Guitar String Types | Full Guide 2022

There are many types of guitar strings available, which can make it very hard to decide on what to use. But your choice of string has to not only be right for your play style, but your music as well.

Some guitars are designed only to use one type, while others can use many. Then some brands seem to have different sound designs, feel, and other benefits.

In this article, we are going to look at the guitar string types to help you find the right ones for you.

guitar string types

Types of Electric Guitar Strings

The electric guitar is a very popular instrument. As a result, manufacturers have made types of guitar strings that use different materials. They each have unique sound characteristics as well as service life. This can be difficult for a beginner when selecting a set that will be just right.

When it comes to electric guitar strings, they need to be made from a material that is magnetic for the pickups to work properly. Several materials are used for this purpose, each with its tone.

Most strings also have a material that wraps them for longevity, feel, and sound. Sometimes these wraps are made from substances that are not magnetic, which gives them their tonal characteristics.

Some of the more common electric guitar string materials are:

  • Nickel-plated steel
  • Pure Nickel
  • Stainless steel
  • Titanium
  • Chrome
  • Cobalt

Nickel-wound strings are the most popular type. They have a brighter, but balanced tone with a sharper mid-range attack. They are also the most common type, and so there are many brands to choose from.

Furthermore, they also lose their bright tone sooner than some other types. They start nice and balanced, but after a few weeks of solid playtime, they begin to dull.

Pure nickel strings are said to have a warmer tone than nickel-plated. They also have a more subtle attack and decay, making them ideal for vintage guitars. However, they don’t lose their tone as fast as nickel-plated strings. They start with a broken-in, mellow tone and maintain it much longer.

Stainless steel strings have a very bright and cutting tone. They are often used in rock and metal styles and have good sustain. They also have a long lifespan and are corrosion-resistant. Stainless strings are also great for anyone sensitive to nickel.

Titanium strings are very bright with a lot of sustain. They are typically used for lead playing as well as shredding. They have a longer lifespan than some other types of materials, as titanium is very strong.

Chrome strings are mellower than nickel-plated and have a smooth feel. They are warm with a round bottom end, which can be great for rock, blues, or jazz. They can also be great for rhythm and are available in many sizes.

Cobalt strings are very bright with good sustain and a punchy low end. They also have a stronger magnetic relationship with pickups that give them a more dynamic range.

Nickel Guitar Strings

Because nickel guitar strings are the most widely used type, we want to touch on some of the more popular sets.

Ernie Ball strings make some excellent sets that are perfect for any player. Their regular slinky nickel wound set is great for 6, 7, or 8-string guitars and offers good tone and performance characteristics. If you are a more modern player, these are a great fit.

If you are a more vintage player, maybe an old-school rocker, the pure nickel strings of the classic Ernie Ball sets would probably be a better fit.

Types of Acoustic Guitar Strings

Just like electric guitar strings, acoustic sets come in a variety of materials, each with its tonal properties.

The most common acoustic guitar string materials are:

  • Bronze
  • Phosphor-bronze
  • Aluminum bronze
  • Brass
  • Silk-and-steel

Bronze strings have a bright and vibrant sound with great projection. They are also the longest-lasting type of string, but they can be harsh on your fingers. Made from 80% copper and 20% zinc, they oxidize fairly quickly and lose their brightness sooner.

Phosphor-bronze strings are made with a phosphor coating to reduce oxidation and maintain their brightness for a longer period. They have a warmer tone as a result of the phosphor that is great for finger-style playing.

Aluminum bronze strings are a combination of aluminum and bronze. They have a bright tone with good projection and are ideal for strumming. They also have a long lifespan and are more corrosion resistant.

Brass strings have a bright tone that stands out. They can be so cutting that they should only be used on full-bodied acoustic guitars. Otherwise, they tend to make smaller guitars sound very tinny. They have a great projection and are perfect for darker-sounding models.

Silk-and-steel strings create a softer touch that is easy on the fingers. They have a warm tone and are great for finger-style playing. They also last a long time and resist corrosion.

Types of Classical Guitar Strings

The classical guitar doesn’t have as many options as the other two types. They are quite different in build and material, however, and are pretty unique. They do offer the same wrap design on heavier strings that might consist of different materials.

The most common classical guitar string materials are:

  • Clear nylon
  • Black nylon
  • Synthetic gut
  • Silver-plated copper

Clear nylon strings are the most common type for classical guitar. They have a rich, warm and mellow tone and are easy on the fingers. They also last a long time and resist corrosion.

Black nylon strings are similar to clear, but they have a darker tone and are popular with folk guitarists.

Synthetic gut strings are made from nylon, but they have a more textured feel. They also have a warmer tone than clear nylon and are made for older world sounds.

Silver-plated copper wire strings are the most expensive type for classical guitar. They have a bright tone and great projection. They are also very long-lasting.

Guitar String Core Types

We have mentioned the term “winding” several times so far. This is the construction of the thicker guitar strings that are wrapped with another material. Treble wire normally do not have this wrapping. Underneath this material is a steel core that may come in two different shapes, hex-core strings and round.

