Player Spotlight – Chris Buck

Chris Buck with Fender Vintera Telecaster

If you’ve had even a sniff at the guitar press or on YouTube in the past few years , you will no doubt have come across the talents of Chris Buck.  This young welshman has earned several “Guitarist of The Year” accolades over the past few years all the while garnering quite the online following with his legion of fans appearing to be growing day by day… and for good reason.

What usually starts out as an innocent 5 minute look at his YouTube channel can lead you down a Buck-shaped rabbit hole where you’ll find yourself several hours deep into his ‘Friday Fretworks’ episodes.  It’s these weekly videos that have brought Buck’s wonderful playing to the world’s attention and this star is well and truly on the rise. 

When not stuck at home like the rest of us, Buck is part of the touring rock and blues outfit ‘Buck & Evans’.  Buck is the only guitarist in this soulful 4-piece and the solo breaks in the songs really allow him to display his impeccable phrasing and feel to devastating effect. 

Chris is very much a ‘feel’ player with a very fluid style.  Whilst certainly capable of playing at speed, it’s his purposeful note choice and emotive phrasing that really seems to resonate with his fans.  This is achieved through his use of multitone bends and cheeky slides into notes.   It’s these subtle articulations that seem to really make his playing stand out and at times his phrasing is very reminiscent of Derek Trucks slide playing… enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

Further testament to Buck’s feel style is the fact that he uses his fingers a lot on his right hand only seldomly choosing a pick to play rakes and faster flurries of notes when needed.  This fingers/pick combination also helps add a bit of variety in terms of tone and dynamics.

Buck’s modest personality and dry sense of humour also make him extremely likeable and this is clearly what caught Fender’s eye too.  A long time Strat user, Buck was snapped up as Fender’s demo guy in 2019 for the release of their Vintera Series of Guitars.  A couple of the boys here at Strings Direct were fortunate to catch him demoing these back in February (ah, pre-COVID, good times!), and what a player he is!  When we’re allowed to go out and play again, a night watching Buck & Evans would certainly not be wasted.

So what strings does Chris Buck use?

Chris was good enough to sit down and answer a few of our burning questions relating to his strings and what he uses to shape his sound.

He is a long time fan and endorsee of Californian string giant, Ernie Ball. In a video on his YouTube channel from a few years ago, Chris revealed that at the time he was primarily using the Ernie Ball 10-46 Regular Slinky strings for all his electric guitars, occasionally using 11’s but often finding himself reaching back for the trusty green Regular Slinky sets

Chris Buck's Yamaha Revstar
Just one of Chris’s Yamaha Revstar Guitars

Chris is largely a Fender man owning several Strats and Teles, but is often seen playing Yamaha Revstars (see image above) and a Patrick James Eggle Macon too. Chris told us that his guitars are mainly set up for standard tuning but will sometimes look to alternate tunings for some rut-busting creativity.

“I pretty much exclusively play in standard tuning with the band, which is a shame because there’s no disputing that a Strat sounds cooler tuned down half a step! That said, there’s one track on the Buck & Evans record, Back to Yesterday, which is in EBEF#BE tuning. I have no idea what tuning that is or if it actually has a proper name but it’s my go-to tuning when I’m feeling a little low on inspiration. You can’t help but play pretty chord progressions! It’s like an autoharp.”

Chris has released a couple of videos on his YouTube channel talking about his strings and how he has recently started to experiment with some of Ernie Ball’s newer gauges outside of his favoured 10-46 gauge.

It was upon picking up a new Yamaha Revstar that he began to experiment with different gauges.  Upon first playing the new Revstar, he fell in love with how the strings and guitar came together and “just felt right.”  He was convinced that they were a set of 11’s as they didn’t have the looseness of his standard Ernie Ball Regular Slinkys.  Alas they turned out to be a set of 10-46 strings, albeit this time they were made by Elixir.   So what would have made them feel different? After all, they’re the same gauge for all 6 strings and both are nickel wound? Well, whilst we don’t have much more technical information than that, the difference in feel between two sets of the same gauge can be attributed to a variety of reasons;

Different raw materials – whilst both sets will include plain steel and nickel wound strings, the difference in the makeup of the raw materials used certainly plays a part in the overall feel of the string.

