Last updated: August 14, 2021

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It's no surprise, as playing an instrument is one of life's greatest pleasures. One of the most common is the guitar, and today we're going to talk about strings for this popular instrument.

The guitar is an incredibly versatile and variable instrument. Mastering it takes perseverance and effort, and a big part of becoming a great guitarist is finding your own sound, which depends considerably on the strings you use. They look simple, but strings are more complex than you think.

To help you get to know guitar strings and discover all the interesting qualities they possess, we have created this guide. Here you will find the best strings available on the market and learn everything you need to know to choose the ones that suit you best. Get ready to become a guitar legend!




Summary

  • Guitar strings are the elongated, slightly flexible elements that produce the sound of the guitar by vibrating when strummed. They are held from the headstock to the bridge. A standard guitar has 6 strings, whose thickness increases from top to bottom (with the guitar in standard position).
  • There are three types of guitar and therefore one type of string for each: acoustic, electric and classical. Classicals are made of nylon and have an elegant sound, although a bit quieter. Both acoustic and electric strings are made of metal and produce a bright and vivid sound.
  • There are countless different types of guitar strings, each with different characteristics in terms of sound nuance and playability. It is therefore worth considering the thickness and material of the strings, as well as the genre to be played and the length of the guitar.

The best guitar stringa: Our picks

Buying guide: What you need to know about guitar strings

Now that you know the best guitar string models, it's time to analyse the details of these simple but indispensable items for any musician. Don't get carried away by their simple appearance, because a good string has many very important elements that really make a difference.

Read on to find out which strings are ideal for your guitar (Photo: Glevalex/123rf.com)

What are guitar strings and what are their advantages?

Guitar strings are long, slightly flexible objects that are held from the headstock to the bridge of a guitar. They vibrate when strummed, producing the sound of the instrument, which resonates and is amplified inside the soundboard (or body). Without them, the guitar cannot produce sound.

A standard guitar uses six strings. The thickness of these strings increases from bottom to top (with the guitar in standard position), with the thinner strings producing the high tones and the thicker strings producing the low tones. The notes they produce if played in the air from top to bottom are E - A - D - G - B - B - E.

The tone they produce depends on the tension applied, which in turn depends on the position on which they are pressed on the guitar arm. There are different types of strings that produce different nuances of sound, so guitarists can choose their favourites based on their style and taste.

Advantages
  • They produce the sound of the guitar
  • Learning how to install them can be tricky
  • They are relatively affordable
Disadvantages
  • They can break if over tensioned
  • Lower quality strings produce a weak sound
  • They are not universally compatible (acoustic with classical with electric)

Electric, acoustic and classical guitar strings - what should you look out for?

There are three different types of guitars: acoustic, electric and classical. The main difference between one and the other, in fact, lies in the type of strings they use. All types of guitar require a specific type of strings, and it is these strings that create the characteristic sound of each guitar.

Classical guitar strings: In practically all cases they are made of nylon. Their voice is slightly more opaque than that of acoustic guitar strings, and the sound is sustained for less time. They produce a warm, soft sound, characteristic of genres such as Latin music.

The nylon of the strings is a relatively smooth material, so the appearance of calluses or scratches on the fingers when playing is less likely. We could say, therefore, that the classical guitar strings make it a good choice for beginners. The strings are held on the bridge by knots.

Acoustic guitar strings: These are metallic. They commonly consist of a metal wire covered with a braiding, which is usually made of materials such as nickel and copper. The result is a much more metallic and brighter sound that sustains longer, common in genres such as rock, pop and folk.

They are more likely to hurt the fingers, particularly those of the hand used to finger notes over the frets. They are usually held to the bridge by special pins. This system is exclusive for acoustic guitars, and trying to install electric guitar strings (although they are also metallic) can damage the bridge.

Electric guitar strings: Like acoustic guitar strings, they consist of a metal wire covered by a braiding. However, the fastening system to the bridge is different, as it consists of components, commonly called balls, which are integrated into the string and hold it to the bridge.

Conversely, trying to install acoustic guitar strings on an electric guitar can damage the bridge, as the fastening system and tension are different. The sound of these strings does not resonate in the guitar, although it can be considerably altered and customised using external electric guitar pedals and effects.

Classical guitar strings Acoustic guitar strings Electric guitar strings
Material Nylon Metal Metal
They are held to the bridge by Knots Special pins Integrated balls
Sound Fixed Fixed Alterable by pedals and effects
Resonance of the sound in the guitar Yes Yes No No

Buying criteria

One of the most important points about being a good guitarist is finding your sound and playing style. As mentioned above, this depends to a large extent on the strings you use. In this section we will show you how to choose the most appropriate strings for you, so that your playing experience will be satisfactory.

  • Genre
  • Material
  • Guitar size
  • Thickness

Genre

There are an infinite number of different types of strings and therefore an infinite number of possible sounds. Not all strings are suitable for all genres, and some strings are specifically designed for particular genres. Below we look at the most common genres of guitar playing and their ideal strings:

Rock: Rock (and similar genres such as metal and punk) is entirely based on the sound of the electric guitar. It is obvious, then, that electric guitar strings are necessary. Consider, however, that what most affects the sound of the guitar in this genre are the pedals and effects, not the strings as such.

Pop: Pop is a less noisy and saturated genre than rock, which relies heavily on digital production, and where the use of physical instruments is not prominent. Even so, the acoustic guitar is very common. We recommend avoiding the use of guitars with classical strings, as they do not stand out much in the sound of the genre.

Flamenco/Spanish/Latin music: These genres would be inconceivable without the warm sound of the classical guitar. Therefore, we highly recommend you to opt for good classical nylon strings. Their non-metallic sound goes perfectly with the danceable and elegant rhythm of these genres.

Material

The material of the strings is related to their durability and the sound the guitar makes. Classic nylon strings don't usually vary too much from one model to another, but metal strings for acoustic guitars do. In this case, we recommend that you opt for those made of nickel and/or copper.

Strings made of these materials emit a uniform and vivid sound. It is also worth considering that strings with protective finishes last longer, but have a slightly less even tone, so they are recommended for beginner-intermediate players.

Guitar length

Guitars come in different sizes to suit different types of players. It is important to consider the length of your guitar when buying your strings to ensure that the string length is not insufficient. Most guitar string packages specify what size guitar they are suitable for.

Common symbol to represent size Length (cm)
1/4 77
1/2 86
3/4 92
4/4 100

Thickness

Regardless of the fact that the thickness of the strings increases from bottom to top, the overall gauge of each package varies. String thickness is measured in inches and is a considerable factor in playability and sound. Each package comes with a gauge, which represents the thickness of the highest E string.

Bass: These are best suited for beginner guitarists, as they are easy to handle and do not require too much finger strength, which is perfect for practising and acquiring manual dexterity. However, their sound is a bit weaker, so they are not the best choice for advanced players. Their size is .010 or smaller.

Medium: The most common type of string. Perfect for intermediate and expert players alike. These strings are easy to manipulate and produce a full-bodied sound. Playing with techniques such as bend (stretching the string up or down), for example, is easy. The size of these strings is .011.

Alto: Thick strings have a more imposing and fuller sound. They are therefore common in loud genres such as metal and heavy rock. However, they are not recommended for non-experts, as they require a high level of finger strength. Their size is .012 and upwards.

(Featured image photo: Glevalex/123rf.com)

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