Guitar Strings: Explained.
New guitar players might be more concerned with getting chords down, playing scales and finding good video lessons online. What a new guitar player might not be considering is which strings are going to help them excel in the best ways possible. Today we are taking an in-depth look at guitar strings.
Materials: Nylon, Silver, Copper, Bronze, Nickel-Plated
Deciding which material string should be relatively easy. Nylon strings are softer, and easier on the fingers but are only available for nylon string guitars usually used for classical or flamenco guitar. If you are playing a steel-string acoustic, you’ll likely want copper or bronze strings. For electric guitars you will probably play on nickel-plated strings.
Now that’s the easy part. Things get a little more complex when looking at variations of guitar strings. New versions are coming out every year. How they’re wound, their gauge, and whether or not they are coated can greatly impact your playing style and sound. The good news is that guitar stings are relatively inexpensive and easy to change, so you can try out a bunch of variations. Let’s break it down.
Flat-Wound Or Round-Wound?
When strings are made they are wound up using either flat wire or round wire. Depending on the type of wire used, you’ll get a different tone. If you are just starting to play, you might not be interested in flat-wound strings. Flat-wound strings provide a darker, more mellow tone that jazz players love. If you are new to playing jazz, grab a set of flat-wound strings. On the other hand — round-wound strings are much brighter, provide a lot of treble, and are great for rock. As far as ergonomics go — flat-wound may be a little kinder to your fingers in the long run. Try both and see which you like more!
Coating on strings refers to a polymer or copper chemical coating, that in theory, will protect your strings from the oil and skin flakes coming off your fingers. There is some debate on whether or not coating on your strings is just a marketing ploy, but many players believe that coated strings will sound brighter for a longer period of time. With that fancy coating you get a slightly higher price tag. Keep that in mind when you are out string shopping!
This is where guitarist’s opinions may vary. Gauges are the thickness of the strings. Thicker strings provide a heavier tone but are tougher on your fingers. Thinner strings provide more of a jingling tone and are easier on your fingers. The standard gauge for a set of strings is .010 on the high E string and .046 for the low E. There are several variations including heavier bottoms (heavier gauges on the low strings) heavier tops (.013+ on the high E string) and everything in between (.011 or .012 on the high E.) Our experts suggest starting on a thicker gauge to condition your fingers. Try out a bunch of different gauges and see what works best for you!
There are no hard and fast rules to guitar strings, but our experts sure love to make recommendations. So what should you get?
Beginner: Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Nickel-Plated
Jazz Players: D’Addario Chromes ECG24 Flat Wound
Best Nylon Strings: Albert Augustine Blue Label Classical Nylon
Coated Strings: Elixir Phosphor Bronze NanoWeb Acoustic
Best for Metal: Dunlop Heavy Core Nickel Steel Heavy
Which strings are on your current set up? Let us know in the comments and be sure to follow us for more music news!