It can be so hard when you are a new musician to choose strings that will suit you and your guitar. I have put together a list of string buying tips that will hopefully make the experience less overwhelming for you. Enjoy and I hope they help!
If it’s time to replace your guitar strings, you may want to consider some of these string buying tips. It may surprise some people that buying the wrong strings can actually damage your instrument. Different strings will also help you depending on how you play. They will also allow you to achieve different sounds.
First, you need to look at the type of guitar you have. This will tell you which material of string you can use. Most guitars are either acoustic steel, classical nylon, or electric. You can’t use steel strings on a guitar made to use nylon strings.
Next, check where your strings attach to the bridge. Some strings have balls on the end, while others need to be tied on the end. Most steel strings use the balls to secure to the bridge. Nylon guitars use one of the two methods.
Choosing Your Gauge
This is where your choice can get tricky. There is a wide variety of different string gauges. That means they come in different thicknesses. A higher gauge string is fatter than a low gauge string. The thickness of the string changes how the guitar feels under your fingers and the sounds it makes. Usually, the lighter strings are easier to play. Because they aren’t as thick, they break more frequently. Heavier strings offer a fuller tonality. You can play them more loudly without worrying about breaking the strings as much.
Here are some things to think about when choosing the gauge of your guitar strings:
The body size of your guitar. If your guitar is smaller, it may sound better with lighter strings. The large sound chamber in big guitars is hard to fill with vibration from light strings. Using heavy gauge strings will really make that axe scream.
The tone you are looking to achieve. If you want lighter, treble heavy sounds, get yourself lower gauge strings. If you like to revel in the lower end of your guitar’s tonal abilities, try out a heavier gauge string.
Your playing style. Different strings work better if you are fingerpicking or strumming with a pick. People who fingerpick often gravitate toward lighter strings, which are easier on the fingertips and leave you with less blistering. People who work with a pick often choose heavy gauge strings. If you like to switch it up, go for a medium set.
The age of your guitar. Be careful putting heavy strings on old guitars. They can put too much strain on the neck and cause it to warp.
Every string in the same gauge doesn’t make the same sounds. The material your string is made of won’t only affect the sound your instrument makes, but also how long the strings last.
Bronze: Bronze is a mixture of copper and zinc (usually 80% to 20%). Musicians use this material for every musical style. Bronze ages fairly quickly because of Bronze’s fast oxidation. This also slightly affects the sound. You will hear bright, clear tones.
Phosphor Bronze: To extend the life of bronze strings, phosphor was added. The phosphor warms the tones slightly, giving a darker mood.
Silk and steel: People use silk or steel strings to achieve a soft, mellow sound. They are a great option for people who fingerpick or have an old guitar because they aren’t as tense. They give a quieter sound. These are also the least durable of any string material.
Brass: brass strings lend themselves well to folk and blues. They offer a bright, metallic, sort of jangling effect.
Classic Nylon Strings
You can choose from two nylon materials: rectified or clear. Rectified nylon strings are ground to play in tune after they are extruded. They have a rougher texture than clear nylon strings. Clear nylon strings are calibrated after they are extruded. This ensures they have an even tone, but can slip out of tune more easily.
While you may feel more comfortable using the same type of strings every time, it can be a lot of fun and teach you a lot to try out different materials and gauges. Just be sure to keep note of what strings you used and what you liked and didn’t. That will make it easier to go back to try them out a second time.