Hey everyone! Today we’re going to be looking into strings and exploring the general differences in sounds and feeling between different types and brands!
Acoustic Steel Strings: Steel Strings are used on most Acoustic Instruments and can be broken down to two basic categories: 80/20 Bronze & Phosphor Bronze. All Steel Strings are constructed of a type of Bronze Wrap and a Steel Core.
- Phosphor Bronze – Phosphor Bronze strings are typically constructed of 92% Phosphor Bronze Wrap and 8% Bronze Steel Core. This allows for a very warm, mellow tone. Some people might say it almost sounds a bit darker than it’s 80/20-counter part.
- 80/20 Bronze – 80/20 Bronze Strings are constructed of 80% Bronze Wrap and 20% Bronze Steel Core. This allows for a very bright, chimey tone.
Brands: Elixir, Martin, D’addario, Dunlop
Electric Strings: These are fairly simple when compared to Steel Strings. The vast majority of Electric Strings are Nickel Wound. Other variations may include Pure Nickel Strings & Flat Wound Strings.
- Nickel Wound: Nickel Wound strings consist of a Nickel Plated Wrap & a Steel Core Wire and are wound with round wire. This is the most widely used type of Electric Guitar string and is used by most musicians in the industry today.
- Flat Wound: Flat Wound strings offer a more mellow, or dark sound. Unlike Nickel Wound Strings, Flat Wounds are wound with Flat Wire. This technique cuts down a lot of string noise caused from sliding your fingers against the strings. Flat Wound strings are generally preferred by jazz musicians due to the darker sound.
- Pure Nickel: Pure Nickel Strings offer a bit of a mellow-bright tone. This string type almost pairs the sound of flat wounds with the sound of nickel wounds. Those that really cherish warm, vintage tone heard in traditional blues or classic rock would love these strings.
Brands: Elixir, Dunlop, D’addario, Ernie Ball, Rickenbacker
Acoustic Nylon Strings: Classical guitars use nylon strings. Nylon Strings have a silver-plated copper wrap around a plain nylon core. The only variations in nylon strings are the tensions. Tensions are very similar to gauges, which are used to describe how thin or thick a string is. Tension refers to how stiff a string feels in your hand as you play. Flamenco players for example prefer stiffer strings and would probably request a Hard or Extra-Hard tension to add more pop to the sound.
Other Things to Consider
Coated vs. Non Coated Strings: Last but not least, when it comes to picking out a set of strings, you want to decide whether or not to go with a coated string. Coated strings are a string treated to last 2-3 times longer than its uncoated counterpart. Coated strings typically cost a bit more than an uncoated set of strings. If you’re a casual player that doesn’t want to have to change their strings as often, go with a coated pair of strings.
String Gauges: The gauge of a string simply means how thin or thick a string is. A basic rule of thumb for picking out a set of strings is this: The thicker the string, the more volume but the harder it is to play. When you go for a thinner string you sacrifice some volume but gain more playability. It’s a bit of a trade off. Typically it is preferred that you buy the same gauge string that is currently on your guitar. When you change the gauging of the string used, it can alter intonation, throw the guitar out of tune, bow the neck a certain way, or make the strings buzz against the fretboard. If you’re ever uncertain of what gauge of string you have on your guitar, just ask us here at the shop OR bring your guitar in and we can measure it for you.