Your Guide to Buying Guitar Strings on eBay

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Your Guide to Buying Guitar Strings on eBay

Many people looking to buy guitar strings online turn to eBay. They are a popular item on eBay and the choice available can be overwhelming for anyone with no clear idea of which type or brand of guitar strings to buy. Guitar strings are advertised on eBay with various string characteristics and properties mentioned in the listings. Understanding what they mean can make buying the best strings for any particular guitar much easier.

Preferred Manufacturers

Most experienced guitarists eventually settle on a brand of strings by a specific manufacturer that they feel comfortable with. Guitar strings by most major manufacturers are usually advertised in abundance on eBay. Retailers selling strings of well-known manufacturers usually feature the brand name prominently as a major selling point. Some well-known manufacturers of high-quality guitars also produce their own brands of guitar strings. Many guitarists choose these strings as they know that the quality will be high. However, there are many independent guitar-string manufacturers producing strings that are of equally high quality and, in the opinion of many other guitarists, of even higher quality. Check out some of the eBay discussion boards to connect with other users who may have valuable experience to share.

Instrument-specific Strings

Strings are designed to be used with each of the three main guitar types, electric, acoustic, and classical, and manufacturers design them to exploit the natural characteristics of each type of guitar. These different types, plus hybrid types such as 'electro-acoustic', are clearly specified in eBay's guitar strings listings.

Electric Guitar

Electric guitar strings are made of various metal alloys such as nickel-steel. They are designed to work in combination with the electric guitar's pickups, so alloys with strong ferro-magnetic properties are an important factor in their manufacture.

Acoustic Guitar

Acoustic guitar strings are also made of metal alloys such as bronze or phosphor-bronze. Crispness and good projection of sound are among the chief requirements of acoustic guitar strings.

Classical Guitar

Originally made from sheep's gut, classical guitar strings are nowadays made of nylon or other closely-related material. Good-quality classical guitar strings need to be capable of producing very subtle tone differences as tone control is an essential feature of classical guitar technique. Note that while classical guitars are a form of acoustic guitar, they should never be used with steel strings. Not only will the sound be far inferior to that of a proper steel string acoustic guitar, but the guitar is also likely to be damaged as a result of the greater tension of steel strings.

String Gauge

Strings are made in a variety of thicknesses or gauges. String gauges are advertised on eBay either as the actual string diameter in millimetres or inches or, alternatively, with less precise, but more descriptive, labels such as super light, light, medium, and heavy. Thinner strings provide a much lighter action; they offer less resistance when pushed down onto the fretboard. That means a lot less effort is required when playing chords and also a more fluid melodic playing style, such as lead guitar solos, is attainable. Being thinner, however, means they are more liable to snap if struck too hard or if the common lead guitar technique of string bending is applied with too much force. Heavier gauge strings require more force to push them firmly against the fretboard but their tone is richer, and they are less likely to break under any normal playing conditions. Because of the extra force required to play medium to heavy gauge strings, they aren't recommended for beginners still getting to grips with chords on the fretboard. Note that lighter gauge strings are the more common choice for electric guitarists. The richer tone of medium gauge and heavier-gauge strings is a less important consideration with electric (solid body) guitars because of how the final tone has more to do with other factors such as pickup quality, pickup placement, guitar tone control settings, effects pedals and, finally, amplifier tone settings. Gauges for sets of guitar strings are commonly referred to by the gauge of just the treble E string. The following table shows typical treble E string gauges, but keep in mind that manufacturers don't all agree on how to name their gauges. One manufacturer's 'light gauge' guitar strings may be another's 'extra light gauge'.

Name

Gauge in inches

(treble E string)

Gauge in millimetres

(treble E string)

Extra super light

.008

.2032

Super light

.009

.2286

Light

.010

.254

Medium

.011

.2794

Heavy

.012

.3048

String Construction

The lowest-pitched strings in acoustic and electric guitars are manufactured as roundwound, flatwound or halfwound. All three types are available on eBay. Roundwound strings are the most familiar type of string found on guitars. The string consists of an inner core with a fine wire wound around it. This gives the familiar ribbed feel to the strings. Flatwound strings have had their outer winding flattened in the final manufacturing stage. The advantages are a smoother feel and also less of the annoying finger-noise that commonly occurs when fingers are slid along traditional roundwound strings. The disadvantages are a slight loss of brightness. Flatwound strings also tend to be more expensive. Halfwound strings are a compromise between roundwound and flatwound strings, both in price and performance.

eBay Price-Saving Tips

With such a large number of strings for sale on eBay at any time, there are always listings that are more attractive than others in terms of prices being asked. The following tips can help in locating them.

Buy in Bulk

Having found the strings of choice, look for bulk-buying bargains with attractive discounts. Buying a few sets at a time not only makes sense financially, it also offers more convenience. Spare string sets are handy for any guitarist to have and will all be used eventually. Even if no special discount is offered for buying a few sets at one time, a single delivery will be cheaper than repeat deliveries every time a new set of strings is required.

Free Delivery

Look for listings that offer free delivery. Many sellers make a point of offering free delivery within the UK. Some may exclude certain regions of the UK, however, and restrict free delivery to mainland UK only. Others offer free delivery with Royal Mail's 2nd class delivery, but will charge a nominal amount if the faster 1st class or the more secure Recorded Signed-for delivery options are required. Read the small print on any free delivery listing for clarification.

How to Find Guitar Strings on eBay

eBay's categories and filtered-search system are useful for filtering out string types that aren't required. The strings available can be presented in a much more relevant order simply by navigating the relevant categories in which guitar strings are listed. Most guitar strings are listed under the category called Guitars, which belongs to the main category called Musical Instruments. From the Guitars category, drilling down even further to the Accessories subcategory reveals the highest concentration of guitar strings, with literally thousands for sale. To refine the search, make use of the check-box filters on the left side of the listings page to see results listed by brand, guitar type, price range, and more. A very specific search, such as "phosphor bronze light gauge acoustic guitar strings", for example, can be made from any page in eBay, but browsing from within the closely-related and relevant categories can be more informative about alternative string sets that may be of interest.

Conclusion

With literally thousands of guitar string sets available on eBay UK alone, most guitarists looking for sets of strings should be able to find exactly what they're looking for. The choice is huge and the possibility of finding great bargains on eBay is an added attraction that keeps guitarists coming back time after time.

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