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The Different Types of Guitar Strings and Which Ones to Choose

By Kelsey, published on 07/06/2017 Blog > Music > Guitar > How to Choose Your Guitar Strings

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 charge 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 style.

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Why change the strings? For what reasons?

Take care of your 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.

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.

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.

The fact that a string breaks is nothing to worry about. You will 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. Therefore, the strings are much less pleasant to the touch, and in terms of sound.

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.

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 diagram above) or flat thread.

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 a guitar strap…

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

• The smaller the diameter, the string is less tight, it resonates less and is easier to play

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 strings that are quite hard and avoid the extra-light ones to get a sound with more body.

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.

FOR CLASSICAL GUITARS

• 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.

FOR FOLK GUITARS

• 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.

  FOR ELECTRIC GUITARS

• 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.

The different materials acting on the sound and longevity

The guitar strings’ sound and longevity are directly related to the materials used to make your guitar strings.

Stainless steel strings

A 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.

Nickel strings

Nickel strings have a rather hot and dull sound, without much brilliance. They are also more flexible than steel strings.

Nylon strings

Nylon strings are mainly used for classical guitars. The sound is brilliant.

Phosphor in guitar strings

The presence of phosphor in guitar strings gives a warmer sound. The greater the quantity of phosphor, the better the quality of sound.

The presence of bronze in guitar strings

The presence of bronze gives the string a brighter and more metallic sound.

Copper in guitar strings

Copper makes it possibly to obtain better quality basses.

Learn how to master your 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.

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

 

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