Just like anything else, guitar strings come in different makes and standards. Consequently, the price of these strings is different. You can buy a set for as low as $5 or as high as $30. Luckily, the model of a guitar doesn’t necessarily determine the type of strings to buy.
Bronze strings cost less than their coated counterparts. Commonly used strings cost less than $15 but more than $5. Meanwhile, if you buy in bulk, the price will definitely be different. There are also some brands which are cheaper than $5 and others which cost more than $15. However, with just $10, you can already get a good set of strings.
Factors Affecting the Cost and Choice of Guitar Strings
1) Type of Guitar
The type of guitar you use will definitely determine the strings you have to buy. Expensive guitars require expensive strings. Whether your guitar is acoustic steel, classical nylon, or electric, you need to find the strings which are best suited for it. However, you can also find some strings which can fit in every guitar.
In most cases, strings and guitars are not interchangeable. A nylon-string guitar can’t be fixed with steel strings. If you do this, your guitar will get damaged.
It is also essential to check the bridge and deduce if your machine uses strings tied at the end or has ball-end strings. A guitar that uses nylon string can use either ball-end or those tied on end.
Don’t let price alone determine the type of string to buy. Instead, you should also consider buying only from a renowned brand. If you like classical guitars, buy La Bella strings, D’Addario, Savarez, or Augustine.
On the other hand, you can go for RotoSound, Elixir, La Bella, or even D’Addario if you have a folk guitar. For electric guitar, buy either Dunlop, D’Addario, Elixir Nanoweb (also Elixir) Ernie Ball Slinky, Dean Markley, Fender, and Dr. Strings.
2) Gauge Preferences
Strings have diverse gauge ranges. The diameter of the string is what is referred to as the gauge. For example, beefier strings produce a fuller tone and can’t be broken easily. Their gauge is stronger.
Therefore, if you love playing your guitar hard, you should go for these strings. Below is a summary of gauges of an acoustic set of strings:
- Extra light: .047 .039 .030 .023 .014 .010
- Custom light: .052 .042 .032 .023 .015 .011
- Light: .054 .042 .032 .025 .016 .012
- Medium: .056 .045 .035 .026 .017 .013
- Heavy: .059 .049 .039 .027 .018 .014
A guitar string is not just a string even if it appears to be one. In fact, there are different materials that make strings, and each of them has its own characteristics. Some strings are coated to make them last longer. These characteristics affect the longevity, beauty, ease of use, and tone of the string.
They’re as follows:
- Brass – produces a metallic jangly and bright sounding string.
- Phosphor bronze – made of a mixture of phosphor and bronze. They appear bright and are darker and warmer than strings made of pure bronze. The purpose of the phosphor is to increase the longevity of the strings.
- Bronze – these strings are made of 20% copper and 80% zinc. They are ideal for all guitars as they produce a bright tone. Moreover, they’re affordable, which explains why bronze strings are more prevalent in the market than others. However, due to bronze’s tendency to oxidize, they age quicker than the others.
- Steel and silk strings – these produce a soft sound, have less tension, and are made of lighter gauge compared to other strings. They are, therefore, ideal for unique guitars. Although steel and silk strings are more comfortable to play and are generally quieter, they are less durable and are better suited for students.
4) Treatments and Coatings
Today, there’s a lot of changes as far as the manufacturing of guitar strings is concerned. Strings are now a lot more durable and stronger, not to mention they produce better sound than before. The majority of guitar strings are coated and treated to increase their lifespan. However, this brings about a decrease in brightness.
On the other hand, coated strings can last up to four times more than uncoated ones. Some strings are cryogenically treated to increase their lifespan without affecting their other characteristics. Typically, they are a bit more expensive than others.
Types of Guitar Strings Found in the Market
1) Acoustic Strings: Phosphor Bronze and Bronze
The main difference between bronze and phosphor is that bronze is brighter compared to phosphor strings which have a reddish tint due to them.
In most cases, bronze is made of 10% tin and 90% copper. However, the ratio is usually 20% tin and 80% copper for bronze strings. Although bronze is much softer compared to steel, it does have significant resistance to corrosion.
