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The Different Types of Guitar Strings and Which Ones to Choose

By Jon, published on 30/06/2019 We Love Prof > Music > Guitar > Choosing Your Guitar Strings: a Guide

Now that you know all about the different types of guitars and buying your first guitar, let’s looks at the different types of strings and which ones to choose.

For now, if you have just bought your guitar, you will benefit from the original strings sold with this guitar. These are most likely the strings of the manufacturer.

However, these original strings are not immortal.

The fateful moment when it’s necessary to change the strings will arrive and a new headache begins.

Which strings should you choose before learning the guitar? What are the different types? What are their differences in sound? Is it necessary to change the strings before each guitar lesson?

We will first address the conditions that cause a set of strings to wear out more or less quickly and push you to change them.

We will then go into detail about the different materials used in the making of a guitar string, as well as technical explanations allowing you to make your decision according to your research and your styleThen, we’ll look at some of the best brands – for electric guitar strings, acoustic guitar strings, classical guitar strings, and bass guitar strings.

This is absolutely necessary knowledge for anyone looking to play guitar. You can’t call yourself a guitar player if you don’t know how to look after your musical instrument!

Why Change the Strings? For What Reasons?

Broken guitar strings Take care of your guitar strings!

There are many reasons to change your strings, and these are different depending on the guitar and of course the guitarist himself.

Some guitarists change their strings every month, others at each concert. And some at each guitar lesson.

Still, others have no qualms about keeping their strings for more than a year despite playing for hours and taking guitar lessons. We don’t recommend this at all – as the quality of your acoustic strings or electric strings affects the quality of the string sound and the instrument’s sound: better strings gives the instrument a louder sound, one more balanced between treble, mid, and bass ranges, and one that is brighter.

Out of all the guitar gear, the strings are almost the most important. More important than the guitar amp or the tremolo bar. Clapton wouldn’t have been Clapton with no strings – nor would a Stratocaster be a Strat if stringless!

Let’s go through some of the reasons why you might want to change strings.

One, or More, Guitar String Breaks

For that reason, there is no argument that holds up. It is not a choice, but an obligation – because a guitar without 6 strings does not play to its full potential. Stringed instruments have x many strings for a reason; it’s just daft to keep playing your guitar without them all.

It also damages your guitar. Your classic guitar and its guitar neck is built to withstand a high tension, or a slightly more low tension depending on the instrument. Regardless, when it is left without the balanced tension, you are putting strain on the neck. Do this for too long, and you are heading to the guitar shop for a new guitar.

Wear and tear on the strings is inevitable in the long run. Indeed, our natural sweating often leads the strings to oxidize and therefore become more fragile. This means that they will be weakening, they will break, and you will need a string change.

The fact that a string breaks is nothing to worry about. It will usually be the first string. You will just have to proceed to buy a new set of strings. 

But which one? We’ll cover that in the rest of the article.

Oxidation of the Guitar Strings

Each guitarist has a different degree of sweating, causing the oxidation of the strings. This sweat is actually corrosive – and you’ll find that your steel guitar strings will rust. Therefore, the strings are much less pleasant to the touch, and in terms of sound.

(By the way, even if you don’t have a steel string guitar, you’ll still have steel wire in your strings. Even nylon string guitars have steel.)

However, there are strings (a little more expensive than the average price of guitar strings) equipped with a special coating that can slow down and avoid oxidation. Look for corrosion resistant strings – and you’ll find that these are more durable.

It’s a good alternative for people like me (a guitar teacher) who can use their strings during a concert or for several guitar lessons.

How are Guitar Strings Made?

Despite the fact that guitar strings are all made out of the same elements, they can, however, be composed of different materials.

The guitar strings are composed of what is called: the core, the thread, and the sheath.

The Core of a Guitar String

The core of the guitar string is the main piece of the string. It can be either hexagonal or circular. It can be comprised of different materials like steel, nylon or nickel.

The Thread of a Guitar String

The thread of the guitar string is the secondary thread that comes wrapping around the core of the string. There are also several different types of thread, such as round thread (as shown in the picture above) or flat thread. We call these latter ones ‘flat wound’ strings.

The Sheath of a Guitar String

More and more strings are wrapped. The manufacturer applies a thin layer of synthetic materials either on the string or on the thread to protect the string and improve its lifespan.

Another element needs to be taken into account in terms of playability. It’s the truss rod. This is directly related to help in the playing of the guitar.

Here’s a short video to show you the beauty of playing guitar strings.

 

 

 

Also, discover how to buy your first guitar

But What is Pulling the String?

The truss rod corresponds with the diameter of the strings.

• The larger the diameter, the tighter the string, the more it resonates and the harder it is to play. We call these ‘hard tension’ strings.

• The smaller the diameter, the string is less tight, it resonates less and is easier to play. We call these ‘soft tension’ strings.

An example of a standard electric guitar string set is .010/.046

The thinnest string measures 0.010 inches = 0.025 cm.
The thickest string measures 0.046 inches = 0.11 cm.

For electric guitars, the truss rods range from 8-38 to 13-36, and the most common are usually 9-42 or 10-46.

