Acoustic, Classical and Electric Guitar Strings Reviewed
Guitar Strings may seem like just simple "wires" on our guitars, but what they add in tone volume and playability is undisputed. Selecting the right strings to suit your taste is very important. There are different tonal nuances and volume differences not only between string makers, but between gages and string materials
And since we as guitar players are never completely satisfied with the sound output of our guitars and are constantly trying to wring that last bit of tone out of our guitars, strings start to play a big role in that exercise.
We will guide you in the selection for strings to suit your music genera, playing style and tone preferences. There are strings that are better suited for fingerstye guitar or flatpick guitar. Also there are major differences between classical and electric strings too.
String material and gage are the two major elements that drive the tone and volume response from our musical instruments.
It may be basic information, but correct installation of guitar strings can lend more life to your strings, make tuning easier and keep you from getting injured from a broken string. See my articles on How to Change Acoustical Guitar Strings (This also applies to electric guitars) and How to Change Classical Strings.
Now we will analyze the different kind of string available for each guitar (Acoustic, Classical and Electric).
Ernie Ball Strings
Fender Guitar Strings
Bronze strings or bronze alloy strings are made from 80% copper and 20% tin or zinc or more commonly called 80/20 bronze. For more information ont Elixir Bronze 80/20 acoustic guitar strings visit our Elixir 80/20 Bronze Strings page.
The tone achieved from bronze strings is very brilliant sound - although they loose their initial brilliance after a few hours of playing. However I like the sound of the so called broken-in strings rather than the "new string" sound. Popular manufacturer's of 80/20's are regular Martin strings and Ernie Ball Earthwoods.
A slight variation of the 80/20 string is the 85/15 which is 85% copper and15% zinc. These strings do not have quite the "new string" brilliance to them and get to that played-in tone much quicker.
Phosphor bronze strings are also very popular with the acoustic guitar musicians. They still present quite a bright tone but not that of new 80/20s. PB strings typically hold on to their brilliance much longer than the 80/20's and last longer overall. For more information of Elixir Phosphor Bronze strings for acoustic guitars visit our Elixir Phosphor Bronze Strings page.
PB strings were introduced by D'Addario and are still very popular today. PB strings are my personal preference as I love the warmer tone produced by them and the tonal variations available for fingerstyle guitar is much more of a fit for me.
Silk and Steel strings use a layer of silk between either a bronze or steel core string and the wound metal outer string materials. These strings give a much softer sound and is good for accompaniment, but not for lead playing. I would not recommend the use of silk and steel strings.
These are typically vintage type strings that were used and developed by Gibson and was the first alloy material used for guitar strings. Usage of these strings is very minimal as well
Augustine Classical Strings
Basically there is only nylon strings that are suitable for a fine classical guitar. The 3 treble strings or extruded clear nylon. There is also rectified nylon which is first extruded and then ground for accuracy. The 3 base strings are usually a silver plated copper wire wound around a core of threads of nylon.
Classical strings come in different tensions. Low, Medium and High or hard tension. String tension preference varies with individual musicians and vary from guitar to guitar. My personal preference is the High or Hard tension.
If your guitar lacks a bit of bite on the high 3 strings, which is common for newly built classical guitar and guitars of lesser quality, you may want to try strings with Carbon Fiber treble strings. These tend to have a bit more punch and can liven up an otherwise dead sounding guitar.
Ernie Ball Super Slinky Electric Strings
Pure Nickel have a soft feel and produce a very warm tone. Some examples of pure nickel strings are Fender 3150 and DR Pure Blue strings.
Elixir Electric Guitar Strings are an extremely hot string that tent to last from 3 to 5 times longer than traditional strings due to their unique Polyweb and Nanoweb coatings. See our Elixir Electric Guitar String page for more information.
Nickel Plated Steel are the most widely used strings on the market today. They consist of a steel winding with nickel plating. The nickel plating reduces finger noise and improves fret wear. Attributes of NPS strings are greater sustain and brighter sound.
Example of NPS strings are D'Addario EXL's GHS Boomers and Ernie Ball Slinkys.
SS strings are the hottest, brightest and carry the most sustain of any of the other electric guitar strings
We can hardly have a discussion about strings without discussing some of the maintenance issues related to guitar strings.
Maintenance issues you say? What is there to maintain with your guitar strings.
There is plenty - believe me. The strings give us the direct tactile interface with the guitar and the strings are a very important part of how we play and how the guitar sounds.
We will cover such things as Guitar String Maintenance, where you will discover a lot of tips where you can get up to double the life out of a set of strings.
Also we will review Guitar String Lubericants and Guitar String Cleaners to let you know which is the best of the best. There are a lot of products out there and we have tested them all.
Last and certainly not least we will discuss String Installation Problems. We will give you a lot of helpful hints and remedies for keeping you strings in tip-top condition.