The Different Types of Guitar Strings


Students of the guitar learn early on in their study that the guitar is an instrument that comes in a number of different classifications. There are acoustic guitars, acoustic bass guitars, classical guitars, electric guitars and others. While each instrument has its own tone and specialty and affiliation with specific music genres, they also have their own unique strings that are used on the guitars.

In order to understand the instrument of the guitar, it’s important to know a little about the different types of strings used to play the instrument. The information below will provide you with a basic understanding of guitar strings. To begin, guitar student should know that when musicians refer to the gauge of the guitar string, they’re indicating the thickness of the string. The gauge of the guitar string is generally measured in thousands of the inch.

The Types of Guitar Strings

Musicians who play a classical guitar usually opt for nylon strings as the preferred string of choice. Nylon strings are strong and can last long if well cared for. Nylon strings also come in a variety of tensions that give the musician a variety of styles of music to play and enjoy.

Acoustic guitar players generally use strings that are made of bronze or bass, with copper, zinc or tin. Heavier or thicker gauge strings help broaden the volume of the notes while lighter strings are easy to play, faster and give a lighter tone. Jazz guitarist may opt for the lighter gauge string. Most of the time the gauge of an acoustic guitar string is medium, or about .013 gauge.

As many might guess, the electric guitar requires special strings that are designed specifically for the music most associated with the instrument – rock, jazz and sometimes bluegrass. Electric guitar strings are normally made of stainless steel, nickel or a combination of nickel plated steel. A thicker gauge string will sound fuller but they can be difficult to play.

Nickel plated strings are commonly associated with the electric guitar and they give a bright sound to the music. Stainless steel strings give the sharpest sounding notes to the electric guitar while a pure nickel string is associated with a more subtle or mellow tone.

Coated Strings

Because some guitar strings can oxidize or corrode, musicians may opt for strings that are coated or treated with a coating that prevents the string from getting dirty and deteriorating. A coated string will generally last longer that one that doesn’t have the protective webbing, but they can be more expensive (about twice as much) as non-coated strings.

When to Change Your Strings

It may take a while for a new guitarist to learn when it’s time to refresh those guitar strings. Generally, your instrument will tell you when it’s time. If your strings look old, dirty and aren’t giving off the sound you’re looking for, it could be time for new strings. Also, the feel of the string under your fingers will give you an indication, as well. If your strings feel dry or rusty or dirty, it might be time to invest in new guitar strings.