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Guitar Strings - The Basics You Need To Know

Choosing the right set of guitar strings can have a big impact on your overall playing experience, so it's important to know what options are out there. Here's a rundown of some of the most common types of guitar strings, and which styles of playing they're best suited for.

1. Steel Strings

Steel strings are the most common type of guitar string, and they are used on the vast majority of acoustic and electric guitars. They are made of steel wire wrapped around a steel core, and come in a variety of gauges (thicknesses) to accommodate different playing styles.

For acoustic guitars, light gauge strings (usually .012-.053) are a good choice if you're just getting into playing or prefer a softer sound, while medium gauge (.013-.056) and heavy gauge (.014-.059) strings are better for more experienced players or those who want a brighter, louder sound.

For electric guitars, the most popular gauges are usually .009-.042 for lighter playing styles and .010-.046 for heavier playing.

WHAT OUR EXPERTS RECOMMEND: "For electrics we like ye old faithful Ernie Ball's. Second to that, we like to use d'addario strings... this brand is great for acoustics too. For more in depth guides on string materials and tensions etc, please see our other blog all about strings".

2. Nylon Strings

Nylon strings are used mainly on classical guitars, but they can also be found on some acoustic and electric guitars. They are made of nylon, and have a softer, warmer sound than steel strings.

There are two main types of nylon strings: traditional and high-tension. Traditional strings are best for beginner and intermediate players who want a softer, more mellow sound. High-tension strings are better suited to experienced players who want a brighter, more powerful sound.

3. Flatwound Strings

Flatwound strings are typically used on jazz guitars, and have a smooth, warm sound. They are made of a steel core wrapped in a flat ribbon of wire, and produce less finger noise than other types of strings.

In addition to jazz, flatwound strings can also be used for blues and rockabilly styles of playing.

4. Roundwound Strings

Roundwound strings are similar to steel strings in that they are also made of steel wire wrapped around a steel core, but they have a more textured surface. This can make them ideal for players who want a brighter, more cutting sound.

Roundwound strings come in a range of gauges, and are used by players across a variety of styles, from blues to metal.

5. Coated Strings

Coated strings are treated with a special layer that protects them from sweat, dirt, and other contaminants. This can help them last longer and stay in tune better than uncoated strings.

Coated strings can be found in a variety of gauge and material options, and are a good choice for players who want their strings to last as long as possible.

WHAT OUR EXPERTS RECOMMEND: "we always use the brand Elixir. Nanoweb OR Polyweb coating? Nanoweb strings use a much thinner coating. This results in a brighter sound that many players describe as being more clear and articulate. The thinner coating also makes the strings thinner and easier to play. Polyweb strings use much thicker coatings, resulting in a warmer, fatter yet less articulate sound".

No matter which type of guitar strings you choose, remember that your playing style and personal preferences should be the ultimate factors in your decision. Experiment with different types, gauges, and brands to find the perfect set of strings for you. AND, if you are royally stuck on what strings YOU should choose for your guitar and/or playing style, leave it to us to decide as we will discuss this with you at the Hampshire Guitar Repair workshop.

Leigh Jones - Luthier

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