by Francis Brew Reyes (guitarist for The Dawn)
It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that the guitar string is the only component that unequivocally matters the most on a guitar or bass. You can have the most transparent boutique overdrive, the best pickups, the most technologically advanced effects that can produce ultra-lush verbs and brew coffee, the most kickass tube amp since the dawn of time… all of these essentially are just amplifying and enhancing the initial signal from a vibrating string. Guitar strings are really the equivalent of vocal cords (and how you sing or speak through them is another matter, of course).
After you decide what string gauge and material works for you, you tend to forget about it. The only other consideration is when to change a set; no strings last forever after all.
However, Elixir Strings do bring you a bit closer to forever (in string life terms that is. Kinda like dog years, for strings).
I have to admit that I personally was not too concerned about Elixirs in the beginning and was quite happy–for decades–with my then-preferred brand. I know what I need: nickel-plated .011-.049s. String maintenance wasn’t much of a problem either since I would clean the strings immediately after playing, whether it’s for two hours or two minutes. I can make a set last, including gigs, rehearsals, and daily non-essential noodling, for two weeks (three if I play less) before the plain strings start losing their tonal and physical sheen, the intonation starts to go awry, and then it’s off to the music store. And I would pray to God: pleeeeease, make them available dear Lord because .010s don’t feel quite right etc etc. One day, Divine Intervention and music store inventory went to the toilet on the same hour and I basically had to buy an Elixir set in a Lyric branch. At almost thrice my regular brand’s price, I gulped and wished I didn’t spend on so many beers the previous night. But I had to take the plunge; rehearsals were coming up and I tend to over-bend on .010s due to nerves and adrenaline.
It was a set of PolyWebs, .011-.049 of course. I had to get used to the smooth coated wound strings; tonally they also had a tiny bit less treble response which initially troubled me but eventually didn’t really have any adverse effect specially live (a tiny almost unnoticeable tweak on a stompbox or the amp and I was good to go. Guitarists, you know what I mean). Along with my daily clean-after-playing habit, that set—which also suffered whammy abuse—lasted three months. The plain strings still looked and felt smooth but my multiple abusive drunken pick scrapes shredded the coating on the D string, which I must say, still sounded good. A gentler player could make the set last even longer (and I could have if I checked my occasional over-exuberance) and I have a story related to that, which I will get to in a bit.
What I thought was an expensive set of strings turned out to be cost-efficient: instead of buying 5 or 6 sets for three months, I knew I could survive with one set of Elixirs. Gone too was the stress of worrying if i had enough sets on reserve; barring extreme abuse or an accident of God or a careless roadie, I can comfortably survive on four Elixir sets a year on my main guitar. How a set of Elixirs lasts with you is of course dependent on your playing style and maintenance habits but definitely they will last longer than normal brand-name strings. The consistency is magical, and truly, it does wonders for your medium-term personal economics as well (i.e. more beer or whatever).
Currently, I use Optiwebs for their crispier and brighter tone. If you are curious, here’s how Elixir coated strings are designed.
Now for the related make-it-last-even-longer story. For an anniversary gig of The Dawn at the Music Museum, I asked permission from Lyric if I could use one of the new Yamaha Revstar electrics for the gig. I loaded a set of Optiweb .011s (Yamahas are shipped with Elixirs btw; the Revstar RS820CR was shipped with .010s.) for rehearsals a week before the gig date. I played the way I play and returned the guitar. That was 14 months ago. I’ve picked up that particular Revstar maybe five or six times around the office since then and the strings still sound and feel brand new. Normal strings would have started corroding a week after the gig, even without being played. In fact, my other guitars at home are all Elixir’d, including a Strat that I have retuned to standard and Eb and back six or seven times over the past half-year. The strings stay in tune each time (and let’s include string bends and whammy dives and pull-ups).
If you are already a regular Elixir user, I apologize for this boring essay. I would like to remind you to buy LEGITIMATE Elixir Strings only from Lyric stores; we are the official distributors for the Philippines. There are fakes being sold for cheaper–the fake packaging is disturbingly accurate– and the quality is so poor that they’re practically unuseable. Avoid being scammed and just purchase Elixirs from Lyric.