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Cheap Guitar Strings And The Best Strings You Can Buy

Updated on September 24, 2014

The Best Guitar Strings On Line

The right guitar strings - what can be more fundamental to your sound? But what makes the best guitar string for your instrument and your style of music? Can you buy strings safely in bulk? What are the qualities you might look for in a beginner guitarist's strings or those used by a professional? This page will tell you what to look out for and what the pitfalls can be.

Whether you are looking for acoustic guitar strings, electric guitar strings, bass guitar strings or simply wondering what makes all these brands so different, please read on. I have a few trade secrets to tell!

Intro image is my own photo, please do not copy.

Best Guitar Strings - First Principles

What type of guitar do you play?

This might seem like a silly thing to say, but people can and do buy the wrong guitar strings for themselves and for their guitars. The results can be disastrous for fingers and for instruments. So, first of all, what is your guitar like?

Cordoba C5 Classical Guitar

If your guitar is a plain wooden guitar with half nylon and half wound strings, you will need classical guitar strings - you must not use steel strings as this will break the instrument over time!

Steel Strings are Destructive to Spanish Guitars

Never Cripple your Classical Guitar with Metal Strings!

I have seen it so many times in my career, advised about it so often, seen this advice ignored by boys (usually) who know best and then blame the instrument when it warps. Classical guitars are built for lightness and resonance, not strength. the woods used give them a naturally warm and full sound that some guys just don't like. They are built for a wide range of sounds, effects, and solo playing. Folk guitars are massively reinforced. For that reason they don't resonate as much but do produce that lovely jangly, tinkly sound that is so good for accompanying songs. They have a very small dynamic range which can be enhanced only with amplification and graphic equalisers. The pull of steel strings will bow the neck and body of a classical guitar quickly and permanently and make it unplayable.

If you want a tinkling acoustic, buy a folk guitar!

Classical Guitar Strings - Nylon strings for your Spanish Guitar

Not all nylon strings are the same. They come in different tensions, hard tension producing more volume and a tighter sound, low tension being more gentle on the fingers. Most players have a favorite brand. Mine are Augustines, but ProArte strings are great too.

Fender Acoustic Guitar Starter Pack, Natural

If you play an acoustic guitar you can choose between phosphor bronze and nickel steel sets. The acoustic "steel strung" guitar usually sounds better with phosphor bronze sets, but electric guitar sets will substitute in a crisis.

Acoustic Guitars with Steel Strings

Getting a good acoustic sound

Actually, the term acoustic guitar is a pet hate. All musical instruments and guitars are acoustic! However the term usually means folk or country style guitar with metal strings. These are usually referred to as "steel strung" but usually only the two thinnest strings are actually steel. The others will be either copper brass or phosphor bronze wound strings. What determines the sound quality is the string gauge. Heavier gauge strings have more metal mass to vibrate and give a bigger warmer sound but they are much harder to play and more suitable for the experienced guitarist. Many acoustic players compromise by using heavy strings, downtuning and using a capo. This lowers the action and the string tension, but gives the heavier mass for that deeper sound.

Acoustic Guitar Strings - Popular Brands of Acoustic Guitar Strings

Yes, the classical guitar is also acoustic BUT you need nylon strings for it. Phosphor bronze strings give your folk guitar a great round sound, but they will destroy a classical guitar. Here are some good guitar strings you can trust for folk guitars with steel string set ups..

Phosphor bronze strings don't work so well with pickups though, so stick to electric guitar strings for electric guitars!

Squier by Fender "Stop Dreaming, Start Playing" Set: Affinity Series Strat with Fender Frontman 10G Amp, Tuner, Instructional DVD, Gig Bag, Cable, Strap, and Picks - Transparent Blue
Squier by Fender "Stop Dreaming, Start Playing" Set: Affinity Series Strat with Fender Frontman 10G Amp, Tuner, Instructional DVD, Gig Bag, Cable, Strap, and Picks - Transparent Blue

An electric guitar needs nickel wound strings. The conductivity is better and without them the pick ups and amplifier will not work as well.


Which Electric Guitar Strings Are Best

An individual preference, but some general principles.

The heavier the gauge of your string set, the more tone you are going to get out of your guitar. If you find you bend a lot of notes, a lighter gauge set will be easier. The average gauge E string is a .009 or .010, both are good solid performers and easy to bend. If you have little strength an 008 might be the answer. If you want a big tone, then go for an .011 or .012 E string set but these will punish your fingers more. If your band consistently detunes for numetal, you may want to use heavier strings - maybe even a 013 top.

Electric Guitar Strings - Getting the right sound for your electric guitar

My personal recommendation? Try Elixir strings - they keep their tone for many, many months even with heavy every day use.

A Bass Guitar usually has 4 strings but...

If you have a bass guitar, check whether you need 4, 5 or even 6 strings and whether it is short scale or long scale. The right string length is even more important than choice of gauge or style. (Roundwound, flatwound, black nylon etc) Most beginner basses are set up for 4 strings, but 5 strings are becoming more and more popular and many pros ( like Abe Laboriel) will use 6 string basses.

Bass Guitar Strings - A selection of favorite bass strings

Choosing Bass Guitar Strings

How many strings in a set? What is the composition of bass strings?

Bass guitar strings come in long and short scale, check before buying whether your bass has a long scale. It is disheartening to find the strings are too short! Is it 4, 5 or even 6 strings. Do you prefer the smooth feel of flatwound strings, the thud of black nylon on acoustic bass guitar or the bright sound of roundwound strings? Remember heavier gauge strings are harder to play and stress the neck more but they do sound louder and fuller in tone.

Again, Nanowebs are my bass string of choice. The initial expense is easily offset by the lasting tone on these.

Bulk Buying Guitar Strings

Is it a risk or a necessity?

Most session players change their strings whenever they have a recording. It keep the sound bright and clean. It used to be that strings would rust in the packet if you kept them too long, but these days most good quality strings are packaged airtight and bulk buying should be fine. Obviously it saves money, but unless you go through a lot of strings it might be wiser just to buy a few spares in case of breakages. I usually keep a few D strings on hand for the classical guitar as they wear quickly. On the electric, I might keep a few spare 009s and 010s, but as I rarely break a string they mostly go to students. If you are breaking a lot of strings it is usually down to poor tuning, poor plectrum grip or poor string cleaning. It is worth checking all of these.

I hope this article about guitar strings will be helpful to you. Thank you for visiting.

Questions about strings? - Do you have a favorite guitar string brand?

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    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 3 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      Like you I like Augustines for my Classical Guitar, but D'Addario are a good string too. At one time I also likes Savarez, but of late their length comes up short sometimes, and I did not like it when they started winding the trebles. Great Hub interesting and useful!

    • LisaMarieGabriel profile image

      Lisa Marie Gabriel 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      @Lookatit: Elites are certainly highly recommended! For electric guitar I prefer the Nanowebs, but I would happily use Elites on my bass! :)

    • Lookatit profile image

      Lookatit 5 years ago

      I play acoustic and electric guitar as well as acoustic and electric bass (I'm the bassist in my local band). For bass I prefer Elites - always have. meant a trip to Wapping to The Bass Centre in the old days, but I think you can get them almost anywhere these days. Great lens by the way!

    • jmchaconne profile image

      jmchaconne 5 years ago

      I use Savarez Corum, they work best for me. I'm writing a lens about my guitar journey. thanks for the informative lens.

    • dahlia369 profile image

      dahlia369 5 years ago

      I don't play a guitar but know that good quality strings are important for a good sound.