Monthly Archives: March 2013

Review: D’Addario guitar strings

First impressions can be deceptive. I realised that when I reviewed the Ernie Cobalt strings and the Dean Markley 11-52 strings. But it seemed especially true when I tried out the latest offering from D’Addario. To be honest, my first impression of their new strings was “I can’t play them!”. Fortunately, there’s a lot more to them than that, as I soon found out, in and outside of my guitar lessons.

Strange to start with

So what was it that made me and my guitar tuition students feel strange playing with the D’Addarios at first? Technically, these strings are different to their previous ones which changes your playing technique. While the strings are made of the same nickel wound the makers have always used, they are 11 15 19 28 37 50 as opposed to the original 11 14 28 38 49. This means they’ve been mathematically optimised for an evenly balanced fretting bending and picking experience. Plus some of the strings are heavier, which did affect some of my students in their guitar lessons

Time to adjust

What does this all mean for the keen guitar player? Well, a bit of a readjustment in how you play. This was something I found on my own and with students in my guitar lessons. After 20 years playing one way, it took me a little time to adjust. This was also true for intermediate players in my guitar lessons. Obviously, my beginner guitar tuition students wouldn’t know any different, so this wasn’t an issue for them.

A great all-round sound

But what happens after you get over that slight weird feeling? A great playing experience, both in and out of guitar lessons. The strings feel smoother and more modern than the originals. I tried out different styles with students in my guitar lessons and came to the conclusion that the strings are better for the modern player rather than the traditional. They are great all-round guitar strings, but not so good for playing jazz or blues. Because they’re not overly loud, I would also say that these aren’t the best choice for playing metal. But for anything else, they’re great. Plus they’re good for general use in guitar lessons, too.

A few days later…

A week or so on and these strings are still holding their own. They feel very sturdy. They’ve proven themselves on another score, too – all thanks to the winter weather we’ve been having this spring. The studio where I give guitar lessons gets very cold. But I didn’t need to retune the strings, despite temperature changes from freezing to warm. They stayed well in tune throughout.

Brighter and better

That’s the playing covered, but what about the techie stuff? In my opinion and judging by the response they got in my guitar lessons, these strings sound brighter. In my view, the makers have changed the way they produce them and improved them in the process.

Another good thing: the strings are sealed inside and out in their packaging so that they last longer. But there’s more. Unlike other manufacturers, D’Addario have improved their product without hiking up the price. While their old product was good, their new one is even better. If I had to sum it up, I’d describe it as a good all-rounder built to last.

Like I said, there’s much more to these guitar strings than mere first impressions.

Rob Greco



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Ernie Ball Cobalt guitar strings

Review:  Ernie Ball Cobalt guitar strings

If something costs twice as much as another product, does that mean it’s twice as good? This was a question I had about Ernie Ball’s new Cobalt guitar strings. I decided to test them out, both in and outside of guitar lessons, to see how they performed.

Great expectations

This product comes with plenty of high expectations attached, as well as the higher than normal price tag. The new Cobalt strings are meant to be louder and brighter with a warmer sound. This was something I was keen for my students to try out in their guitar lessons.


I have to say that my first impressions did not live up to the hype. On first play, for both me and students attending my guitar lessons, we noticed that the strings felt a little weird. If I had to compare the feeling to anything, I would say it felt like acoustic guitar strings. Playing them at first actually ripped one of my students fingers to shreds. They felt like the sort of strings you would buy on a strict budget. I had to add string lubricant to be able to use them. The friction still slows you down. That’s not great when I’m performing or trying to give guitar lessons!

Slash and burn?

This product is endorsed by Slash himself which does surprise me in view of the abrasive feel of the strings. However, it does seem a bit more fitting when you hear how the strings work when playing slower rock and blues and rhythm. Their more abrasive feel does really go with those styles. I thought it was a top end sound. However, in my experience the strings weren’t so good for lead playing so I would suggest using a regular brand for that.

Not a smooth ride

What about in guitar lessons? Generally speaking, thrash metal guitar strings aren’t the best to use for guitar lessons, though my students did have fun trying them out! Overall, the experience in guitar lessons was they felt like acoustic guitar strings – very loud, but not as smooth as regular strings. In and out of guitar lessons, they didn’t stay in tune initially and there were some embarrassing moments when they went out of tune! One disappointing note to end on is that after a week or two of use, one of the strings snapped when I was changing from drop C to concert pitch!

The final word

In my view, these strings aren’t as good as the ‘double the normal price tag’ would suggest. But they have lasted an incredibly long time – the longest I’ve had guitar strings without changing them. Plus, they haven’t tarnished yet and they still feel fresh. Overall, they gave a good and long lasting performance, though maybe not appropriate for use in guitar lessons. However, if the makers can sort out the abrasive feel of the strings, they’ll have cracked it.

Rob Greco


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Sneak Preview: Eric Clapton – Old Sock

Eric Clapton is streaming his new album – Old Sock Via the Speakeasy blog

The quirky album title is a tell tale sign of the sounds to be heard in Claptons latest release.

I was rather surprised by the first track in the selection, completly different to what I was expecting!

Click here to find a sneak preview to stream before the release next week.

Enjoy the chilled out guitar tones.

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Dean Markley Electric Guitar Strings Review

Two weeks on: Dean Markley 11-52 Guitar Strings
Still going strong

Two weeks and a lot of guitar lessons later and I have to say it, my Dean Markley 11-52 strings are still going strong. I’m impressed. These aren’t just performance strings. They sound good out of the wrapper, but they also stay sounding sweet. I’ve seen these strings tried and tested by different student during my guitar lessons. From new starters to old hands, they’ve all had a great performance out of them. So what’s made these strings such a pleasant surprise to me, both in and out of my guitar lessons?
Great tone
First off, they’re really easy to play. Throughout my guitar lessons, students kept saying how simple they found the strings to play. Another comment that kept coming up is that they aren’t rough on the fingers. We also found that the guitar stays in tune for longer. Not only that, but I’d say the tone is easily as good as the market leader. I guess that means it’s not surprising that while the product isn’t big on sponsorship, it gets used by a lot of artists. In my view, these strings are great for all kinds of sounds and styles – helpful for guitar lessons where I’m working with people who want to play all kinds of music. Having said that, they do seem to be particularly good for styles such as blues and 90s-era metal.
Pleasantly surprised
It’s nice to be pleasantly surprised like this. Teaching guitar lessons means I get through a lot of strings. But I can honestly say that this product, while it’s on the more affordable end of the scale, feels nicely expensive to use. Unlike some other products, you don’t just get that short-lived fresh out of the packet feeling. They stay sounding and feeling fresh. That’s with all the work they have to do throughout a fortnight of guitar lessons, plus my own playing outside of giving guitar tuition!
Punching above their weight
I think you’ve got the picture. I like these. They feel great and sound great too. They manage to punch way above their weight both in terms of performance and durability. That lovely fresh out of the packet feeling keeps on going. It’s a very nice surprise that one of the lower cost guitar strings can give such a nice expensive performance. As you can guess, I’m impressed and the students in my guitar lessons were impressed. But there’s nothing like testing something out in person. Click below to see some reviews and try them for yourself!
Rob Greco

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