The road ends, but the journey continues...

Re-stringing a Life

Andres Segovia & Augustine StringsA few weeks ago, I finally changed strings on the Prisloe (my classical guitar). After a couple of months trying out another brand, some Augustine Regal/Blue High Tensions as recommended by Segovia himself, I’m back to my standard Blue Pack (Savarez Alliance High Tension 540 J’s).
In addition to his pioneering role in elevating the classical guitar to the concert stage around the turn of the 20th century, Segovia partnered with Augustine Strings in the 1940s to develop a revolutionary (at the time) non-gut string option for classical guitars. For many years since, Augustine Strings were one of very few quality options out there for classical guitarists.
All told, those Augustine’s just didn’t agree with me. My style, my fingers; maybe even my guitar. That’s part of being a working musician, trying different things to see how they enhance or detract from one’s playing. When I know I don’t need to depend upon reliability in sound/tone due to a lack of gigs, or recording dates, I often slap on different strings – brands, tensions, material composition – just to test drive the newest innovations, those recommended by colleagues and/or those with the best reviews by other players.
The Augustine strings offered up a strong rich sound in the basses with less buzzes but were harder to coax out tone colors. Plus, the trebles took several days of consistent playing to settle them into a decent tone – albeit with a plastic-y feel and muddled sound. Yes, they lasted longer and handled my hard-driven playing well, but they just didn’t offer up the variety of subtle tone colors I use in my playing or feel good under my fingers.
They also were harder on my hands. Segovia had huge hands with sausage-like fingers and probably really needed the thicker, plastic-y feeling of the strings to accommodate that physical factor. And as far as the relationship between instrument and strings goes, remember: Segovia played a huge Ramirez with 664 fret scale and larger, 54 mm nut width.
For those of you not in-the-know about the great Segovia, I found a quality, yet un-retouched video of him playing sometime in the 1960s when he was actually in his sixties. I chose this one because it’s representative of his tone/style – his signature technique of finding just the right sweet spot on the fretboard for each note, delivering a rich deep vibrancy – all while showcasing his effortless command of the instrument.

The thing of it is, regardless of the strings used, music is played, compositions are created, techniques are explored, expanded and maintained. For myself as a musician, each time I re-string one of my instruments, there is a sense of expectation. A moment in time where everything seems possible, opening up a wide world of sonic possibilities, hopes, dreams and deep expressions of my (he)art flowing through my fingers into the outer realm.
And when the right strings are strung, those aural rewards inspire and invigorate…
The thing of it is, regardless of the strings used, music is played.
Life is lived.
And when the right strings are strung, life is magical.

I have come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly.
John 10:10b NKJV

28 Comments

  1. Deborah Brasket

    How inspiring! I love the video of his music and your message–that sense of expectation where everything seems possible in our He(art).

    • laura bruno lilly

      May your week unfold many unexpected delights…Take care, Deborah.

  2. Sheryl

    I liked the analogy between guitar strings well strung and life.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Welcome, Sheryl! Thanks for stopping by.
      It’s encouraging to know my sometimes obscure analogies are seen by others.
      🙂

  3. Ally Bean

    I played violin as a girl and remember re-stringing my instrument. It was challenging, but kind of fun as I recall. There was something empowering about starting over, all fresh and new.

    • laura bruno lilly

      In tending to the many aspects of one’s craft/(he)art there are some tasks more liked than others, but all bring pleasure IMHO.

  4. Annika Perry

    Laura, a gift of a post, reaching us on so many levels! First, I wish you richness of tones and ease in your fingers with the new strings! I loved learning about the guitar strings and as my mother was a professional classical guitarist before I was born and when I was young, I grew up around guitars, their strings. She saw Segovia play a few times and as I result I revere him, his playing. She mentioned his hands too … and his amazing music. Once he made a false start, stopped, laughed lightly and calmly and said it happens to everyone before starting again!
    Finally, a beautiful end to your post — ‘And when the right strings are strung, life is magical’.
    May we all find that magic this year! Xx

    • laura bruno lilly

      Annika, your mother was a pioneer herself as one of the few female pro-cgers ‘back in the day’ (I’m guessing the ’70s?). I’d love to learn more about her career path – who she studied with, etc. A colleague of mine who’s a few years younger than myself performed in a masterclass for Segovia in his later years – he was none too easy on female pupils!
      Your comments made my day, thank you.

