When it comes to guitar strings, why not try something totally new?
With a surfeit of options at our fingertips, it is truly the best time to be a musician shopping for gear. With no shortage of brands and businesses vying for our attention, it can sometimes be overwhelming to choose gear- typically leaving stringed musicians with a bad case of option paralysis every time some G.A.S. strikes. This plethora of options can also leave plenty of those “diamonds in the rough” buried amidst the shiny packages of big brand names with huge marketing budgets. Guitarists are always on the lookout for those elusive products that just might be the next ingredient in the recipe of tone. So, we wanted to shine the spotlight on a company you may not yet have heard of, but you should. This String Thing is quite literally a thing about strings, specifically Curt Mangan Custom Strings, made in America in Cortez, CO since 2004.
Up to this point, most guitarists (and bassists) must settle for strings that companies want you to have. Companies typically produce pre-packaged string gauges (in even more styles than you can find in your supermarket’s peanut butter aisle). But for many players, these string packages may not be ideal. In fact, they might even be holding you back. Sure, they’ll get the job done, and sound great; but ‘something’ may still be missing.
That ‘something’ may even be unknown to the player themselves because most guitarists do not have the money and time to buy 10 packages of strings to experiment in creating their own ideal blend (and then discard/donate the rest). There IS another way to achieve that custom-tailored feel- by going the custom strings route. As fellow String Thing Curt Mangan puts it: “These are not just strings you get. They will be the strings you really want.”
Guitar players are unique because they [their hands] come in all shapes and sizes. And amidst those shapes and sizes, are another equally vast world of diverse musical needs. That “set of 10s” very well might not be the ‘right’ set (more on that later). Sure, they’ll be a great starting point, but some players may find these to be too much to learn on while other players may find them far too lightweight to hold tune according to their playing style. With all of these factors in just feel, it really makes sense for guitar players to have an ability to choose not only what they want, but how they want it made.
Strings not only are THE quintessential part of a guitar we “feel” the most; they are also a massive part of the overall tone! As we discussed in our very first String Thing: the strings are the voice of the instrument, far more than even the pickups. To use a great Paul Reed Smith analogy: think of the strings and guitar body as Barbra Streisand’s vocal cords, and the pickups are her microphone. You can put a million different mics on her, and she’ll always come out sounding like Barbra Streisand. Getting that right set of strings may be just like getting your vocal cords ‘just right.’
Knowing the importance of guitar strings to the guitar’s ‘true voice,’ while also craving the ability to play the exact string gauges he wanted, Curt Mangan set out in 2004 to create a new way to get guitar strings. Curt Mangan’s string-making philosophy is simple: the company developed a string recipe from scratch, utilize ultra high-quality components, produce everything in small batches, and do first article inspections on all batches. This attention to detail produces a consistent product that sounds and feels great. He calls this philosophy of fusing player’s needs with their new recipe “FusionMatched,” which in his own words goes a little something like this:
THE FUSION BETWEEN PLAYER, INDUSTRY AND HANDMADE PRODUCTION
“'FusionMatched' was originally going to be the name of our company. The term was intended to describe the proprietary thought process we used to create the recipe for each and every single string gauge we offer which included the choice on wire maker, custom-built machines, core-to-wrap ratios and other key factors essential for the tone, intonation, and longevity we wanted to obtain. We do not believe in “smoke and mirror” marketing for strings. Truth is at some point every string must speak for itself. It either is or it is not the real deal.
At the time of launching the company in 2004 we could not be certain we would receive the trademark for “FusionMatched” and we were advised to call the company Curt Mangan, because we could be 99% certain we would be granted this trademark.
We did receive the trademark for “FusionMatched” in 2005 and still follow the same “FusionMatched” thought process for every string we build today."
If you’re another musician of another stringed variety, fear not- they have you covered as well. They make strings for acoustic & electric guitar, bass, mandolin, banjos, and more! In fact, the company prides itself on making over 700 boutique, premium quality single strings and upwards of 300 packaged sets! Furthermore, they cater to guitars of the 6, 7, and 8 string variety, as well as selling JUST single strings, which is perfect if you find yourself needing extras of a certain size (great for gigs!).
Hell, if you’re still lost about where to start on your journey to total-string-customization, why not ask Curt himself?
Shown here is Curt himself demonstrating how his round-core strings are made:
💥 FRET12 PROTIP: pay attention at the end to hear some string-maker wisdom on why it’s best to only cut your guitar strings AFTER they’re installed, tuned, and clamped down
Curt has been in the guitar industry for 6 decades, and has been building custom strings for 16 years now, so it’s safe to say he knows a thing or two about what players are after. So next time you’re looking for that new set of strings, why not take some time to think about your strings and where they’re from. Instead of getting that same ol’ set from the guitar store shelf. Why not go the custom route and really dial your instrument into YOU. Do you own a fleet of guitars? Custom strings make even more sense, especially if you are using every tuning in the proverbial book. Think about what you want out of the guitar‘s feel, as well as what your tone might be missing. A custom string set might be just what the tone doctor ordered.
Who knows, maybe you’ve been using the wrong string gauge this entire time? 😉 Worth a thought... As Rick Beato explains below, many guitar players are indeed using the wrong size strings, and never even knew it! Guitarists will go to the ends of the earth to try the latest and greatest gear, but never gave a second thought to one of the most overlooked parts of the instrument: the strings! Who would we be as guitarists if we didn’t tirelessly experiment with new things on the never-ending quest for the ideal tone?
May your string journeys treat you well, and godspeed!
Like a finely-tailored suit, custom strings can make a great feeling guitar feel even more like ‘home.’ So, if you find yourself with a custom set of strings that has rekindled your love of guitar, and opened the floodgates of inspiration, just remember, String Thing sent ya.