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Sophie and Julie The Murry Sisters

Julie (Murray) Newman

Our thoughts and prayers go out to our own Charlie Newman and his entire family for the loss of his Mother, Julie, who passed on September 23rd at the age of 97. Julie pictured here, circa 1948, (on right) with her sister Sophie, entertained together as the Murray Sisters, and later, along with their husbands, Pete and Elmer Newman. Collectively known as the "Sleepy Hollow Ranch Gang", the "Gang" was well known nationwide due to their many recordings and syndicated radio show "Hayloft Hoedown". Check out this link to the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia web site for a nice bit of local history.

In knowing Julie, it's easy to see where Charlie and his brother Danny get their quick wit and great zest for life (not to mention their good looks!). We will all miss her.

Follow this link for her obituary.



I personally feel that the most important thing in playing stringed instruments is choosing the right strings.  The first thing to be considered is safety.  Often the player wants more from the instrument than it can give.  For example, many times people opt for medium gauge strings on an acoustic guitar because they like the extra volume and heavier bass response.  However, my experience has been that few acoustic guitars are strong enough to withstand the extra tension of medium gauge strings over time.  I have had many players bring me their acoustic guitars, complaining of high action and poor "playability", and I see that the instrument has medium gauge strings on it.  Unfortunately, these folks have unwittingly caused their own problem.  Medium gauge strings on a guitar that isn't built to handle them will result in bowed necks, lifted tops and worse.  I've seen more than one bridge detach completely from the top!  So, unless you own a high-end Martin or the like where medium strings are recommended, you'll be better off with a light or custom light set.

Individual string manufacturers seem to have their own idea of what gauges make up a particular set.  For example, the 6th string of one maker's light gauge set might be .054", while another's might be .053" or .052".  In general, these are the gauges that most of the acoustic string manufacturers use (ref. C.F. Martin Co.): 

acoustic medium gauge - .013" to .056"
acoustic light gauge - .012" to .054"
acoustic custom light gauge - .011" to .052"
acoustic extra light gauge - .010" to .047"

Electric guitar string set gauge ranges vary more than acoustic strings, as there are more alternate tunings being used by electric players these days.  For example, several of my customers use standard Spanish tuning dropped one half step to Eb.  This requires a little heavier string to get the desired playability and tonal qualities.  Very often, players use a drop D tuning, where only the 6th string is dropped two half steps.  Again, a heavier sixth string will be necessary to preserve tonal quality, intonation and possibly neck adjustment.  Whether acoustic or electric, a string that is not tuned at the proper tension for its thickness will not sound like it should - the increased width of the string's vibration will cause pitch variation, fret buzz or volume loss.

Here are some of the electric string set gauge ranges that are available (ref. Dean Markley strings):

Jazz - .012" to .054" (heavy for electric strings, ideal for drop tunings)

Medium - .011" to .052" (offered with optional plain or wound 3rd)

Light Top, Heavy Bottom - .010" to .052" (good for blues or rock players who bend the high strings yet like the heavier bass strings for power chords, also good for Travis style)

Regular - .010" to .046" the workhorse of electric sets, for the player who likes a bit heavier string than the Light Gauge, standard on most new electric guitars, great for rythym or lead

Custom Light - .009" to .046" (often the choice of players who like easy-to-bend treble strings and a bit heavier bass - a combination of regular and light, often called hybrid)

Light - .009" to .042" (set of choice for most new guitars as chosen by most manufacturers, especially imports)

Extra Light - .008" to .038" (a very light specialty string set which requires a very light touch, not a good choice for drop tunings or Pete Townshend-style windmillers, good for beginners still developing hand and finger strength)

There are other gauge ranges available from other makers, but virtually everyone can find a set to meet their needs from the listings above. 

I hope this answers some of the questions many players have about selecting the right string set.  Look for more Tech Tips in the coming months. 

Play pretty! and I'll take care of the rest.  Your friend, Charlie Newman

Click here to see how to install your new strings.

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