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What are the Different Types of Guitar Strings?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 23, 2024
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There are several different types of guitar strings to suit different classifications of guitars, genres and playing styles. From arpeggios to ripping rock riffs, sultry jazz to foot-stomping rhythm guitar, there are strings to answer every call.

Starting with the traditional classical guitar, nylon strings long ago replaced catgut as the guitar strings of choice. While nylon is durable and dependable, catgut breaks easily and doesn’t hold a pitch for long. Classical strings come in various tensions to accommodate different playing styles and genres. Bass strings can be wrapped in silver or bronze with differing tonal qualities for each. Trebles might be clear, black (sometimes red) or rectified, each associated with its own sound.

Acoustic guitars, including acoustic bass guitars, use strings of bronze and brass made with copper and tin or zinc. The ratio changes the tone of the string, required tension, and other properties such as playability and its resistance or susceptibility to skin oils and humidity. Acoustic guitar strings also come in different gauges (diameters). Thicker or heavier gauge strings provide the most volume and brilliance, while lighter gauge strings are faster and easier to play. Light gauge strings are popular for jazz and lead guitar, but are also a good choice for beginners, for those who need to build calluses back up after a period of nonplay, or for those who play only occasionally.

Electric guitar strings are made of stainless steel, nickel-plated steel, or pure nickel. Bronze and brass strings (as mentioned above) cannot be used for electric guitars because the pickups on these guitars require strings made with magnetic alloys. Electric guitar strings can have different surface wrappings that affect playability and tone, such as flat-wound strings or in the case of electric bass, ground-wound or Teflon®-coated strings. Available gauges are wide-reaching to accommodate everyone from lead to rhythm, and bluegrass to jazz.

Note that bass guitars are made in various "scales" or lengths, as measured from nut to bridge. Bass guitar strings follow suit, coming in short, medium, long and extra long scales.

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Discussion Comments
By anon255674 — On Mar 18, 2012

Very helpful for the science fair project I'm doing on Faraday's law.

By anon131408 — On Dec 02, 2010

i have to disagree with one part of this article. brass and bronze strings can be used on electric guitars. i have used the for many years on mine.

They produce a real bassy, fat tone. beautiful for clean tones. for heavy metal type tones (which is what i play) they produce real bassy tones. it competes a lot with the bass guitar in the sound spectrum.

but they do work, and beautifully.

By klo — On Aug 16, 2010

When choosing strings for an electric guitar, beginners should probably make sure not to buy full steel strings. They have a uniquely bright sound, but they are rough on the fingers. So I advise beginning players to stick to nickel or chrome plated strings until they've strengthened their fingers a little and built up some calluses.

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