Make the Strings Work for You

Ready to get a guitar? When choosing which strings to use, beginners should always take advice, while experienced guitarists should choose the strings that best match their style of play.

If money is tight you can save on the cost of the guitar (though go for the best guitar you can afford), but you must always buy the best strings you can. A poor guitar won’t sound great with the greatest strings available, but low quality strings will destroy the sound of the best guitar. Choosing the best strings is always a priority.

Beginners always want to know which strings are best, often asking experts which strings they use. Asking whether to use medium or high tension strings is like asking if you want milk in your coffee or not. It’s what you like best that will work best for you. Just as you may try different coffees flavors to find the one that suits you best, it’s just the same with guitar strings. It’s all down to your style, but there are a few tips that might help you make your decision.

Classical Guitar String Selections
If you’re a classical guitarist, you’ll need to choose your strings based on three main considerations: the tension, the material and the quality of your strings.

Three different tensions are available for classical guitarists. Low tension, which is also known as moderate or light; medium tension, which is also called normal (being the most popular choice) and high or hard tension. Other variations do exist but, these account for less than 1% of string sales.

Treble nylon strings are produced in two main ways, with either clear or rectified nylon being the choices for classical guitarists. Clear strings are pushed out and calibrated so they will be accurate whereas rectified strings are pushed out and then ground to tune the strings.

Carbon fiber and composites can also be used for treble strings while bass strings are usually made from silver plated copper or bronze wire wound to achieve the shape of a core of fine threads.

Experts advise that you buy three string sets (low, medium and high tension) from the same manufacturer and series and try playing each for a few days. At the end of two weeks sit back in your recliner sofa and you’ll know which you prefer.

It’s worth trying carbon fiber trebles as they’re thinner than nylon strings but have the same length and tension. Depending upon the choice of guitar, they give a brighter edge to your sound, but they’re prone to slipping at the tie block.

Flamenco Guitar String Choices
If you’re a flamenco guitarist, you’ll need to decide if you want earthier bass sounds or brighter trebles. Mixing that consideration with the type of guitar you use, how you keep your nails and your particular technique will determine which strings are best for you.

Tension is paramount in making your string selection. If you choose high tension strings, you’ll need more muscle power to play them. Choosing a softer nylon string will give you a higher playability. If you choose low tension strings, the sounds waves move slower, making a less percussive but mellower sound.

During the Second World War, Andrés Segovia and one of his guitar makers, Albert Augustine, substituted gut for nylon and the rest, they say, is history. Since then string makers have been trying many different materials and using different grinding methods and laser detectors and photoelectric cells for accuracy, giving a range of perfect strings for the experienced guitarist.

The flamenco guitarist finds that carbon trebles stretch less than nylon which means they get into tune faster. They also last longer. The down side is that have a smaller diameter which means that they aren’t the best choice for playing vibratos.

You will find that you’ll change your bass strings more often than you change the treble strings. The finer winding of the fourth string will cause it to go before the other strings, but for a guitarist who plays a little every day, the strings will only need changing once a month.

Which Brand To Choose?
Having decided which tensions work best for you and your style of play, brand choice comes next. This will become easier over time. Initially you should try different brands to see which you most like the feel of. Some will prefer Savbarez over La Bella and others will prefer Augustine over D’Addario. Until you’ve tried them all you won’t know which is best.

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