Silk and Steel and Steve

I’ve always been after a more mel­low sound than what I can cur­rent­ly get out my gui­tar. Madeleine sug­gest­ed I try D’Addario Silk and Steel strings, so I bought a pack a few days ago and have been play­ing them since. I asked Steve to demo the strings, as well as my love­ly gui­tar Larissa, cause my abil­i­ties aren’t good enough to real­ly show her off.

Sometimes I love them cause they’re so bright and clear, oth­er times I hate them cause the tone comes off as thin and frail; it real­ly depends on what kind of music I’m play­ing. When Steve plays them they’re shock­ing­ly bright and pierc­ing com­pared to the sound I get; I’m not sure if it’s the dif­fer­ence in our nails or tech­nique (or both).

They’re def­i­nite­ly meant for fin­ger­pick­ing cause they’re so light1 that even mod­er­ate strum­ming will make them buzz, which severe­ly lim­its my pos­si­ble reper­toire. On the bright side, it’s much eas­i­er to fret barre chords, and cer­tain pas­sages that were a strug­gle to play clean­ly only require a light touch now.

Another advan­tage is that the tone makes me feel like I’m play­ing a dif­fer­ent gui­tar. Even though it’s not quite the dry and mel­low sound of a clas­si­cal nylon, it’s some­what staving off my desire to buy the Taylor I’ve been eying2, but who knows how long that’ll last.

Steve’s the only per­son I know who lives by the gui­tar, both lit­er­al­ly and fig­u­ra­tive­ly. I’ve seen such bril­liant things come out of his fin­gers. Sometimes in the mid­dle of a song I’m show­ing him, he’ll pick up the melody and go some­where com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent with it that’s more beau­ti­ful than the orig­i­nal. And even though he’s main­ly a jazz guy (after Wes Montgomery), he can play any style from clas­si­cal to fla­men­co.

I’ve tak­en up his belief in not using a pick and stick­ing with my fin­ger­nails. “Just anoth­er thing between you and the gui­tar”, he said to me once. And when I explain how I’m stuck on some­thing he’ll say, “Have you done it three-and-a-half mil­lion times?” to remind me that any­thing’s pos­si­ble with enough prac­tice. He’s filled with all these tiny yet cru­cial bits of infor­ma­tion that have influ­enced how I approach the instru­ment.

  1. 0.11–0.47, but they feel like 0.10. []
  2. It just so hap­pens that Steve’s main gui­tar is the exact nylon-string Taylor hybrid I’ve been drool­ing over for months now. []

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