Do you get confused about which guitar strings to buy? Why are there so many different types? Surely they are all the same?
Guitar Strings, Electric Guitar Strings, Acoustic Guitar Strings, Bass Guitar Strings
These are just some of the questions we get asked. There is a lot of difference between them. Always try and buy recognised branded strings. Cheap far east made ones tend to be of poor quality. Rarely do they vibrate evenly along the length due to poor manufacturing techniques, but also tend to come unwound, snap more often and can even be tarnished out of the packet.
 
Please be wary of fakes too if the price seems too good to be true it often is. Sites such as wish.com offer Elixirs for next to nothing and are guaranteed fakes.
 
Each brand makes its product in a slightly different way, which means they vibrate differently causing slight tonal changes between them.
 
The woods in your guitar will interact with the vibrations made in different ways and you may find (more so with an acoustic) that different strings bring out different tonal qualities of your guitar as well as different sustain qualities.
 
Finding a set that suits you, your instrument, your playing style and gives you the sound you want is a bit of a journey, so, try a few different types and gauges and find a set that suits best. There are lots of different manufacturers to choose from. The worlds most popular brands are Ernie Ball; D'Addario; Rotosound; Elixir and Martin.
 

 
 
There are a few materials that electric guitar strings are made from and you can try all these out to find the right sound for you.
 
Pure Nickel - This will give soft, mellow tones. Nickel has a smooth feel.

Stainless Steel -This will give sharp, powerful tones. Stainless Steel is a lot harder than Nickel and so feels quite rough on the fingertips.

Nickel-plated Steel - This is a hybrid of Pure Nickel and Steel. The steel-string is coated in a thin layer of nickel. This gives the best of both, with powerful tone but with a smooth feel.

Cobalt - This covers a wide range of tones and works with the magnets in your pickups to produce one of the strongest signals. This means you get very powerful, clean tones. They feel similar to Stainless Steel, so are quite rough on the fingers.

One other thing to remember is that the frets on your guitar are usually made of nickel. Using nickel or nickel-plated steel will help your frets last longer, whereas stainless steel and cobalt are a lot harder metal than nickel and so will cause your frets to wear out a lot quicker and can end up meaning you need a costly refret a lot sooner.
 

Gauges/ Thickness
 
 
There is a range of gauges (thicknesses). We tend to talk about gauges based on the thinnest string. For example, Ernie Ball Regular Slinky can be known as EB 10's as the thinnest string is a gauge 10. The gauge is based on Thousandths of an inch. So a gauge 10 is normally written as 0.010.
 
 
Lighter gauges give you more treble tones and are easier to play, whereas heavier gauges give more powerful bass tones but are harder to play. This is because they have a lot less tension when tuned to concert pitch (standard tuning E, A, D, G, B, E) compared to a heavier gauge 12.  For example, a D'Addario gauge 9's (when tuned to e) has 5.94kg of tension. A D'Addario gauge 11 (when tuned to e) has a tension of 8.89kg.
 
 
Strat-style guitars tend to have gauge 9's fitted as standard. Les Paul style guitars tend to have gauge 10 fitted as standard. If you change to a heavier or lighter gauge, you may have to have your instruments set up to accommodate the change in tension otherwise you may end up with strings that are miles away from the fingerboard, or touching the fingerboard.
 

Longlife/ Coated Strings
 
 
If you're looking to get as much life and bang for your buck out of your strings then look towards brands such as Elixir or the new D'addario XT range.
 
Elixir strings are coated with a patented method, essentially the strings are wrapped in a plastic coating after they wind the string, this seals the metal and any grooves, preventing the string from oxidising and rusting out as quickly as normal strings. Elixir says this will make their string last for up to 5 times as long (often around a year). Elixir offer 3 types of coating:
 
Optiweb - thinnest coating to give you a feel you are used to but with the perks of some coating.
 
Nanoweb - best selling string as this is a great blend between life span, tone and feel.
 
Polyweb - thickest coating. Giving you the longest amount of life out of your string. These do have a slightly white look to them, a very smooth feel and the sharper eared of you may hear a slight roll-off on the higher frequencies.
 
D'addario XT's are slightly different and are treated strings. They are sprayed with a water-resistant spray that gives you a longer life whilst changing the feel and tone as little as possible.
 
