Here’s an easy guide to the various Guitar string types. Remember, guitars can have strings that are made from different materials, and with different thicknesses. Read more here on strings on a guitar.
The sound that is created by a guitar is dependent on various factors, the more important ones being the wood that is used, and the strings on the guitar.
If you have spent some time reading about this music instrument, then I am sure you would have come across the fact that strings can be made of different materials, the more common ones being nylon and steel.
However, these can be made of other materials as well, and there are other important factors related to strings that can impact the quality of sound.
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Table of Contents
Different Materials Used
Most acoustic guitars use either steel strings or nylon strings (classical guitars). Electric guitars also usually use steel strings.
However, material such as nickel, bronze, phosphor bronze, etc. are also used on some of the guitars.
The most commonly used strings however are steel strings, found on most guitars.
There are several varieties of wound strings, such as Round-wound, Flat-wound, and a few others.
Most guitar strings usually have a core (usually made of steel or bronze or nickel), and a round wire wrapped around it.
They way it is wound around the core determine if it is Roundwound or Flatwound. And how are these two types different?
Impact of Material on Sound
Sound is all about vibrations, and the type of string used does impact that. Another thing to keep in mind is how easy it’s going to be on your fingers, as certain strings can be quite painful on the fingers.
So, the type of string used and the coating metals does impact the sound produced by the string.
For example, bronze produces a “bright” sound, steel can be softer especially when wrapped in nickel, and nylon is much more mellow.
Another factor is the way the string is wrapped around the core.
For instance, “Round wound” strings are loud and vibrant, but it can be hard on the neck of your guitar and it produces noise when sliding your fingers over them.
“Flat wound” strings on the other hand are not as crisp sounding, but are easier on the frets and also on your fingers.
Gauge / Thickness of the Strings
Usually, thicker and stronger strings are used for the lower registers so that they can make bassy sounds. Thinner strings, on the other hand, are used for the upper octaves / registers to produce a higher pitch.
Though thicker strings do sound louder, they need to be played harder and the pressure required to push the strings down is much more, compared to the thinner ones.
Another issue, usually associated with the use of thick strings, is that it can cause buzzing sounds. The solution to avoid this is that you need to mount the thicker strings a bit higher off the soundboard than the thinner strings.
Though this makes it easier to press, it can slow down the “action” of the guitar, and make it more difficult to play quickly.
Here are some of the popular options, when it comes to thicknesses, for Acoustic Guitar strings.
Extra light (10 – 46)
Good for beginners, easiest to play, least tension but can produce thin sound.
Custom Light Gauge (11 – 52)
Ease of playing maintained, and produces slightly richer fuller sound.
Light Gauge (12 – 54)
Most pros use it. It has a higher tuning stability. However, it is not recommended for budget guitars due to the higher tension of the strings.
Medium Gauge (13 – 56)
This is among the highest thicknesses and can be difficult to play on some guitars due to the high tension. But it produces big and rich tones.
If you have decided to play the guitar, you also need to learn all about strings. However, what you choose will depend on various factors, including your preference & budget, and usually it is seen that what works for one may not suit someone else.
That is why it is best to try out strings from different manufacturers and see what works best for you. This is important because choosing the right set of strings will help your playing technique, improve the quality of the sound produced, and greatly enhance your confidence as a guitar player.