Types of Guitar Strings – The Guitar String Guide

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Written By Tanya

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Each player has thought to themselves, “These strings still are ok, just keep picking them …” Then, your intonation will be shot and you break one string while you wipe off six months worth of rust and dead cells.

“It’s economic and a time-saver,” I kept saying to myself. “I saved some bucks and got more out of these strings.”

The strings of my mandolin were changed just the other day. As I was looking forward to the lesson with a new student, I decided it was time. For the past year, I had only had students on guitar, bass and ukulele. Although I knew it was wrong, I kept waiting for the right reason.

Yes, it saved me some time, money, effort, and money by not changing the strings. After my instrument was re-tuned and cleaned up, I realized that I had been sacrificing both tuning stability and tone.

These new strings were ready to go and I felt a brightness and crispness in my instrument that I hadn’t seen in a while. It made playing much more enjoyable and it sounded better. It’s similar to changing your oil or putting new air in your tires.

You realize how much more you can do with your instrument and yourself as a musician.

Strings are bought in the same way as other items. After several tries, you have found a company that you can trust to produce consistent quality products. You keep buying them. This has worked well in the past so why change?

We are here to help you get free. Understanding the differences between guitar strings is important. Understanding which product suits our preferences and best serves our instruments can help us get more value from our brand.

Let’s get into the details and see what variables make certain strings better for or worse for players.

Guitar String Order

Everybody who takes an interest in guitar first wants to understand the order of the strings in terms musical notes. It’s a great question. Their order is due to the evolution and use of stringed instruments.

You can speed up the playing by adding one or two strings, shortening your neck and placing them in a 4th Interval. This will reduce wrist strain and increase playability. While other interval layouts were explored, they had certain harmonic issues that could not ignore.

The order of EADGBE is from the bottom (lowest) string to the top. It might help to have some phrases that match the acronym before you commit it to your heart. Here are some of the most popular:

  • Every Amateur Does Get Better Eventually
  • Donkeys and elephants grow big ears
  • America finally defeated Great Britain’s Empire
  • Eat all Day, Go to Bed Early

You can even create your own guitar! Guitar is so much fun! This is the standard tuning. You can also learn alternate tunings, but those will be for later.

Guitar String Gauges

People often ask, “What size guitar strings are?” They really want to know the gauges which refers to the diameter of the string. It’s not exactly how it works.

There are several standard gauges available, but they come in different sizes, such as light, medium and heavy. When properly tuned, each will have a different tension on your guitar’s neck. If you decide to change sizes, you will need to adjust the Truss rod and adapt to the new action of your fingerboard.

Choosing guitar strings can be likened to choosing glasses and lenses. There is a right lens strength for you, and it might take some adjustment to adjust to a new frame.

This is the analogy for the bridge height, nuts and tension of the truss rods. Take your time and experiment, but once you are satisfied with the results, it is best to continue using the same gauges to avoid the long setup process.

The standard is the same, but thicknesses can vary depending on the brand. These “standards” sizes will give you a good idea.

SizeEBGDAE
Super Extra Light.008.010.015.021.030.038
Super Light.009.011.016.024.032.042
Light.010.013.017.026.036.046
Medium.011.015.018.026.036.050
Heavy.012.016.020.032.042.054

You might see the string set designated by the gauge (thinnest) of the high E string. A Heavy set could be called an 0.12. This is important.

Playability and tone are directly affected by the size of the string. Personally, I play “Eight’s”, primarily because of Yngwie malmsteen and B.B.’s advice. King’s was given to Billy Gibbons, ZZ Top’s famed singer:

“Why do you work so hard?”

Stevie Ray Vaughan is on the other side of this coin. This man created an impossible-to-imitate tone from “Thirteen’s!” He ripped off a callus guitar and then super-glued it back on for the final concert. Stevie Ray Vaughn sweats bullets with a grimace on his face while B.B. King is chilling to the max.

What do these thirteen and eight numbers actually mean?

The gauge of a guitar string, also known as the size of its strings, is measured in thousandths (or an inch). This is 1/1000th inch. This is how small a target we can hit with our fingers and picks. It’s easy for baseball batters.

Strings are often sold in packs

  • Light
  • Medium
  • Heavy

You can now find many in-between sets. However, it is important to understand the difference between gauges and actual measurements. This will allow you to create your desired tone.

These descriptions are not as specific and will vary from acoustic to electric strings. Your experience with different types of strings and gauges is crucial in helping you make the right decision. Depending on what genre you are working in, the size of your strings can affect your playability.

A lighter gauge string may be more appropriate for a Blues player who bends strings frequently. You can afford thick, flat-wound strings if you’re a Jazz player and you don’t bend more than a quarter of a step. Ernie Ball lists the gauges and gives fun names to each size

The gauge of your string will have an impact on how well you can play. A lighter set will make it easier to bend and fret faster, but you’ll have a more “tinnier tone” that needs to be compensated with your amp and guitar tone controls.

Let’s talk about tone. We will examine how the string gauge influences the sound you make.

How strings affect your tone

Tone can often be described by analogies. Thicker strings can produce a “tinny tone”, while thicker strings will create a more “mellow” sound in the EQ spectrum.

