I own exactly one acoustic guitar, which is a Phoebus 20CE. I got it sometime in 2015 from Guitar Pusher, a Makati based outfit well known for being really good at making people walk out with their wares. My guitar is a dreadnought with a cut out, and I bought it mainly because I wanted to work on some acoustic songs with my then (now, wife) girlfriend. My other reason was because I wanted to cover some songs from Michael Schenker’s “Thank You” series of albums. Those songs showcase Mr. Schenker’s mastery of the acoustic guitars with some very tasty and well made instrumental tracks.
The guitar (Sara) that I have comes with an onboard Fishman ISYS+ pickup and pre-amp system. Originally, I was supposed to get one without it and while there was a very substantial price difference between the non-pickup models and the others with it, I chose to go with the one I have now. Something worth noting is that the guitar I own was the last 2014 model stock that the store had. According to them, the 2014s were better than the current (2015) models in terms of sound, and some testing revealed it to be somewhat true, with the older models somewhat having a little bit more “mojo” to it. I also liked the 2014 finish more than the 2015s as the stocks they had were a darker shade on the top, whereas the 2014s are lighter. Something worth noting is that this is actually one of Phoebus’ entry level guitars, and seem to be discontinued already.
Paid the guys, made off with the guitar with my then girlfriend in tow and we made for home. Somehow, we never got to work on the songs, and I’ve only learned two songs from “Thank You” – “Positive Forward”, which up until now is a concert stable and “Acceptance and Forgiveness”.
I’ve never used this acoustic guitar for any gig, and it remained mostly at home for the past three years. I was supposed to use it for when Urusai did a Hale cover set back in 2016, but I switched to Maya (Epiphone Les Paul Special Model aka cheapstuff) at the last moment because I found it had to sing and play acoustic – mostly because of the oem strings which were hard as hell to press down. Blame it on my dainty hands and preference for 0.10 light gauge strings for electric guitar work. What I wanted was the feel of an electric guitar string on an acoustic. However, the guitar had seen action with a friend of mine who had gigged twice and recorded with it.
So three years without a string change, and the sound was becoming dull, not to mention the strings are all black (G, B, E) so I thought it was high time for me to get a new set of strings. I was also due to play an acoustic thing at the office with some of my colleagues and I sure as hell wasn’t showing up with a guitar with half dead strings.
Since I did not have enough time to strengthen my fingers for the strings that were currently on the guitar, I thought I’d get something that would kinda simulate the feel of electric guitar strings while being made for acoustic guitar. See as a kid, I have tried putting on electric guitar strings on acoustic guitars, usually the sets that have been swapped out since I cannot quite afford to get new packs of strings all at once. That works some, but I found that while the strings were more comfortable and playable for my hands, it doesn’t have the “oomph” that regular steel acoustic guitar strings have.
I did some looking around a week or so back at a local music store and found Ernie Ball Earthwood steel strings, which come in a gauge (0.10) that I thought would be perfect for me.
The string change procedure was something I’d never done before since I’d never owned an acoustic guitar. It was a little hard to do having to deal with the bridge pins and everything, but it was a straight forward job and I was able to remove the then almost three year old strings and swapped in the new set. Of course, I also took the time to dab some lemon oil on the fingerboard since it was all dried up although I forgot to polish the frets because I was hurrying to get the strings on so they would stretch out and the guitar would hold its tune.
Those of you who’re familiar with me may know that since at least 2012, I’d avoided Ernie Ball strings. I liked the brand previously since they have a slinker feel to them, and when they label their strings “light” they’re really light on the hands! It had been my go to brand since at least 2005, and I only stopped using them due to some unfortunate incidents of the strings unwinding from the ball. That’s right, from the damn ball. After a few packs of pretty much the same issue on either the G or high E strings, I ditched them and went to d’Addario, which had also been my other preferred brand and is still currently the string brand on all my electrics.
Now on to the strings themselves. The strings feel great, they have not yet undone themselves at the ball ends and feel slinky and so much brighter than the old set. They do feel closer to the electric stuff that I have although I must say that even though these are the same gauge strings, they are actually lighter on the hands than those on my electrics. It’s almost like they’re .09s to my hands. And for strings made mostly of brass and copper, these certainly sound bright. The highs are very clear and ringing, mids are quite pronounced but the lows are a little lacking in comparison to the highs. As of now, I haven’t plugged the guitar in so I don’t know how the strings will sound through the pickups.
Due to the much more pronounced treble, I find myself mostly using my fingers to kill off some of the sharpness when using a pick.
Since the strings are light and this is an acoustic guitar, sustain actually suffered and while the guitar sounds clearer and more vibrant, the old set of strings (purported to be Elixirs although I don’t know the gauge) had more oomph to them, quite possibly due to the fact that the previous set had more vibrating mass to them. Strangely, the new strings have a more pronounced ringing to them and I can faintly hear the ringing in the sound box well after the string had been plucked. Volume had also dropped noticeably – previously, I just have to pluck some, and the guitar comes to life. Right now, I have to put some effort into plucking but not too hard as to introduce buzz. As of the moment, the guitar needs a good set up, so I would be bringing this down to Pusher HQ for a set up job, a Graphteq nut and string pins as well.
The guitar sounds alright, but isn’t quite what I want it in terms of sound, although in terms of feel, this set feels so much better. One thing I want to point out though is that this set seems to already have started to tarnish – I’m spotting darkening on the far ends (2nd fret) of the B and G string. It may be because I’m using those more frequently nowadays. I’ll run the strings through some more and I’ll write about any other findings.
Overall, not a bad experience and these may actually get me back on track with Ernie Ball. I guess I just have to keep looking for a set and gauge that would give me the tone I actually want. For now, check out this noodling video of me and the newly strung Sara. It’s tuned half a step down and the first part features the ending sequence of Extreme’s extremely (pun) popular song, “More Than Words”. Took this video using my wife’s Xperia, and I have yet to make a properly made recording.
For now, enjoy and check it out. If for some reason, you’re studying the song and trying to get this part down but cannot find tabs or references on the net, let me know and maybe I can help you.