  5. Andy

    That latent potential before the string is plucked.

  6. Janis

    How interesting! I had no idea that the type of strings would make a difference… but, now that you’ve explained it, it makes perfect sense. I imagine that changing the strings, then re-tuning your instrument, would take a good amount of time… how often do you have to do that?

    • laura bruno lilly

      It depends upon how often and how hard I’ve played. Plus, I always change strings a few days to a week before recording sessions and/or gigs/concerts. The problem with ‘old’ strings is not only in sound/tone but the fact that they no longer hold pitch! So kinda important to keep up with that. And since you expressed interest, I’ll add that each instrument takes a different amount of time to do the deed…usually no longer than 15 minutes (cg and uke) and around 25 minutes (12-string and tenor resonator). It usually takes 1-2 days of playing for the strings to settle to pitch.
      Thanks for asking, Janis!

  7. Catherine de Seton

    thanks also from me to understand your “stringed life” and what I note about the guitarist is his Right hand, just dances across the strings effortless without me even thinking it’s his fingers moving the sound…
    when I saw the title of your post, I did know it was about music but I also thought it’s about any “craft” – me recently chatting to someone on line about how a glue I’ve successfully used suggests on the new container it dries clear. I think the manufacturer must have changed the ingredients as what they suggest as “clear” is not coming through to my works. In both times, I’ve had to “restring” the result. Yes, the newer cover looks more interesting but that wasn’t the original intention…
    anyway – life is just that – restringing to bring more balance and pleasure into our beings…happy 2020

    • laura bruno lilly

      Yep, you got it, Catherine – Re-stringing a Life is timely for this New Year. Happy 2020 to you, too!

  8. Jane Chesebrough

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtnDtwiz6EM the song I fell in love with was Romance de Amore because that is what he practised often and I found it so mesmerizing.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Oh yeah, one of the first rep pieces most cgers learn…this piece goes by many names, I’m familiar with just plain Romanza
      😉

  9. Jane Chesebrough

    You wrote this with such Hea(art) and I can see what you are talking about, though have no knowledge of music. Years ago, a friend would play songs that Segovia played, and it was so beautiful. It really is a matter of individual taste which instrument and which strings are preferred. I had a favourite brush I used often when painting, although it may not have been the best for the task, it “felt” good.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Favorite brush, favorite lens, favorite strings, etc etc…all a part of the evolution of our individual signature style.
      Like I mentioned to Roseanne, all these ideas/inspirations/processes cross over all the arts…
      Thanks for chiming in, Jane.

  10. Roseanne

    Hi Laura! What an interesting post. As a non-musician (but want to learn to play the guitar!), I never gave a thought to different types and qualities of strings. I can easily understand and equate that with quilting fabrics, for example. Some I am just drawn to without regard to quality, and then once I give them a try I find they are not for me. Even if they come highly recommended by many friends, we often have to forge our own path that works for us. A very inspiring post! Happy New Year! ~smile~ Roseanne

    • laura bruno lilly

      Oh yeah, as you say Roseanne, this process of experimentation of craft easily ‘crosses over’ and is applicable to all segments of the arts!

  11. tierneycreates

    That is so cool you play classical guitar!

  12. L. Marie

    Beautiful post, Laura! I’m always fascinated by your knowledge of your craft. You have such a rich vein of insight. And how wonderful to watch that video! What mastery!

    • laura bruno lilly

      You’re right, L. Marie – Regardless of technological advances in recording/media/etc…the Greats always stand the test of time and shine.

  13. Laura

    Thank you for the education! Not being a musician, I have never considered the strings with their options and sounds. 🙂

    • laura bruno lilly

      Glad to oblige and enlighten…as you often do for me in your realm of quilting.
      🙂

  14. Mariss Stevens

    Thanks for a fascinating and (for me) educational post. Enjoy your restrung instrument. New sound for a new year

    • laura bruno lilly

      Sounds (yep, punny on purpose) like you felt the undercurrent of the subtle ‘new year’ metaphorical theme here. I’m not at all surprised at such an insight from you, Mariss! Hope your Hogsback stay is magical, too.

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