(Part of this post is taken from my book, “No Fail Guitar”,
available on Amazon.)
I’m taking a break from the theory stuff and getting back
to basics. In this post I will talk about a truly exciting
subject, guitar strings! It baffles me why so many guitar
players ignore their strings. They’ll happily shell out
thousands of $ for a great guitar and then play on a pathetic
set of crusty old strings until one pops. Strings are half your
sound! Strings are cheap! Take care of your strings; keep
them clean and change them regularly, every month or two.
Your guitar will play better, stay in tune better, and sound
better. First let’s talk about taking care of and cleaning your
I clean my strings after every session. I just use a piece of an
old cotton T-shirt and wipe them down, I also wrap the cloth
around the string and wipe the crud off from underneath. I
don’t purchase any of the specialty cloths or cleaning
products (you might if you have an expensive, collectors’
gem). When I change my strings I also clean my fretboard
by wiping it down with a little bit of linseed oil (be sure to
wipe it off thoroughly, so your neck doesn’t become a grease
fest). Not only does keeping your strings clean make them
sound better, they last longer too, saving you money!
Although there are many options when you buy strings, my
advice is to stick with a few basics at first.
BUY LOCAL: Local music stores will give you advice and
even put your strings on, for a few extra dollars. Watch and
learn! If there are no music stores in your area, it will have
to be on-line purchase and internet videos.
GET A DECENT BRAND: GHS, Ernie Ball, D’Addario, Fender,
DR, and Gibson among others, all make a good set of strings
for 7 to 10 dollars. Many larger stores/outlets have their own
label made by one of the big string makers, which they sell
for less. Buy those!
GET THE RIGHT TYPE: Buy extra light gauge*, round wound
strings for both acoustic and electric. Get bronze alloy for
acoustic and nickel-steel for electric. While you may eventually
settle on different strings, the above specs will get you a cheap,
good sounding, easy to play set of strings.
(Nylon strings are used only on classical guitars. The neck is
wider, and the strings are harder to keep in tune and put on.
I don’t recommend these guitars for beginners, unless you
only want to play classical.) To sum up:
Acoustic Strings: extra light gauge, bronze alloy, round
wound. (Ask for 10’s) 8-15$
Electric Strings: extra light gauge, nickel-steel alloy, round
wound. (Ask for 9’s) 6-10$
I will talk about picks and amps for beginners in the next
*Extra light gauge refers to the thickness of your strings.
The thinner they are the easier to play, but too thin and
they’ll break easy and buzz. The gauge of a string is
specified by a number; which is the strings’ diameter in
fractions of an inch. (.010 means 10 thousandths of an
inch in diameter.) String sets are named after the diameter
of the first string, you don’t have to know all the string
diameters! For acoustic guitar; extra light strings are
called 10’s (first string is .010). For electrics; extra light
strings are called 9’s (first string is .009).