Strings

HeadstockGuitar strings come in packs of seven, six, four and can be purchased as singles. Six string guitars have six strings and seven string guitars obviously have seven string. A standard bass guitar has four strings but electric bass guitars also come in five and six string models using the appropriate amount of strings.

Quality guitar strings can be purchased at local, chain or online music stores from several reputable companies and are constructed of different materials such as: metals, nylons and even animal guts (which are rarely is ever used anymore) and come in a variety of different and thickness’ usually (measured in millimeters) and tensions (measured in pounds per square inch).

To grasp the information regarding guitar strings try to think categorically in order of most important information.

  1. Guitar strings should be categorized in two basic forms: steel string and nylon string. As you begin to break down the guitar strings into more specific categories the guitar string type and name is then matched to the kind of guitar being played; acoustic classical, spanish or flamenco nylon string guitar, steel string acoustic, dreadnought or folk guitar, steel string electric guitar and steel string bass guitar.
  2. More specific information about guitar strings that deals with the exact kind of metals and combinations of nylons that are used like: phosphor bronze, silk and steel, nickel plated and others. Some manufacturers even create strings with space age poly web coatings that inhibit rust from the moisture of a guitar players fingers and the environment.
  3. Other than whether a string is made of nylon or steel or the specific combination materials used in the manufacturing process, guitar and bass guitar strings are then differentiated by there thickness (measured in inches .010 and in millimeters = .25 mm) and tension (measured in pounds per square inch = 15.3 or kilograms kg = 6.94). It is important to understand what thickness and tension of a guitar strings are required and will work best for your guitar and your playing style, performing situation and skill level. Thicker guitar strings place more tension on the guitar neck and and lighter strings place less tension on the guitar neck and body. The basic general terms that describe the tension for of a package of guitar strings are: extra light, light, medium light, medium, heavy and super heavy.

It is very important to acquire strings that have the correct tension for the kind of guitar being played. Putting strings that are too thick put too much tension on the neck. They will create higher action and harder overall playability. the tension this creates between the bridge and nut of a guitar may damage a guitar that is not constructed to withstand that much pressure. The string tension may bow or warp the neck and even tear the bridge (which is usually only held on by glue on acoustic guitars) right off the body of the guitar.

Strings UnwoundAlthough a thicker guitar string is harder to press on the fret board and will cause more finger soreness it will produce a more full and sustaining sound when played with proper technique than extra light strings. I recommend you use the thickest guitar strings possible that don’t exceed the tension limitation of your guitar for your skill level. Thicker strings produce a more full and sustaining and overall appealing that will lead to more enjoyable tone and hopefully make you want to play and practice more. Thicker strings will also strengthen your fingers faster than lighter guitar strings. The individual, what they like, there born level of physical attributes and dexterity and the kind of guitar they perform on and style of guitar playing they choose which will determine how thick a guitar string they would like to play. Learning what manufacturer and string size a guitarist is comfortable with performing on usually grows with playing experience and may change over time.

Like all products there are guitar strings that are mass produced and those that are hand crafted and some in between. Just because a guitar string is hand made doesn’t always mean it’s better. It may have a clearer sound but be harder to play and not feel right. I have used most strings out there and I have found “none” that are perfect for me. Some strings are too hard, too grippy, don’t hold tune, break too easily, don’t last, get dirty or rusty too easily. It’s ultimately up to the guitarist to try out different brands of strings and see what works best for them. In regard to producing guitar strings I do think experience in production and quality control have allot to do with making a good product.

With that said here’s the brand and style of guitar strings I recommend for beginner to intermediate guitar players :

NYLON STRING CLASSICAL, SPANISH AND FLAMENCO GUITARS

  • D’Addario EJ45 Pro Arte Normal Tension Classical Guitar Strings, Gauges: 28-32-40-29-35-43
  • D’Addario J51 Pro Arte Recording Classical Guitar Strings, Gauges 28.5-32.7-41-28-34-42

STEEL STRING ACOUSTIC, DREADNOUGHT AND FOLK GUITARS

  • D’Addario EJ15 Phosphor Bronze Extra Light Acoustic Strings, Gauges 10-14-23-30-39-47
  • D’Addario EZ900 85/15 Bronze Great American Extra Light Acoustic Guitar Strings, Gauges 10-14-22-30-40-50
  • D’Addario EJ26 Custom Light Acoustic Guitar Strings, Gauges 11-15-22-32-42-52
  • D’Addario EJ16 Phosphor Bronze Light Guitar Strings, Gauges 12-16-24-32-42-53

ELECTRIC SIX STRING GUITARS

  • D’Addario EXL120 Electric Guitar Strings, Gauges 09-11-16-24-32-42
  • D’Addario EXL120+ Nickel Super Light Electric Guitar Strings, Gauges 9.5-11.5-16-24-34-44
  • D’Addario EXL110 Nickel Regular Light Electric Guitar Strings, Gauges 10-13-17-26-36-46
  • D’Addario EXL115 Nickel Blues/Jazz Electric Guitar Strings, Gauges 11-14-18-28-38-49

ELECTRIC FOUR AND FIVE STRING BASS GUITARS

  • D’Addario EXL170TP Regular Light Electric Bass Guitar Strings, Gauges 45-65-80-100
  • D’Addario EXL165TP Twin-Pack Bass Guitar Strings, Gauges 45-65-85-105
  • D’Addario EXL170-5TP Twin Pack 5-String Bass Guitar Strings, Gauges 45-65-80-100-130

One reason I recommend D’addario guitar strings because I’ve been using them pretty regularly for over 25 years. They seem to perform pretty well and feel relatively good on my fingers. I’m used to the level of grip and they feel when I slide or do hammer ons or pull offs. Also they are moderately priced, come in environmental packaging which protects the strings from moisture and rust and keeps them fresh for longer than other manufacturers. The strings have a relatively long life, hold tune sufficiently and I know when there old enough to break. Because D’Addario is the worlds largest guitar string manufacturer you can purchase there strings in nearly every music store, even little mom and pop shops and all over the internet. That is important.

If you were to find a make of guitar string you really like that much and it made that much of a difference in your guitar playing maybe it’s worth having to purchase those strings from only specific distributors that don’t deal with all music stores and that don’t always have enough in stock when you need them even from the actual source at the company web site. Since I haven’t found a brand of hand crafted boutique strings that I like that much I’ve stayed the course with D’addario out of habit and consistency of their products. I have tried allot of custom strings (that are all very expensive in comparison) and I can tell you though experience that it will be very frustrating when your used to performing on a certain style of strings, you need them in a pinch and they are not available for your upcoming performance or even regular practice sessions.

I don’t know exactly what string manufacturer will make the best strings for you but I can suggest that you also take into consideration the physical skill level and personal sensibility of the guitarist and the application the guitar strings are being used for.

So for all these reasons I say start with D’Addario and then try out a bunch of different string manufacturer’s products that are most easily accessible like GHS or Martin guitar strings. Two custom manufacturers worth checking out would be DR, Elixir and I’ve been hearing great things about Cleartone but haven’t tried them yet.

Most importantly get the strings that are right for your guitar, style of playing and that make you want to practice and perform allot! Good luck.