Guitar Lessons by Chip McDonald - Holy Frak - They Work? Ernie Ball Paradigm Strings

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Holy Frak - They Work? Ernie Ball Paradigm Strings

(Special Star Wars Crawl Edition)

  I'm very impressed.  Enough so that I'm writing something that is akin to a product endorsement that I don't actually endorse.

 The set I had on my guitar at work  made it from early October to late November before intonation issues happened.  Let me say right now that I hear string intonation going bad almost within a few hours.  So the above is almost miraculous.

 I'm sitting here having to think about it, "wait, is that right....?".

 What is curious is that they still sounded pretty bright throughout, particularly the wound strings.  It was a little disconcerting to find myself thinking "ok, I can't make these work", being the economically bereft musician, trying to extend their utility way past any other strings due date.

 Part of the disconcerting bit was that they didn't sound "used up", so I found myself in the middle of giving a lesson fighting the intonation, part of my mind thinking "they don't sound like they should be doing this" while the other part is thinking "gee, this happened suddenly?".   If these strings have a downside it would be that when they start to go south, it happens fast. Surreal fast.  As in, I thought something had physically happened to my guitar, "why won't my guitar stay in tune?  Did something happen to the neck joint??  Oh... the strings won't intonate anymore...".  A curious phenomenon.  

 Not really a downside in reality, unless you actually want to try to pull off repeated gigs with them until this happens. 


 When new they have a curious not-quite bright as new strings sound.  This is a bonus in my opinion, but again let me qualify that.

 I HATE COATED STRINGS.  They're not just duller sounding, they're duller in a weird way, and they seem to sound odd as they sustain (and they tend to not sustain well).  Putting goop on a string and saying "see, they'll last longer!" isn't rocket science.

 It also doesn't work in my experience.  The coating wears off on the unwound strings faster, and then they die like an uncoated string.  The coatings on the unwound strings only seem to last a very short amount of time, anyhow.

 The wound strings, when coated, may seem to hold their sound a little bit longer - 15%?  But then, they sound off, and "hold their sound" in this case means, "not completely dull/dead".

 And the worst thing is they feel peculiar.

 I know that the Paradigm strings are coated, but it's not noticeable. They don't sound coated, they sound very balanced through the overtone series, much like DRs do.  I'm not sure how much their coating counts versus the string composition, but it doesn't matter: I like how they sound.

 The best part being, they pretty much sound the same for ... months, plural?  Not dull or dead, but "broke in new".  It's ... a little odd, actually. A very strong fundamental (the most important thing as far as I'm concerned), and very pitch stable through the overtone series. 


 They're maybe a little stiffer.

 Which led me to think, "what if they're using a slightly higher gauge, but not labeling them as such?".  Maybe.  I dunno. They don't feel a whole gauge heavier, and actually, again, the tension feels balanced from string to string.  Completely not an issue.

 Most importantly they don't feel coated.  I don't have to think about the tactile friction being unpredictable.

 Which, again, a strange thing is that the only real indication of "I've got to change these" is that the intonation went off.  I'll try to get a long life out of a burned out unwound string in lessons by retuning for whatever it is I'm teaching in the lesson, but the string feels corroded and shot. Plus it's not pitch steady, and doesn't intonate.

 With the Paradigm strings, it's as if they're aging about a 5th as fast as normal strings, except for when the intonation does actual go.  


 I go through a lot of strings.  I'm playing a constant 5+ hours a day, and it's a brutal regimen on strings.  If I'm teaching an aspect of bending or vibrato, I might be doing each for 20 minutes continuously out of the 30 minute lesson.  It is highly, super duper unlikely, that anyone tortures their strings more than this environment.

 On the whole for me, the price works out to be a little less than "normal" strings.  I milk strings along a far way with tuning/intonation tricks (I'm financially insolvent), and I did a little of that with these strings.  However, the reason these strings are now my default choice is very simple:

 Instead of having to change strings 4 times or more in this time span, as well as go through a period of "intonation obfuscation" to get more mileage out of each set - I've only had to change strings and do that once with these.

 I cannot express how big of a deal that is to me.  I HATE changing strings.  It can only be done so fast, and it just sticks out in your daily life like a sore thumb, a hangnail.  Hate it almost as much as I hate being out of tune.

 I would prefer my students use these strings. It's bad enough people don't change their strings often enough, but thinking about it, these strings would probably match up well to what the new guitar player might expect from strings.  Instead of going months past when they should change strings, with these they could actually be IN TUNE and not dead sounding during that time.  A hard sell because of the cost, but in reality a good deal.


 For "most people" they might be more expensive value wise by a little bit.  That being said (paging Bobby Owsinski), that is only in the context of the non-professional player using strings well beyond their due date.  The point in the non-professional getting these strings is that you will sound in tune and not dull throughout the same period of time.

 Which in reality is a better deal.

 Spooky metallurgy, alien technology coating?  Great strings.

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