When you take up an instrument, it doesn’t just end there, does it? We’ve noticed. This is especially true of guitarists who often find themselves with a laundry list of sub-hobbies that suck us in like a wolf spider being sucked up by a shop vac…kinda like the giant-ass spider creeping across my living room floor right n- OH SWEET MOTHER OF…
…It’s okay. I got it with a hammer. Phew. Anyway, the blog. So yeah, once you’re truly immersed in the pursuit of all things guitar (and gear), the common sub-hobby of being a guitar/bass string connoisseur is common for the musician of discriminating taste and discerning ear…or just plain bored plus extra pocket money.
Ha! Musicians with extra money! What’s next? Bloggers with extra friends?
But I digest. This week’s subject is one that’s very near and dear to the pickiest, most pretentious of all string-tasters we Bigfeet know: ourselves! Let’s talk about Elixir Coated Strings.
Yes, we know they kinda look like condom packages. Grow up, will ya.
First, I’ll back up real quick before you start chucking half-empty (or half-full, whatever) beer bottles at your screens; we at the shop fully understand that words like “coated” and “strings” are sometimes followed up by words like “suck” or “make-me-want-to-throw-beer-bottles-at-stuff ”. But hear me out: we may be picky about our strings, but as you know, we tell it like it is here and make no exceptions with our favorites. Here are some pros/cons for Elixir Strings and why we call ‘em our Number Ones:
Pro #1: Longer Life = More Play Time
We’ve found through years of experimenting with different coated brands that Elixir’s gimmicky-sounding “3 to 5X More Life” slogan on the box is, in fact, no gimmick. Assuming the average guitarist/bassist plays anywhere from 20-30 minutes a day, you’re probably due for a string change every two to three weeks. Not so with Elixirs. For example, I play my acoustic anywhere between 45-60 minutes a day: since my switch to Elixir strings a few years ago, I change my strings maybe once every couple months (6 months to a year for my bass). And trust me, if there’s anything we’re anal about at Bigfoot (seriously, quit giggling), it’s changing strings.
Con #1: Coated strings are typically more expensive than their naked counterparts, Elixirs included. BUT! if you can find a brand of strings that live up to the longer lifespan claim, you’ll find changing your strings less frequently ends up costing you less in the long run, instead of buying the cheaper ones right away only to change them in fortnight (I love that word. Fortnight).
True, every coated string out there claims to give your strings eternal life, delivering them from the sins of corrosion and grime that thou might playeth all the longer! But in Bigfoot’s opinion, there is only One True Coated String that actually makes good on the promise of “3 to 5 Times Longer”. Surprise! That string-messiah is Elixir. So what’s so special about ‘em?
Pro #2: Elixir Is the Only Coated String that Does It RIGHT
Elixir strings were the first coated string, period. No sooner did they perfect their coating strategy did they patent the crap out of it. Elixir’s patented recipe? They first wind the string, THEN coat it. Doesn’t seem like anything more than common sense except 1) Other coated brands are trying to get around the patent by doing it backwards (coating the winds, THEN winding the string), 2) The level of difference that little change makes is almost hilarious.
By coating the winds first, then winding the string up, you get less metal-to-metal contact on the string itself, resulting in a dull, flat, lifeless sound which sure, may last ‘til judgement day! But that’s like saying, “Hey, this beer is flat and warm and gross…but we’ve got A WHOLE TRUCK FULL!” Instead, you can compare Elixirs with - not to name names but let’s call them, oh – Shmia-shmario Coated Strings*, and you’ll instantly recognize the superior bright, punchy tone of the Elixirs since they retain winding contact while still having a layer of protective material, preventing corrosion and dirt build-up. Which leads us to…
Pro #3: They Sound Better Immediately & For Longer
There are (at least) two ways strings can sound suckish: play them until they’re black with fingertip scuz and flat as a pancake, or put them on your guitar/bass fresh from the box. Some of you know what I’m talking about when I say that box-fresh strings can sound obnoxious at the first: overly bright and jangly. True, there are folks who love that and play nothing less than box-fresh strings. Well, good for them but some of us have wallets (and spouses) to appease. Most players (and us) agree that once you break your strings in, THAT’S when tonal goodness is at maximum. Elixir strings sound broken-in (as in, played for an hour or so; not dead or dull) right from the package…and then stay that way.
Con #2: One thing I should say about Elixirs (or any coated string) is if you’re the type to break a lot of strings (you know who you are), Elixirs may not be your Holy Grail. Coating certainly gives you better sounding/longer lasting strings, but they don’t make strings any stronger. Or any cheaper. If you tend to snap your way through nineteen packages of strings in a week, save your dollars (and maybe invest in some safety glasses).
Pro #4: Smooth, Slick, and Very Fast
If you’ve never played coated strings before, the texture may be an issue at first. But once get used to it, you’ll find another advantage to playing Elixirs: the smooth coating provides exceptional speed and ease of playing. We and many of our customers have expressed significant improvements in their/our technique just by switching.
Con #3: Granted, not everyone likes extra-smooth strings. Some people are just that good and even need to “handicap” with grippier texture. Well, you gods-among-men can rest easy since Elixir provides 2 different coating thicknesses: Polyweb (their original, thicker stuff) and Nanoweb, a thinner coating: effective as ever but a bit more like a normal string feel-wise. I personally prefer Nanowebs for acoustic guitar. Hmm…maybe this isn’t a con after all…Oh well ;)
Pro #5: Flavors for Every Taste, Gauges for Every Style
Elixir makes a butt-load of different strings: everything from acoustic strings, both phosphor and 80/20 bronze; nickel/steel strings for electric; nickel/steel, stainless steel, and bronze for bass; to finally mandolin and banjo strings for the Okies in all of us.
Con #3: Some of you may have tried Elixirs before. Perhaps you’ve even tried every single kind (maybe) and you still can’t get on board the coated thing. That’s okay, too. You’re wrong, but okay. We still love you ;) We get that there is no one string that suits 100% of players. But, if you haven’t given Elixirs a good, honest try, I highly recommend it.
Feel free to browse their full menu here and check out all the various coatings, alloys, and gauges they offer for anyone and everyone looking to instantly improve their tone and technique! Or better yet, stop on by the shop and ask us about our favorite type of Elixir strings and why they’ve easily been Bigfoot-preferred for over a decade.
Stay excellent and have a great week!
*For the record, we at Bigfoot Music are absolutely head-over-heels in love with…uh…”Shmia-shmario’s” uncoated strings. Their regular stuff is excellent so you can hardly blame them for taking at stab at the coated stuff. Patents are patents ;)