There are dozens of guitar string options available, and choosing the right set of strings can be an overwhelming proposition. In this post, I want to give some very helpful tips to help you make a good choice when buying strings. First of all, you need to know that there are three basic types of guitar strings: electric guitar strings, nylon guitar strings, and acoustic “steel string” guitar strings.
Acoustic steel guitar strings are, of course, steel strings, but there are two types: uncoated and coated strings. Uncoated strings are the old generation of strings. They are equal in sound quality to the newer coated strings and are a few dollars cheaper, but they begin to go “dead”(meaning that they lose their loudness and quality of tone) within a couple of weeks.
Coated strings have made musicians’ lives so much better. They are great sounding. They feel great to play on, and they last about 4-5 times longer than uncoated strings!
So, in my opinion, coated steel strings are the only way to go.
Before you rush out and buy that first package of steel strings, there is one more important thing that you must know. Guitar strings come in different thicknesses or “gauges”. Steel strings are gauged from heavy down to extra light. NEVER use heavy gauge strings on an acoustic steel string guitar! They will rip a guitar apart. You should check either online or at a music store before you buy strings, and find out what is the recommended gauge of strings for your guitar. Is it light gauge or medium gauge? Medium gauge strings are slightly thicker than light gauge strings. If medium gauge strings are recommended for your guitar, it is okay to use medium or light gauge strings. It just depends on your preference and the setup of your guitar. However, if light gauge strings are the recommended string for your instrument, you shouldn’t use medium gauge strings. Doing so could cause structural damage to your instrument. I personally prefer medium gauge strings for flatpicking and rhythm playing, and I prefer light gauge strings for fingerpicking. I recommend Elixar Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze strings for acoustic steel string guitars.
Nylon or “classical” guitar strings are totally different from steel strings. A set of nylon guitar strings includes three nylon (or some other type of synthetic material) strings and three metal wound strings. As with steel strings, nylon strings have coated and uncoated varieties. Although the coated strings do last longer, both varieties are widely used and loved.
Nylon strings are gauged from extra high tension, high tension, normal tension, all the way down to low tension strings. I recommend using normal tension strings or high tension strings, but you should check on the recommended string for your guitar.
D’Addario EXP45 and D’Addario EXP46 classical guitar strings are great coated string options. Saverez Alliance normal and high tension strings along with D’Addario’s Pro Arte Dynacore EJ45TT or EJ46TT strings provide some excellent uncoated options.
Being that thegospelworkshop.com is an acoustic music site and that I am not an electric guitarist, I cannot elaborate on electric guitar strings. However, electric guitars use steel strings that are very thinly gauged. Electric guitar strings are easily confused with acoustic guitar strings by purchasers, so make sure that you choose the correct package of strings for your instrument.
Isaac is the instructor for guitar at TheGospelWorkshop.com.