Guitar String Core Types

Each of the two cores has its benefits and weaknesses.

Hex CoreRound Core
BrighterWarmer
StifferFlexible
Strong AttackSofter Attack
Less SustainLonger Sustain
More StableLess Stable
Modern SoundVintage Sound

Round cores are where it all started. As you can see, they have their issues, but are still highly sought after for their flexibility and tonal characteristics. Hex cores on the other hand offer more stability and are the industry standard because of all the additional benefits.

Guitar String Core

Guitar String Windings

Guitar strings also come with different windings. This is the material that wraps around the core of the string and can affect its tone, feel, and durability.

Roundwound strings have a winding made from round wire. They are the most popular type because they have a bright tone, great sustain, and a long lifespan. They are flexible, but come with the price of greater fret wear and are rougher on your fingers,

Flatwound strings have a winding made from flat wire. They have a mellower tone than roundwounds and are often used for jazz or country styles. They also have a smooth feel, do less fret damage, and have a long lifespan.

flatwound strings

The downside to flatwound strings is that there is less sustain, offer less grip, and can sound less harmonically rich.

Halfround strings are a hybrid of round and flat wound. They have round windings on the outside and a flat winding on the inside. They offer the benefits of both types of strings, but at a higher cost.

While they are a mix of the two types, sonically they are also all in the middle but are still darker than roundwound strings.

Guitar String Coatings

Guitar strings also come with different coatings. The Elixir string company introduced this technology in the 1990s, and it was an instant hit. This is a plastic polymer that coats the winding of the string to prevent corrosion from sweat, dirt, and other contaminants.

The benefit of coated guitar strings is that they last much longer. The corrosion resistance and the extra support offered by the coating can extend the life of a string by over twice as long.

Elixir Guitar Strings

Elixir Guitar String Types

There are 2 different coatings offered by Elixir:

  • Nanoweb: which is lighter and is more like an uncoated string version.
  • Polyweb: which is a heaver coating that affects sound and feel.

While coated strings seem to offer great benefit, there is a trade-off. One of the drawbacks is that the sound isn’t as bright and there is a loss of sustain. Plus, they are twice as expensive as uncoated strings.

If you have sweaty hands and go through strings very quickly, this might be a great solution.

Guitar String End Types

There are three types of guitar strings: ball, loop, and tie-end.

Guitar string ball end

Ball-end strings have a small metal ball that fits into a small hole in the bridge of the guitar. These ends, if not done right, can impact tuning stability. There are a few ways to make the loop around the ball, some better than others.

The ball is put onto the string end to secure it on the bridge of the guitar. This makes it fast and convenient to change strings without having to tie one end. And with steel, tieing a string would be disastrous for most players!

Loop-end strings have a small loop that goes over a small metal post on the bridge of the guitar. This type of end is very popular because it is stable and does not put any extra tension on the string.

The downside to loop-ends is that they can be difficult to put on, and if you don’t get them around the post just right, they can come off. A loop can also be made by taking the ball off of a string when in a pinch, or if you accidentally bought the wrong set.

Tie-end strings have a knot that is tied around the bridge post. This type is the most traditional and is very stable. You will normally see this with classical guitars and nylon.

The downside to tie-ends is that they can be difficult to put on and can come undone over time.

Which type of string you choose will depend on personal preference and the kind of guitar you are using. There are pros and cons to each, so it is important to try out different types to see what works better for you.

Guitar String Type FAQs

Frequently asked questions for guitar string types.

What are all the different types of guitar strings?

There are three types of guitar strings: electric, acoustic and classical or nylon. Each type has been designed to use with a certain guitar design to get the optimal sound, volume, and performance possible. Each type of string also has many variations, which offer different tones and levels of flexibility.

When looking for guitar strings, keep it simple and select a set that matches the kind of model you play. From there, select the type that has benefits for your sound or play style.

Which material for a guitar string is best?

Steel strings are the most popular type and are usually made with nickel, bronze, or brass. They offer a bright tone and excellent volume, and depending on the core and wrap design, can also be very flexible and comfortable.

Nylon strings are typically made from gut, silk, or synthetic materials and are used for classical and acoustic guitars. Nylon provides a warmer sound with more muted overtones than steel.

Are nickel strings better?

Nickel strings are not necessarily better than other types of materials. However, they do offer a few advantages. They have a bright tone, they are durable and long-lasting, and they are the most popular type of string.

Like most types, however, they do have corrosion issues that could present themselves much quicker than other materials. There are also wrap and pure nickel options available that present different tone and performance characteristics.

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Don East

My name is Don East, I'm the editor for Killer Rig. I've been playing guitar for over 20 years and have designed and manufactured products like guitar amps, effects pedals, and more. Over the years I have played in many bands and have a deep love for quality gear.I am an electrical engineer and have a passion for music gear, and now want to share what I know with the community!