Ah, Eric Clapton. Lovingly known as one of the greatest blues guitarists of all time, the man has actually been entered into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times, as a solo artist, with Cream, and with the Yardbirds. It shouldn’t be too surprising then that entire generations of guitarists have grown up honing their skills with messy covers of “Layla” or “Cliffs of Dover”, but very few amateur guitarists can nail the exact tone Clapton has become so famous for. This is probably due in large part to the fact that Clapton can afford to play out of the highest quality equipment made (as well as the fact that he’s awesomely talented…), but is also due to simple, achievable changes, such as string. Luckily for you Clapton wannabes out there, guitar powerhouse Martin has released the Martin MEC Clapton’s Choice strings, which are meant to emulate the sound of the legendary guitarist, but just how well does it do the job?
Overall, most players tend to find the Clapton’s Choice strings to be mellower than many comparable strings, but that shouldn’t deter players from testing these strings out. They still have a bit of punch, but lack the metallic edge offered by other Martin strings. Of course, these tonal characteristics are quite similar to Clapton’s own tone, so the overall the goal of the strings has been satisfied. Players will likely find blues and meditative acoustic music to be well suited to the Clapton’s Choice strings, whereas folk or bluegrass players might want to look elsewhere to achieve a little more twang.
One aspect of Clapton’s playing these strings emulate well is sustainability. The MEC’s should ring with a rich and full tone for quite some time, far longer than many comparable phosphor bronzes. This is definitely one of the most popular reasons players pick the Clapton’s Choices and should be kept in mind whilst picking strings.
In terms of basic construction, the Clapton’s Choice phosphor bronzes are quite similar to any other phosphor bronze. The upper strings are steel, while the bottom strings are a 92/8 blend of bronze around a central strand. The bottom strings also have phosphor ingrained in the string, which add durability and length to the lifespan of the strings. As previously mentioned, this is fairly standard construction for a phosphor bronze string, and really does nothing to distinguish the Clapton’s Choices from other strings on the market.
While there are many advantages to the Clapton’s Choice strings, one of their strongest points is durability. Most users report these strings lasting for quite some time; they should stick around substantially longer than many comparable brands, including other Martins. While some players attribute this to the phosphor included in the strings, the truth is that these strings already have a mellow tone, and therefore it takes much longer before your average musician can tell a substantial shift in tone has occurred. Note that these strings are also prone to corrosion, so be sure to wash your hands and avoid getting grime on the strings as much as possible to maximize the lifespan of these strings.
Price and Availability
The availability of the Martin MEC Clapton’s Choices could be described by the word spotty. Yes, Martin strings are available in just about every music store of any size, but the Clapton’s Choice’s are a niche product that may or may not be available in location close to you. That being said, we do live in the age of the internet, and that means these strings should be easy for just about everyone to get ahold of. Check both online music retailers and general merchandisers, including Amazon.
As far as pricing goes, most users can expect to spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $7.00 per pack. For bearing the brand of Clapton, that’s actually pretty inexpensive, and those seeking deals or to purchase in bulk can likely find even better deals than that. An assessment of the quality and durability of these strings should be enough to convince you that these strings are more than worth their while, and guitarists of all calibers can rest assured that the Clapton’s Choice strings are a great value.