Gut Rumbles

September 22, 2004


I put new strings on my old Martin guitar while Recondo 32 and Georgia were still here last Sunday. Georgia took a picture of me doing it, and I will post that picture eventually... just don't hold your breath.

I'm getting in shape for Blogtoberfest. My hands aren't what they once were (too many days and nights turning valves in a chemical plant for too many years) but I'm still not bad. I want to back up my brag about my guitar playing, so I've been practicing at least an hour every day since Sunday. I gotta get some callouses on my fingers if nothing else.

Plus, I don't like to play in front of people with brand new strings on my guitar. I like to break the strings in for a while until they stretch and get right with their inner selves. That way, you can tune your guitar and expect it to stay in tune. New strings are froggy.

I don't know if I blogged about this before, but I learned how to make month-old strings sound brand-new on a guitar from Harry Chapin, sometime around 1970 or '71. Harry played a noon concert at Armstrong State College and about twelve people showed up to see him. He was extremely gracious, although he had to be disappointed by the turnout. He said, "Hell, I don't need this," and abandoned the sound system to sit on the edge of the stage and invite everybody to come down front and listen.

I did. It was one of the best concerts I ever heard. I was an arm's length away from Harry Chapin and he was singing by himself, with his guitar. He was GREAT! He chatted with everybody, shot the shit between songs and told the stories behind what he wrote. I was enchanted. I cut my next class to hang around and talk with him.

That's when he told me the trick about making old guitar strings sound new. He played an old Martin that rang like a bell. I asked him how often he changed strings. When he told me the strings on his guitar were four months old, I called bullshit. I was running through two sets of strings a week at the time. That's when he told me the trick. I tried it, and it works.

I'll share that secret with any guitar player who comes to Blogtoberfest.

I'm bringing my best guitar, I'll have the strings broken in the way I like them, and I'll be ready to play. I intend to dazzle the audience with a few original songs, too. I've written almost 100 songs, about 25 of which I still remember how to play. But I WILL play THESE:

Justice Laid Me Low
Blockade Whiskey
Ain't No Moss On Me
My Door Is Always Open
Handsome Dan (The Ladies' Man)

Maybe a few others, too.


I'll be sportin' new but broken-in strings and hopefully some renewed calluses as well, that is if I get away from this computer long enough to play some stuff.

As for tunes, I can do quite a few, many of which sound better with harmony, if you're game.

Posted by: Jim on September 23, 2004 04:57 AM

Wish I could be there, sounds like fun, :>(

Posted by: Michele on September 23, 2004 05:06 AM

I've been known to boil my guitar and bass strings to clean em up, out of sheer laziness. In fact, it's about time to boil up the flats on my basses- cos they've been on for two years. DR bass strings are a big chunk of pocket money- i just boil em til i cant stand it anymore.


Posted by: pril on September 23, 2004 05:22 AM

Loosen the strings, wipe 'em down with rubbing alcohol. It won't do anything for lost intonation, but it will brighten up the tone considerably as you clean all the dead skin and scunge from between the windings.

These day, I use D'addario EXPs on my steel string fingerstyle guitars, and DR Rares on my flatpickers.

Posted by: tybee mike on September 23, 2004 08:15 AM

Harry Chapin?!?

I love that guy. I even remember where I was when I heard he'd died. I have the VH-1 show about him on tape and I still can't watch it without tearing up toward the end.
"Life is a Circle" gets me every time.... (got goosebumps, now, in fact...)

Pappy, before I die, I want YOUR autograph, you've done, lived thru and survivied so many things.... Geez.

(Damn, I wish I really did have a "left nad" right now. I'd sell it to be able to go to one of these blog-fest deals.... *pouts*)

Posted by: Stevie on September 23, 2004 08:43 AM

Thanks for reminding me. I believe my guitar teacher in 1965 told me to clean the strings with alcohol, and I will do this tonight. I haven't changed my strings in years.

Posted by: Phil on September 23, 2004 08:59 AM

My favorite Chapin tune is "Thirty Thousand Pounds Of Bananas." It makes me laugh to this day.

Posted by: tybee mike on September 23, 2004 03:16 PM

Harry died by running his Beetle into a truck hauling... 30,000 pounds of bananas. Is that ironic, or what?

Posted by: Acidman on September 23, 2004 05:20 PM

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