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Guide to guitar strings

Buyers Guide to Guitar Strings

There's quite a choice when it comes to buying guitar strings. We hope our brief guide will help you make the best choice for your instrument

ACOUSTIC GUITAR STRINGS

GAUGE


First, we'll look at the different gauges of string. Although a general rule of thumb is heavier gauge = more tone and volume, your hands will have to work harder when using the heavier gauges

Below is breakdown of the most common gauges

Extra light gauge - .10-.46
This is lightest available gauge and therefore the easiest to play. However, the light tension can lead to a slightly loose or floppy feel and you won't achieve much volume or projection. They make a good choice for electro acoustic instruments and sometimes fragile vintage instruments.

Custom light gauge - .11-.56
This gauge is becoming more popular. They produce more tone than the lighter strings and work well on small bodied or parlour size guitars. They're well suited to  fingerpicking styles

Light gauge .12-.54
The most popular gauge and an all round versatile set. There's enough tension for good projection in most playing styles and the increase in thickness or density can lead to more tuning stability.

Medium gauge - .13-.56
As one the heavier gauges, these will definitely create the most volume. This gauge will feel quite taut when tuned up to pitch so you may have to work hard if playing for a long spell. Best suited to dreadnaught or jumbo guitars

MATERIAL

Many manufacturers experiment with or vary the materials and coatings for strings.

80/20 bronze
Bronze content will provide a nice warm tone but has a tendancy to fade

Phosphor bronze
Phosphor content adds a slightly brighter edge and a longer lasting tone

Coated strings
Many strings now come with a micro thin coating which acts as a preservative against corrosion. Aims to help strings retain that 'new' tone.

 

80/20 bronze guitar strings 
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80/20 bronze set with protective coating 
Click here to see more bronze coated guitar strings
Phosphor bronze with protective coating 
Click here to see more phosphor bronze coated guitar strings

Electric guitar strings

 

Like acoustic guitar strings, the gauge or weight of the strings will be one of the defining factors in the resulting tone. There's a big selection on the market but two popular gauges are 9s, or light gauge, and 10s or medium gauge.

 

Light gauge - .009-.42
One of the lighter gauges and nice and easy to play. A versatile set which will produce good results in most musical styles. Lead players may favour them as the lighter tension contributes to faster play. They also make a good starting point for a beginner, making techniques such as string bending more comfortable.

 

Medium gauge .010-.56
The heaver gauge means a denser string which will produce more volume and depth of tone. A little more effort will be required for lead playing. Their chunkier tone will produce good results for rhythm players

 

Material
Electric guitar strings are often made from nickel or other metals which elicit a better response from the pick ups than bronze strings.

 

Stainless steel         Popular for a bright punchy sound
Nickel plated           A slightly softer smoother sound
Coated strings         Many strings now come with a micro thin coating which acts as a preservative against corrosion. Aims to  help strings retain that 'new' tone.

Nickel electric guitar strings 
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Coated electric guitar strings 
Click here to see more nickel electric guitar strings

Acoustic nylon or classical guitar strings

These strings are manufactured from various combinations of recitified nylon or carbon fibre. The top three strings are are plain and the bass strings have a nylon core, wound with sliver plated wire. They produce a softer sound associated with spanish, flamenco and classical guitar styles

Classical guitar players will often talk about tensions rather than gauges but the principles are essentially the same.

Low and normal tensions
Popular, versatile middle of the road sets. Good for beginners

High and extra high tensions
There is more resistance in the strings when tuned up to pitch. producing a punchier tone with more bite. The extra high tension strings go some way to contributing to the percussive sounds in flamenco music

Normal tension nylon guitar strings 
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High tension nylon guitar strings 
Click here to see more classical guitar strings


**The information on this page is intended as a guideline, please be encouraged to actively research and experiment to find the products which suit you best.