There are three main types of strings. Electric (metal/alloy) , acoustic (metal/alloy) and Nylon.
Electric guitars strings are made of nickel, cobalt, steel and combinations of these materials.
These materials produce a large palette of different sounds. For instance, nickel strings sound mellow and warm compared to steel which sound brighter and more focused.
Sting gauges play a major role in the sound and feel on your guitar. The string gauge refers to the thickness of the strings. Thinner strings are easier to play and bend. Thicker strings offer more tension and can sound fatter.
The gauge of the set is measured by the thickness of the first string. For example, a 9-gauge set means the first or thinnest string is 0.009 thousandths of an inch. The rest of the strings in that set get progressively thicker. A set of 10s would start with 0.010 thousandths of an inch etc.
Sets of 9s and 10s are the most common gauges for electric guitars.
There are also 11s , 12s and hybrid gauge strings as well. An example of hybrid stings would be strings 1, 2 and 3 from a set of 9s and strings 4,5 and 6 from a set of 10s. This makes the melodies on strings 1,2 and 3 easy to play and fattens up your riffs and power chords on strings 4, 5 and 6.
It is important to make sure your guitar is “set up” for the strings you are using. If you have a floating bridge set up for 9s and you put a set of 10s on, your bridge will be doing a nosedive. Also if your guitar is sporting 9s and you go to 10s or 11s you can also have problems with the strings sticking in the nut , creating tuning and intonation issues. A good luthier can make the proper adjustments should you decide to experiment with different string gauges.
Acoustic strings are made of phosphor bronze, copper, zinc wire, aluminum and other materials.
Nylon strings are also available in several different materials and come in two primary styles. Traditional, which is standard, when the sting is installed, it is wrapped around the bridge and tied to secure it. There also nylon stings with a ball on the end that makes installation a bit easier.
I have had a lot of fun experimenting with different string gauges. 12-gauge strings come standard on most acoustic guitars. They offer a nice amount of tension producing a rich full sound, but if you play electric most of the time the acoustic with 12s can feel more difficult to play because the strings are thicker and have more tension. You can experiment with a lighter gauge set , for instance 11s or even 10s. The sound will get a bit thinner but the playability is much easier.
Wound verses plain strings.
Wound strings are designed with a core and then another string wrapped around the core creating a wound string. Wound strings are used for lower pitches, for instance the G, D, A and low E string, plain strings are used for higher pitches for the G B and high E string. Notice the G string can sometimes be plain or wound depending on what gauge set is being used.
Coated verses non coated strings.
Coated strings have a thin layer of material applied using nanotechnology that repels unwanted moisture and oils that negatively impact your tone. Coated strings generally last about three times as long as regular strings.
Experiment, try different strings and see what you like. String sets are inexpensive and just take a little time to install. If you do not know how to put strings on your guitar check out our blog and video on changing strings.