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OT-Archtop strings?

I came across an old (50's) Harmony archtop guitar, if your not familiar with them, they are essentially a budget gibson/epiphone knock-off style. I have never done more than hit a few notes on an archtop, so to start, what kind of strings do folks use, what might sound good? The strings on it are porbably 50 years old, so they actually sound good, but are scary dead and spooky lookin.

Thanks for any tips

Chuck
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Comments

  • CampusfiveCampusfive Los Angeles, CA✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 98
    Acoustic archops, i.e. those sans magnetic pickups are generally strung with bronze strings. I've heard that 80/20 or 85/15 bronze is more period correct, as compared with more modern phosphor bronze. I use 80/20 Martin SP's on mine.

    As far as electric archtops, regular nickel strings, either round or flat wound, are standard. There is an ongoing debate as to whether somebody like Charlie Christian played flats or round wound, but by the 50's flats were standard on electric archtops for conventional jazz playing, with some players using the more bright round wound strings. I've been trying to figure out whether they used flats in the 30's and 40's, or whether they used round wounds, but so far, I've not found a definitive answer.

    Will somebody in NYC go ask Les Paul on that one? He's probably the only guy old enough to know, and since he's a gear head he'd probably remember a detail like that.
  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    Posts: 1,250
    Hi Chuck,

    You still playin' my Shelley Park and callin' it your own?

    :)

    It really was a trip to hear Phillipe and Serge going to town on our guitars last year. I loved that. At some point I need to bring my Park so we can do a duo on the twins.

    Yep, bright bronze - harder strings in general - make for good volume and tone.

    You know what works well and lasts forfriggenever is GHS White Bronze. They sound like bright bronze. It's supposedly some form of nickel-laden bronze. I'm no metallurgist but they sound good and 50 years sounds about right for how long they last.
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • nwilkinsnwilkins New
    Posts: 431
    I second the 80/20 bronze Martin SP recommendation.
  • badjazzbadjazz Maui, Hawaii USA✭✭✭ Rodrigo Shopis, YL Cholet
    Posts: 128
    I like the 80/20s (85/15 sounds good too, but a little darker. Phosphor bronze sounds terrible) as well, but I prefer the Dean Markley's because they have a medium set that has a heavier bottom end, i think that they are like 13-58, whereas most medium sets have a 56 on the low E. It is my feeling that the lighter low E string is more suited for dreadnoughts, to keep them from being too boomy. Just my guess though. Also, as discussed on another thread, I've recently tried 14-60 gauge strings that I like a lot, but would only recommend them for an archtop with a short, 24 3/4 scale length. The Martin SPs are good too and easier to find.

    My favorite electric strings are Gibson L-5 nickel roundwound strings. Again, they have a heavier bottom end. Personally, I don't like flatwounds because they sound mushy to me. To me, they sound better with humbuckers for some reason. I also wonder what the old guys used, but my guess is that just like today, it varied.
  • DuozonaDuozona Phoenix, AZNew
    Posts: 159
    Thanks for all the replies, Ive ordered some of the Martin SPs and will try those out. Im going to try out the 12's first.

    Bob, yes, that was a blast hearing our instruments played Opus4 style! You should see how dark the top is starting to get, the spruce is really striping with age as it rounds the corner of its 2nd year. You builiding more guitars??

    -Chuck
  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    Posts: 1,250
    Yep, in fact, tonight after work I joined two backs and thinned a set of sides. My Park isn't darkening because I'm keeping my instruments in cases more these days due to winter dryness but my lutherie is back up to 45 percent natural humidity so I'm building again... mid 40's is a great humidity for building.
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • Colin PerryColin Perry Montreal, QCNew
    Posts: 115
    I generally use thomastik spectrum bronze 13's for acoustic, and thomastik bebop roundwound 13's for electric.
  • klaatuklaatu Nova ScotiaProdigy Rodrigo Shopis D'Artagnan, 1950s Jacques Castelluccia
    Posts: 1,660
    The GHS White Bronze are actually made out of a special steel alloy. There is no bronze in them at all. They are designed to be usable as both acoustic and electric strings, for those who have amplified acoustic archtops. They are a compromise; they don't sound as good acoustically as real bronze, but better than most electric strings, and they give a balanced sound across all the strings when using a pickup, unlike regular bronze.

    I like the Martin 80/20 myself, but am currently using a mixed set on my '46 Epiphone, some D'Addario, some Ernie Ball, with .013 on top and .058 on the bottom.
    Benny

    "It's a great feeling to be dealing with material which is better than yourself, that you know you can never live up to."
    -- Orson Welles
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,891
    klaatu wrote:
    The GHS White Bronze are actually made out of a special steel alloy.

    "White Bronze" is just an industry term for Nickel. I'm not sure, but I don't there's actually any difference between White Bronze and Nickel.
  • klaatuklaatu Nova ScotiaProdigy Rodrigo Shopis D'Artagnan, 1950s Jacques Castelluccia
    Posts: 1,660
    I just looked it up. They're made of something called "Alloy 52," which is a nickel-iron alloy, about half of each, with trace amounts of chromium, phosphorus, manganese, and some other stuff.
    Benny

    "It's a great feeling to be dealing with material which is better than yourself, that you know you can never live up to."
    -- Orson Welles
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