My Fender Strat sounded flat. It was not out of tune per say, but the sound was not bright like on a new guitar. So I decided I was going to replace the strings with new ones.
That’s when I thought about the different kinds of strings, and what kind to replace them with. This got me thinking what are electric guitar strings made of? Strings may be “plain”, consisting only of a single material, like Steel or wound, having a “core” of one material and an overwinding of another. The Most common being Nickel Plated.
I started to research the different types of string that I could put on my guitar, and this is what I found…
Which Strings for Electric Guitar are Your Choice
In the past there was not a lot of choices when it came to electric guitar strings. This has changed drastically with modern technology. The guitar string is a prime reason you get the tone you get from your guitar. It is the first signal in the link to your tone.
Today with modern construction, and design the electric guitar string is built with 3 qualities in mind. Comfort, Playability and Tone.
These quality’s can be obtained by the process of the gauge thickness, Construction and materials used.
What Does Guitar String Gauge Mean?
Let’s start by taking a look at the string gauge. First lets look at what string gauge is. Well we know what the string is. But for those who don’t. A Guitar string is:
A string is a vibrating element that produces sound in a guitar, and other stringed instruments.
In general most guitars have 6 strings. Although some have 12 and 7. For today’s topic of electric guitar strings. We are going with 6 strings.
Now we know what a string is lets see what we mean by “gauge”. The guitar string gauge refers to the diameter of the string. The tone of a string depends on the weight of the string. So the diameter is the gauge of the string.
The gauge of the string is measured in thousands of an inch. The larger the diameter the larger the string. Like the 6th string of an electric guitar is measured as .052. Where as the high e string, the thin string might measure .010 or .011.
Just by reading this measurement you know that the .010 is a thin string compared to the .052. The 6th & thickest string on the electric guitar.
When you buy guitar strings online or at the store. The string measurement is listed on the package.
Take a Look at the Courses
What gauge are standard electric guitar strings?
This depends on the length of the guitar neck. On a guitar with a fret length of 24.5 – 25.5 you can use .09 -.042. This is a lighter gauge, and will be easier to play.
If you want to play the Blues or Rock you might want to go with a little heavier gauge string. Such as the .011- .049. These are a little heavier, and take a little more to bend. They are a medium electric string gauge.
Examples of Guitar String Gauge
From the thinnest string to the thickest. The D’Addario XL ProSteels Round Wound Regular Light
- E – .010 B – .013 G – .017 D – .026 A – .036 E – .046
D’Addario Nickel Wound Super Light
- .090 .011 .016 .024 .032 .042
D’Addario XL Pure Nickel Round Great for Blues, Rock, & Jazz.
- .011 .014 .018 .027 .037 .048
What Are Electric Guitar Strings Made Of?
Below is a list of the materials the electric guitar strings are made of.
- Steel – Is a Modified form of iron to make ” steel”. Steel is artificially produced, and has a carbon content. With quality’s of elasticity, hardness, and strength.
- Nickel Plated Steel- Is a hard Metallic metal that is capable of being hammered out thin. It is used to coat metal.
- Pure Nickel- A hard silvery white Malleable metallic element. Used to coat or cover with Nickel.
These different materials all have a unique quality and tone. The different ways that the string is constructed also effects the tone.
- The Steel strings are the most common, and comfortable to play. The steel strings are corrosion resistant, and have a bright tone. The Steel strings work great for guitar players that play Jazz, Country or Rock.
- Nickel Plated Steel guitar strings are wound with a nickle alloy. The tone on this guitar string is a brighter tone and great for all genres of music.
- Pure Nickel guitar strings are steel strings that have a coating over the strings. This allows the string to have a warmer tone when played.
Guitar String Manufacturer Process
First off you start with a steel core. The high carbon steel is examined under a microscope. To verify its shape, and consistency.
Using a digital micrometer the core wire is measured to check its diameter. It is measured to make sure the diameter is within the manufactures specifications.
Then the wrap wire is measured by a computer. Checking the distance, and tension it takes to break the wire. This is accomplished by wrapping the wire on to posts on the machine and stretching the wire until it breaks. Then the measurement is documented.
Using a machine called a torsion tester the wire is tested for the ductility by twisting the wire. The wire is put onto a hook, and clamped onto a metal block. Then rapidly spun. This twists the core wire until it breaks.
String Core Assembly; What is the thing on the end of a guitar string called?
There are two parts that are used during the core wire assembly. One is the core wire, and the other is the ball end. The Ball end is made to keep the strings in place at the tailpiece of the guitar.
The ball ends are made different colors to make the string easy to identify what string it is.
The core wire is made up of a hex shape steel. Each core is cut to a predetermined length. Then the ball end is applied through a pneumatic feed mechanism.
There is a pin that holds the ball end on the core wire machine. The core wire is mechanically wrapped onto the ball end with the use of arms on the machine. Then the pin spins. This creates a loop at the ball end of the wire. The wraps at the end of the core wire prevents the string from unraveling and braking.
Using a computer operated machine the wires are ready to be wrapped. The Wrap wire is attached to the ball end of the machine. The machine is holding, and spinning the core wire. When the wrap wire is attached it begins to wrap around the core wire.
The wrap wire is drawn down the length of the core wire. Wrapping the length of the wire. The computerized machine ensures a consistent wrap. The sensors on the machine monitors the tension, winding speed and the angle of the wrap.
Wrap wire material is a softer material than the core wire. This ensures a tight bond between the two alloys. Different wrap wires are used depending on the type of wire that is being made.
The strings are coiled by hand ready to be packaged and shipped.
Guitar String Construction
The construction also has a lot to due with the tone of the string. There are different wounds of wrap wire over the core wire.
First off is “Round Wound” this is the most common feel of string that most players are used to. The wrap is round on the outer edges. This is the comfortable texture you feel. Click to see the current pricing of guitar strings on Amazon.
Next is the Half Round string which are flat on the ends of the wrap wire. Then angled on each side. This is done when the round wire is ground down. Grinding the tops off. This reduces the noise of the strings with your fingers.
Last guitar string is the flat wound. This is a stainless steel string that is flat on the ends. This type of string has a smooth tone.
The strings that are wrapped are usually the E A D String, which are the thickest three strings. Then the G B and high e string are not wrapped with Nickel.
The strings are made with rust and corrosion resistant high carbon steel. Click the link here if you want to see how to tune your guitar.
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