In the comments stream for my — How to Salvage a $5,000 Gibson Les Paul Custom Black Beauty Guitar with a Radical Truss Rod Adjustment — article, reader Samuel Broom suggested I try the Thomastik-Infeld Jazz BeBop 12 gauge guitar strings. I decided to take him up on his advice and I am amazed to say these are absolutely the best-made guitar strings I have ever had the pleasure of stringing up.
It was quite bump for me to move up the the heavier gauge Jazz BeBop strings — 12-16-20-28-36-50 — from the DR Tite-Fit strings I was using, 11-14-18-28-38-50, and my fingers are still paying for the pain of the upgrade, but the improvement in sound quality and tonal enhancements are worth the initial finger shredding. Beware: The Thomastik-Infeld plain G-string is thick as a piece of bailing wire and it keeps its wound shape even after leaving the protecting packaging sleeve.
One big advantage to using thicker strings is that you can really grab on for fretting and for fingerstyle. Thicker strings are louder, they create greater resonance and they stay in tune much longer. D’Addario wrote a recent blog post that the buying trend for guitar players is to go with heavier strings, and the Thomastik-Infeld Jazz BeBops certainly fit that bell curve. I’ll never break another string again!
Thomastik-Infeld are not cheap strings. They are well-made and imported from Vienna and you pay for the globetrotting and the Austrian manufacturing. A single set of Jazz BeBops will run you around $18.00USD Most guitarists pay around $3.00USD for a single set of guitar strings.
Are the Thomastik-Infelds worth FIVE TIMES more than an ordinary strings pack? The answer is: “UNEQUIVOCALLY, YES!”
When you first open a package of Jazz BeBops, you notice the ends of the bass strings are wound in green cloth. That practical and aesthetic touch immediately tells you these strings are unique, well-constructed, and there is a finer purpose here than just stringing up a guitar.
The bass strings are also what I call — “flurpy” — they are wound in a small gauge nickel that produces a really rich and funky tone and they are much more pliable and forgiving that nickel-plated American-made strings. Barring an F-chord at the first fret is 85% easier with Thomastik-Infeld strings than any American-made string I’ve tried.
When you unwrap the treble strings you are in for another surprise. They are all made of steel, but they have a copper coloring. I don’t understand the why of it and I don’t really care to know the why of it, because the look and the feel of those strings is purely delightful. They also sound great. I can see the strings so much better on the fretboard and for plucking because the copper color contrasts with the frets and the other grey/silver/chrome/nickel hardware on the guitar. Making the treble strings stand out is a great accomplishment that means so much more in the perfection of the practice than it does in the performance of the promotion.
String bends are also quieter with the heavier gauge Jazz BeBops. There is no more sympathetic harmonic noise and much less feedback while playing. I also have faster bass string trills, and runs are quieter now even though the strings aren’t flatwound.
I installed the Jazz BeBops first my on Gretsch 5120 and the voice of the guitar was immediately made richer and deeper. One strange thing I noticed is that the strings would get tighter on the guitar after the initial stretching and break-in period. The Bizarro World of guitar strings getting tighter after playing didn’t last too long. After several hard playing sessions across several days, the strings finally “came in” and started behaving properly by losing tension after being used.
I also installed a set of Jazz BeBops on my All Gold Gibson Custom 1956 Shop Les Paul. The guitar immediately came to life! There was a lushness and a spritely mellowness that I did not expect. The bass strings are especially fond of the P90s. My Les Paul growls now with a voracious accented attack.
On my 1957 Custom VOS Les Paul, the Thomastik-Infeld strings really burst the sound out of that guitar! The guitar slurped in those strings and the entire personality of the guitar was changed. I was back in 1957 and my Black Beauty was purring out some cool Jazz in a smoky brackwater bar. The Jazz BeBops were made to make this guitar!
When I tried the Thomastik-Infeld strings on my Clapton Custom, I was disappointed by the harshness of the sound. The Stratocaster felt like it was fighting the strings — especially on the treble side with the bridge pickup active. The guitar was twice as loud with the Jazz BeBops and turning down the volume a bit lost some of that great Clapton tone. After a day or two, the strings seemed to settle into the guitar a bit better, and some of that mellow neck pickup lushness returned. Maybe Clapton just needs a few more days to let the new Austrian vibe settle into the wood.
I purchased my Thomastik-Infeld Jazz BeBop 12s from JustStrings.com. JustStrings.com is just that — a web store that exclusively sells only any sort of string for every stringed instrument. The JustStrings.com selection of guitar strings is wide and deep and they carry the full Thomastik-Infeld line. Their prices are good.
My only small complaint is that JustStrings.com doesn’t allow you to use UPS or FedEx for Overnight Delivery. If you want your strings fast, you’re forced to use the Postal Service and you’re going to wait two-four days for them to process your order before shipping. JustStrings.com included a quality microfiber logo cloth for wiping down my strings after playing and some promotional guitar picks with the website URL printed on them.
I absolutely recommend the Thomastik-Infeld Jazz BeBop 12s for any guitar you own. I can play Blues, Jazz, Rock and Country with these strings. There is zero compromise in playability if you step up a gauge or two to use these beauties — after you break in your fingers a bit. It’s a fine delight to finally invest in quality strings and not be dismayed by the outcome.