Your Guide to Buying Long-Lasting Guitar Strings

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Your Guide to Buying Long-Lasting Guitar Strings

Guitar strings are stretched cords of metal or nylon that produce music when struck. Strings are arguably the most important part of the guitar, without which producing music would be impossible. Guitar strings may be made from a number of materials using different techniques. Different strings are used in different types of guitar. Long-lasting strings can be produced by coating the strings with different materials or by using different manufacturing processes.

About Guitar Strings

The vibration of a stretched length of metal or nylon wire produces music. By controlling the tautness, length, and density of the stretched string, it is possible to alter the musical notes produced by the string. Strings are used in a majority of Western musical instruments, including, but not limited to, guitars, violins, pianos, harps, etc.
Striking a stretched string disturbs the air around it, causing it to resonate at a particular set of frequencies, determined by harmonic series. When the resonance hits a particular frequency range, the effect may be perceived to be harmonic or 'musical'. In a standard tuned guitar (i.e. EADGBE tuning), the strings vibrate in a harmonic progression. The vibrating frequency range is between 82.4 Hz for the upper E string, and 329.6 Hz for the lower E string. If a string vibrates at the same frequency as the loudspeaker in a PA system, it can produce a disturbing audio feedback through frequency resonance. This phenomenon is utilised by some musicians to produce deliberate feedback effects.
Stringed instruments have been used since antiquity with lute, lyre, and harp being among the oldest instruments invented by mankind. The earliest string instruments utilised strings made from catgut, metal, or silk. Advances in string making technology and discovery of new materials led to manufacture of strings from bronze, steel, and nylon. Today, most strings are made from bronze, nickel, nylon, and steel.

Buying Long-Lasting Guitar Strings

Guitar strings collect dirt, moisture, and even dead skin cells when played regularly. Strings are placed under extremely high tension in a guitar and show wear and tear even without use. Additionally, moisture and temperature changes can affect the playability of the strings. It is not uncommon for strings to rust out in humid areas. While strings are not very expensive, long-lasting strings can cut down on costs and even offer a better playing experience.
Guitar strings can be made to last longer by coating them with certain materials or winding them with moisture and rust-retarding metals. Regular maintenance and cleaning can also help strings last much longer. When properly taken care of, a quality set of strings can last for over a year of regular playing.

Guitar String Gauge

Gauge refers to the thickness of individual strings in a string set. It is the most important factor in buying guitar strings as it affects the playability and sound produced by the guitar. Different gauge strings are used for different purposes. Generally speaking, lighter strings are easier to play and produce a thinner sound. They are typically used by beginner guitarists. Strings with higher gauge are more difficult to play and used by advanced guitarists, especially in genres like rock and metal. Most prefer a gauge that offers comfortable play without compromising on sound quality.
Depending on the guitar, guitar string gauge may be broadly classified as under:

Type of Guitar

Gauge Name

Gauge (in inches, from lowest to highest)

Description

Acoustic Guitar

Extra light


0.010-0.047

The lowest commercially available gauge, extra light is suitable for beginner players but produces too tiny a sound for actual studio or live play.

 

Light

0.012-0.054

A popular lightweight gauge used by intermediate players. Combines ease of play with a nice chunky sound.

 

Medium

0.013-0.056

Thick strings produce heavy sound, usually used for rhythm sections.

Electric Guitar

Super light

0.009-0.042

An easy to play string gauge that produces a thin, light tone. Good for practice and for beginner guitarists.

 

Regular light

0.010-0.046

Regular light is the highest selling electric guitar gauge. A good compromise between playability and tone quality.

 

Medium

0.011-0.048

Difficult to play, these are some of the thicker strings on the market. However, the thick strings produce a rich, deep tone.

Guitar Strings Material


As mentioned above, guitar strings were originally manufactured from a variety of naturally occurring materials such as stretched and dried catgut, silk, and steel. Legends exist of strings even being made from gold. The construction material influences guitar sound and playability. Some materials are more resilient than others and lead to longer-lasting strings. The commonly used guitar construction materials can be seen below:

 

Bronze

Bronze made with 80 parts copper, 20 parts zinc is the most commonly used material for making guitar strings. Bronze strings are usually used in acoustic guitars. Bronze is a poor conductor of electricity which makes it unsuitable for use in electric guitars.

Phosphor Bronze

Phosphor bronze is made from 92 parts copper and 8 parts zinc. This composition increases the durability of the bronze. The sound produced by phosphor bronze strings is deeper and warmer than pure bronze strings, which some guitarists don't like.

Stainless Steel

Although rarely used nowadays, stainless steel was the primary string construction material in the early days of the guitar. Stainless steel strings are still sold today but suffer from durability issues. The sound produced is rough and heavy, which makes them appropriate for use in heavy metal genres.

Nickel

Most electric guitars utilise nickel or nickel plated strings. Nickel is a good conductor of electricity and offers fast pickup response.

Nylon

Classical guitars utilise nylon strings. These strings produce a warm, soft tone. Nylon strings usually last quite long because they have much lower tension than metal strings.

Guitar String Coating and Plating

In order to increase string durability and reduce wear and tear, companies may coat the strings with a variety of polymer compounds such as Teflon and Ethylene tetrafluorothylene (ETFT). Each company may have its own specific compound to coat the strings, but the purpose is the same: to increase longevity and help strings sound new. Besides coating, some other treatments, such as croyogenesis, are also utilised. These can be seen below:

 

Coating

Polymers such as Teflon and ETFT create a protective covering around the string that prevents corrosion and reduces wear and tear. Coating also helps strings sound like new. On the downside, coated strings can be almost twice as expensive as standard strings.

Plating

Some companies produce strings plated with silver or gold. These metals are not only excellent conductors of electricity but also increase longevity of the strings. Additionally, these metals are non-reactive and protect against corroding agents. Cost, however, tends to be quite high for gold/silver plated strings.

Croyogenesis

Croyogenic strings are exposed to extremely low temperatures. This makes the molecules bond closer together resulting in stronger strings with a more cheerful, brighter tone. Croyogenic strings can be expensive, depending on the make.


Effectively, the longevity of strings is determined by the construction material used, coating/plating (if any), and the gauge – thicker gauge strings last longer than thinner ones. Maintenance and amount of play a guitar receives are also important factors in determining string life. It is a good practice to wipe strings thoroughly with a soft cloth before and after playing the guitar.

Buying Long-Lasting Guitar Strings on eBay

eBay is a good marketplace to purchase long-lasting guitar strings with a wide catalogue of products on sale. To buy guitar strings, go to the eBay UK homepage and search for 'guitar strings' under the Guitar category. Searches can be filtered by instrument type – electric or acoustic guitar. Strings can also be searched for according to construction material, such as nylon strings or bronze strings. Another option is to find strings by brand. Ernie Ball and D'Addario are two of the biggest guitar string manufacturers, with a large catalogue of products on eBay. Of course, strings can also be bought depending on the condition, although buying used strings is not advised.

Conclusion

Buying long-lasting strings is a matter of selecting strings made from strong materials and coated with a protective covering. Purchase thicker gauge strings if longevity is a major concern, although this will affect playability. If money is not an issue, consider buying strings plated with a metal like silver or gold. With proper maintenance and care, a quality set of strings can survive several months of heavy use.

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