An example of a standard acoustic guitar string set is .012/ .054

New acoustic guitars are equipped with “light” strings (12/54). This is the most used truss rod and is suited for most cases.

The thinnest string measures 0.012 inches = 0.030 cm.
The thickest string measures 0.054 inches = 0.13 cm.

For folk guitars, the standard truss rod is usually 12-53, with the truss rods ranging from 10-47 to 14-59.

For a classical guitar, things are often simpler since many brands only offer 2 choices: a “normal” truss rod or a “strong” truss rod.

Advice From a Professional Guitarist on Choosing the Right Guitar Strings

It is necessary to choose a truss rod according to your guitar, the style that you play, and for beginners the strength and size of your fingers. I advise you to choose guitar strings that are quite hard and avoid the extra-light ones to get a sound with more body.

This is an important point, because, whilst soft tension strings are easier to play, the sound of the guitar improves – it is richer at the low end and throughout the ranges.

String tension and string material are some of the more important parts of a guitarist’s tone. And you would never put a light set of strings on a dreadnought. Different guitars – and different guitarists – require different gauge strings.

Which Truss Rod is the Best for Me?

You should understand that the truss rod corresponds with the diameter of the strings and therefore to the playability according to its level and the desired sound. To choose your truss rod when you are in the process of learning how to play the guitar, don’t hesitate to ask your guitar teacher for advice – about truss rods or about how to select the best guitar strap.

Classical Guitar• A weak truss rod: Ideal for starting on a classical guitar.

• A strong truss rod: Ideal if you are experienced and looking for something more versatile.
Electric Guitar• Extra light (010-047): Suited for beginners and are easier to play.

• Light (011 – 052): Also ideal for beginners and corresponds to more types of styles. They offer more bass and resonance.

• Regular (012 – 053): Suited for an experienced player seeking a more pronounced resonance.
Acoustic Folk• Extra light (010-047): Suited for beginners and are easier to play.

• Light (011 – 052): Also ideal for beginners and corresponds to more types of styles.

• Regular (012 – 053): Suited for an experienced player seeking a more pronounced resonance.

Guitar String Materials: Sound and Longevity

The guitar strings’ sound and longevity are directly related to the materials used to make your guitar strings. These can be silk and steel, plain steel, phosphor bronze, bronze alloy, black nylon, or pure nickel – to name just a few

Join the discussion: which is the ideal instrument for the beginner guitarist to learn on?

Stainless SteelA lot of guitar strings are made out of stainless steel. The sound they make is clear and brilliant, but they are more fragile than nickel strings.
PhosphorThe presence of phosphor in guitar strings gives a warmer sound. The greater the quantity of phosphor, the better the quality of sound.
NickelNickel strings have a rather hot and dull sound, without much brilliance. They are also more flexible than steel strings.
BronzeThe presence of bronze gives the string a brighter and more metallic sound
NylonNylon strings are mainly used for classical guitars. The sound is brilliant.
CopperCopper makes it possibly to obtain better quality basses.

Now go in-depth on when and how to change your guitar strings

Play guitar like a professional with new guitar strings. Learn how to master your guitar strings!

All you have to do now is take this information into account and direct yourself to the string set that suits you best. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to turn to our SuperPROF guitar teachers. They are equipped to help you make progress in your guitar learning.

Some Brands of Guitar Strings.

There are plenty of brands out there, offering everything from banjo strings to specific strings for the mandolin, jazz guitar, lap steel guitar, and for flamenco.

However, when you are looking at strings for the electro acoustic, acoustic, or any mainstream type of guitar, you’ll be looking for a few less names.

Primarily, for electric guitarists, try Elixir (with the Elixir Nanoweb), Dean Markley, Dr Strings, Jim Dunlop, and Ernie Ball Slinky. All of these are incredibly reliable names that are manufactured well and won’t let you down. They make strings in all different gauges- from ultra thin to heavy.

For players of the electric bass try Rotosound.

For classical and acoustic players, get yourself some D’Addario, which are probably the best acoustic guitar strings. These are very well respected strings – and they make good quality nylon guitar strings and steel ones too.

Other Accessories for Changing Your Guitar Strings.

Now, bass strings and the best electric guitar strings are really easy to manage. They strings come with a ball in the end which you can affix to the bridge; the other ends you can affix to the tuning pegs in the headstock, ensuring that the strings stretch comfortable and straight along the fretboard. Electric guitar strings are usually colour-coded too, so there is absolutely no doubt as to which strings go where.

However, beginners can get a bit stressed out about their strings, so let’s think of some other guitar accessories that might be helpful in restringing your musical instruments.

You’ll need a guitar tuner (tuners are the machines that help your tunings). Maybe some pliers or wire cutters – to chop off the end of the string once it is attached. And you could even get one of the guitar string winders, something by Planet Waves perhaps. A string winder is good for getting each string in tune quickly

Other than that, you are good to go, quite honestly! Get yourself down to a luthier, find the right string sizes or string gauge for you. Make sure you tune your guitar and that your string action is okay, and then you’re set.

Putting strings on a guitar will become second nature throughout your long life as a guitarist. Get out and buy guitar strings now.

Overcome your difficulties and help yourself with the guitarist’s toolbox.

 

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