Sing With Your Strings: All About Guitar Strings

Author: Max Kersten

The shape and size of a guitar will determine how well it hugs your body while you play her. At the 
same token, how well your girl sings depends on what strings you choose for her. Depending on what 
they are made of and who they are manufactured by will most certainly affect your tone and depth. The 
simplest way to make the right choice, of course, is to understand the importance and mechanics of 
guitar strings.

First, know that there are 6 strings on guitars: E, B, G, D, A and E. Three of the strings are usually 
common between electric and acoustics, making the transition in learning both, relatively simple. 

The minor differences between electric and acoustic strings include the gauge difference between 
strings E and B. The major difference, however, is the fact that the G string is wound for acoustics but 
smooth for electrics. It makes a world of difference though the variation seems slight.

They're Not Just Wires
While most strings are made of the same material for both acoustics and electrics, there are still specific 
qualities that your strings need to keep your sound strong. Acoustic guitars, for example, need strings 
that will provide a vibrating, resonant sound whereas electric strings are needed to produce a more 
metallic sound, a sharp, electric sound. In order to achieve the appropriate sounds, look to the materials  
and the source of the metals used to make your strings.

Acoustic Strings

The same way that the original acoustic guitar is a natural instrument without the advances of 
technology, the strings required for it are made of fine, natural ingredients, mainly bronze. Take a 
closer look.

*   Bronze acoustic guitar strings are made from the alloy brass. Commonly, this is a mixture of 
copper and tin or copper and zinc. 
*    Phosphor-Bronze strings are made of brass and are coated with phosphorus to help the strings 
retain their shape and sharpness.
*    Classic acoustic guitar players usually use Nylon strings. With nylon strings the 3 upper strings 
are made of 100% nylon and the remaining strings are usually silver-plated copper which are 
wound around a nylon thread.

Overall, Phosphor-Bronze strings will outlast the cheaper Bronze strings though bronze strings sound 
amazing when you first put them on your piece. The Phosphor-Bronze strings have a warmer sound, an 
almost worn-in sound but they don't have to be replaced nearly as often. 

If you are a beginner, I suggest you get the Phosphor-Bronze strings and have them tuned by a 
professional, whether a professor or an experienced sales person at your local guitar retailer. This will 
allow you more time in between tunings until you've become familiar enough with your guitar and your 
skills to tune her yourself.

The brand I prefer to use on my acoustic is called Elixir. Elixer makes cutting edge strings that keep up 
with new industry standards.

Electric Strings

Because the electric guitar is always amplified, the materials needed for electric strings are entirely 
different. Since the sound being given off by the wires does not need to be loud, string makers were 
able to concentrate on other attributes to give them. Therefore, electric strings are not made of natural, 
heavy bronze.

*    In the 50s, electric strings were made of pure nickel. Nickel strings give electric guitars a 
classic sound. Almost a sweet sounding wail.
*    Modern electric strings are usually made of nickel and stainless steel or stainless steel alone, 
which has proven to be the most durable string material ever used. Stainless steel strings rarely 
require changing and can withstand the hard rockers.

For a beginner behind the wheel of an electric guitar, I suggest the same process as with acoustic. Stick 
with stainless steel strings and have them tuned professionally, if possible, when you trade out for new 
strings. They will last longer, allowing you to become more comfortable with your guitar which will 
enable you to eventually tune your own strings. 

The only strings I put on my own electric are Ernie Ball or Elixir brand. Ernie Ball has been in the 
industry for years and their strings have never let me down while recording. Elixir, as well, makes a 
very durable product though the sound quality is not as golden as with a set of Ball strings. 

Heavy, Whipped or Light Cream?
All guitar strings that you will find on the market today have a variety of thickness available to players. 
You can get your strings in extra light, light, medium, heavy and extra heavy. 

Extra light and light strings benefit you in two ways. First they're great for players with small hands 
who have a hard time pressing the strings down. They don't require nearly as much pressure as other 
weights. Secondly, if you have a custom or oddly shaped guitar with an unusually long neck, light 
strings keep taut much more easily than heavy strings do. 

Medium strings are perfect for beginners because they are just so common. Most people who use light 
or heavy strings cannot swap to their opposite but usually have a decent time playing medium strings. 
If you're a beginner, I suggest you start out with medium strings and experiment until you find the 
weight you feel comfortable with.

Heavy strings are much thicker than light and medium strings. A player with strong hands or a natural 
tendency to abuse their strings while rocking, may appreciate heavy strings. For my electric guitar, I 
prefer heavy, not extra heavy, strings because I like the way they feel. I tend to press harder with my 
electric guitar without noticing, which requires a thicker string than my acoustic, which I am naturally 
more gentle with. 

Ready To Strum
Once you have chosen which set of strings is best for you and they have been properly tuned, you will 
find that a new set of strings on your piece makes your ears dance. New strings are like a classic car 
that has been recently serviced and has a full tank of gas. To improve your tuning skills, check out and get started. Enjoy!