Though often undermined, the type of string for a guitar is pretty important. The right kind of string will give you the correct response and the desired feel, serving as an asset to your playing of the instrument. You are likely to suffer immensely if you make the wrong choice of strings.
Hence, it is important that you study the construction of the strings quite well. You should be able to understand which type of string would give rise to a certain kind of response. Strings coming from different materials are also constructed differently and that has a direct effect on how they are employed.
To assist you in the process of making the right choice, we have compiled this guide to elaborate on the different materials from which the strings can be made. However, it is important to understand the skeleton of the guitar string properly before we can delve into the string material.
What are the different parts of a Guitar String?
If we try to unravel the anatomy of the string of a guitar, we are met with 3 important parts.
This is a crucial part of a guitar string. No guitar string can exist without a wire on the core. In the world of today, most of these cores are in the shape of hexagons. Such a shape facilitates keeping the wire wrapped safely on the instrument.
Furthermore, strings with the hexagonal cores are pretty inexpensive and give rise to a sort of tougher response. You can find traditional cores, round in shape, in several electric guitars of today. However, when you are talking about round cores, you can expect them to cost a little higher, though they are able to provide a fuller sound.
When talking about the wound of a guitar string, you can visualize it as a thin piece of wire being wrapped round the core of the instrument. There are two main types of windings- the round-wound and the flat-wound strings of guitar.
The round-wound strings are the most used ones in the world of today. Most electric guitars and basses come with such strings. The shape is round as you can already imagine, which gives a fullness to the harmonics. You can hear a livelier tone with these strings.
When it comes to bassists and jazz guitarists, flat-wound strings are more common and these strings can only be found on electric instruments. These strings come with a very thin layer of glossy ribbon which gives the sound a mellow glow and helps to eradicate noises.
In order to increase the durability of the strings, many manufacturers try to put coatings on them. These coatings are meant to safeguard the guitar strings from wear and tear brought by oily hands, dirt, salt in the air or humidity.
These are supposed to give a longer life to the strings. However, the coating constituent varies among brands. Sometimes the coating can feel slippery and you may need to allocate some time to getting your fingers used to it. However, the pros brought by these coatings are worth the effort.
Material of the String
As you may already be aware, there are three main kinds of guitar used in the world of today- acoustic guitars, classical guitars and electric guitars. The materials for the strings used in these instruments also vary to some extent. That is why we will go through each kind of guitar strings separately.
1. Acoustic Guitar Strings:
There are two kinds of guitar strings for acoustic guitars. These are the 80/20 bronze and the phosphor bronze. However, many a times you will find the strings consisting of a wide variety of alloys.
The wound strings of the guitar usually consist of an alloy wrapped around a core that is made of steel. When it comes to plain strings, they usually come from tin-plated steel.
What does this 80 to 20 ratio signify? Well it is copper and zinc percentage in the bronze respectively. These are strings that will bless you with bright tones and extremely fresh sound which can seem quite familiar from numerous records you have heard before. Nevertheless, there is one problem- these strings are prone to faster oxidation and hence require you to replace them faster.
In comparison with the previous material, these strings are usually more durable. They consist of copper with almost 8 to 10% tin and very little percentage of phosphorous. This can however vary between brands. The materials assure a mellow tone to the sound being produced by the guitar. Players who enjoy playing smoother music and softer sounds go for these strings.
2.Classical Guitar Strings:
When talking about natural strings, we can imagine that these strings consist of natural materials. These were common before the rise of nylon strings and are still in the market today, though at quite an expensive rate.
The materials of these strings are usually made from intestines of cattle. Most classical guitarist, usually those who enjoy playing old traditional songs, love the tone and feel of these strings.
These are the more modern strings that you find in the guitars and come from nylon. They are quite popular in the world of today given the fact that they are cheaper, convenient to manufacture and more long lasting than the natural strings. However, it is important to note that these nylon strings usually are made up of a wide range of materials today- including nylon of course, but also other synthetic fibers.
3.Electric Guitar Strings:
As seen with acoustic guitar strings, the core of electric guitar strings is also made of steel. However, these cores are then wound using a wire wrapped with an alloy which gives rise to the final tone. Usually guitarists go for alloyed strings when it comes to electric guitar strings. There are few different kinds of materials that these electric guitar strings can be made of. These are discussed below.
This is the most common kind of string that you are likely to have played when using an electric guitar. Be it due to the popularity and availability in the market or the wide range of sizes and numbers they come in, you cannot have missed it.
Most of the steel cores consist of the nickel-plated steel wrapped wire. These successfully produce a sound with the desired balance of attack and smoothness, adding to the melody of the music.
The electric guitar strings which come from 100% nickel wrapper wires, give rise to warm and creamy sound. These are way stronger in terms of warmth than any other strings. They will carefully provide a softness to the sound produced. If you have been having too bright sound from your electric guitar, this will be your right pick.
This is because the pure nickel strings can successfully take away the little harshness and restore the balance in the tone. It depends on what you prefer to produce using your guitar.
If you have been thinking that stainless steel in electric guitar strings will not fit because these materials can only serve for the hardware and the frets, you are wrong. You can actually experiment with bell-like melodies using the stainless steel strings in electric guitar. When comparing with strings produced from pure nickel, you can expect the stainless steel strings to give rise to much brighter tones.
These strings will also consist of quite a lot of snap. These strings are also resistant to rust or corrosion given the stainless steel construction. You can consist these strings perfect for players you have to play on a very regular basis. If you have sweaty hands, this will also be your way to go.
If you have been thinking that steel and nickel are the only possibilities for the strings of electric guitar, we are here to reveal that alloys can be added to the list too. There are dozens of different kinds of alloys that you can use in the strings and try out the different quality of sounds produced. These can include alloys consisting of cobalt, zinc-plated steel and other super alloys. You must remember that you have to experiment with these a little because each will give rise to a different kind of feel and produce different tones and no two recording from two different alloy will sound the same. It depends on what you prefer.
Now you are aware of the different kinds of materials that the strings of guitars can be made up of. It depends on the frequency of your use, the type of the guitar you are familiar with, the kind of sound you want to produce and the durability you want to consider, which will decide the right string for you.