THICK STRINGS AND MEATY ONE

A larger gauge string can achieve certain aspects of the thicker sound. This philosophy is exemplified by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Pat Martino, as well as other guitar masters.

If we are willing to sacrifice in other areas, a larger string will produce a greater sound. Depending on the genre, these sacrifices might not be significant.

This video shows Pat Martino’s meaty tone on thick gauge strings. https://www.youtube.com/embed/TlaUACGYRf4?feature=oembed

This sounds fantastic, but tone masters also use the lightest string gauges for maximum effect.

THIN STRINGS AND TINNY TONES

Truth is in the listener’s ability to hear and identify sounds with individual players. B.B. B.B.

It wasn’t a secret, it was just a way for him to express himself. Choose what feels and sounds the best to express your musical creativity.

This video shows Yngwie malmsteen tearing light gauge strings to maximum effect.

His tone is amazing and he can produce a tremendous vibrato, which is ideal for his style. He doesn’t work hard for it. His economy of motion is aided by his choice of strings.

He plays a low action Fender Stratocaster and scallops the frets to perform acrobatic string walking. However, he is only as good as his ability to play light gauges.

There are many brands and options available today in the modern guitar string market.

Although they may look the same, their construction is important. Let’s take a closer look at how core material can impact playability.

Core Metals for Guitar Strings

It is important to take into account the core metal used in strings. The string core has a significant impact on tone and tension strength. Core metal is required to make strings heavier.

Preventing premature string breaking is not a good idea, especially for gigs. You have many options. However, your choices will depend on what tone you want and the string gauge that you use for the music genre you choose.

There are many core metal options available:

  • Stainless Steel
  • Nickel Plated Steel
  • Nickel
  • Cobalt
  • Titanium
  • Chrome
  • Copper

What does this mean for our choices? Although choosing guitar strings can seem complicated at first, it is not difficult. It’s easy to do. Simply choose whether you want an electric or acoustic guitarist, then you can read about the specific picks. The right answer will be there.

There are many core shapes. The hex core is not as popular as round cores. If you don’t look for the hex shape, round cores are most likely to be encountered. It’s possible you might like it.

ELECTRIC GUITAR STRING CORE CHOICES

Three main options exist for electric guitar strings.

Stainless Steel are a great option for players. They are balanced in tone, which allows for the bright pick attack and resists corrosion from sweat. They are less squeaky, last longer and have a better feel. This is especially important if you play a lot.

Nickel Plated Steel can also be toned tones and achieves a warm tone with a bright pick attack. This can help define your articulation. Nickel Plated Steel is a popular choice for players of all genres and is a great option.

Nickel strings can be described as pure nickel metal. These strings are a common choice in the past, and can give a vintage sound to many players. These strings are reminiscent of the older generations of players that we all admire and study.

While they aren’t as popular in today’s market, the other options are worth considering. Chrome and Copper are softer materials and can be more susceptible to string breakage. Titanium, a strong material, might be of value to players who don’t like changing their strings as often.

ACOUSTIC STRING CORE CHOICES

Acoustic strings have different string cores than electric ones. They are responsible for producing sound by themselves without any interference from the wiring of electric guitars. There are two types of guitar strings:

  • Acoustic
  • Classical

You can also restring for any application at any time. You’ll probably choose your favorite core type from each category.

STEEL STRING COORE CHOICES

Phosphor bronze is very popular in today’s market. They prevent sweat corrosion and decrease oxidization which can lead to rust. They are in the middle of the brightness range and produce a sound that can be used for any type of music or style.

80/20 Bronze string are a mix of Zinc and Bronze. These strings are also known as Bronze/Brass strings. They are very common, just like Phosphor Bronze. This variety has a bright tone which enhances articulation, pick attack and is one of the main differences.

This effect can quickly disappear depending on how sweaty the player is and how often they clean their string. Due to the need to change your strings more often, this choice can be more costly for you.

Silk and steel strings can be described as a mix of steel and classical strings. The term silk refers to the nylon used in making classical guitar strings. We’ll talk more about this next.

CLASSICAL STRING CORE CHOICES

Nylon string are the gold standard for classical guitarists today. Clear nylon is the most common type of nylon string. These strings are attractive visually and have a bright attack which offsets the classical guitar’s mellow tone.

Black nylon, rectified nylon and composite strings are all options. All of the top-of-the-line classical guitars are still strung with nylons.

Gut strings are the original strings for the classic stylist. These strings were made from the guts and tendons of animals, mainly sheep. These strings have been out of fashion because the intestines used in their making became more expensive than nylon.

Although you might hear the term “catgut” strings, it was not made from the innards our feline friends. It is just the food we love to feed them.

Silver-plated strings are the lowest 3 strings in a set. These strings are made with metal to provide the right low notes on the guitar. These strings tend to have a warmer tone than the gold-plated ones.

Gold Plated nylon strings are actually 80/20 Bronze and Zinc wound nylon strings. They can also be used to make the bass wound strings for a set classical strings.

These strings are still popular because they have a brighter tone than silver-plated strings. Professionals use them for their ability to project louder and sharper.

