One of the most widely agreed upon, must-see documentaries of the past decade, where the guitar world is concerned, is without a doubt a little flick by the name of It Might Get Loud. More arguments have started in rehearsal rooms over any of the three protagonists’ involvement than I care to fathom. One of the more pathos-fueled moments in that filmic round table happens in the beginning where Jack White nails a pickup to a plank and cobbles together a rudimentary slide guitar right before our very eyes. This moment, more than any of the grandstanding usually associated with rock and roll, illustrates just how basic our needs are as string slingers. At the end of the day, all we really need is a wooden box and a good set of strings to drag our sorry knuckles over.
There are about as many opinions on what defines an appropriate bit of wire as there are individual string sets on the market. Some prefer the slickness and durability of coated variations, some lean on as heavy a gauge as they can find while others just prefer the old faithful wound steel with none of the fancy trimmings to get between you and your melody. As with everything in capitalist society, brand recognition and loyalty has a lot to do with the choice a player makes when it’s time to restring, but every now and again you’re far from home and the familiar packaging that you’ve come to rely on is nowhere to be seen. That was how I first came to try a set of JVB Nickel Steels, as a matter of fact. Three shows into a tour across the oppressively humid American south, I found my Gretsch Electromatic was in dire need of a refresh. I picked up a pack of 10-50s in some Mom and Pop, roadside store and, while I’d scarcely say I was permanently converted, I definitely found a brand that is reliable in a pinch.
As an electric set, JVB’s Premium range sings with a certain tempered brightness that sits nicely across the neck of a Tele or a Jazzmaster. They are surprisingly durable in spite of their raw, uncoated nature and came to play quite well over the course of the next few shows, especially given the extreme conditions I was subjecting them to. Their acoustic strings are just as effective. With a choice between bright bronze and the warmer, more characteristic 80/20 phosphor and bronze sets there is something to lean on for just about any style of acoustic player. I strapped my Takamine Parlor down with the latter in 11-52s and have been enamoured with their clarity and richness ever since. They seem, in that context, to really open up in alternate tunings too, the balance of alloyed metals giving air to some of the stranger chord voicings I dared wrestle with.
JVB have been winding strings of this calibre for a very long time. For one reason or another they seem shy behind the intimidating advertising budgets of some of their bigger competition, but that says nothing of the quality of their products. JVB Strings are simple yet confident both tonally and by nature, durable enough to lean on in most conditions and with an uncluttered sensibility that most will appreciate given half the chance. All sets are available in an economical twin pack, making them all the more enticing when times, and riders, are tight.
Thanks to our friends at JVB Strings, we have an assortment of their incredible acoustic and electric strings to give away this month. See here for your chance to win.
Hits and Misses
Uncomplicated, economical and clear
They feel a little raw for the more sensitive, un-calloused player