The Best Strings for A Range of Guitars
Welcome to my website, all about the best guitar strings out there. I’m an experience guitar player and I like to think I know my stuff when it comes to acoustic, electric and bass guitars (I own and play all three). Enough about me though, on to guitar strings. Unfortunately, if you thought the art of buying strings would be easy then you’re in for a surprise, but thats why this resource has been created, to help you. On to the guide.
What Determines “Good” Guitar Strings?
The strings we put on our instrument has a huge impact on the timbre, tone and quality of sound we get out of it, but there is something of a grey area when determining quality in this area. A lot of products we buy make it easy to differentiate between good and bad. A good blender is one that blends your food well, right? Well you can’t say the same for guitar strings, different styles of music demand different strings, some strings are suitable for beginners while some suit more advanced players. Choosing the best guitar strings for you is all about knowing the sound you want to create and picking your brand based on what will help you to achieve this. Of course, some things are universally useful and can be the difference between good and bad strings. Such as:
- Durability – There’s nothing more annoying than a broken string, it happens to us all at some point, but the make of string you put on your guitar has a big impact on how often you have to deal with this problem. Often, you get what you pay for, and cheap, low-end strings will break often.
- Comfort – This can’t always be helped, some guitar strings can be good quality but just be so thick-wound that they are slightly uncomfortable, however there is no need for a lot of discomfort in a lot of situations and if your strings hurt your fingers unnecessarily you might want to look at another make.
- Sound – Different sounds will come from different types of guitars, but that does not mean there is no such thing as good and bad when it comes to the tone of your strings. This is of course a subjective topic as only you will know when you are happy with a sound, but certain strings will definitely aid your quest for tone.
Guitar strings are made out of a variety of different materials, which have a large impact on the sound. Below I have listed some common materials used for strings and what you will commonly see them used for. One is not necessarily better than the other, but the information will certainly help to inform your decision when it comes to making a purchase.
Steel or Metal strings are widely used in both the electric and bass guitar models. The bright and sharp tone of steel strings suits a lot of genres of music, and they are often preferred in folk, rock and jazz music. There are huge amounts of strings available made of steel all with different gauges and compositions, which we’ll get into in a little while. The technology of steel strings is evolved from their use inside pianos, the electric guitar took this technology and adapted it for use in pickups which send the signal to an amplifier. Steel strings have an excellent tune stability (they stay in tune well once put there) and they are relatively cheap compared to other materials, hence their popularity.
Electric String Materials
- Nickel – the most commonly used types of guitar strings
- Nickel Plated Steel – a naturally warm and bright sound
- Pure Nickel – not quite as bright, but definitely warm sounding
- Stainless Steel – a longer life due to their oxidization, these have more of a bright hit than the others.
- Chrome – quite a flat sound, which is usually preferred by classical or jazz musicians
- Polymer coated strings – probably the longest life of all of these strings but with sustain greatly sacrificed, so a shorter burst of sound.
- Bronze – The most popular string material among acoustic models of guitar. Very bright, as crisp as fresh apples. Beware though, bronze is very corrosive and your strings wont last long compared to other models.
- Phosphor bronze – Darker than the bronze strings mentioned above. Phosphor extends their life.
- Brass – Very bright but definitely come with a metallic twang to the sound.
- Polymer coated strings – Again the polymer causes a sacrifice in sustain but the life is extended dramatically.
As you can see, the material you choose has a big impact! Hopefully from looking at the above you will have some idea of the sound you are looking for and which material will help you out with this. You may choose to try out a few different models to see what works best in your opinion.
On to the Gauge of the guitar string. I remember when I was starting to learn about how my guitar actually worked it took me a little while to work out the impact of the gauge, but it is relatively simple. Gauge simply means the heaviness and therefore thickness of the strings. Heavier strings require more tension in order to create the same tone, and this makes them tougher to press down to the fingerboard. Got it? So how does this affect the sound?
If you choose a light gauge, you will get a brighter, tinnier sound, like when you flick a glass that is heavy and good quality, compared to a cheap and shabby one. However, there is less tension in the striking of the strings which means less resonance, less effect of harmonics and less sustain. They also have a shorter life.
In terms of playability, the heavier the strings the more strength it is going to take to press them down, and the more difficult it is going to make it to fret on your guitar. Definitely worth thinking about. I recommend that a beginner with a lower finger strength starts with a lighter version of strings.
Brands and Products
On to the fun bit, the actual strings themselves, products and makers you can trust and how suitable they are for different guitars.
Ernie Ball guitar strings are one of the most iconic makes out there, and deservedly so, they are reliable, and come in all sorts of different sizes and materials to ensure the best sound for your guitar and style ofplaying. The model linked to in the above are their regular slinky strings which are nickel wound and magnificent for an all round guitar string. Probably their best selling and most versatile string. I highly recommend Ernie Ball strings for almost all musicians. You can use the info above to work out which are best for you, those on the left will be perfect for a rock or alternative guitarist. Check out their “Beefy” models for a hunkier, louder sound, or their Rock n Roll’s for…well, Rock n Roll! You can also grab their acoustic strings which are extremely sweet sounding for folk, rock or any other acoustic genre.
Martin and Co is a name associated with the world of acoustic guitars, and their strings match their reputation in the area. These 80/20 bronze strings give a sweet sound and are extremely durable, affordable and high quality. Can’t say fairer than that. I recommend these for acoustic guitarists everywhere.
D’addario are probably the next best selling behind Ernie and Martin. Their best selling strings are available via the link to your left. They give a warm, long lasting sound and again are very affordable (as you’ll find most strings are). Their electric strings are also excellent and so cheap considering their crisp, rich sound and popularity. One of the three brands I’m going to recommend to you here on best guitar strings. Check out their full range of strings.
A Video Guide to Choosing Guitar Strings
As well as the article I’ve written to help you to pick the best strings, I realise that visual and audible resources will be a big help, check out my favorite video on the subject on Youtube which describes the choice in a lot of detail.
Hopefully you will have learned lots about the art of choosing your guitar strings on our resource here. Strings have a big impact on your sound and as I have already said, different types will suit different genres and styles of music. Don’t be afraid to experiment, and know that strings are your own personal choice. Happy guitar-ing, my amigos!