Guitar String Coating

Coated strings are a new technology that is very popular among guitarists today. Elixir strings are the market leader in coated strings, both acoustic or electric.

The string is coated with polymer webbing that wraps around it. This protects the metals against oxidation and skin oils. It also increases the string’s life tremendously.

This prolongs the life of the strings and saves money, but it does not mean that they are more expensive.

Every guitarist knows The more you play a set, the darker and noisier they sound. These strings will be weighed down by dirt, oil, skin cells, and rust. This will result in a loss of brightness and a decrease in the instrument’s intonation.

These effects can be bypassed by coated strings for a longer time. This new technology is loved by many players and they are willing to pay more for a better tone over a longer time.

To experience the difference, grab a set Elixir string for yourself. It reduces string squeaks and provides a consistent sound for recording acoustic instruments and close miking.

Although the squeak of your finger on the round wound strings of an Acoustic guitar has been an integral part of its instrument, it may be different when you hear the guitar play without this extra squeaking.

Elixir now offers a variety of polymer coatings on a wide range of gauges and cores for both electric and acoustic strings. They could offer the extra functionality you have been searching for.

Winding Method

Winding is the process of wrapping wire around solid core metals, as we have just described. There are three types of winding:

  • Roundwound
  • Flatwound
  • Halfround

Now, repeat that three times fast.

Halfround strings are not something to be concerned about. Halfround strings are not very popular, but it’s good to know that they exist.

Roundwound strings have a textured surface that is created by winding a roundwire around the core metal. Flatwound strings are much more flat along their length due to the fact that the core metal is enclosed by a smoothwire, as shown below.

It’s not just about the appearance and feel. Round-wound strings are shorter in life, produce more string noise and wear on your frets faster, but they have a brighter tone and longer sustain.

You will also be able hear more harmonics, and your fingers will be easier to grasp for finger picking and bending. Flatwounds are more durable and produce a warmer sound than roundwounds.

Which is better? It depends on the player and genre. These are not pros and cons, but preferences. It should be possible to make a decision based on questions such as “Am I playing gritty roll or smooth jazz?”

Best Guitar String Brands

The big question is, of course, which brands are the best. We have a view and it won’t surprise you that there are more than one.

To visit the manufacturer’s website, click on any link in the above list. You can also jump to Amazon for a price check.

If you are still uncertain, here are some buying tips:

Don’t pinch pennies It will only cost you a few bucks more to get the better stuff than the less-sophisticated options. Get the best strings possible. You will enjoy your life more, sound better and learn faster.

Bulk Orders – After you have decided what you like, you can buy 3 to 5 sets of strings. It’s not worth reordering and running to the store every other minute. It’s not something you would do with ear swabs or toilet paper. Don’t do this with strings that are less expensive. Make sure you have enough!

Don’t Fear – When you’re just starting out, you might be tempted to try every size from different brands. This is not necessary and you won’t have the time or patience to set up your guitar so many times. Then, decide the thickness of your guitar string you prefer. Next, test the brands listed above.

The Most Popular Reason – The most popular strings rise to the top. You should first try the main cores, main sizes and main brands. It’s likely that you will settle somewhere within the main cores, main sizes, and major brands. You don’t need to try out crazy manufacturers or obscure options.

You don’t need to be anxious about anything. Follow the crowd. This is one rare occasion when they are right.

Here are some other string tips

These are just a few more ideas to extend the life of your strings, make it easier to restring faster, and save your bandmates from a lot of trouble.

Wiping down your strings with a clean cloth can prolong their life. This is a quick and easy way to remove dirt and residue. Guitar maintenance, that is whether it’s strings or other parts of the guitar, is the key.

Washing your hands after playing can help reduce oil buildup and delay oxidation.

Write down the date you changed your strings and keep it in your bag. This will allow you to track the changes and identify the patterns so that you can anticipate them in the future.

You should always have an extra set in your bag. Extra high strings are a good idea. They are more likely to be broken on you or your bandmate, and can save you during a live performance. Planet Waves String Winder, Cutter, & Bridgepin Puller

A cheap string winder is a good investment. These are dirt cheap and can help you restring in your heartbeat, which is important if you’re stuck in the middle or set break and need to quickly get back up to mellow faces.

Cost of guitar strings

For beginners, it’s important to find out “how much does a guitar string cost.” Many people are young or adult-starving artists. The good news is that all of us can afford the price.

Some strings can be purchased for as low as $3 to $5 per pack. Others are more expensive and cost around $8 to $10 per set. The best strings are available at prices between $15 to $20.

If you are just starting out and break strings every time that you try to tune up, you can start with the cheapest string. You can move up once you are able to tune and play your instruments without damaging them.

Your learning speed will increase once you master hand coordination. As Old Grandpappy used to say, the right tool is for the right job. The worst electric guitar will be the one with the most string-strengthening. Make wise choices!

This is all you need to know about guitar strings

This overview will help you understand which string choice is best for your style. We as players are constantly looking for the best functionality while maintaining a balanced tone and playability of the genres we play.

To help you find the perfect string set, check out which brand and gauge your guitar heroes used.

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