Strings made of bronze and phosphor are warmer than the more common bronze strings. Many players prefer them because they’re easier to pluck than bronze strings. They are also a little bit more reddish.
Phosphor bronze is basically regular bronze with a small quantity of phosphor to make it more durable. As a result, they can resist corrosion and oxidization better.
2) Electric strings: Stainless Steel, Pure Nickel, and Nickel Plated
Those strings which are made of this material are among the most common strings on the market. You will realize that thicker strings are made of steel coated with nickel. The steel used for the string is the right choice due to its magnetic activity. Meanwhile, the nickel-plating is used due to its ability to produce a bright sound. Apart from that, nickel also aids in increasing the longevity and smoothness of the strings.
If you want a warmer and more mellow sound, go for pure nickel strings. They are famous among players of jazz, blues, and classic rock. Also, it is good with magnets and can resist corrosion pretty well.
Among all electric guitar strings, stainless steel produces the sharpest and brightest sound. They are also very durable and stay brighter for a longer time than other strings. However, they somehow feel different to the touch. Many players find them dry and not as slick compared to the other strings.
Moreover, steel strings can wear out the frets faster than a nickel, but they produce brighter sounds and provide great sound for a longer time.
3) Coated and Non-coated Strings
The purpose of coating a guitar string is to prevent it from oxidizing, getting dirty, or corroding. A coat can make strings appear more beautiful and feel warm to the touch. As a result, they will last longer, look great, feel nice, and sound new for a longer time than uncoated strings. However, strings with a coat can cost you two times more as those which are uncoated.
Despite being more affordable, they tend to wear out pretty quickly.
4) Nylon Strings
Nylon strings are actually measured by tension instead of inches as opposed to the other strings. Basically, there are three different levels of tension: extra hard, hard, and normal. Normal-tension is easy to use, but if you play fast and loud, the strings will become floppy.
For louder and faster playing, you need hard tension strings. However, the extra tension will not be friendly with your fingers. If you are playing extremely louder or fast music, go for the extra hard tension strings. The majority of fast players use tensions that are extra hard while an average guitar player uses normal tension strings.
Tie End and Ball End Strings
A nylon string can be attached to the guitar’s bridge in two ways: via a ball end or tie end. A lot of guitars come with a tie end string. This type typically requires a lot more time when you change strings, though it is the most common method used.
On the other hand, the ball end has a metal or plastic bead at the end of the bridge which negates the need to tie the string. Ball end strings are not readily available, which is why they’re not as popular as tie ends.
5) Flatwound and Roundwound Strings
There are a lot of strings which are classified as a round wound. This means is that the thicker strings have a round winding. Basically, the winding which is on the three or four strings which are rounded and thicker than the other strings. Strings that are round wound are brighter compared to those with flat-wound strings.
Wounding a string makes it thick, causing it to produce a dense sound while remaining light.
The difference between flatwound strings and roundwound strings is that flatwound is warmer. They also produce a more mellow sound as opposed to roundwound strings. This characteristic is the reason why you would expect to find them among the jazz and blues players.
The sound is made more mellow due to the flat winding. Flatwound strings are known to last longer than the roundwounded variants. This is because flatwound strings don’t accumulate dirt like roundwound strings.
The best type of string for your guitar is a personal affair. Sometimes, you have to experiment with different strings to know what you need. You don’t have to be stuck with one brand. When you have tested a few of them and had a feel of the strings and the sound they produce, you can come up with the ideal strings based on your guitar.
It is also good to remember that the way you feel the strings as you play will affect its durability. Don’t let the price be the primary deciding factor when buying a guitar string. You should also consider the type of material used, how it feels as you play, and its durability.
In conclusion, the choice of strings you have to buy will be different from what others want. It is, therefore, crucial to opt for what you want rather than what others have. Lastly, low-end strings that cost as low as $5 won’t help you since they will break easily. On the other hand, expensive strings don’t necessarily mean they will sound better than average ones.