Have a look at our Electric Guitar Strings Page for more detailed information on each different set.
 

 
There are 2 main materials you can choose from for your acoustic strings. These will give your guitar a very different sound.
 
Phosphor Bronze - Brass coloured. Mellow, rounded smooth, full-bodied tones.
 
80/20 Bronze - Copper coloured. Bright, crisp, sharp tones. 
 
The strings on an acoustic guitar tend to be a heavier gauge than those found on and electric, this is so that vibrations caused can pass into the body of the guitar and make it vibrate thus amplifying the vibrations and making the well-known tones of steel-strung guitar. They come in different gauges. and like electrics, the gauge is based on the thinnest string in thousandths of an inch. Most steel-strung acoustic guitars tend to come with gauge 12's.

If you want more bass tones and volume then opt for heavier gauges (e.g. 13, 14, etc), however, they are harder to play as they have more tension. If you are looking for more treble tones and less volume, then choose a lighter gauge (e.g. 11, 10, 9, etc), these are also easier to play.

Depending on you having a Jumbo, Dreadnought or a Folk guitar will help you decide what gauge to try. For example, Jumbo's are naturally boomy and bassy, but simply putting on lighter gauges will tone down the bass and volume. Likewise, the small-bodied Folk guitars can sometimes sound thin and lacklustre, in which case try some a heavier gauge and this might give it some extra oomph.
Have a look at our Acoustic Guitar Strings page for more detailed information on each different set.

Both Elixirs and D'addario XT's are available for longer life.
 

 
 
Firstly, all 6 strings on a classical are made of nylon. 3 of them might look like they are made of metal, but this is just a thin wire (a wrapped wire) usually made of silver-plated copper, wrapped around a nylon core. This makes them thicker and so makes a lower tone, which is why they are used as the 3 bass strings on the guitar.

Gut - This was the original material these strings were made from. Hard to find as not morally acceptable! Low Volume. Short life span.

Nylgut - Traditional sounding. Close representation to Gut. Longer life span.

Nylon - Most popular material. Good tones and widely available at cheap prices. Made from clear or rectified Nylon. Clears are extruded then calibrated/rectified are extruded then ground to the right size. Rectified are slightly opaque.
 
Carbon Fibre - Brighter tone than Nylon. 
 
Gut is not what you might think. So, it is hard to find as it is not morally acceptable in our country of animal lovers, so Nylon has taken over at the preferred choice.

Gut has a low volume and these do not last very long if you use your fingernails to pluck. If you are looking for that traditional sound, Nylgut gives a close representation to that of what gut sounds like but with more resistance to wear. 

Nylon is the most popular material for classical guitars. They have good tones and are widely available from all good music stores and are relatively cheap. they are usually made from either clear or rectified nylon. They are extruded and then calibrated. Rectified nylon strings are extruded and then ground to the correct size. Rectified ones are not clear but slightly opaque. 

Carbon Fibre is a newcomer to the classical market. They tend to have a brighter tone than nylon.

D'addario XT's are available for longer life.
 

 
 
 The 2 main types of bass string are:

Round Wound - Traditional, full, bright and rounded. Can cut through the mix.

Flat Wound - More mellow, Jazz tones. Very, very smooth! A pleasure to play!

Roundwound is the traditional bass string, this produces full, bright, yet rounded tones that can cut through the mix.

Flatwounds give more mellow, jazzy tones. However, they are a pleasure to play as they have virtually no finger squeak and are as smooth as a baby's bottom.
Bass strings are a lot thicker than those found on other guitars, and this is why they produce the low notes. But just like on electric and acoustics, they come in different gauges based on the thinnest, in thousandths of an inch.

The thinner the gauge the brighter, more trebly the tone. This helps cut through the mix especially if your style is more melodic rather than ploddy. It also means that lighter gauges, like 35 - 90, are easier to play. The thicker the gauge, the lower tones come through to the point that some gauges can only be felt and not heard. Thicker gauges (55-110) means more tension and so harder to play but can hit the spot.

Most bass guitars will come with 45 - 105 fitted as standard, but this can vary. Have a look at our Bass Guitar Strings Page for more detailed information on each different set.

Both Elixirs and D'addario XT's are available for longer life.