GUITARS  STRINGS

Guitar strings are lengths of metal or plastic that you strum away at to make sound. There are many different types of strings made of different materials and gauges (thickness) for different purposes. The E and B (1st & 2nd) strings on Acoustic and Electric guitars are plain whereas the remaining strings have windings (wound).


The tone of a string depends on its weight, and, therefore, on its diameter or gauge. Traditionally, diameter is measured in thousandths of an inch, although, metric units are also used. The larger the diameter, the heavier the string is. Heavier strings require more tension for the same pitch and are consequently harder to press down to the fingerboard. Heavier strings will also produce a louder and thicker tone.

Some manufacturers have slightly different names and gauge sequences providing strings in matched sets. The following table shows common gauge ranges in both inches & millimetres:

Name
1st - E
in/mm
2nd - B
in/mm
3rd - G
in/mm
4th - D
in/mm
5th - A
in/mm
6th - E
in/mm
Extra Super Light
(8-38/20-97)
008/0.20
010/0.25
.015/0.38
.021/0.53
.030/0.76
.038/0.97
Super Light
(9-42/23-107)
.009/0.23
.011/0.28
.016/0.41
.024/0.61
.032/0.81
.042/1.07
Regular Light
(10-46/25-117)
.010/0.25
.013/0.33
.017/0.43
.026/0.66
.036/0.91
.046/1.17
Extra Light
(9-46/23-117)
.009/0.23
.013/0.33
.021/0.53
.029/0.74
.036/0.91
.046/1.17
Medium
(11-49/28-124)
.011/0.28
.014/0.36
.018/0.46
.028/0.71
.038/0.97
.049/1.24
Heavy
(12-54/30-137)
.012/0.30
.016/0.41
.020/0.51
.032/0.81
.042/1.07
.054/1.37
Extra Heavy
(13-62/33-157)
.013/0.33
.017/0.43
.026/0.66
.036/0.91
.046/1.17
.056/1.57

String Windings and Materials

Strings wound with round wire are called round wound; those wound with flat wire (giving a smoother surface) are called flatwound. There is also a winding type called "ground round", where the winding is ground flat to an even smoother finish; these are only used as electric bass strings.

ACOUSTIC STEEL STRINGS:

Bronze Wound - The most common material for steel string guitars. This string has the brightest sound when new. Is good for recording and combo work. However it will loose its initial brightness very quickly. This can be an advantage - If you don't want a bright sound, play on these strings for a few hours and they will start to mellow.

Phosphor Bronze Wound - This string is a bronze string with phosphor added to the alloy. This has two primary effects. It will make the string warmer sounding than regular bronze and will extend the life of the tone meaning that it will keep it's original sound longer.

Silk & Steel - This is a special design string where the unwrapped strings are plain steel and the wrapped strings have a thin steel core surrounded by many nylon filaments and then wrapped with silver plated brass windings. This string is under less tension when tuned to pitch and will soften the volume of your instrument. Also it will be easier to depress the strings. This type of string is not as bright as the other steel string types and less durable. Great when a more "classical guitar" tone is desired or softer action is preferred.
ELECTRIC STRINGS:

Nickel Plated - This string consists of nickel plated steel wraps around a steel core. The steel gives you better magnetic pull thus more volume electronically, and the nickel helps keep the steel from corroding. This is the most common type of electric string.

Pure Nickel - This string consists of nickel wraps around a steel core. Due to the pure nickel content of the wrap this string is mellower in tone and has less output electronically. It gives that "vintage sound".

Stainless Steel - The brightest material for electric strings, and has good volume electronically. The stainless steel is not as smooth to the touch as the nickel types of strings. Stainless steel is a very hard material and combined with its rougher texture and thus may cause quicker fret wear.
Coated Strings

All coated strings work on the principal of protecting the metal strings from oxidation. Oxidation is caused by air and moisture as well as the acid and salts in your sweat which accelerates oxidation. Basically there are two main types of protective coating.

The first type is based on a polymer (plastic) material which forms a physical barrier to moisture, air and corrosive sweat. This type is a relatively thick coating that tends to dampen the tone of the strings and may give a waxy feel to them. After extended play the polymer material can fray rendering the strings unplayable. Polymer coated strings are generally losing popularity.

The second type is based on coating the strings with a material that chemically bonds with the metal surface of the string. This substance makes the string moisture repellant. Coatings of this type are very thin and are sometimes referred to as a nanoweb, ultra thin or micro coatings. Because the coating is very thin the tone and feel of strings coated in this way are not discernably different from 'normal' strings.
Tips
  • Always wipe down you guitar neck and strings with a dry cloth or towel after you have finished playing. This will help reduce sweat build-up and promote longer string life and a brighter sound.

  • When you buy a pack of new strings keep the package in your guitar case. If you break a string most Music stores sell single strings but you will need to know the make and gauge.
 
 



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