Posted Oct 22, 2008 02:57 PM
When you last walked into your local guitar store looking for strings, were you completely blown away by the amount of selection they had? With so many manufacturers and so many different labels and numbers, it's easy to get confused. Fear not though, for this article will help you narrow down the selection to something that will suit your needs.
String gauge effects the playability and output of the guitar. The heavier gauge the strings are the tighter they must be, therefore making it harder to fret and bend notes. The benefit of heavy gauge strings is that they produce louder tones than light guages strings. If you're a beginner guitarist it's probably best to go with .009's or .010's (which represents the size of the bottom string).
Another thing to consider is the scale length of the guitar. The longer the scale the tighter the strings have to be, so you might be better off with a lighter gauge.
On electric guitars, the top three strings are wound. Every company is different when it comes to the winding process (core to wind ratio, winding tension), but here's the three main winding types.
Used by the majority of guitar strings, the wire wrap is round making the string easier to grip. The drawback is that there is more string noise when changing notes and chords (the screech you hear when your finger slides along the string).
Half-rounds are polished for a smoother winding. There is less noise when changing notes, and still some grip. Polished strings have less treble to them, but more warmth.
Flat-wounds almost resemble plain, unwound strings. There's almost no noise when changing noise. They create softer, mellow tones.
There are two main types of string cores: round and hex. For round core strings, the core is simply a round wire. For hex, the core is a hexagon-shaped (sixed sided) wire.
Round core wires are considered easier to bend, and produce a warmer sound.
Hex core wires have a faster response because of the way they are locked to the winding. They are also more consistent in terms of quality. Most strings use hex cores.
The different combination of elements used affect the way the strings will sound. The type of music you play will usually decide what material you should go with when you buy your strings.
Bronze is the brightest sounding strings (for acoustics). They lose their tone quickly though. These may be referred to as 80/20 Bronze (80 percent copper, 20 percent zinc).
Has a higher amount of copper (92/8, usually) than bronze strings, which makes a warmer tone.
Pure nickel strings have a warm, vintage tone to them. The magnetic field is not as strong as nickel plated strings, so volume levels will be slightly lower.
Nickel Plated Or Nickel Wound
May be called by either name. These will create higher volume levels than pure nickel can. Nickel plate strings also have greater sustain and brighter tone.
Strings made of stainless steel have a more aggressive sound than nickel or nickel plated. The downside is that they will wear frets down quicker, unless your frets are also stainless.
Coating and Treatments
Strings that are advertised as being coated have a layer of protectant (every company is different) around them that that keep dirt and corrosives off the strings, making them last longer. Coated strings, however, sound a little duller than uncoated strings. If you're short on cash a don't mind a slight loss in tone, coated strings
are the way to go.
Strings that are advertised as cryogenic have been exposed to extremely low temperatures, making the molecules bond closer together. This makes the string stronger and the tone brighter.
This article has hopefully given you the insight you need to narrow down your choices when it comes to buying guitar strings. Remember though that no two companies are the same, and you may have to experiment to find a set that suit your style and playing. Good luck!