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Al Joseph's Blog

 

 

Merry Christmas!   (DEC. 25, 2015)

I hope this Christmas season finds you in the most joyous mood! As for myself, I unexpectedly got a Christmas present that will bring real joy into my life for a long time to come!  Overnight I suddenly became a much better guitar player! First you need to understand that just before I came to Thailand I was diagnosed with ulner nerve palsy in my left arm. That means there are no strong gripping muscles on the inside of my left thumb to help me do bar chords. It also means that to this day I still struggle to hit the "1" and "2" on a computer keyboard even though at one time they were just as easy for me to hit as any other key. For years I didn't play at all, but I missed playing guitar, so finally, one fine day in Bangkok I decided that there must be at least a few easy songs that I could work on and still play. I bought a simple $100 Yamaha, and for years now I have struggled with it until I can play about an hour's worth of songs. Lately I have gotten so involved in playing again that I have stopped in a few guitar shops and  tried out a few of their more expensive guitars, including a Takamine for $1000 and a Martin for $2000. What I noticed is that each of them was so much easier to play then my own guitar, and that they also sounded much better. I wondered how much of the difference was inherent in the strings, so I asked one of the shop owners what strings she had on the guitar. She showed me and I took a photo so that on my next purchase I would remember what to buy. (Rather than buy a new guitar, I would try new strings on my old guitar.) The other day while I was purchasing strings I couldn't find the photo, but I have always used D'Addario light bronze, so that part was easy to remember. I also remembered that they had a coating on them, so the shop owner displayed three packages that fit the description. Only one problem remained, they were all different sizes. I had never realized before that guitar strings for the same guitar came in different thicknesses, wherein the smallest string was .010, .011, or .012. I didn't know the Thai word for pitch, so I asked in English, "The smallest string will have a higher pitch, right?" He replied, "Yes." I don't even know if he understood what I said, but it didn't matter, I already knew the answer and asking was my way of thinking to myself. "Well, then the smallest string would be the easiest to play, right?" Once again he nodded with a, "Yes."  I quickly came back with, "Well, then give me the .010!" Today I changed my guitar strings, and now, even faster than overnight, I feel like a much better guitar player! You see, all guitars are tuned the same (although you do have the option to tune differently if you choose, and some songs are written in such a way that you must change the tuning to play them.) So if I have smaller, higher pitched strings, then they don't have to be stretched as tightly to get the same notes. Merry Christmas! Just like that my guitar is ten times easier to play! I am pretty excited knowing that my New Year will be filled with a cleaner more harmonious sound each time I pick up my old six string!

 

 

 

 

 

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