Although slinky strings were pioneered more than 5 decades ago, many people feel that they are now the industry standard. Slinky strings have been used by many former and current rock and metal guitarists including legends such as Metallica and Jimmy Page. These strings are professionally manufactured using high carbon-steel hex core that’s been precision wound using nickel-plated steel. This creates an exceptionally balanced and rich tone that many guitarists really enjoy. And since each of these strings are packaged in element shield packaging that’s designed to protect them, they’ll last longer and stay way fresher than strings which haven’t been packed in corrosion-resistant packaging.
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Guitar Strings Buying Guide
Above this article, we’ve listed what we feel are the best guitar strings currently available. However, although all of the strings are the best quality ones available, not everyone is going to agree with the ranking order. That’s because what may be the number ten guitar strings for one person, is going to be the number one strings for another person and vice-versa. After all, different players need different types of strings. Which is why we’ve created this buying guide to help guitarists find the strings that match their playing style and deliver the sound they want.
Since we understand that guitarists are all different, we’ve created this guide to reflect those differences and have split the article into two parts. The first part outlines what the electric guitarist should look for when they choose strings and the second part outlines what acoustic or classical guitarists should look for when choosing a pair of strings. With that having been said, let’s dig in and get started with this buying guide. As promised, we’re going begin with the electric guitarists and end with the acoustic ones.
Electric Guitar Strings
Electric guitar strings are usually manufactured with one of several different materials: steel, nickel, cobalt, chrome or titanium. Actually, to be more precise, most of these strings are made of steel and coated with one of the various metals. This plating results in the strings having unique audio characteristics that the guitarist can use to their advantage. And then there are pure metal strings that are made from either all-steel or all-nickel. These strings also have unique sound characteristics. Below are some examples of what we mean below.
Electric Guitar String Composition
- Stainless Steel: These strings are often described as bright and crisp. These strings also squeak less than other types of strings.
- Nickel-Plated: These strings are warm and bright. They are also often described as being quite balanced.
- Pure Nickel: These electric guitar strings tend to be quite warm and don’t have the same level of brightness as nickel-plated strings.
- Cobalt: These strings have a great pickup and have a fairly bright sound.
- Chrome: These strings are used a lot by blues guitarists and tend to have a warm, low-resonance sound to them.
- Titanium: These strings are durable and produce a bright tone.
- Polymer: Although these strings are more resistant to corrosion than other types of strings, they also have less sustain than other strings.
Electric Guitar String Winding
How the strings sound is also affected by how they are wound. Although this article isn’t comprehensive enough to get into all of the effects that string winding has on the final sound of the guitarist, we can cover some basics. Below are three of the most common string windings and what effect they have on the sound of the electric guitarist.
- Half Round or Ground Round: These strings have many of the characteristics that can be found on a round wound string, but is generally smoother with a darker tone.
- Round Wound: These strings produce a bit of bite and sustain, but they tend to generate a lot more finger noise than other strings.
- Flat Wound: These strings are generally flat and dark. It’s also a string that’s popular with many blues and jazz musicians.
Acoustic Guitar Strings
Although it’s important to remember that this guide isn’t comprehensive enough to list everything a person should know about their acoustic guitar strings, there are a few basics that we can cover that will help the reader buy the best acoustic guitar strings available.
Acoustic Guitar String Composition
The composition of acoustic guitar strings is just as important as the composition of the best electric guitar strings. And acoustic or classical guitarists have several different materials to consider when choosing the right string composition.
- Steel & Silk: These strings are often popular with guitarists who play folk-music and have a soft tone to them.
- Bronze: These strings have a bright and clear sound. They’re also prone to oxidation.
- Phosphor Bronze: These strings aren’t as bright as bronze. They also have a warmer tone and tend to last longer than bronze.
- Aluminum Bronze: These strings produce clear, crisp notes. They also have a clearer sound than phosphor bronze strings.
- Polymer-Coated: These strings tend to be warm and have less sustain than uncoated strings. They are also extremely corrosion-resistant
- Brass: These strings produce a jangling and bright sound that some guitarists seem to prefer.
Acoustic Guitar String Gauge
Although all guitarists have to take string gauge into consideration, it’s extremely important for acoustic guitarists and can have a profound effect on not only how their music sounds but on how easy the guitar is to play. Most acoustic strings have a gauge anywhere from .010-inch to .059-inch. Due to space limitations, we aren’t going to get into detail on what effect each particular gauge has on playability and sound, but we’re going to lump them into two different categories: light string gauges and heavy string gauges. Let’s proceed to the details.
Light Gauge Strings:
- Fretting is easier
- Ideal for vintage guitars
- Have less tension
- Tend to break easily
- Produces less volume
- Produces less sustain
Heavier Gauge Strings:
- Produces more sustain
- Produces more volume
- Exerts a lot of pressure on the neck of the guitar
- Harder to play
The Signs Indicating Strings Need To Be Replaced
It can be difficult to determine how often a guitarist should change their strings because it really all depends on a number of different factors. How often the guitar is played, how much the guitarist perspires, and what type of guitar the guitar strings are used on all affect the corrosion and wear of the strings. It also should be noted that the construction of the strings is also extremely important. Therefore, each guitarist needs to decide for themselves when they need to change their strings. However, while this guide may not be able to tell the guitarist when to change their strings, we can offer some of the signs that a guitar’s strings need to be replaced.
- Guitar is difficult to tune
- Strings are rusted or discolored
- Tone flattens out or becomes dead
- String’s core becomes exposed