Your Guide to Buying Strings for an Electric Guitar

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Your Guide to Buying Strings for an Electric Guitar



The strings on an electric guitar will have an effect on the guitar’s sound and how it plays. Read product descriptions and reviews to find strings that produce the required sound and to find the best quality strings at the lowest prices.

About Strings for an Electric Guitar


Electric guitars produce sound by converting strings’ vibrations into electrical signals, using a transducer known as a pickup. An amplifier is then used to increase the audio signal and often different effects are added.

Most electric guitars have six strings, but there are also electric guitars with seven, eight, nine, ten, and twelve strings. Bass electric guitars have between four and eight strings.

Strings are typically sold in matching sets.

Choosing Strings for an Electric Guitar


As with acoustic guitars, one of the primary considerations when purchasing strings is gauge. Other considerations include the type of material, type of winding, quality, price, and brand.

Gauge


Gauge, or diameter, affects a string’s weight and, therefore, its tension, playability, and tone. As with acoustic guitar strings, heavier strings require more effort to play due to the greater tension, but this also gives them a more full bodied tone. Electric guitar strings are available in various gauges, measured in inches, ranging from extra super light or .008 to extra heavy or .013. Two of the most popular are light gauge and medium gauge.

Light gauge
 

.009 - .42
 

One of the thinner, lighter gauges available. They have a light tension which gives them good, quick playability. The tone is suitable for most musical styles. Recommended for beginners and lead players. Sometimes referred to as 9s.

 

Medium gauge
 

.010 - .56
 

One of the wider, heavier strings available. They have a greater tension which makes them more difficult to play, especially for lead playing and when it comes to techniques such as string bending. However they are also less prone to breaking and stay tuned better. The tone is fuller with more depth and volume. Recommended for rhythm players. Sometimes referred to as 10s.

 

Material


Electric guitar strings are made with different materials to acoustic strings because they have different requirements. They do not have to generate the most volume in themselves, but require a strong magnetic pull to generate electrical signals and, therefore, decent sound. They are frequently made from nickel plated steel or simply stainless steel.

Nickel plated strings
 

These strings have a steel core which is wrapped with nickel plated steel windings. They are the most common type of electric guitar string and often referred to as NPS. The steel gives greater magnetic pull and greater volume. The sound is brighter than pure nickel with more sustain, but mellower than stainless steel. Nickel plating makes them smoother and more comfortable, reduces noise and protects against corrosion and fret wear.

 

Pure nickel strings
 

These strings are not actually pure nickel, but are made with a steel core wrapped with pure nickel. They were popularly used in 1950s electric guitars. The sound is softer and mellower than that of nickel plated strings, with a distinctive vintage tone.

 

Stainless steel strings
 

Made of stainless steel, these strings give the greatest volume, the brightest, punchiest tone and the most sustain. Stainless steel has a harder, rougher texture than nickel so the strings can be less comfortable to play. They can also result in more fret wear, though the strings themselves are longer lasting than nickel strings.

 


Many strings are treated with a thin polymer to protect them from corrosion and wear, making them longer lasting. They are, however, also more expensive.

Type of Winding


Electric guitar strings may be round wound, flat wound, half wound, or hexcore.

Round wound
 

Round wound strings are the most common string, and also the simplest to manufacture and least expensive. They have a spirally wrapped round wire over a round core. The sound is brighter than that of flat wound strings. Drawbacks include a bumpy texture which can cause quicker fret wear and less secure winding, which can unravel.

 

Flat wound
 

Flat wound strings are more difficult to manufacture than round wound strings and this, combined with less demand, makes them more expensive. They have a mellower tone, making them particularly appropriate for jazz players. They are also more comfortable to play, though more difficult to bend, and less prone to wear.

 

Half wound
 

Half wound strings are a combination of round wound and flat wound. Round wire is wrapped around a core and then the winding is polished or ground to flatten it. This gives half wound strings a tone that sits between the brightness of round wound and the mellowness of flat wound. It also makes them comfortable to play, like flat wounds.

 

Hexcore
 

Hexcore or hexagonal core strings are also available, which have a hexagonal core and tight round winding. The hexagonal core prevents the winding slipping and so prevents wear.

 

String Quality, Price, and Brand


It isn’t necessary to spend a fortune on guitar strings to get a decent sound, and many of the more reasonably priced strings are of good quality. Buying from a reputable brand is a good way to ensure a certain quality of string.

Replacing Guitar Strings


How often guitar strings need to be replaced depends upon various factors, including how often the guitar is played and the material they are made from. Musicians that play frequently will need to change their strings more often than someone who plays every now and then, possibly once a week or after every gig compared to once every few months. It’s a good idea to keep an extra set of strings to hand.

It is generally possible to tell if strings need changing by their tone, feel, and appearance. If the sound of strings changes from good to dull or flat, then they probably need changing. Strings also need changing if they get too dry or start to wear or corrode.

Simple hand washing and wiping down the strings after use will help to prevent corrosion caused by oils and sweat.

Find Strings for an Electric Guitar on eBay


To find relevant listings for electric guitar strings on eBay, follow through the category menus which appear to the left on the eBay home page. Begin by scrolling over All Categories and selecting Musical Instruments. Then scroll down to Guitars and click on Accessories. Under Item Type click on Strings and under To Fit Guitar click on Electric Guitar. There are options underneath to select specific brands and a price range if required. Alternatively, go to the top of the page to conduct a direct search. Type in terms such as “electric guitar strings” or “nickel plated guitar strings” and press Search.

Conclusion


Considerations when purchasing electric guitar strings include gauge, material, type of winding and brand. Electric guitar strings are available in various gauges, two of the most popular being light gauge, or 9s, and medium gauge, or 10s. Lighter gauge strings are easier and quicker to play and have a versatile tone. Heavier gauge strings have greater tension but a fuller, louder sound. With regards to material, most electric guitar strings are nickel plated, pure nickel or stainless steel. They are made with different materials to acoustic guitars because they need good magnetism to create electrical signals. Pure nickel strings have the softest, mellowest sound while stainless steel strings have the brightest, punchiest sound. Nickel strings tend to be more comfortable but stainless steel strings are typically longer lasting. Whether the string is round wound or flat wound also influences tone, with round wound strings having a brighter tone than flat wound strings. Buy from a reputable brand and read the product description to ensure the strings are appropriate.

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