Choosing Acoustic Guitar Strings
When changing guitar strings on an acoustic guitar, it is important to know what kind of acoustic guitar strings to get. There are a wide variety of options out there, some of which are not interchangeable. Choosing the wrong set can throw off the guitar setup causing the need to either get the guitar reset up (usually by a luthier or a guitar tech), so being able to learn what kind of strings you need can save a lot of trouble.
Different Types of Acoustic Guitar Strings
Without counting anything overspecialized, there are three basic types of guitar strings which really are not interchangeable with one another. These types are steel-string, classical, and 12-string sets of guitar strings. Being able to figure out if a guitar is a 12 string is fairly easy, given that it will have 12 strings.
The easy way to tell the difference between steel strings and classical strings is that a steel-string guitar will have all the strings made of metal, while a classical guitar has three metal strings and three strings made of nylon.
Why Types of Strings Aren’t Interchangeable
Even though you can take all of three of these acoustic guitars and learn the same type of material from guitar lessons dvds equally well on any of them, the strings are not interchangeable and switching them will either completely mess up the setup or potentially damage a guitar. The reason for this is because the string tension for these acoustic guitars are vastly different. 12-String guitars have much larger tensions on them, but each string contributes less to it, so putting two packs of 6 String sets on one will end up putting too much tension on the neck.
In comparison, even though Classical guitars and Steel-String guitars both have 6 strings on them, Classical acoustic guitar strings are much lower tension than Steel-Strings, so they are not interchangeable when changing guitar strings. Putting too much tension on a guitar neck can damage it, and even if it doesn’t, anytime the strings are changed to a set with noticeably different tension, the intonation will usually go off and require a readjustment. This is also why it is important to get the same gauge of strings as well.
Guitar strings are made from a wide variety of materials, along with many being plated or coated. The easiest way to find what works best is to try experimenting with the various materials and see which feels and sounds better to you. There isn’t any cut and dry “best” material to make strings.
For the most part, the most common materials will be bronze and phosphor bronze that most players will encounter. Usually it is the more mellow sounding strings that will have some more unusual materials, like silver plated copper on a steel core. While changing the guitar string material won’t alter techniques like how to play guitar chords, it will have a noticeable effect on the tone of those guitar chords. Short of getting a new guitar or using different techniques, this is the only way to substantially alter an acoustic guitar tone.
Corrosion Resistance and Coating
One thing that acoustic guitar strings marketed as corrosion resistance or coated neglect to mention is that all guitar strings are corrosion resistance, those strings only have improved corrosion resistance. When changing guitar strings, don’t worry too much about getting those kinds of strings unless you are actually having corrosion problems in the first place.
Bear in mind that those kinds of strings are not corrosion proof and will still corrode eventually, it will just take longer. If you have corrosion issues, they are a good choice, but if not, they are usually much less economical and often don’t sound as good. They usually have about the same mechanical properties, so they will still break and wear out about as easily as any other guitar string.