From the May/June 2019 issue of Acoustic Guitar | BY SEAN MCGOWAN

When it comes to strings, guitarists seem to fall into one of two categories: some obsess about gauges and materials, while others tend to put on whatever is laying around or happens to be on sale at the local guitar store. Admittedly, I tend to fall into the former category, continually on the lookout for the perfect string (placing a close second to the search for the perfect pick). After all, aside from the pick and your fingers, strings are the most immediate transducer of your sound. Changing string types or brands can have a significant effect on the sound and balance of your guitar—not unlike experimenting with different reeds in a woodwind instrument.

To address frustrations with commercial strings’ inability to capture the inherent harmonic complexity and balance of an acoustic instrument, Richard Hoover and the Santa Cruz Guitar Company consulted with acoustician and inventor Roger Siminoff. Together, they created Parabolic Tension strings as a way to achieve an optimal relative volume between strings by using specific core-to-wrap ratios to control the overall string tension. They are made of hexagonal steel cores, wound with phosphor bronze, and a proprietary micro-coating. Santa Cruz offers these strings in Low and Mid Tension sets ($18) and also offers an innovative direct subscription program.


I tried a Low Tension set on my 1992 Nickerson FC3, a 25-1/4-inch scale, 16-inch wide guitar. The strings felt very natural, not oily like some coated strings. I was expecting the strings to be loud. Instead, the tone was clear and sweet, whether I played fingerstyle gently or more aggressively with a pick. When I changed positions and played across the strings, it was immediately apparent how the notes sounded balanced and true, like a well-tuned piano. These are strings definitely worth obsessing over.

Check out Santa Cruz Guitar’s Innovative Parabolic Tension Strings at Winter NAMM 2018

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.

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