It happens countless times around the world each day. Someone somewhere picks up a guitar strung with Elixir® Strings, hits a chord, and listens in rapt astonishment to the rich sound it makes. Invariably, the questions quickly follow: Those strings have been on that guitar how long? Whatâ€™s the secret behind those incredible tones?
The short answer is that those tones come from our love of music. Thatâ€™s really where the story of Elixir® Strings starts. Because as much as weâ€™re string makers, weâ€™re music fans on a mission to provide a better playing experience for musicians everyday. But uncompromising dedication to oneâ€™s art will only take a string so far. Thereâ€™s a good deal of science hiding in those tones as well, and it all begins with the person doing the playing.
Whenever you play a guitar or other stringed instrument, you leave something of yourself behind. Weâ€™re not talking about artistic sacrifice or heartfelt emotion, weâ€™re talking about actual physical traces of yourself in the form of sweat, body oils, tiny bits of dead skin, and any dirt or soils that were on your hands when you sat down to jam. Unless you have a high-powered microscope, you canâ€™t see these materials on your strings, but theyâ€™re rubbing off and accumulating between the windings every time you play. Once there, they corrode the metal and steadily deaden the tone until your string is a dull shadow of its former self. And these are not its only adversaries. The environments you play in also factor into your stringsâ€™ sound and longevity. Humidity, salty air, club haze, and other conditions all affect their performance, which, in turn, affects yours, too.
The solution would be to shield your strings from all these damaging elements. But how? And with what?
Surprisingly, such questions were far from our minds in 1995, the year Elixir® Strings were born. We were working with guitar strings all right, but they werenâ€™t anywhere near a guitar. Instead, we were using them as convenient test subjects in our attempt to develop a better variety of push-pull cable. As part of this work, our research team was coating the strings with polytetrafluoroethylene, which you can just call PTFE in order to save some breath for your next show. The coated strings worked quite well as cables, but they sounded terrible as guitar strings. (Picture a guitar strung with day-old spaghetti.) Still, the mere idea got a couple of guitarists among us thinkingâ€¦ What if we could alter the coating and tinker with the process so the strings sounded great? Could we make a coated string that actually got called back for an encore?
The road to that mythic destination, of course, was littered with the rubble of previous attempts to do just that. Nylon, polyurethane, even pricey rare metals have all been applied to guitar strings in various well-intentioned but ultimately misguided efforts to protect strings from the enemies of tone, and all of these endeavors had had one thing in common: Theyâ€™d failed spectacularly in providing great tone and long life.
Hopeless impossibility, however, had never stopped us before. So it was that we headed into the lab. We started by analyzing our favorite guitar strings in order to establish a benchmark of ideal sonic quality. Using a dynamic signal analyzer, we studied string tones, measured frequencies, and quantified sustain rates. We invented an abrasion testing device that simulated the natural wear and tear of normal use. And we brought in all kinds of high-speed photo gear to study guitar strings in use and coating durability. Then we started feverishly coating strings every way we could imagine. Each new test batch was analyzed, and those that got an ovation from our lab technicians were sent to a random sampling of the almost 15,000 guitarists who had signed up to put our ideas through their ultimate trials: playing actual songs on genuine guitars in the real world.
This lengthy field process resulted in the first official Elixir® String prototypes which were sent to 5,000 musicians for testing. After a final bit of feedback and last tweak or two, we had at last produced a coated string that was judged just right by the most demanding test equipment in the world: musiciansâ€™ ears.
Since then weâ€™ve refined our ideas and today provide various combinations of original POLYWEB® Coating and ultra-thin NANOWEB® Coating strings for acoustic and electric guitar, bass, mandolin, and banjo. Each produces a different tone â€œflavor," but all are variations of the same basic idea: a microscopically thin, advanced polymer tube that surrounds the string to protect it from corrosion and dirt without making any contact whatsoever with the critical area between the windings where the â€œcritical zone of tone" is found and each perfect note is born.
For these and many other reasons, Elixir® Strings have struck a serious chord with musicians around the world. Whether youâ€™re playing for yourself or for an arena packed with fans, they maintain their like-new sound and their bright lively tones 3-5 times longer than ordinary strings to save money, time, aggravation, and a whole lot more. Elixir® Strings fulfill the promise of music. And not just any music. They fulfill the promise of your own.