If you are a longtime reader of this Boles Blues blog, you know I have a wild history with changing strings.  My current World Record for keeping the same gauge strings stood for a good six months:  The nickel flat wound Thomastik-Infeld George Benson Jazz Strings GB114.  The Benson record fell this week when I gave them up for round wound Thomastik-Infeld Jazz BeBop BB114 strings.

I previously reviewed the BeBops here, and I decided to go back to them this week because I discovered the .014 set and the fact that my archtops seem to tonally better respond to my Jazz fingerstyle when I use round wounds instead of flats.

This better sounding discovery happened by economic chance.  After loving my Gibson L5 CES with the Benson flat wounds, I decided I wanted to compare the sound of my Ibanez AG75 and AF125AMB but I didn’t have fresh strings for the guitars and I didn’t want to wait a few days to order new ones to do the testing.

I dug into my gig case and found a couple of packs of TI BeBops .013s.  I decided to string ’em up — at $20 a pack, you can’t really afford leave any TI strings behind — to sense the sound with fresh strings.

I was blown away by the sound of the round wounds BeBops.  There was no major drop off in tone from my thumb strumming the bass strings and my fingers plucking the treble strings like there was with the flat wound strings.  I hated the finger noise of the round wounds, but I decided to order the highest gauge BeBops — .014, .018, .022, .032, .040, .055 — and put them on my L5, and when I did, the guitar really came alive with both brightness and thumping.

I know D’Addario makes a “Half Round” set of guitar strings:

D’Addario Half Rounds Electric Guitar Strings are round wound with stainless steel and then precision ground leaving the outer surface smooth and “semi flat.” The result is a string with the tone and tension characteristics of round wound strings, with a smoother feel, similar to flat wound strings.

I imagine a “Half Round” string might be a perfect compromise between flats and rounds — or they could be an awful abomination by trying to split the difference too much — but D’Addario strings tend to keep their best sound for only a couple of weeks, while the Thomastik-Infeld strings can easily last four months or more without losing any brightness or responsiveness, and thats why the TI Jazz BeBop BB114 strings will remain my current round wound of choice.

3 Comments

  1. Strings seem to be an expensive part of guitar ownership. I wonder how often touring guitarists have to change their strings and how many they buy in a go to take on the road. Glad you found nice strings for your guitars!

    1. I can’t think of another musical instrument that can change its texture and personality in performance faster than a guitar can by just installing a new set of strings.

      You can buy strings in bulk and pay $3 a set and have good quality and value.

      Big stars like Eric Clapton have sponsorship deals with string companies and they get hundreds of sets for free, plus payment for using a certain brand. Guitar stars also require fresh strings before every performance — but I’m sure Eric hasn’t changed strings with his own hands for over 40 years — because all the great guitarists have “Guitar Techs” traveling with them and the only responsibility the Techs have is to take care of the guitars and set them up and put on new strings between performances. A good tech can make a lot of great money on the road for a lifetime.