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How to Pick the Best Guitar Strings

by Ninas Musis

Good guitar strings are not just about how they sound but how much enjoyment they give you. Uncomfortable strings can ruin the whole fun, even if they sound as they’re supposed to. You want every single piece of your guitar to sound and feel as good as possible. Shops like Iron Age provide you with a variety of great guitar accessories, but the final choice is yours because only your personal preferences matter. How to make this choice? Let’s get right into it and find out the ins and outs of the best guitar strings.

Guitar Strings Basics

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Nylon strings are soft, while steel strings are hard. Everyone knows as much, but not everyone is aware that there are many more types of strings, and professional musicians choose them according to a wide range of parameters.

It’s better to pick guitar strings after you have bought the guitar or at least decided on its type. The fact is that accessories for classical, acoustic, and electric guitars have different requirements. Classical guitar strings can’t be placed on acoustic guitar and vice versa.

Nevertheless, guitar strings of all types have some parameters in common.

  • Thickness: the thicker the strings, the “bigger” their sound and the more difficult it will be for you to pinch chords. Therefore, a 0.008″ thickness is recommended for beginners, while the thickest string used by professional guitarists reaches 0.013″. If you are no longer a beginner but have not yet fully mastered the skill, you should consider a thickness of 0.01″. The other question is the choice of strings for a bass guitar. Such strings should have a very “heavy” and juicy sound, so the thickness can be up to 0.02″.
  • Winding: strings are made of different materials. The most common and budget-friendly option is copper, which is often used for strings of acoustic guitars. Silver is more expensive but also looks much more attractive. In addition, silver-plated strings don’t leave dark streaks on the fingers, unlike copper ones. The most durable finishes are phosphor bronze and brass, but they will sound lower than copper or silver ones. As for winding form, it can be round or flat for acoustic and classical guitars. The sound will be more sonorous in the first case and muffled in the second. Electric guitar strings can have semi-circular or hexagonal winding.
  • Tension: it can be weak, medium, and hard. The weaker the tension, the easier it will be to press the string against the fingerboard, but the sound will also be less vibrant. Your fingers must be very well trained to use accessories marked hard or extra-hard, but the sound they produce will be the most vibrant, so rock musicians especially love this type of tension.

Classical Guitar Strings

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Classical guitar strings are not just about the points mentioned above but also the type of string. Remember that these types are only suitable for classical guitars, so you can’t use them on acoustic ones, let alone on electric guitars.

  • Nylon strings are perfect for those who are just starting to master the guitar. In a nylon set, the first three strings will be just a nylon line of different thicknesses, while the bass strings will be an interlacing of nylon threads with a winding of either copper, silver, or brass.
  • Synthetic guitar strings have increased density and are made from durable carbon fiber. A guitar with such strings will sound noticeably louder than an instrument with nylon strings, but they are thinner, so there is more risk for a beginner to get calluses.
  • Steel wire strings are not a very popular option due to their high price, but they are more reliable and robust than the previous two. This type is based on a steel wire with nylon winding on the first three strings and copper on the remaining ones. They are characterized by excellent sonorous sound and high wear resistance.

Putting metal strings on a classical guitar is highly discouraged, as they are too heavy and put a lot of stress on the fretboard. A classic instrument with taut steel strings can easily break, so don’t take chances.

Acoustic Guitar Strings

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Acoustic guitar strings are made of metal because synthetic strings don’t deliver a good sound and give out very quickly. Can nylon strings be used for an acoustic guitar? Theoretically, yes, but you’ll get a very dull sound as a result. If you want your acoustic strings to be softer when pressed, simply lower their tension.

  • Monolithic steel base. The core of this string type is made of special piano steel, while a copper or bronze alloy acts as a winding. It delivers an excellent, vibrant sound and top-notch endurance.
  • Flat or semi-circular winding. It’s a variation of the previous one, with the winding that doesn’t “whistle” if you run your finger over it. Another advantage of this type is a richer sound on the bass and more ringing on the lower strings.
  • Synthetic shell. It can be made of Teflon or plastic and cover either the entire guitar string with a monolithic layer or the winding. The synthetic coating protects the strings from moisture and dirt, so it will come in handy for musicians who often perform outdoors or on an open stage.

No matter what type of strings you consider, it’s imperative to stretch them properly across the fretboard. Too little tension will deliver a dull and quiet sound, while too much tension will put the string at risk of bursting at the most crucial moment.

As you can see, good strings are about sound, convenience, and guitar lifespan. So, don’t neglect these criteria when deciding on a suitable set of strings. Choose strings suitable for your type of instrument to get the most from your guitar. It ensures not only good sound but playing enjoyment. If your guitar is used daily, change the strings at least every six months.