To begin with, there are many different brands to choose from…
Martin, Ernie Ball, LaBella, Augustine, Fender, D’Addario, Elixir, GHS, Guild…
And the list goes on.
Some may cost less, but break more often. Others may last a long time, but be hard to play. This post will help you know how to make a wise choice based on your own particular needs. So lets start by looking at a few examples that I personally use…
Three Quality Brand-Name Guitar Strings:
I use Elixir on my dreadnought acoustic guitars because they are long lasting and have a nice bright sound.
I prefer to use D’Addario on my classical guitars. They are strong, durable, and provide great tone.
On my electric guitars I use Fender. Light gauge provide precision tuning and are easy to play.
So, where do you begin?
In addition to brand-names there are various designs, types, gauges and materials used in the manufacture of guitar strings. So the first thing you need to know is which ones are most suitable for the guitar you have. You need to consider the following…
1. Nylon – designed for Classical and “Flamenco” guitars.
2. Steel – designed for Acoustic and Electric guitars.
The materials are selected on the basis of their intended use…
Classical and Flamenco guitars are plucked with the fingers. They have 3 treble strings which are made of clear mono-filament nylon (originally they were made of cat-gut) and 3 bass strings which have a nylon multi-filament core. The bass strings are commonly wrapped with a silver-plated copper, bronze, or some similar alloy.
Acoustic and Electric strings have a steel core because they are commonly (but not exclusively) strummed or played with a pick.
Acoustic Strings – are commonly wrapped with bronze, or brass.
Electric Strings – are usually wrapped with a nickel-plated steel, nickel/iron, stainless steel, or other alloy (copper, bronze, zinc).
Bronze and brass strings have a bright, bell like tone. Phosphor bronze are very bright and have a quick response. However, I have noticed that they tend to loose their bright tone rather quickly.
When you pick up a box of steel guitar strings at the music store you’ll see that they are identified as either…
This designation refers to how thick the strings are in diameter. The specific size is usually provided in inches on the back of the box. When deciding on what gauge to choose you will want to consider three basic things…
Light – are easy to play, but the tonal quality may suffer, resulting in poor volume and/or string buzz.
Heavy – produce more volume, but the string tension makes play-ability difficult, especially if you’re a beginner.
Medium – fall somewhere in-between, so they can provide a “happy medium” for you.
My suggestion is to steer clear of extra-light gauge. They are weird to play and don’t produce a good sound- at least, that has been my experience.
Nylon guitar strings have two main designations…
Normal Tension – easy to play, decent volume and tone.
Hard Tension – harder to play, better tone and volume overall.
There are 3 basic designs for steel strings…
- Round-wound: These produce a broad tonal response and sustain. They sound bright and have rich harmonies.
- Flat-wound: These are designed to reduce finger noise. They have a very smooth feel, but have a duller “mid-range” sound and less sustain.
- Ground-wound: These are the “middle of the road” and attempt to incorporate the features of both the Round-wound and Flat-wound designs.
The Light-Gauge steel and Normal Tension nylon are a good choice for beginners in my opinion, but I recommend sticking with a “brand-name ” you recognize to insure better quality, sound performance and to guard against breaking, unraveling, etc.
I hope my tips come in handy and help make your decision a little easier. If you take the time to learn what you need, then you won’t be disappointed with your purchase.