Should guitar heroes beware of toxic guitar strings?

Posted by David Konow

When Guitar Hero was all the rage, it was certainly a challenging game, but at the same time it also made real guitar playing seem like another challenge you could conquer.

Funny enough, a lot of real life guitar heroes tried out the game and couldn’t play their own songs on it. Of course, a game can be hard to master, but learning a real guitar is a lot harder.

There’s a lot of little things you need to be aware of and look out for when you learn how to play guitar that can make a big difference. If you know anything about the instrument, you probably know that your favorite players usually change their strings every gig.

These days, thanks to modern day guitar technology, strings can last longer and not break as frequently as back in the day.

At the same time, a lot of players love the sound of old strings, and while it may not be advisable to use old strings live, many players love playing with them in the studio, because for many musicians the more sweat and grime that gets on your strings, the better they sound. (In fact, it usually takes a little while to break in your strings where they don’t sound too bright).

So it was with some amusement that I read a little story on Guitar World’s website about “toxic guitar strings.” What? Strings can get dirty, even rusty after enough time, but toxic? In this story, Guitar World columnist Metal Mike, a well-known axe-man who has played with Sebastian Bach and Rob Halford, recalled hearing about Robin Finck, who used to play in Guns 'N Roses. Reportedly his strings used to last longer because of his diet. He ate healthy, and therefore he wasn’t sweating out a lot of toxins on his strings, which supposedly made them last longer.

It’s also funny we weren’t aware of “toxic guitar strings” when Guitar Hero was popular, because it could have been a funny hazard in the game. Maybe you could have had a guitar oozing dirt, slime, and rust, then the Guitar Hero avatar would have to run backstage and change those strings quick before the audience starts booing.

There is indeed a fine line between when strings have just the right amount of dirt and schmutz on them, and when they’re completely dead and about to break. But once the schmutz works its way into your strings, they can really sound good, no matter what’s sweating out of you. After all, there were a lot of guitar players who weren’t healthy throughout history, and the toxins they sweated out didn’t make them sound any less great.

This also reminds me of a story David Lee Roth told in his autobiography, Crazy From the Heat, where he tried to keep his system pure before recording the vocals for “Jamie’s Cryin’” on the classic first album, but it just didn’t sound rock n’ roll, so then he cut the vocals after a cheeseburger and a joint, and you can hear the results for yourself. So don’t be too afraid of toxic guitar strings, as they can actually be good for you and your playing.