Core to wrap wire ratio variance – We discussed this topic in one of our most recent blogs “Are All Guitar Strings The Same”.  In this post, we spoke at length of how the difference in the diameters of the core and outer wrap wire can play a vital role in the way a string feels under your fingers.  Usually a string with a thinner core to wrap wire ratio will have a looser and more comfortable feel in comparison to a string with a thicker core.  This is all despite both strings being the same overall gauge.

The winding process – In the same blog mentioned above, we also discussed how the techniques used in making the strings can have an effect on the final playability of the string.  Even the smallest of adjustments to the manufacturing process can have a big effect on the final product.  Everything from the tensions at which the string is wound, to the angle at which the outer wrap wire hits the core during the winding process can all play a vital part in how your strings play and feel.

We digress, back to the Welsh Wizard that is Chris Buck….

After liking the extra bit of tension in those seemingly heavier Elixir strings, Chris turned to Ernie Ball’s newly released Mega Slinky set (10.5 – 48) to help hone in on that perfect gauge. The Mega Slinkys are the perfect bridge between Ernie Balls 10-46 and 11-48 sets and “filled the niche I’ve been crying out for” according to Buck.  

“On Strats and Teles, I can get away with Ernie Ball Mega Slinkys (10.5 gauge) pretty much all year round and 11s if I’m touring particularly heavily”

Chris Buck plays Ernie Ball Slinkys

Chris discussed how a heavy tour schedule can influence the strings he uses. Whilst on tour playing several hours every night, the strength in his fingers builds up and the tips of his fingers become harder allowing him to withstand the slightly heavier gauge.  He also said that if he uses lighter 10-46 strings he finds his bends can sometimes be slightly sharp as a result of a boost in adrenaline and energy that often comes with performing live.  And it’s that added tension from the half gauges found in the Mega Slinkys that can really help to keep those bends in check.

As for Chris’ Yamaha Revstars and Gibson guitars he’s currently using Ernie Ball Paradigm Power Slinkies (11-48) and Burly Slinkys (11-52) saying “anything else feels a bit strange at this point.” These guitars are commonly used on the more ‘rocky’ parts of the Buck & Evans set and the heavier gauge no doubt helps to bring out the body and oomph that can come from those higher output instruments.  Both of these guitars also have slightly shorter scale lengths too (24.625” and 24.75”) compared to a Strat or Tele (25.5”) meaning they’ll feel a little lighter on the shorter scale length instruments.  This is something we’ll cover further in future blogs, but in a nutshell, if you have the same set of strings strung up on two guitars with different scale lengths, the tension will feel a little lighter on the guitar with the shorter scale length.

Pearls of Wisdom

Aside from finding out what they use, when we get the opportunity to chat to more experienced players we often like to get their thoughts on the world of strings and if there’s any advice they have for others. Chris had some thoughts on the age-old “heavier is better” argument saying that he feels that this is a bit of a misconception.

Chris Buck Quote on string gauge

“Obviously I say that as someone who plays relatively heavy gauges of strings but that’s primarily because I’m so heavy handed! Anything too light, especially during live shows when the adrenalin is pumping, will leave me feeling as though I don’t have full control of the guitar. Within reason, I like to fight it a little; I feel it brings the best out in me. That said, different strokes for different folks and if you’re not cursed with Thor’s hammer for a right hand, lighter gauge strings sound just as good (to my ears…) and you don’t end up with hands like a bricklayer!

If you’re struggling to find your preferred gauge, buy a few different sets at a time and hone in on what feels best to you. In a perfect world, I’d use different gauges at home and on stage (obviously that’s not always practical!) so what feels right in one scenario may not work in another. It’s all personal preference!”

Wise words indeed!!

We hope that this blog has helped give you an insight into Chris Buck’s choice of strings.  Even if you’ve never heard of Chris, we hope that this has sparked your curiosity to go off and take a look at his YouTube channel.  He’s a magnificent player that we’re in no doubt will continue to inspire others and grow more and more in popularity over the coming years. For more information on Chris you can also check out his website, Instagram page and the Buck & Evans website too.

As always, thanks so much for reading and your continued support. If there’s any other player that you’d like to see us feature in future Player Spotlight entries, let us know in the comments box below. 

We wish you all a happy end to 2020. Until then, we’ll see you next time.

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