play it. It has really opened up my creativity.

The other really cool thing they sent me is this thing they call the pedal board cable kit. I thought that it was a bunch of patch cables. NOPE!!!!!!!!!

What they did was come up with a way where you can customize the length of the cables yourself. The kit comes with connectors, a bare cable and this thing that looks like a cigar cutter.

What you do is you cut the cable to the length you need, insert the connectors, twist, and screw in this little bolt on the side of the connector, and that’s it……  I had new patch cables in like 10 minutes, nice and clean on my board.

Cables are an issue to me. I have spent tons of money on expensive cables and have had bad luck. I have had cheap cables last me forever, so I am always a bit stand offish to cables. Cables can make or break your rig. One cable can cause all kinds of problems, with that said; I was really worried how these cables were going to sound, considering I just made them from a kit.

Let me be the first to tell you that you will never need to buy another patch cable again. Do it yourself just took on a new meaning. I am blown away by the quality of the materials, the ease of use, and most importantly? The sound quality, I had a little hum in my pedalboard and I was convinced that it was the power supply. I took my old cables off and put these new cables in? Guess what? No hum.

I have a couple of Planet Waves cables that I love, and I have always liked what they did, but I had no idea that they had something as cool as this. I think I’m going to officially switch all my cables to Planet Waves, and so should you. You won’t be disappointed.

They make a guitar strap that has a unique strap lock system. You don’t need to install new strap pegs on the guitar. It can adjust to any existing peg, it will make you scream; “Why didn’t I think of this?” It’s so easy to use and it won’t scratch the guitar.

A couple of other cool things they have are a fretboard conditioner called Hydrate, to keep your fretboard clean and healthy, and a micro-fiber cleaning cloth.

As you can see it’s the little things that matter, the accessories that aid us in our quests for tone and playing perfection. I was amazed to find how much joy I got out of trying a new set of strings, or de-bugging the hum out of my board, or just cleaning my fretboard and seeing the beautiful grain of the wood again.

We all know that D’Addario is a leader in strings, but how many of us knew that this is a company that cares about the environment, or that they are focused on creating accessories that will improve our playing, keep our fingers healthy, keep our instruments clean, tuned, and sounding their best.

This family owned and operated company seems to really know their customers, and they seem to be addressing all the problems we face as musicians with really cleaver products and keeping them priced to a musician’s budget.

Go to www.daddario.com and check out all the other great products they offer and please let them know that the “Gear 411 sent you.

Tony J. Pasko


Dy-sphoric said...

Nice review(s). I have been looking at the Varigrip for a little bit now and now is the time to stop and buy it. I like the GripMaster but I have already broken two of them. Hopefully, the Varigrip will last longer.

Stormy Maverick said...

For those who haven't, you need to stop by the Gear 411 section occasionally. I have submitted a couple of questions and Tony answered both quickly (one within hours). Along with my answers, I also gained some knowledge reading questions by others as well. You may not need to stop by Gear 411 daily, but occasionally will be a good idea!

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